Groceries: Co-op vs Conventional

January’s meeting was a salute to local co-ops! Our friend Jamie led this conversation, covering everything from the value of shopping at local grocery stores and co-ops, tips for budget devotees, and approaching the towering wall of bulk wheat germ and quinoa. Below are excerpts from his presentation: “Co-op vs. Conventional”.


Our local co-op here in Minneapolis, the Wedge, describes co-ops as “a business owned and democratically governed by its customers.” Unlike conventional stores, co-ops don’t make a profit for investors. Instead, any profit generated is reinvested in the store and returned to owners at the end of each fiscal year. Owners can vote on business decisions, make choices about products and services provided, and get fun discounts.


Save money by buying in bulk, planning ahead, and shopping the deals! Reduce your waste by bringing reusable grocery bags, containers for bulk items, and cloth bags for produce.



Here are just a few of the many staples you can buy in bulk:


All you have to do is bring your own container (ball jars, tupperware, recycled Chobani tub, you name it), weigh it for its tare, fill it up, and note the item number ID. Here’s how we do it on Google Keep while shopping:


Jamie also compared prices of items you’ll find in your co-op to comparable items at a store like Walmart. It’s true, food at Walmart and other conventional grocery stores are usually cheaper. But if we’re not paying for these items with our dollars, how are we paying for them? We discussed potential environmental and social costs of buying cheaper food from conventional grocery stores.




Regardless of where you choose to shop or the items you choose to buy, next time you put your groceries away after a shopping trip, take a look at the packaging you brought home with you. How much of that packaging are you going to throw away or recycle? Consider how you might reduce some of that waste. Maybe you can bring a jar to fill with pasta instead of buying a new box each time you buy noodles, or maybe you don’t need a plastic bag to hold apples since you’ll wash the fruit at home anyway. During your next trip to the store, consider shopping in the bulk section, try choosing brands that use compostable packaging, and plan on bringing your own reusable bags!




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