To save money on fresh, local food, a growing number of shoppers are going off the retail grid. Specifically, they're banding together with people in their communities to establish food buying clubs. The concept is similar to other cooperative models, but in addition to leveraging their buying power and forging partnerships with area farmers, buying clubs also order food from the same natural and organic distributors that service supermarkets. Albert's Organics, for one, and parent company United Natural Foods offer this service and recently have seen an increase in business.
Buying clubs found a whole new audience and became particularly popular during the recession. In many ways their continued growth reflects the frustration shoppers have with the pricing and availability of local foods at supermarkets. Retailers have stepped up their availability, and some like Dorothy Lane even offer up their stores as drop-off locations for farm-to-consumer organizations.
Yet for many shoppers, there's nothing like cutting out the middle man. SHARE Food Buying Club, which serves 8,000 families in more than 200 communities in the upper Midwest, advertises 30% to 50% off supermarket prices and recently announced a $30 Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the trimmings.
“We comparison shop our products each month and find those savings are true, so we can feel good about saying that,” said Ben LeFort, spokesman for SHARE.