Living Well ~ Bulk Buying Co-op

Bulk Food Food Buying Co-op

I discovered bulk buying when moving to North Coast NSW during my first pregnancy. The area has a number of bulk food outlets – Pacific Bulk Foods and Fundies Wholefood Market in Lismore, The Source Bulk Foods in Mullumbimby and Byron and Santos in Mullumbimby, Byron and online.

There are advantages to buying in bulk. Let me share ~

Less waste

Buying bulk, you buy what you need. As you are filling up paper bags in store, and transferring into glass jars at home, you use less packaging, so accumulate less plastic and other waste. Most of my glass jars are recycled, or sourced from op-shops.

More economical

You aren’t paying for fancy labels or pretty packaging, so you save money. It’s surprising how much cheaper quinoa is when you buy it bulk, rather than paying through the nose for a 250g packet from the supermarket. Same applies to everything else.

Less supermarket

I swear to you, I go to the supermarket once a month, max. I only go for things like nappies, and possibly baking paper or laundry powder, but most of that can also be sourced through bulk stores. Between farmer’s markets, the local fruit and veggie seller, the butcher and bulk, we truly don’t need the supermarket – and for that I am thankful. Getting sucked into that fluro money-sucker sucks more than my money.

Better health

Buying bulk encourages healthy eating.

Gregor and I have always cooked and eaten whole foods – a tin of organic coconut milk, regular cow’s milk, and organic butter is about as processed as we get. We don’t particularly have high ideals about our way of eating – it’s just the way we both grew up. Cooking from whole foods is easy, familiar and healthy.

We (by we, I mean Gregor) cook all our meals from scratch, which means less preservatives and other stuff we don’t need.

More variety

Buying bulk, I am faced with endless options – grain, such as amaranth, mixed quinoa, wholegrain cous cous; an extensive range of legumes; pine nuts, brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, mixed raw nuts; every oil you can think of – so it’s enticing to try new things.

Bulk buying co-op

Last year, I joined two different bulk buying co-ops. A bulk buying co-op is an even more economical way of buying bulk, as you bandy together with a group of people, and buy bulk in large quantities at wholesale prices. It means I buy organic produce for the same, or less than the price I’d pay retail.

Buying through a co-op is also very convenient. I pick-up my order either in my village, or not far from, rather than trekking to Lismore or Byron Bay to do a shop.

The other main advantage is that buying as a co-op connects you with like-minded people in the community. You have common incentives – to save money and eat well. No-one is making a profit, and the work of ordering and divvying up the order is shared between friends. It is a testimony to community and social harmony that both the co-ops I am part of run so smoothly.

Setting up a bulk-buying co-op

Here’s how it works:

~ Find a group of people who share a common interest in buying bulk wholesale
~ Decide on a method of communication and ordering, e.g. email or Facebook
~ Decide on group rules
~ Nominate a group organiser; this might rotate per order
~ Research distributors. This list essentially came from Quirky Cooking; I’ve added to it slightly.

Green Caravan
Macadamia Fresh
Local businesses may also distribute wholesale, so ask around

~ Contact distributors to determine ordering quotas, shipping prices etc. You will usually need to meet specified quotas. Larger quantities are generally cheaper.
~ Arrange invoices and payment, a place of delivery, sorting the order, and collection

I am very lucky, as both groups I am part of are super organised, and run well. I think it comes down to having strong group leaders, clear rules and a shared interest in making it work for all of us.

For more on bulk food co-ops, visit Quirky Cooking.

Do you buy in bulk? Are you part of a co-op? What are your thoughts?

Would love you to join me over at my FACEBOOK community for more conversation.