By starting a ‘buying club’ with friends and neighbours, you can buy groceries in bulk, save money and often improve on the quality of what you buy.
Wholefood wholesalers will deliver to your doorstep – as long as the order is over a minimum amount (usually £100-350).
What to buy?
Stock up on long-life basics, such as rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes, olive oil, porridge oats, nappies, washing powder, and other cleaning products.
If you’re a keen bread-maker, you might want to buy flour in bulk. If you’ve got a big freezer, you can stock up on frozen products such as butter, cheese and pastry.
Bulk buying: advantages
- Better choice – especially in the organic, fair-trade and gluten-free range.
- More economical – buying in bulk from a wholesaler, as opposed to buying in smaller amounts of branded goods, can save you upwards from 25%.
- Better quality – own-brand bulk packs in big supermarkets are on a par with the wholesale prices, but the quality is usually poorer.
- Less to buy on a weekly basis – this makes a big difference if you have to use public transport for shopping, or are struggling to pack and unpack the car with heavy loads and little help.
How to start a food co-op
- Ask around if there’s a buying club in your area. If there isn’t, ask a few friends if they want to start one up.
- Find out the nearest wholefood wholesaler near you by doing a quick search on the net. Then ask them to send you a catalogue.
- Most wholesalers are happy to deal with informal groups, but some work as cooperatives and prefer to deal only with food clubs that are formally registered as cooperatives. If you need to register then contact Co-operatives UK Limited.
- Collate your group’s order, and collect cheques from everyone.
- Put your order in with the wholesaler and arrange the location and time for drop off.
- Receive, pay for and distribute the order.
- Visit Sustainweb’s Food Co-ops Toolkit for more information.
Tips for smoother ordering
- Split up, or rotate the tasks within your group so that one person is not doing all the work.
- Some wholesalers prefer to receive one cheque for the order, rather than ten smaller cheques. If this is the case you either need to open a separate bank account for your buying club, or someone within the club needs to act as banker.
- Keep your club small for easy administration. If it starts becoming popular, suggest that another group forms.
Delivery and storage issues:
- Arrange for the order to be delivered to someone’s house, a village hall, or work place. A member of the buying club needs to be there to receive and pay for the order.
- Small storage space? Buy smaller packs more regularly – for instance 1kg rather than 5kg.