By John Hatton
The Co-op’s Board of Directors thought it would be interesting to ask our family & friends how they shop the Co-op—e.g., do they roam the aisles, scanning the sale shelf-talkers, or just stick to their own staple items, always (or never?) going by a shopping list? What do they do? So, we conducted interviews, and got lots of different takes on how people shop our Co-op:
Shop the perimeter of the store for the best meat in town, a good choice of local and organic produce, a good fish selection, and a great cheese section.
I look for the Co-op Deals sign, and if the price is great and it's a product or food I use, then I buy it even if I do not need it at that point.
Wine section is good, inexpensive, and the signage & staff offer lots of excellent advice.
I tend to stock up on seasonal items when they are on sale. Say it's coming on a season where I need immune products in Wellness. I will look for deals and buy more than needed, so that I do not pay a higher price later in the year.
Always buy home health products at BFC because of selection and well-informed and helpful assistance.
Shop at BFC for a less harried, more friendly experience.
The bulk department is where it's at (best bulk in town).
Staples for some folks: beans, nuts, dried fruit, grains, bulk peanut butter, and cheese (the Co-op has the best selection of cheese!).
Special items for a splurge: organic pasture butter, local eggs (Bonvue in particular), wellness products as needed.
Depending on what's available and the price, people agree that we have good-looking produce—but not as much of a local selection as going to the farmer’s market. If the price is right and the produce isn’t from California or Mexico, then it's a deal!
Kombucha bar is a hit!
For one person, bulk oils and cleaners are high up on the list.
Another person buys her regular olive oil based on whichever is on sale (there always seems to be at least one oil on sale at any given time).
One shopper takes the time to browse the sales first, and goes from there. He uses the Co-op flyer and the case price sheet that are both at the Front Desk, goes through the list, and starts shopping that way.
Some people say they stay away from the grocery aisles, unless they need specialty items like coconut milk, seaweed, or something of the sort.
One shopper notes that paper products are not badly-priced, much to his surprise. When toilet paper is on sale, it's actually a GREAT deal.
A board member says she is in the habit of shopping each week for sales related to breakfast, lunch, and snack food. She has found that one brand of each of the following is always on sale: yogurt, soup, peanut butter, juice, crackers, “power” bars, and nacho chips.
Although the Co-op has a great selection of granola, another Co-op shopper makes his own granola for a whole month at a lower cost shopping the Bulk Department.
The Bulk Department is great for healthy cheap snacks—for example, mix tamari almonds, toasted pumpkin seeds, peanuts, and chocolate—better than any saccharin-sweet treat on the market…
From another shopper: I go in with a list, either on paper or in my head, and I try not to buy things I don't have on the list. I read through the Co-op Deals insert in the paper carefully and also notice advertisements the Co-op places in The Reformer. As I shop I look for other bargains. I buy in bulk whenever possible, and buy expensive items like vitamins, large packs of toilet paper or paper towels, or olive oil when they go on sale; when these things are on sale, I buy multiples, spreading it out over several weeks.
And lastly, a longer answer from a new BFC member-owner, who had lots to say: She focuses on the least expensive items in each category but tries to avoid GMOs as her partner’s doctor advised to avoid them. She flies through each section—picking on impulse in some cases—the organic lemons looked a bit sad (she’s a California girl) so she went for the conventional. She was looking for honeycrisp apples but found satisfaction in the name of the Pink Ladies and went for them. Her energetic eyes scan for sales tags and more basic packaging—as she travels so much, she hasn’t had a chance to form any brand loyalties. She leaves the store with a mixed basket for her troubles, some organic because of health choices, some conventional due to price considerations, and with no particular recipes in mind but a completed list and a twinkle in her step.