In Which I Try to Make Sense of a Buying Club

3

May 8, 2011 by Leah

I’m trying to figure out whether I want to join a cooperative buying club. Ages ago, I joined a Yahoo group called “Long Beach Food Cooperation,” because of my involvement in the grass fed beef CSA. It’s an interesting group. Messages fly back and forth about kombucha scobys, heirloom tomato seedlings, clothing swaps, and chickens that need homes. There are also order reminders that get emailed out to the whole group for two or three different CSAs and something called Azure Standard.

I’ve been seeing references to buying clubs on blogs I frequent. They’re touted as a great way to save money or find obscure products. A recent quest for a bulk quantity of baking soda was the catalyst I needed to actually seriously consider finding out if there was one in my area. By combing through a lot of old messages, I discovered that Azure Standard is a buying club that offers natural and organic products (in bulk or not). They send trucks out all over the country (including to Alaska!!) to make monthly deliveries at “drop points” organized by consumers. The local drop point is literally up the street from where I live. All I would have to do would be: make a minimum order of $50 (the minimum order for a group is $550), find the local group number, and get on a text message notification list for when the delivery would actually take place. (We all swarm to meet the truck in a parking lot, apparently.)

I had visited the Azure Standard website before but it’s pretty overwhelming. This time, because I knew I needed baking soda, it wasn’t so bad. Then I searched for organic beef bones (since I’ll be consuming a ton of stock for the next several weeks on the GAPS diet). Check. They offer everything from clothes to prepared foods to fresh produce. All their produce is organic and extremely well-priced. I have a heck of a time finding organic onions around here, and Azure offers organic onions for less than I pay for regular onions at the farmers’ market. So, I’m going to give this a whirl and buy some onions, avocados, lemons, ginger, a gallon of coconut oil, the beef bones, and 50 pounds of baking soda for just over $100 total. I was going to get 10 dozen eggs as well but they’re from hens fed the dreaded “vegetarian diet” and I know the eggs I get at the farmers’ market are from truly free-ranging hens who don’t get soy in their feed, so I’ll continue buying local when it comes to eggs.

I can’t quite figure out where the Azure Farm is located (oh, their address is in Oregon, so that’s a good clue), but since they deliver to half of the country, this isn’t exactly buying local. Still, since each drop point serves many families and we all order specific things, I’d guess there’s less of a carbon footprint per item than if it were purchased at a conventional store. Think of all the work and gas and packaging I’ll save not having to drive back and forth to Target every time I use up one of those teeny boxes of baking soda.

The part about this I really like is that there’s bound to be a lot less waste than there is in conventional retail. A while back I was applying for every job opening at my local Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s stores, and a friend said she was glad I didn’t get any of them because I would be horrified by how much food they have to throw away at the end of each day. (I already avoid buying produce at Trader Joe’s because they rarely have organic and the excessive packaging is a nightmare.)

So, I’m pretty excited about my first foray into a buying club. Stay tuned next week to see if I’ll be able to carry 50 pounds of baking soda or if I’ll have to call Aaron for emergency assistance.

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3 thoughts on “In Which I Try to Make Sense of a Buying Club

  1. kim_f says:

    I was a member of Organic Alaska buying club at home… and they use both Azure and United Natural Foods. I was a little confused/overwhelmed by it when I first started out, but it got to be pretty easy. It was an AMAZING resource to have. Yes, things got shipped really far, but really (as you know) we don’t have any realistic option in AK but to depend on a lot of things that have been shipped really far, so it definitely felt like a pretty sustainable choice given my other options. I still bought local and organic whenever possible… but being involved in the co-op definitely got me more organic and bulk options, and definitely eliminated a lot of waste. (Especially in terms of non-food items.)

    FYI: If you find every find yourself w/out a local buying club, but a Costco nearby they do sell 14lb bags of baking soda. Right now we have no buying club option– but there is a Costco in Raleigh (90 miles away, but we go once a month anyway to hit Trader Joe’s and the bulk food/local dairy sections at Earth Fare Market.) We’ve been getting things like baking soda and vinegars in bulk from Costco.

    Anyway. I think you’ll really appreciate joining. It should help with your budgeting too. 🙂

  2. David G says:

    Sounds like a good plan, but one question…

    What are you going to do with 50 pounds of baking soda?

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