BOD Report: Pennywise Shopping

  | Board of Directors, Food For Thought

End 1: The BFC exists to meet its Shareholders’ collective needs for reasonably priced food and products with an emphasis on healthy, locally grown organic and fairly traded foods.

One of the most common shopper concerns board directors hear when we table is the cost of items at our Co-op. Some people, however, have discovered ways to shop at the Co-op without experiencing sticker shock. Whenever I talk with someone who has budget concerns, I recommend they get information about the Co-op’s growing Food For All program. If our conversation lasts a little longer, I share some shopping tips with them. I also talk with those whom I see frequently about buying strategies, recipes, better options, or I make recommendations about what to buy.

Here are some of the things we may talk about:

Shopping Strategies

•      Keep a running list of items you need, in your kitchen, writing them down as you notice they are used up. Add items needed for your weekly menu. Stop by the Demo Counter or the corner near the meat department for free recipe ideas.

•      When shopping, purchase only items on the grocery list. This helps keep a food budget on track. Don’t shop when you are hungry; eat some protein before you shop.

•      Read the Coop Deals flyer and coupon book, and In-Store Specials flyers for sales. Check the sandwich board at the entrance for information on flash sales, specials, and promotions. Sometimes not only are the items you want on sale, but there may also be coupons for them.

•      Check our Facebook page regularly. We post sales on items that may not be in our flyers.  We may suddenly get a great deal on a product and want to pass the savings on to you.

•      Look for purple “Co-op Basics” signs.  These indicate either an organic or a natural alternative item at a lower price.

•      Check the classes being offered.  You may find one that addresses nutrition, builds awareness of allergens in foods or teaches cooking techniques.

•      Inquire at Shareholder Services about your eligibility to sign up for the Food for All program.

•      Shareholders have access to the Co-op’s Nutritionist. Call Shareholder Services to schedule an appointment.

•      Use veggie scraps (and bones) for stocks. When you trim veggies, put the clean trim in a gallon-size freezer bag and store in your freezer. When the bag is full, cover the veggie scraps (with or without bones) with water, bring to the boil and simmer. When done, strain the broth and you have a wonderful stock for soups or other dishes, which will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.

The Bulk Department

•      Get to know the Bulk Department. Purchase non-perishable items in bulk if the price is better per pound then prepackaged on the grocery shelves. Don’t forget to bring you own clean containers to use. If you find what you want in a pre-packed container but there is too much or too little in it, ask a bulk person to pack a smaller (larger) amount for you.

•      Learn to prepare and use rice, dried beans, peas and lentils. They’re good for you and are among the least expensive and most versatile foods to buy. Look for free brochures or recipes on how to cook them. Ask us questions about cooking with them.

•      Make homemade snacks. Popcorn is easy to make and inexpensive. Find recipes for homemade granola or power bars using bulk ingredients.

•      Compare the per-weight price of any packaged cereal to that of plain, rolled oats for oatmeal or your own granola or muesli. The bulk section has dried fruits and nuts to add to cereal or oatmeal; maple syrup is also available.

The Meat Department (personally, my favorite department!)

•      Buy chicken in bulk to save money.  Store portions in freezer bags and thaw as needed.

•      The Co-op has many chicken and pork items below $4.99 per pound. Look for uncured pork products (bacon, ham, etc.) for a healthier alternative. Also check the Deli for uncured and Co-op produced (sandwich) meats and cheese.

•      Check the freezer in the Seafood Department for reasonably priced fish. Check the seafood case for deals too. There may be less expensive fish we don’t always carry, or one that is on special for a limited time.


•      Co-op brand vitamins and tinctures are well-priced and as good as name brands.

•      Shop for other reasonable priced natural care products.


Our cheese department is bringing in a wide range of cheeses at affordable prices. Look for bulk trim, usually from one of our local producers.


•      Pick up organic items such as canned goods, cereals, dried goods and crackers at a fraction of the normal price.
•      Shop the dairy cooler for products at reduced prices. Often they are reduced because the product has a short shelf life; used within a short time, it is just as good as a product with a longer shelf life.

•      Shop the freezers for reduced-price meats, dinners, and other items.

The Deli

•      Grab and Go containers usually contain enough for two portions. If you do not want to purchase that amount, take it to the Deli staff; they would be happy to repackage the amount you would like.

•      A small container from the deli case will yield about 3 to 4 ounces of one of our freshly-made, better-for-you salads like Korean Spinach or Kale Salad.

•      The deli roasts whole natural chickens daily. After your meal, strip any leftover meat and save it for another meal. Use the bones for stock.

There are so many more ways to manage your Co-op shopping costs. I would like to extend an invitation to take the Pennywise Pantry tour with me. Get shopping tips, and recipes that cost $10 or less to make for a family of 4. Please contact Shareholder Services to schedule a tour, or if you see me we can discuss a date and time. Call 802-246-2821 to leave a message for me.

By Anna Edson