Co-op shopping is better for you, the environment, and local farmers, but we appreciate that keeping to your grocery budget is also important. We’re here to help with a list of tips to get the most out of budget shopping the co-op way.
Be an owner
First and foremost, to get the most of your local co-op, become a member. Most co-ops offer membership for a reasonable, one-time fee that will quickly pay for itself through exclusive sales and annual dividends. At Lakewinds, it costs $90 for ownership for life.
Certain food is more likely to contain harmful contaminants than others. The dirty dozen is a list of the food that, when grown conventionally, is most likely to contain pesticide residues. At Lakewinds, if an item appears on the dirty dozen list, we will only carry it if it’s certified organic or free from pesticides. For peace of mind, consider making a trip to Lakewinds when buying any of these items.
Every department features several sale items at any given time, so you never have to look far to find discounted items. For costlier purchases like meat and produce, shop sales as exclusively as possible. Visit our sales page beforehand and build meal plans around what’s on sale.
- Every second Wednesday of the month we offer 10% off everything in our wellness department. For additional wellness savings, enjoy 25% all supplements during our semi-annual supplement sales, and enjoy savings on toothpaste, deodorant, makeup, and more during our semi-annual skin care sales.
- The annual Meat Sale is a great time to stock up on grass-fed steaks, ground beef and hot dogs, and wild sockeye salmon. Discounts are as high as 40% off regular price. Portion meat items into smaller containers and freeze. With enough freezer space, you can buy for the year all at once for considerable savings (but take into consideration the upfront cost).
- Consider adding a chest freezer to your home, if you don’t already have one. For a reasonable upfront investment, you can expand your ability to save by purchasing larger quantities of your favorite foods when they’re on sale.
- Owners have access to even deeper discounts through Owner Deals and 10% case discounts.
If you’re looking to shave dollars off your grocery bill, learn how to be a bulk buyer! The bulk aisle offers the same products sold in packages but at a fraction of the cost. It takes a bit more time and know-how, but you can save a lot over the course of a year. Buy just the amount you need, especially with dried seasonings and more expensive or rare ingredients. In the deli or the meat department, try to buy from the counter where you can order just what your recipe requires.
- Consider bringing your own bulk aisle kit to reduce single-use plastic waste. Include mason jars, reused glass spice containers, reusable plastic containers, and masking tape for labeling and dating your items.
- Plan ahead for the bulk sale. Most items in the bulk aisle will store for months, meaning you can buy a year’s supply of bulk goods if you have the storage space.
Buy apples in the fall when we source them locally. Wait until summertime for berries. Eat oranges in the winter. Seasonal produce isn’t just cheaper, it’s fresher and tastes better too.
Consider implementing a meat-free day. Find a vegetarian or vegan recipe that sounds yummy, or swap out meat for a plant-based alternative. For example: Make tacos using canned or dried black beans instead of beef or chicken. You might be surprised how inexpensive it is to eat without meat.
It will save you time and money. A shopping list is an easy way to make your trip to Lakewinds more efficient, while reducing the odds that you buy something you don’t need.
- Related tip: Avoid shopping while hungry! Stay on task. Get in and out with what you need. Stick to your budget.
Plenty of co-ops stock inexpensive brands like Field Day to give shoppers more options when purchasing pantry staples. Field Day offers value-priced dried pasta, canned goods, condiments, seasonings, and beverages. Many of their products are certified organic, and they usually offer gluten-free options when available.
If it works with your schedule, make multiple trips per week, instead of trying to get everything all at once. We realize this isn’t always feasible, but multiple small trips can help cut back on wasted food by allowing you to buy only what you know you need for the next few days — instead of locking yourself into meals that you suddenly don’t have time to cook.
- Make sure to include cost of fuel when considering this tip.
Meal-starter kits and boxed sides certainly save time, but they’re rarely the cheapest way to build a meal, and are usually higher in sodium, sugar, and preservatives. Get your basics like whole grains, beans, and seasonings from the bulk aisle and make from scratch instead.
Purchasing a whole chicken will almost always be significantly less expensive than buying the specific cuts. Try roasting one for dinner, even if you know that’s more food than your family needs. The following night, toss the rest into a pasta or soup. In produce, avoid pre-cut fruits and veggies and chop them yourself. Consider streamlining your meal prep by chopping and cutting everything you need for the next few days ahead of time. You’ll save considerable money and get a chance to hone your culinary skills.
We know it’s a balance to shop on a budget when you want high-quality food that’s better for you, helps local farmers, and is friendly to the environment. But shop strategically with tips like these to get the best of both worlds—great food on a budget.