Do we REALLY eat that much?!
Does it REALLY cost that much?!?
How do we get this grocery budget under control?!?
It was another night of the same conversation at our house. Our growing family with growing appetites was growing the grocery budget. My husband and I sat down, yet again, to work through how we could impact the budget without changing the quality of the food we ate.
With chronic health issues in our house, and food sensitivities in all of the kids, we knew we needed to make better food choices all the time. More people in our family and better and better food choices were inflating our food budget and we wanted to get it back to a more manageable level without sacrificing quality.
Clipping coupons and watching sales can only take you so far, especially if you’re looking for more specialty foods, or gluten free or organic options. We knew we had to get creative in our approach.
Enter Naturally a Deal, a bulk-buying food co-op.
I love a good grocery store, and to me “good” means quality food, at reasonable prices, close-ish to my house, and in sizes and quantities that will feed my ever-growing gaggle of kids. That can be hard to find all in one spot and it often means shopping around at a few different places.
So I decided to try a bulk-buying food co-op called Naturally a Deal.
Naturally a Deal sells food by the case, whether it’s butter, meat, frozen fruit, or toilet paper. Naturally a Deal also specifically seeks out healthier food options such as gluten free, whole grains, organics, and more to make these options even more affordable for your family.
This post is written by Leah Heffner on behalf of Naturally a Deal.
How Does Ordering From a Co-op Work?
I was worried about what I would do with cases of food and I’m really glad we have a chest freezer for when I go a little crazy in ordering, oh say, three cases of sprouted bread. Or I thought that it might be a challenging process to order and pick up the food, especially with three kids in tow.
But it’s super simple.
Every month, I get an email saying the 7-day ordering period is open, when the pick up date will be in my city and highlighting yummy products that are available this month. These are almost always the best foods they carry and the more specialty or sought after items like gluten free, organic, and other items like that. Then I place my order on their website and I pick my order up at the drop location in my city on the day and time it’s being delivered.
I don’t have to leave my house to shop. Just a few clicks on the Naturally a Deal website, and I can go pick it up, without ever taking my kids out of the car. Pick-up is made super easy by people at each pick-up location jumping in to sort cases and getting them into piles for easy finding and loading. Seriously, easy peasy (lemon squeezy as my four-year-old would add).
What Have Been Some of Your Favorite Deals?
Like I said, we have some food requirements and preferences in our house and we always try to get the best quality we can. We have loved ordering grass-fed butter from Naturally a Deal, uncured bacon, sprouted bread, and frozen fruit chunks for smoothies. We’ve even gotten fresh maple syrup from Pennsylvania in the orders through a partnership with Naturally a Deal and a farmer. What a great treat!
And while these are our favorite products, there are lots (LOTS!) more from which to choose. Everything from breads to meats, from frozen veggies to paper goods, just like a grocery store! Each month more than 1000 (!!!!) items are listed on the website so it’s a great treasure hunt to find the best things and the best fit for our family, budget, and meal plan.
How Do They Do That
When I received my first email from Naturally a Deal, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Butter from grass-fed cows? Maple syrup right from Pennsylvania? Uncured bacon? Sprouted bread? How are they getting these amazing deals?!? I wanted to know.
How do I define an amazing deal? For me, that’s finding products I normally buy that I can find as a part of this co-op at far below regular retail values. This isn’t a coupon or small percentage savings, but big price cuts on the food and types of foods you are going to buy anyways.
As you know, food is all stamped with a date. Best By, Use By, Sell By, Freeze By, and Expiration dates all mark our foods. Grocery stores order, mark down, and restock based on these dates. So when a food item needs restocked, they are often pulling entire cases of food off the shelves, out of the freezers, and out of the stockrooms to be gotten rid of.
This food is still usually well within its freshness dates, but is generally thought of as waste. More and more, bulk-buying co-ops want to see this food eaten instead of wasted and are snatching it up and passing HUGE SAVINGS onto their members.
Naturally a Deal also gets food from closeouts, factory seconds, overruns, liquidations, warehouse damages, and insurance claims. This means a box or pallet got ripped by a skid loader, a label was misprinted, someone added a zero to an invoice ordering way too much, and other things that make it so stores can’t sell what they have in stock.
What’s In a Date
But these expiration, best by, use by, and freeze by dates aren’t all the same and don’t mean even close to the same thing.
An expiration date on food means that the manufacturer has kept test items in the warehouse and watched them closely and specifically for when the food is no longer edible. Most companies are unwilling to hold inventory that long. So they hold the samples for an amount of time that is their industry standard and stamp the foods based on that standard.
Freeze by, best by, and use by dates are usually talking about optimal flavor, not that the food is ruined, spoiled, inedible, or will make anyone sick. And a sell by date is the store’s way of saying they keep the inventory moving.
The numbers on food waste in America are staggering, especially with starving and undernourished people both in the US and in other countries in the world.
The reality is whether you buy something a week before its date, a day before its date, or a week later, it doesn’t necessarily impact the food any differently. The food can’t read a calendar. If you open something from the grocery store and it’s spoiled or rotten even before its date, you don’t eat it and you take it back.
Naturally a Deal clearly prints the food’s date on its website and will give a refund for anything that’s spoiled or inedible, just like a store. But just like a store, this is a rare day if it happens.
I Can Eat This?
Alright, I’ll try it, I thought to myself as I placed the first order, slightly skeptical, but willing to be creative. And you know what? In all the time ordering we haven’t had a single item come to our home that was spoiled in any way. The only thing we’ve ever had to throw out was something we kept for over six months in the fridge and nothing is surviving that.
Naturally a Deal’s also has many helpful Facebook reviews, almost every one of which is 5-stars, which share what other families’ experiences have been with this co-op.
Think You Might Want to Try It?
Usually the worst part of any process is the very first time — making sure your order is right, that you show up at the right time, that kind of stuff. But with the really helpful emails, and follow up on orders and when they come in, even the first time isn’t too bad. Jonathan and the Naturally a Deal team will be happy to help you with any questions you have.
So Naturally a Deal is able to help us, month after month, get the quality food we want for a price that doesn’t crunch our entire budget. And we really love that.