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Sep 6, 2006 05:40 PM

Park Slope FOOD COOP? Experiences?

I've been contemplating joining the co-op. What is sold there? I understand the draw is fresh organic produce, but what else? I would love to hear both positive & negative experiences. thanks.

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  1. Been a member for a few years. Food quality is outstanding, prices are cheap (for comparable food from Whole Foods, you will pay 20-50% more). The variety of food is great, I really do not need to shop anywhere else. I do shop elsewhere, but out of choice, not necessity. (For fresh meats and fish; little else) For a family of four, the cost savings are impressive.

    The question is if you can commit to the shifts. They have Wednesday night tours/informational sessions, worth checking out.

    Personally, I enjoy the work slots, I have met many nice people, and we have a good time together. I think others have a different opinion.

    The problems start when you miss a slot; the make up shifts can pile up, and it can be difficult to make them up.

    5 Replies
    1. re: gfood

      I have a friend who recently joined and did comparative research to see how much cheaper the co-op was than local supermarkets (using products he buys on a regular basis). He was really surprized by the results--on 95% of the items the coop charged the same price or less than $.50 cheaper than the supermarket, and in some cases they were more expensive. He stayed w/ the coop because they offered certain items that weren't available at the supermarket, but if you're joining for savings, you should think twice.

      1. re: erikka

        that's bogus. the only items supermkts may come close to are packaged goods like napkins, tide etc.

        1. re: josh L

          Granted, the quality of the produce is better but when it comes to prepackaged foods they aren't that cheap, especially considering they make you work there every month. I'd gladly pay an extra $.50 to not wear one of those dorky orange vests--two to three hours of my time is worth more than what I'd save shopping there.

        2. re: erikka

          The co-op has no "loss leaders". On certain staple items, supermarkets actually take a loss per purchase. They advertise these items to draw consumers in, to shop for other things. So, on certain staple items, on certain days, the co-op may be more expensive. However, if one looks at their total shopping expenses over time (for the same quality items i.e. organic), the cost savings are large.

          1. re: erikka

            I found the opposite to be true. I recently quit the co-op because I moved to Atlanta, and I'm having complete sticker shock, especially when I'm buying the organic brands I've gotten used to. Milk, yogurt, cheese and boxed cereal, in particular, are products that I've found to cost significantly more in regular supermarkets (or at Whole Foods) than at the Co-Op.

            I had mixed feelings about being a member (the shift obligations could get overwhelming, and some of the members could come across as being very self-righteous) but I miss the co-op so much... particularly the fresh produce, which rarely disappointed me, the bulk items like grains, dried fruit and nuts, the cheeses, and the aforementioned cereals and organic dairy products.

        3. thanks for responding! regarding the quality, would you compare it to whole foods? i used to live near the columbus circle whole foods and thought the produce was awful.

          also, if possible, could someone compare the quality of the coop's produce to what you'd get from a csa? thanks again.

          2 Replies
          1. re: giftergirl

            the produce quality is much better and considerbly cheaper then whole foods, who often charges more for conventional items then the coop does for organic. the coop also offers more organic and local produce then whole foods.

            1. re: josh L

              *some* of the produce is better. there have been times that I've gone to the co-op and the romaine is pathetic. their organic can be just as expensive too - cherries at $5.97 a pound? I'll pass. That being said, you can get some things that are cheaper. You just have to shop around, much like anywhere else. I can't get many staples at Co-op; Fairway is my answer.

          2. They are opening a whole foods on 3rd st. and 3rd Avenue near the slope in the coming months. I think the food at the co-op in terms of quality is equivalent. The co-op does not really sell many prepared foods, but that does not matter to me.

            I probably will not start shopping at whole foods when it opens, at least I do not plan on it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gfood

              i do not believe that whole foods will be open in a few months. i thought construction was halted on it till they sorted out the toxic dump it's sitting on (or supposed to sit on.)

            2. (Disclaimer: Member for 3+ years at the PSFC)
              We often shop markets all over the city (and the country when we traveled) and I can't think of a single store (store, not greenmarket) in New York City where you would get fresher, high-quality ORGANIC produce that spans a large number of fruits and vegetables.. For just fruits, maybe The Orchard. Maybe some really busy Chinese grocers in Queens for just greens and bitter melon.

              You may see prettier NON-ORGANIC stuff at some stores. Maybe. Also a fantastic, inexpensive beer and nut/dried fruit selection.

              Anyhow gfood is right. If you don't miss your shifts, it's great. Once you start missing and the make-ups pile up, then it gets disheartening.

              On price: Recently, I took my receipt (family of four) from a typical weekly shop to Whole Foods and compared. From that, we saw a nearly 70% savings.

              But, take the tour first.

              1. When you take the informational tour, they also give you a coupon with which you can shop for one day, though after just looking at the prices during the tour, I decided to sign up right away.

                I've only been a member for 10 months or so, but I've never missed a shift, or had any trouble finding someone to swap with if I was out of town. The produce looks as good, if not better, than at Whole Foods, and is a hell of a lot cheaper. I looked into CSA's, and at least in Brooklyn, they don't run all year. Also, based on my experience with California CSA's, the produce was great, but I still had to supplement it, as much as I tried to eat seasonally. I imagine this would be even more true in NY.