How to Use Your Local Food Co-Op to Save Money

Want to save money shopping for groceries but want to stick to local, organic and natural eats? A food cooperative can give you access to high-quality foods at cheaper prices. Find out how participating in a food co-op can save you money, improve your eating habits and waste less food.

What is a food co-op?

According to the National Cooperative Business Association, food co-ops provide high quality groceries at the best value to their members. They are voluntary, non-profit organizations that are formed for members' mutual financial benefit and are owned and controlled by their customers. They can operate in buying clubs, small retail stores or large supermarkets, and many specialize in natural, organic and locally grown foods.

Cooperatives abide by seven principles that include voluntary and open membership, democratic member control and member economic participation.

How does it work?

Individuals purchase a share in the business to obtain membership. Member benefits include participation in deciding co-op policy, discounts and other specialized services. However, some co-ops let you pay for membership in volunteer hours, while others don't require membership to shop (without member discounts).

Your equity investment and volunteer hours help to offset the cost of operating a food co-op and help keep prices low.

Why should I join one?

Food co-ops primarily serve the common needs of their members and improve their communities. Members get access to quality produce at lower prices than traditional supermarkets while enjoying the convenience of shopping at a store. Any profit that the co-op makes might be refunded back to you based on your patronage to the store.

In addition, co-ops offer community perks like cooking demonstrations, health lectures, workshops and other events. Benefits vary from store to store, so be sure to ask the staff.

How do I join?

There are approximately 350 retail co-op food stores across the country. Search for your local food co-op using the Co-op Directory Listing, or try using Local Harvest's interactive map.

Want more?

Check out the slideshow above to learn more about about how your local food co-op can benefit you.

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