Co-op Shopping Guide

Created January 26, 2017
You can buy quality items at a considerable discount through co-op shopping, an alternative that's been quietly taking the world by storm one local area at a time. MORE+ LESS-

Once you get involved in co-op shopping, you'll wonder why you didn't try it sooner.

You can buy healthier food and other quality items at a considerable discount through co-op shopping, an alternative to traditional shopping that's been quietly taking the world by storm, one local area at a time.

What It Is

The "co-op" in co-op shopping is for cooperative, a co-op being a group of individuals who join forces for the benefit of each member and the whole group. In co-op shopping, that cooperative effort is directed at providing a more mutually equitable means of selling and buying goods.

How It Works

Many different co-ops exist throughout the country and the world, most of which are unaffiliated with one another. Yet all co-ops operate under similar principles, one of the most prevailing of which is shared ownership. All co-ops are owned by their members, be they workers or customers or both, with each member getting one equal vote in determining how the democratic body is organized and run. Co-ops are volunteer-run businesses in which any proceeds brought in above and beyond those needed to run the co-op are shared by the member-owners.

What You Can Get

The most common type of co-op is a food co-op, with most focused on providing organic and/or locally-grown and produced food. In fact, one of the other ways besides being volunteer-run that co-ops help keep costs down is by purchasing much of their food items at a discount from local farms and producers. This is frequently referred to as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and a participating farm is called a CSA Farm.

You can buy other things at a co-op besides food and grocery items, however, including clothing and household goods. There are even financial co-ops (better known as credit unions), housing co-ops and utility co-ops.

Some goods producers run their own co-ops too (like Land o' Lakes and Sunkist) as well as some distribution outlets (like Ace Hardware). These outlets, while created by private, for-profit companies, are set up following the same guidelines to serve the same mutually beneficial goals as more traditional public co-ops.

How to Find Co-Op Shopping Near You

You can find food co-ops in nearly every one of the United States listed in Co-op Directory Service Listings; and find nearby CSA Farms and other co-ops through the Local Harvest Listings.

To find other kinds of shopping co-ops, as well as other food co-ops not listed with the CDS or Local Harvest, you can perform a simple Internet search for co-ops in your local area (such as: co-ops near Topeka, KS).

A smaller alternative to co-ops for people who don't have one in their area is a buying club. A buying club is another form of co-op shopping in which a group of people get together to do their shopping in bulk, often getting discounts on the items they purchase.

As the cost of consumer goods continues to soar and people in local communities actively seek better ways to support one another in keeping quality high while keeping costs down, co-op shopping is gaining renewed ground in pockets across the country.

Got a co-op tip or story? Leave it in the comments!