When you’re trying to save big on groceries it can seem like you’re at the mercy of the universe. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the coupons and the sales don’t line up with what you need. And, let’s face it, if you want to eat fresh, healthy food it’s often hard to find discounts for it!
But, we know about an AWESOME secret weapon that will help you save big on groceries. Say hello to food share programs!
While everyone knows about couponing and in-store points programs to save money, not everyone knows about food share programs. And, it’s about time they do. Because, these types of programs can help you save big on groceries – like up to 39% savings on your food costs.There are two main types of food share programs, and this is how they work:
The Secret Weapon to Save Big on Groceries – Food Sharing Programs
1. Food Buying Clubs
One of the best ways to save money on food is to be part of a food-buying club (also known as a food-share).
Wondering what the heck that is? A food- buying club is made up of people who buy bulk foods at a wholesale price and split the food for big savings. These clubs can buy from a national distributor, a local distributor, or from the producer itself.
Benefits of Buying from a Food Buying Club
Not only do food shares save you money, they also cut down on the amount of packaging that is needed to get products to you. So, you can feel good about saving the planet while you’re saving money!
Another benefit is that you often just show up at the food distribution site and pick your groceries up – no walking around aisles needed. Then, all you have to do is meal plan around what you’ve been given! It’s much easier than trying to think up all your meals from scratch. (Unless you’re a super picky eater, I guess! Haha.)
What to Know Before You Join
Before signing up for a food-buying club, it’s important to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.
Lots of food-buying clubs have different goals. Some of them are focused on buying produce, while other ones might buy dried goods. There are also buying clubs that pool resources to buy organic personal care products.
The food club you join needs to match your needs, because you will be making (or going along with) group decisions.
Just How Much Can You Save?
The savings you’ll get with a food-buying club depend on a lot of factors, like the products you’re buying, the size of the food club, and whether or not you’re buying local and organic.
To show how much you can save, I checked prices at my local Superstoreand compared them with prices at my local Good Food Box. Since you don’t always get the same amount of food in a food-share order, these savings are approximate.
I found that if I purchased some basic produce (carrots, apples, onions, garlic and potatoes) from the food share, instead of full-price food at the grocery store, I saved 39%. That’s a ton of money! I actually wasn’t expecting the savings to be so high.
To be fair, when I compared food share prices to the grocery store’s sale prices, purchasing from a food share “only” saved me %15. But, hey I’ll take 15% off too!
If you spend $200 on produce a month, you’ll save $360a year by joining a food-buying club. Think about the awesome addition that’d make to your savings account!
How to Find a Food Share Club
If you want to find a food-buying club in your area, get on Google and type in the name of your city + “food buying club”, “food basket”, “food share”, or “food box”.
If you’re in the USA, check out Bountiful Baskets. They’re a food-buying club that ‘s available in many cities across the country.
What to Do If There Isn’t a Club in Your Local Area
So what if you want to join a food-buying club, but there isn’t one close to you? Why not make one yourself? You’ll get to decide what kind of food-share it is, and make sure it meets your needs. The following steps are a good summary of what’s involved with starting your own food-buying club.
How to Start a Food Share:
a) The first step is figuring out the kind of food share you want. Will you focus on organic food, dried goods, produce, meat, or more?
b) Next, you need to find others to join the food-buying club. If you have enough like-minded friends, you might be able to round up people from your social circle.
Possibly, you’ll need to come up with some other ways to find people. Consider creating a flyer and handing it out around your neighborhood or at local groups you’re a part of. Food shares can have just a few members or as many as you want.
c) Once you have people to participate, you’ll need to find wholesale suppliers that you want to work with. A quick search online and some emails to suppliers should help you figure out who is a good fit for you.
d) You’ll also need to figure out a system for your club. How often will you place an order? How will you collect money from club members, pick up items, store items (you may need a large freezer), divide items, and distribute items to co-op members.
e) You’ll need to get members of your food-share to help with all the different aspects of the club if you’re going to pull this off. Have every member contribute volunteer hours so that everyone feels like they’re sharing the load.
2. Community Supported Agriculture
Another awesome way to save big on groceries is to join a community-supported agriculture program (CSA).
So what’s a CSA? A CSA is when consumers purchase a share of a local farm’s produce.There are usually a few different options for investing. Most CSAs prefer you pay for a whole season of produce at once, but many will allow you to buy monthly or weekly (usually these shares are more expensive than buying for the season). You can also choose to buy a half-share, which gets you produce every other week.
Benefits of Buying from a Community Supported Agriculture Program
When you invest in a CSA, you save money, and you get high-quality products from a local supplier.You also help support local farms, and a good portion of the produce from CSAs is organic—this is some of the best-quality food you can buy!
What to Know Before You Join
Just FYI: some CSAs require volunteer hours from members. It’s a good idea to check out all the requirements before committing and make sure you’re okay with everything.
Just How Much Can You Save?
Savings with CSAs might not be as big as with a food buying club (because local, organic food is pricier than bulk, non-organic food), BUT when you buy with a CSA, you’ll still pay less than you would at the grocery store.
The savings will depend on where you live and which farm you are buying from, but if your CSA is anything like Little Mountain Farm you’ll receive an average of 15% more produce than you’d get at the grocery store for the same price – that’s a pretty great deal!
So what exactly are prices like? Seasonal shares range from $150-$700—again it totally depends on the CSA you buy from. While that price may seem high, if you divide it by a 26 week season, it’s really reasonable.
For $20-$40 a week you’ll get local, usually organic produce fresh from the farm, and you’ll know who grew your food!
If buying a seasonal share is too much money up front, or if you think you can’t use a whole share, you can go in with a friend, split the cost, and get the produce for an even better deal.
How to Find a CSA
To find a Community Supported Agriculture program, just Google your city’s name + CSA. If you’re in the USA take a look at localharvest.org.
Depending on where you live, you’ll probably find a few programs. You can research and find out which one meets your needs (there are CSAs that supply produce, meat, and other products, so make sure you’re purchasing a share in a CSA that will supply things you want).
If you’re trying to find some extra money in your budget, take a look at some of these programs. Instead of spending your time coupon clipping and looking for sales, streamline your approach and sign up for a CSA or a food buying club and rest assured that you’ll be saving money. Take a look online and see what’s available in your area. You can join the green movement and save money at the same time.
Ready to Save on Groceries?
If you’re ready to save money on food and still be able to eat well, food shares and CSAs might be just what you’re looking for! In addition, you might want to check out these 4 habits I quit to save $175/month on groceries. Because, when you’re looking to save big on groceries, using multiple methods (if you can) is dynamite!