As people continue to explore a variety of ways to save and live a more basic, affordable lifestyle, many consumers are considering the pros and cons of jointing a food cooperative in order to cut down on the cost of groceries from their daily living expenses.
Here are some things you should consider before joining your local food co-op:
What Is a Food Co-op?
The organization is traditionally member-owned and operated. As a member of the co-op, you may be required to pay an annual fee and put in some volunteer hours within the operation itself. There are two primary groups involved with a food co-op. The producers are the local farm owners that grow and provide the food to the co-op. The second group is the consumer members that shop in the store and purchase the goods provided. Some food co-ops allow the public to shop for provided goods at a discount price. Others prefer to sell only to members.
Pros of a Food Co-Op
The number one reason food co-ops are beneficial is due to the selection of local fresh and organic products. Since local farmers are supplying the products, shoppers will likely be unable to get such fresh selections at a reasonable price anywhere else. As prices are discounted for members and the public, grocery lists can be healthier and less expensive than the local grocery store.
Another benefit of joining a food co-op is the participation factor. As many members are required, or at least encouraged, to volunteer within the operation, it is a chance to get to know the local farmers and other members of your community. Volunteering can teach you important lessons about where you live and the people you live among you may not have otherwise had. It can also be an ideal way to learn how to save more money from other people with the same interests and eat a healthier, balanced diet.
Some Drawbacks to Consider
While many join a food co-op hoping to save money on the cost of produce and other foods, there is some caution to be exercised when it comes to the financial part of your consideration. Depending on where the co-op is and its size, you may be in for a few surprises concerning costs. First, the membership fee for each year of membership can be a turn off for some people. If you can survive that factor, you may find some of the sticker prices hard to justify.
While the foods you are purchasing are fresh and local, dealing directly with the farmer providing these goods may not be as affordable as you think. Food co-ops in different locations will differ in price but it may be worth your while to investigate the costs of products versus the local grocery store before you join in. If quality is more important than pricing, the co-op may be a great resource for you.
There is a national list of co-ops listed by state you can review. Contact the co-op directly to ask the questions you have and find out more about their operation. Use that information to make a decision before you sign up or pay for any membership costs.