Organic for Less: Buying Clubs

Most people are familiar with CSAs and the advantages they provide for healthier eating.  But there is another option for organic value shopping that is less well known–buying clubs.

A buying club is a group of people who join together to make purchases at wholesale prices, typically of a specific type of food.  Buying clubs may deliver fresh produce, packaged foods or even natural bodycare products like soaps and shampoos.  My favorite is a group of 12 friends and associates that brings in organic fruits and veggies when the CSAs are done for the season and (mostly) fruit when the CSAs are sending veggies in abundance.  Although less well known than CSAs, buying clubs can be a good option for value conscious shoppers.

Breakdown for a Buying Club

“Breakdown” for the Buying Club

How Does a Buying Club Work?

The principles behind a buying club are simple.  People with similar objectives pool their buying power to meet minimum wholesale order requirements.  The club members establish basic ground rules and pitch in to provide the labor required.  In return they get the opportunity to buy food more affordably and to participate in a “community” of buyers.

Typically a buying club has a pre-determined schedule, for example monthly or bi-weekly.  An assigned person will email a current pricelist to the other members who have until the “due date” to send in their order. An “accountant” is responsible for collecting and depositing money in the club’s bank account.  The members doing “breakdown” show up when the order arrives (often to a members garage or business) to unload the truck and group items by member. Then everyone picks up their orders.

Buying Club Breakdown

Member Boxes Lined up for Filling

Buying Club Box in Progress

Buying Club Box in Progress

Nectarines

Dividing Up Nectarines

Are buying clubs just for the frugal?  Not at all.  I was a member back in my corporate days when I found that buying in bulk not only saved money but time as well (it is very efficient to buy peanut butter in 12 jar cases!). And buying clubs may offer some unique specialty items that are not available locally–just try to find organic currants at your local grocer!

While providing real benefits, participating in a buying club requires work as well, including some serious relationship management.  Small disputes arise and must be resolved, and there is a never-ending search for people to perform all of the tasks required to keep the club functioning effectively.

How Do You Get Started?

If you think that joining a buying club may be for you, you may be able to find one by asking around—especially if you have friends interested in natural foods.  Another option is to contact a vendor such as UNFI or Albert’s Organics to see if there are clubs in your area looking for new members.  You can even start your own buying club—especially if you are a person with organizational skills and friends!

I just got an beautiful box of big organic peaches for a great price!  I made my “plum tart” with peaches, froze individual slices for winter and the whole family indulged. The only way to beat that would be a tree in my backyard.  When it comes to green living, it pays to have options!

Peaches

Buying Club Peaches

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24 thoughts on “Organic for Less: Buying Clubs

  1. cakewhiz

    this is a great idea! i like to buy organic food but my only choice is to go to farmers markets and the stuff there is pricey 🙁
    i will ask around about a buying club in my area…

  2. belovedgreen

    I actually just joined one up here in Puget Sound area. My friend raved about her’s, and since I haven’t had enough time to always make it down to my local farmers market this seemed like the next best thing. I’m really excited!

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      Sorry about the late reply–this got marked as spam and I don’t usually check that folder. Hope you enjoy your buying club! I actually like these better than going to the farmer’s market because (as you know) it’s too easy to skip a trip there!

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