Shopping for Real Food: Food Co-op

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Let’s face it, real food can be hard to find and expensive.

Trust me, I know.

Grocery stores are packed with food-like products and only offer a small selection of real food.

Shopping for real food that I feel comfortable feeding my family is not as easy as stopping by my favorite grocery store each week.  Shopping at our local health food for all our needs is out of the monetary equation.

Feeding my family the best nourishing, real foods is a top priority so I have found creative ways to bring these foods to our family without breaking the bank or my husbands back from having to work too much.

Today, our family of four has a budget of $650 a month for food this includes all our meals and snacks, seven days a week and occasional juicing. We’ve cut back in areas such as entertainment, in order, to afford this amount.

Our food comes from five main sources: a local food co-op, local health food store, Costco, a local produce stand, and a farm for meat. In this series I will be sharing about each of these sources, why I shop at each and what exactly I purchase.

Now, I know we don’t all have a food budget of $650 a month, have a family of four, and reside in the same location with the same local co-ops and stores. With these posts I hope to give you insight into how I shop for real food to encourage you that buying real food is possible and affordable once you leave behind the mainstream grocery store.

First up is my food co-op, our family’s main source for organic and local food.

My co-op bounty
My co-op bounty

What is a food co-op?

“A food co-op is a collectively owned grocery store. Most frequently, it focuses on making natural foods more affordable for co-op members, although other products may be carried as well. There are a number of different style co-ops, but all of them share common values of group management and decision making, social responsibility, and equality.” (Source)

  • A food co-op can be located in a store or of more mobile means.
  • Co-ops can be open so anyone can order products without needing membership or paying a membership fee.
  • Co-ops can also be closed requiring membership, usually a paid membership.

How does a co-op work?

Co-ops all work a bit differently. Let me share how my co-op works:

* Ordering takes place twice a month.

* Every other Friday I order from a list of available food (dairy, meats, eggs, fruits, and veggies) and natural products such as locally made soaps, toothpaste, etc.

* The following Wednesday I pick up at my co-op location. I bring my own baskets and fill my baskets with the items that I ordered and then pay.

* My co-op sources as much local food as possible. The rest of the food comes from the same distributor that supplies my local health food store.

* I paid a one time membership fee of…wait for it…$10! Yes, a whooping $10!

* I am charged a $4 fee each time I order to cover the expenses of the co-op (baggies, gas, etc.)

* I must order with my co-op at least once every couple months in order to stay active…you can guarantee I never miss an order. (I even attempted driving back from a beach vacation last year so I could order and pick up…addicted?)

The advantages of a co-op:

By shopping at a co-op I am able to gets lots of locally grown and raised fruits, veggies, raw dairy, meats and eggs.

Because much of the food is locally sourced I am not paying for shipping and gas costs. My lettuce is not from Mexico which means it did not enjoy an expensive road trip to make it to my fridge.

For items that come from the organic distributor, I pay less than I would at my local health food store or grocery store since we are buying in bulk and sharing amongst members and don’t have the overhead costs of an actual store.

This all means I save money and buy the best possible food available. 

Yes, you can save money on local and organic food without the need for coupons.

What I buy:

While the list changes based what’s in season, some things remain available year round. In my co-op there is no minimum or maximum on ordering.  Everything on the list is organic and lots local organic. Since I only order twice a month I usually spend around $170-$200 each order.

Here’s what I purchased from my last order:


* 2 bags Pink Lady Apples $11.10

* 2 Hass Avocados $1.96

* 8 lbs. bananas $6.64

* 1 lb. green beans $2.59

* 2 lbs. beets $5.36

* 1 box strawberries $4.50

* 1 box blueberries $4.64

* 1 head broccoli $3.59

* 1 bag baby carrots $1.36

* 2 celery $7.18

* 1 green chard $1.94

* 1 lb. raw cheddar cheese $5.50

* 1lb. sharp cheddar cheese $5.50

* 1 collard green $1.50

* 3 corn $4.17

* 4 lbs. cucumbers $6.68

* 1 pint raw sour cream $5.50

* 4 doz. eggs $15.50

* 1/2 gallon raw local honey $15.00

* 1 container hummus $3.99

* 2 kale $3.66

* 1 lb. kiwi $3.50

* 2 lbs. lemons $5.80

* 1 head red leaf lettuce $1.68

* 1 head romaine lettuce $1.97

* 1 mango $1.86

* 2 cantaloupe $5.48

* 1.5 gallons whole raw milk $11.00

* 1 green onion $1.08

* 2 lb. oranges $3.42

* 1 pineapple $3.96

* 1 fresh bunch spinach $3.48

* 2 lbs. tomatoes $2.58

* 3lbs. yams $3.72

* 3 yogurts $11.00

* 1 whole pastured chicken $19.00

So, what are you waiting for?

Find a co-op near you.

These sites are great resources for finding a local co-op in your area: and the Co-op Directory Service

Some co-ops simply are not registered in these databases so Google is your friend! Simply typing your city and “food co-op” in a search engine can also bring up many wonderful co-op choices in your area!

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  1. I just started following you, and I want to thank you for sharing how you shop! My husband and I have made the switch to a “real food” diet a while back (and I’ve even started my own blog: www., but this has been hands down the hardest part for me to get down…shopping! Can’t wait for your next Costco post 🙂

    1. says: kmarr

      That’s so great! Congrats on making the switch! Looking forward to checking out your blog! I’m so glad to hear that this series is already a blessing for you! I think finding good real food at the right price for your family is a real challenge one I am still learning to navigate! Thank you for sharing. Costco is so great but can get me in a lot if trouble (spending) :)… You’ll hear more tomorrow 🙂

  2. says: Leaha

    Thank you so much for your helpful tips! You don’t know this, but you are my Real Food Hero 🙂 I go to your blog SO much & share it as often as I can because everything you post is so delicious! We are moving to St Pete in August & I would love to connect again in person 🙂

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