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To Park Slope Food Co-op or not?

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Okay, so I've lived in Park Slope for nearly four years and I can't count the number of times I've been tempted to join the food co-op. So far I've resisted for the top two reasons people resist being a part of it -- I can't stand the sanctimonious People's Republic of Organica demographic that is famous for being members there and more importantly, I work fulltime and have two young kids -- my time is quite precious. That said, after buying another quart of nearly rotten mealy strawberries from the 7th Ave and Garfield bodega, I can't help but think yet again that maybe this is something I should consider. So do you mind if we start this tired old thread one more time? Is it worth it? In the summer I hit the GAP farmer's market, but what about the winter? I still go, but one can only have so much kale until the need for different produce becomes too great. Is the produce at the co-op great and varied year round? And if it is worth it, what are the best jobs to do there? I'm looking for one that isn't complete drudgery and -- please don't flame me for saying this because I know how awful it sounds, but -- one that the cool people do. When I say cool I just mean not the sanctimommies, etc. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated. I know some people will say try Fairway, but we don't have a car. And some will say Trader Joe's is coming (can't wait!!!) but their produce leaves something to be desired.

Thanks in advance for chiming in!

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  1. I finally quit after 5 years -- as a freelancer, seemed something was always coming up on the day I had to work. For me, after being on double secret probation for I don't know how many months, it finally dawned on me that it was insane to not be able to buy groceries (when I was suspended). Seems that's a god-given right, and it just seemed crazy to me that I needed groceries I couldn't just go get 'em.

    When I joined, there weren't any options available, and now there are (GAP always there, but now there's Fairway, Union Market, an expanded Divine Taste, etc.). Co-op is cheaper (and that's actually the only thing I miss), and I did like doing my shift, actually, but at the end of the day, it just wasn't worth the guilt I felt over being suspended, not to mention the fact that I couldn't get groceries when I needed them anyway.

    As for your question about produce, I didn't find it necessarily any better than you'd get at the greenmarket. Sometimes it was good, sometimes not so much. I did find that they'd have weird things thta would get me inspired to cook. But will you avoid rotten mealy strawberries? Not necessarily.

    I suppose the bottom line is, if you think you can always make your shift, it's a good idea. But if not, you quickly find yourself in suspension hell.

    1. The produce at Fairway is terrible. It's varied, sure, but it goes bad within days. You're honestly not missing anything there.

      I've been a member of the PSFC for the last 6 years, and have remained a member even though I left the immediate area 2 years ago. It's the produce that keeps me coming back: it is varied, it's local whenever possible, and the prices for organic are usually in line with the prices for coventional anywhere else. Surprisingly, I've also been able to buy 90-100% of all my grocery shopping needs at the co-op, instead of shopping in 3 different places for dry goods/produce/specialty items like I used to do before I was a member. They carry meats (should you be a carnivore) and have a pretty decent cheese dept, have a huge selection of chocolate and baking goods, plus they have much of the other stuff most people buy when shopping: cereals, rice, pasta, coffee, tea, aluminum foil, light bulbs etc etc etc. The only thing missing (for me) is fresh fish.

      Is working 5.5 hours (2.75 hours per adult in the household) a drag? Maybe for some. Working full time might make it difficult to find an easy workslot for you. It can get crowded and the lines can get long, and many times you'll go and what you went for might be out of stock, so it isn't like this magical place that will satisfy your every need every time you enter. I can't say it will never be a frustrating experience to shop there, especially if you're shopping during a particularly busy time. But the food is good and the prices are good, and as far as the sactimommy factor goes, I've found most people there to be friendly and helpful. I've never gotten a hairy eyeball for buying frozen pizza or ground beef or white sugar, and I like that I can buy these things in the same place that I buy organic kohlrabi, jerusalem artichokes, goat milk ice cream, Nielsen-Massey Vanilla and steel cut oats in bulk.

      But, there are things to put up with and I think being a member does take a certain amount of tolerance. Have you been to an orientation? They last about an hour and because they do, you get a pass to go shopping (your time is worth something, even at that point). Maybe give that a shot, and see how you feel.

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        1. It's the mentality. If you don't mind the Stalinist environment, and the PC police who refuse to prosecute certain shoplifters, it might be for you.

          The Co-Op is not that much cheaper if you figure in your time and aggravation.There is good produce to be found in the Heights and PS, and then there is always Fresh Direct.

          Great products, reasonable prices, home delivery, and absolutely no attitude.

          FD is now running a special of 25% off each of your first 2 orders. Code word "trucks".

          4 Replies
          1. re: Fleur

            You have to assume that people who are interested in the PSFC are at least minimally environmentally conscious. Fresh Direct, with its idling trucks and ridiculous packaging, while convenient, is sort of the antithesis of that.

            Where's the best produce in the Heights?

            1. re: JennS

              I think the best produce there is at the fruit/vegetable store about two doors down from Sahadi's (toward the BQE). They have a good selection (though not lots of exotic stuff) and it is almost always really fresh and reasonably priced. The glossiest presentation is at Garden of Eden on Montague, but I have stopped going there. I have bought bad strawberries, mushy grapes, bad apples, etc. I am generally a really good produce chooser, but they manage to disguise bad produce pretty well. (Also beware their cheese. It often always tastes like the refrigerator.)

              1. re: gnosh

                I agree. The produce at the Korean store on Atlantic is excellent, and the prices are low. The people are also very pleasant.

                I have gotten great local strawberries at Fairway, something I have not found in other places. Their peaches have also been excellent.

                1. re: Fleur

                  Thanks for the produce tips -- I never would have thought to try that Korean market on Atlantic and I totally agree about Garden of Eden's cheese! I also find that all their prepared foods have a similar plasticy taste. The best produce I've gotten in the Heights lately has been at the greenmarket near the courthouse.

          2. I think it also depends a lot on when you can shop. I freelance, so could go during the week, but if I had to shop only on the weekends? Forget it. The place is a complete zoo. You couldn't pay me to go anywhere near the place.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bebevonbernstein

              I have to agree with this. I also freelance, and shop in the late morning or early afternoon.

              Seems to me that there's no perfect solution out there...until whole paycheck, er whole foods arrives.