Sacramento has a great food Co-Op, called, no less, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op. I’ve been shopping there for roughly 12 years and have been a member nearly as long. (You don’t have to be a member to shop there, but it does provide more discounts).
When I first started shopping there, it was primarily to buy soy milk, and non-dairy cheese. Over the years, it’s become my family’s primary grocery store. For many years, it was the only store in our part of Sacramento that didn’t sell anything with partially hydrongenated fats. Despite the surge in “healthy” foods over the past few years and the similar increase in “health food” sections an conventional stores, it’s still the healthiest–and oftentimes best valued–store to shop.
These days, we buy all of our produce and eggs at the Farmers Market or via a CSA. We continue to make our own bread, granola, and yogurt. Almost everything else is purchased at the Co-Op. One of the reasons we buy so much at the Co-Op, is the bulk section. Bins and bins of flours, sugars, nuts, pastas, chocolate, baking soda and powder, dried fruits, and more. The Co-Op will also order large quantities of food items for its customers. For example, we buy 50 lb. bags of oats, 25 lb. bags of whole wheat and white flours, and cases of almond milk. Buying in bulk–especially in these quantities–not only saves the packaging (almond milk is an exception), but saves us 15 percent of the price.
Now that we have kids, the real value of the Co-Op has become evident. The visual stimulation is so much less than at a conventional store. There are no boxes of cereal with the latest cartoon movie characters. Or gumball machines. Or entire rows of soda, fruit chews, and candy. It’s so much easier to shop at the Co-Op with kids. Sure, they still ask for certain treats, but I’ll take fruit-flavored yogurt or a bagel over demands for candy, cookies, and pop any day.
As an aside, I also love the connection the Co-Op constantly makes to the farms and sources of the food it sells. Despite the progress that has been made over the past few years, I still find this incredibly lacking throughout our culture. The Co-Op’s participation in the One Farm at a Time initiative and partnership with Soil Born Farm are particularly inspiring.