Friday, March 09, 2007

How I Save Money in an Organic Food Co-op

For last several months, I've been a member of an organic food club. As part of the club, I buy organic produce for about 20 percent below retail prices and the discount is even higher during peak harvest periods, according to our club organizer: Jayne Rosenbaum of the Organic Produce Buying Club of South Florida. (305-868-2136)

A fellow club member crunched the numbers and confirmed that we are saving money through the organic food club. While sitting in the carpool lane for our kids, I reviewed her calculations and agreed that we really are saving. There are other benefits, which I will write about on Sunday.

Our club is regional, but there are organic buying clubs are over the country. Check out to find a buying club near you. That site has links to other non-profit and government sources about organic food.

"The best organic food is what's grown closest to you. Use our website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies." -- Local Harvest

The co-op in my neighborhood works like this:

1. We pay a $42 fee every two weeks. That fee represents our share in the co-op. Members that help with the distribution, bagging and weighing of vegetables/produce receive extra food or additional perks.

2. Our membership share entitles us to a bi-weekly shipment of two grocery bags full of fruits and veggies. We can purchase other items as needed.

3. We pick up the organic produce from a designated location (a community building or the home of a hosting member.) The pick-up site is convenient, typically within a five-minute drive from our home, which roughly equals our commute to the grocery store.

4. Our produce is bagged in cloth canvas bags that are re-used from week to week. We bring in one set of empty canvas bags and receive another set that is fully stocked. When we forget our bags, plastic is used, but this substitution is not encouraged.

The produce is packed with flavor. My children love the organic fruit and I have to force them to save fruit for others. Even naysayers who mock our organic shopping efforts, concede that the food tastes better. I should take and post before-and-after taste-test expressions.

During one dinner party, I served mini plums from the organic club. Our guests loved the plums and as a gift, we sent them home with the entire bag.

There are other ways to save money while buying organic produce. Here are a few tips that I posted based on an interview with Craig Minowa, an environmental scientist with the Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit industry group.



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