Setting up your own grocery co-op – Guest Post

12 Apr

When social distancing started in Manitoba, we set up a grocery co-op between three families in our neighbourhood to reduce the amount of people going to stores. The list is long, the cart is full and we are happy to be sending just one person to the store to supply all three households (total of 12 people). We shop once per week. While we could stretch out a little longer, we’d then have to make two trips, bring two people to manage or tell the other families that they would need to do their own shopping. At this point we think sending one person in place of three is a good trade off.

*online shopping, or pick up are also great options, but if you’re having a hard time finding a time slot or want to leave those options for those who are high risk then a grocery coop may work for you.

Here’s how we do it:

Each family sends their list and we enter it into a googlesheet with one column for the item and quantity, one column for the section of the store the product is in and one column for the family who is purchasing. This makes shopping fast and relatively easy although you still need to have master tetris skills.

Here are the section codes that I use (putting the number first means that it sorts in order of how

we go through the store):

1 produce cooler

2 produce

3 fresh meat

4 deli

5 dairy cooler

6 paper/drinks

7 frozen

8 bread

9 staples (aisles)

10 snacks (at front of store)

11 middle (non-food items)

I sometimes move items around after sorting if I know they are located close together. The first few times we asked for subtotals at checkout but have now stopped as it takes a lot more time and organization and we always ended up making mistakes on it anyway.

When we get the groceries home, we bring in our own items and sort the remaining ones. It’s also handy because sometimes we’ll share large quantity items. The other two families live close by and we do contactless drop off on the doorstep.

Here are a few tips that can help make your coop run smoothly:

  • Substitutions – Costco tends to be fairly well stocked, but just check if your people want you to substitute for different brands etc if the exact item isn’t available. Read your list ahead of time and ask questions before you go if needed. It also helps to let them know when you’re going shopping so they can be available if you need to call and ask a question.
  • Print your list and bring it along with a pencil so you can mark off and make notes on your list – have an electronic copy of the list in your phone in case you lose the paper one!
  • Remember, your cart may be very full depending on the size of your lists, so pack carefully as you shop and use the bottom of the cart to maximize your space. After a few times you’ll get used to how long you can realistically stretch between shopping trips.

Huge thanks to Lori for this guest post!

And if you have figured out any great ways to shop more efficiently etc. – let me know!

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