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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.

                1. been a member for many years and highly recommend it - yes the produce is fab - esp. because there is such turnaround that it's always fresh. fyi though - organic doesn't necessarily mean what it used to - industry is lobbying for a change in standards so that some things labelled organic actually use chemicals in their production - it's mainly because they see organic as a market now through things like whole foods etc.
                  beyond the produce though is health and beauty stuff if you like natural products - those are marked up even more outside the co-op and the savings on those are huge.
                  i also appreciate the labelling - you know what has GMOs in it (as far as we can tell) or what produce is local versus organic but from new zealand etc.
                  and i hate to sound cheesy but honestly a draw to the co-op is the fact that it's a co-op and not a for profit corporation - that you have to work and share and that it - by and large - works. i've heard horror stories and always have to be more patient and zen when i go because it can be annoying at times - but places like whole foods are annoying in other ways so it's sort of a choice for what we can put up with.

                  1. I've been a member for the past 2 years. Try as I might, I can't help but love to shop there. The prices are unbeatable. the local, fresh produce and seasonal harvests are so diverse and have real FLAVOR! some critics think that the membership policies are a bit facist. Making up missed work-shifts is definitely irritating to say the least but if you are on top of your work (I am in the Food Prep division; bagging dried fruits and nuts, olives and cutting cheeses) the manual labor is a nice change from computer work.
                    I shopped at Blue Apron for some fancey cheese for a party. I spent a fortune on 4 cheeses that I later discovered in the co-op fridge for litteraly 1/2 the cost.
                    They introduce new cheeses as well as loose teas of the month.
                    If I ever move out of Brooklyn, I know that the co-op will be the one thing I will miss the most...

                    1. Just to offer a counter opinion (albeit not that well informed). I have a a number of friends and family at the co-op, who alternately crow and complain about the place. They like the prices and produce selection (and nuts, cheeses, olives, etc.); they hate the work and the place's PC sanctimoniousness. I've been once myself -- and the selection is impressive, but I never joined because I know I'd dread the work.

                      Anyway, I think moreso than Whole Foods, Fairway is a real alternative to the co-op, especially if you have a car. Great produce there, too, and very good prices, even if not co-opian.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: SlopePig

                        I absolutley agree re Fairway - you really got to be into the Coop mindset and the whole People's Republic of Organica to stomach it.

                        1. re: livetotravel

                          I admittedly haven't had any conflicts with the Coop organization itself, since I haven't missed any shifts, but I've never had any members be unpleasantly self-righteous to me and I'm a cashier so I interact with a lot of people. Things like the GMO warnings on Cheerios and the Communist-Socialist letters to the editor in the newsletter amuse me more than annoy me, and it all balances out in comparison to the horror I feel when I walk into Pathmark at Atlantic Center. No car, so Fairway is not an option for me. If I lived in Cobble Hill, I probably would just rely on Sahadi's and the grocer next door.

                          1. re: AppleSister

                            some people take gmo's seriously and appreciate the labeling.

                            1. re: josh L

                              I'm sure they do, but isn't it still funny that a store is warning its customers not to buy something it stocks? I imagine they stock the stuff anyway b/c the baby-stroller crowd needs its Cheerios and won't take an organic, non-GMO substitute. Anyway, I was trying to defend the Coop from the haters who find this kind of stuff self-righteous and off-putting.

                      2. Go ahead and join. Either you'll love it, or you'll get a good story out of it; but there's no way to know what it's like until you've experienced the thing in all curious complexity. I couldn't stand the place myself, for variety of reasons that I won't mention here. Love it or hate it, you won't be the same person afterward.

                        1. The coop has really good prices on CHOCOLATE. Also they sell a delicious fresh wild Alaskan salmon that is incredible and probably half the price or less anywhere else and I am not exagerating. I have belonged for 3 years and really don't like shopping elsewhere. I went to Fairway but it's too big for me and this might sound wierd, but there were too many choices--I would have spent too much time there. I like working my shift and recently couldn't make my shift--I very easily traded with someone else and it was a fun shift. There are definately some negatives--the lines, the crowds, they STILL don't accept cash cards or credit cards, but I find it all worth it.

                          1. for really fresh organic or sustainably produced produce at reasonable prices join a csa or hit the farmer's market...

                            1. Tried it, didn't like it. I'm a capitalist by nature and training. I work with people from all parts of the globe, with all different eating habits. I hated things being shoved into my face when I gave a mainstream answer to a food question.
                              And a lot of it came from people who looked (anyway) a lot unheathier than I do (weight problems, etc.)
                              It's just not my lifestyle. And I can get the same stuff with a lot better attitude at Fairway and the 5th Avenue Key Food, which pre-Fairway actually ordered in stuff for me, and the butchers took care of a special order just right.

                              1. The Coop is cool. It can be trying with the work slots and the opinions of some members, then again I got into arguments with people in regular supermarkets such as Key Food and Dag's, mostly with people messing up te line. The PSFC has great produce and a fantastic meat selection. Theier ribeyes and frozen Argentinian steaks are second to none. I usually go to fairway for seafood and olive oil. Everything else, the Coop. Sometimes it's cheaper sometimes it's not. They let you know about that stuff up front at orientation. No one, not Fairway, Wholfoods and especially Key Food can beat them in quality.

                                1. I've been a member for almost fifteen years, and love the coop, which has the organic veggies and other things I want. I've never had any trouble finding someone to switch shifts with me, even when I've called strangers. There's now a web site where you can seek someone to change shifts with. But, yes, it is so that you have to remember that it is a second job, albeit one you're going to only 165 minutes a month, and at which you can expect to have fun if you don't come in with an attitude.

                                  1. LOVE the Coop, but it's not for everybody. Location makes a big difference - I trekked across the park for a few years when I first joined, and it was certainly a part of my decision to move to the Slope. The community and the quality and the affordability made it worth it for me. I actually ENJOYED "playing grocery" doing my work slot - even when, or perhaps especially when, I was working 16 hour days. The diversity and the anticorpororate vibe in the context of superlative food works for me.

                                    But if you have no time, forget it.

                                    I suppose it also depends on what you eat. Trader Joe's could be a better bet for someone who wants to heat and eat, or just needs crackers and sweets when they get home. I enjoy TJs, but I can't stand Whole Foods due to extreme sticker shock.

                                    The Coop is MUCH cheaper for most things I buy. Organic meat, that awesome wild Alaska salmon someone mentioned (fed ex'd in for a couple months it's available), fancy beers, beautiful veg,, cheese and olives. Beauty products tend to be waaay cheaper - lotions, etc.

                                    1. Former member here. I do miss the quality of the produce and the prices, but the hassles were numerous and when Fairway arrived in Brooklyn, that was it for me. I found I was frequently going to other stores for things the coop didn't/couldn't carry, particularly certain meats and fresh fish. The only other thing I would add to this discussion is that your experience will be greatly, vastly improved if you have a non-9 to 5 schedule that allows you to shop and work at off hours. The crowds at night and on the weekends are ridiculous, and you will probably get a job cleaning toilets on Fridays nights because all the good slots are taken. I was fortunate in that my schedule allowed me to shop at off hours and always said I'd never be a member if that weren't the case. And look, I still quit. If I lived a little closer I'd probably still be there, but the parking situation was a nightmare. I say go and check it out and decide if it's for you.

                                      1. farmers market and Trader Joes