Cooking for One
Savings for Singles
Buying for One
I was wondering whether food co-ops save money for the average shopper. That is someone who is not a vegetarian, does not seek out tofu, health foods or organic foods and the like, and not necessarily interested in the community angle of co-ops. Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of a co-op. I think it works especially well for someone who is settled and has a family and is an active part of the community. But for a single person who wants a good deal, I want to know if co-ops are a savings. My main reason for researching co-ops is that I'm looking for a way to buy certain things in bulk, specifically Arm & Hammer baking soda, flour and sugar but not much else. The membership prices at co-ops seem steep considering I don't think I'll do most of my shopping at one.
Because the quality of food is much higher than most grocery store chains, I have found my local co-op to be more expensive for just about everything except spices. One of my best bargains came the other day when I bought four different spices, enough of each to fill a tall jar from the grocery store, and my total was $2.63. At the grocery store, I wouldn't be able to buy even one spice for that amount and at the co-op I got all four. The co-op does offer a 2% discount to all members and if I were to volunteer two hours a month, I would get a 10% discount on all purchases.
I don't know much about co-ops, but I do know a lot about warehouse stores. We have a warehouse store in our area that I belong to. It specializes in Business and Restaurant Supplies and most of the food items, including spices and herbs, come in the Extremely Gigantically Huge size and are very cheap per ounce or per pound. If you don't belong to a warehouse store, find someone who does and offer to split the price of bulk groceries! It might be a pain in the neck to repackage flour, sugar and whatever else you're looking for, but it will certainly be a cheaper source of those items than the grocery store.
The memberships to a lot of these places are only $25 per year so half of that is really a deal if you want to split the cost of the membership as well. If the person is a really good friend, they might just take you along the next time they go. Make an outing of it. Explore the store together and then go out to lunch. You can load your own stuff right into your own car and haul it home yourself. No splitting up, no repackaging necessary.
Regarding the question of whether or not co-op prices are the best, I have found that when it comes to prices, your best bet is to generally know your prices! Stores like Costco and Wal-Mart very often have good prices, so if you are in a hurry, just go there; but, if you plan your buying on a yearly basis, the best bet is to keep track of your local supermarket sales. Where you would normally pay $0.80 per can or more for veggies in a can, the supermarkets will periodically put corn, peas, string bean, etc., on sale for $0.33 per can. Just buy your year's supply at that time. I have found the same rule applies for meat and frozen products. Buy heavily when the items are truly on-sale. The key is to know your prices and recognize the bargains when they are offered, then stock up.
My husband and I have found it is cheaper to buy flour, sugar, and other staples from Walmart in 25-pound bags when it is on sale. We live in a cold climate so usually get it around Thanksgiving when things like that are on sale. We store the items in old popcorn tins. It is crucial that you let the flour and any other wheat items freeze first and then it will store for as long as you need without getting weevils. We leave ours overhead in the unheated portion of the garage for the winter and transfer it to tins in the spring. After that it is stored in the basement where the temp is cool, dry, and hardly varies. It is just the two of us and it works out fine.
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