Recently I wrote a post entitled “Can You Afford to Eat Real Food? Here are a Few Tools” where I mentioned the idea of a Buying Club. Prior to me starting my Real Food journey years ago I had no idea what a buying club was or what the benefits of one were. Now, it has become my personal goal to frequent the local supermarket the LEAST amount possible and instead get my food from local farmers and producers and through our buying club sources.
I first began purchasing my food from a buying club when we lived in Oak Harbor, WA, for 6 years. (*Note: If you are reading this and you live on Whidbey Island you definitely want to check out Jenee’s “Healthy Living Buying Club”.)
It started when we visited a naturopath doctor and discovered that my oldest son had some suspected issues with wheat. As I frantically started researching and reading about alternative foods, I came across the Weston A. Price foundation as well as a large body of info on “real food” blogs and websites. What I read there amazed me and started our journey towards eating healthier and REAL foods! I read story after story of how people corrected their family’s health, behavioral and wellness problems through eating nutrient-dense and unprocessed foods. The nurse in me (I am an RN) liked the scientific research behind a lot of this info – studies and lab tests that had been done to back-up the claims of those who professed to be benefiting by eating Real Food.
When you start to make the switch towards real food, it
might WILL be very overwhelming but very beneficial at the same time. There are so many choices and it is difficult to determine where to start. I’ll save some of that for a future post but for now, I’d love to share why starting to get some (or even MOST) of your food through a buying club might be a good idea for your family. When we moved from Washington to Michigan, besides being sad to say good-bye to dear friends and the beautiful area that Whidbey Island is, I was also sad to be leaving the buying club I had been a part of for years. It was a little like breaking up – would I ever find another???
After arriving in Michigan and searching around to no avail for something similar to the buying club in Washington, I did what any crazy, Real Food person would do in a moment of desperation - I started my own! Believe me, it freaked me out and I had no idea where to start. But, after consulting with the founder of the buying club I had been a part of (THANK YOU Jenee!) and reading a few things on some “buying club blogs” (yes, there are such a thing!), I jumped in with both feet.
Basically a buying club exists so that a group of individuals/families can go in together to purchase real, natural, mostly organic foods at a MUCH better price that you could from a healthfood or specialty store. It’s sort of treated like a wholesale buying club since a lot of sources give you special discounts when buying a large quantity of items (think Costco without having to actually GO to Costco).
Benefits of a buying club:
1. It saves money.
You will get better food at better prices. (see a story Good Morning America did on “Join a Grocery Buying Club and Save Money”)
2. Planning saves you time AND money.
Planning your meals and shopping ahead of time helps prevent unnecessary spending. You are only getting what you really need. No impulse buying. (read more about how I plan my meals at my 30 Days of Dinners post).
3. It builds relationships.
You get to know other like-minded people in your community! It builds comradarie and helps you feel like you aren’t the only Real Food crazy out there.
4. Focuses on local sources.
Often buying clubs will focus on supporting local farms and producers whenever possible.
5. A place to share.
Buying clubs create a great network to share ideas, recipes, and tips. Some of these folks have been on a “Real Food journey” for many year and others are newer to it.
6. An opportunity to vote with your money.
Getting your food from more natural, sustainable and organic sources can only help make those foods more available and price competitive!
AND one more biggie……
7. It’s convenient.
One easy pickup spot, you spend a little time emailing your order to the buying club leader, then a few minutes picking up on pickup day. No racing through the grocery store with screaming/restless toddlers, compromising Real Food for that which is NOT real or which has questionable ingredients.
Our current buying club has grown to over 30 families. There are certain days during the month where orders are due to me via email and then I take the time to enter our entire order into the computer with whichever company we are ordering from at that time. Then, I have one pickup day where people can come when it is convenient to them and pick up their food!
Not all buying clubs will run like mine, but you may find some similarities across the board. Some buying clubs require payment ahead of time, some at pick-up. Most have a minimal yearly feel to join. But all buying clubs have similar goals – having a way for people to get better food at better prices!
How to find a buying club:
• Ask around – there is likely one in your area or within a reasonable driving distance from your home. Ask at local health food stores or at farmer’s markets. Or, if you are local to Rockford, MI, shoot me an email and you can be in ours!
• If you don’t find one that way, visit a great Co-op Directory Site to see if you can find one in their directory.
• Start your own! While the best situation would be to experience being a part of a buying club first, desperate times call for desperate measures. There is a great resource over at the “The Food Clubs & Coops Blog”, including a great handbook for those who already run or are thinking of running a Buying Club.
It is hard to know where to start when you initiate the switch towards eating Real Food, but a buying club can be a great place to begin. One note in conclusion: Baby steps can be helpful – simply purchase an item or two each month through your buying club and each following month add another item or two!
Who knows? Before you know it, you and your local supermarket may even become strangers!