why i shop at the food co-op

Afterreading my post below about Jane cooking, a friend asked me today why I shop at my neighborhood food co-op so often when it would be much cheaper "and easier" to always shop at Kroger or Bi-Lo or some place.

Well, there are several reasons.

First of all, I hate grocery shopping in big stores. I am forced to do it some and I just find the whole experience - with the harsh lighting and crying children and overwhelming number of choices - unpleasant and overwhelming.

Our Co-op, on the other hand, is cozy and pleasant. It smells spicy and nice and has creaky wooden floors. I like reading the notices on the community bulletin board and it's the only place in town where I can buy The New York Times, Midwifery Today and Hip Mama....all on the same newsrack.

My children like it, too. They feel comfortable and at-home there. They like having a rootbeer from the cooler near the door and enjoy the vegan muffins.

I also like the stuff they sell there. It's the best place to get the frozen Indian food that I eat as often as possible. I can find my favorite Stonyfield Vanilla Truffle yoghurt and prepackaged Pesto from The Tomato Head. I only like serving my kids organic dairy foods and they have the best selection of that in town (maybe that huge EarthFare 25 miles West of me has a better selection, but I've never been there.)

As for prices, I disagree that the food there is THAT much more. You can buy stuff in bulk there, which is cheaper (and which I should do more of). Plus, I don't impulsively load my buggy with stuff I don't need (because they don't have it), so I spend less, I think.

It's in my actual neighborhood, so I run into friends and interesting people there.

It has a small parking lot, so I don't have to deal with a huge parking lot full of other cars. I can get in and out quickly.

I can buy the environmentally less-unfriendly cleaning supplies and paper products I prefer.

The best part, though, is buying at a food co-op offers an easy, no-brainer way for busy, busy me to support causes I believe in. Many of the brands I buy there give a percentage of profits back to things I support. Also, the Co-Op buys produce and dairy from local suppliers, so I am supporting local farms and gardeners. They recycle, so I'm supporting recycling. Just by buying my food, something I have to do anyway, I'm doing Something Good. I like that.


jon said...

I, too, love the coop. The main thing that I regularly purchase there is produce. There's simply no comparison between locally grown produce and the stuff they sell at Kroger.

Mm. Now I'm getting hungry.

Elizabeth said...

Yay for co-ops! I also shop in co-ops and in one larger locally-owned chain. I like buying organic for all the reasons you stated, plus the benefits go much further than my own family. The farm worker who handles organic produce is not exposed to huge amounts of pesticides, like they are when they handle non-organic crops. Did you know the average age of death of a farm worker is 49?

It does cost more to shop at co-ops....but the person ringing you up actually gets paid a fair price and at worker-owned co-ops they are making the same amount as anyone else in the co-op--no obscenely-paid CEO or anthing like that. And the money stays in the community.

mamalife said...

That looks like a great place. I wish we had something like that where I live.

Dewi said...

I like all your reasoning.
Especially not being exposed to the temptation of buying junk food at regular supermarkets.

A food co-op can be much cheaper then other health food stores or supermarkets since you have the opportunity to be a working member in exchange for a substantial discount. Some co-ops make money from offering the convenience of allowing non-working members to shop but you pay more money.

When people have the time to contribute women or manpower consistently to a food co-op, it is a very economical way to eat superior quality healthy food.

karrie said...

Thank you for addressing the cost issue and the option of buying in bulk. I find this holds true at my local Co-op, and even at Whole Foods, but that people rarely will listen when told that healthy, and even organic, foods need not be ridiculously expensive.

The vibe of your co-op sounds so welcoming. I'm not terribly impressed with the ambience or staff at my local co-op, but there are several co-ops where I grew up in Vermont that share that warm, cozy environment.

Anonymous said...

I think smaller stores are on their way back in. Even discounting all the ambiance issues, it's just a matter of time. It is not convenient or quicker to navigate a huge parking lot, walk however many steps inside the store from the bread to the milk, then schlepp the cart all the way to the front of the store to check out, then haul it all to the end of the huge parking lot. And I'm healthy and not particularly busy. I bet a lot of older people, disabled people, busy people or parents would much rather shop at smaller stores.

I get done quicker when I shop at a smaller store, whether it's Parker Brothers hardware compared with Home Depot, or the Three Rivers Market (our co-op) compared with Kroger. I do shop at Kroger for items I can't get at other stores.

Anonymous said...

I love my coop. Ironically, I mostly shop there to save money, although I also love all the benefits you mention (better, healthier food; supporting local and organic farmers; sense of community; comfortable shopping environment). Oh, and ours is as large and comprehensive as any other supermarket around here (which isn't so big; NYC tends towards smaller supermarkets than other places).

Ours is a coop where all the members work. 80% of the work of the coop is done by working members fulfilling their coop work requirments (I'm a cashier once a month for a couple of hours). Between most of the work being done without pay and no profit made, we're able to keep prices considerably lower than other grocery stores. And the quality is generally much better.


Anonymous said...

Earthfare is nice, but very expensive, even on items that you find in traditional grocery stores.

Intrestingly, on the coop's website, their vision of what their new location would be sounds very much like Earthfare.