A cheap way to eat organic

By Ilona Hanne

A group of friends in Stratford and the surrounding area has formed what they call a food co-operative in order to access organic foods at a cheaper price.

Hannah Hale lives in Stratford with her husband Daniel and their three children.

They grow a lot of their vegetables themselves and Hannah says they prefer to use organic produce because "we want to eat as healthily as we can and to avoid pesticides". With organic foods being typically more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, Hannah says the food co-operative she has formed with five of her friends has made a huge difference to their bills.

By buying in bulk, the group is able to source organic foods at a lower price, and also reduce packaging, which is another way to be kinder to the environment, says Hannah.

"I think our food bills are probably lower than other people's, yet our stuff is all organic, which people think is going to cost more. The way we do it, it actually costs less."

Hannah says her focus is a combination of wanting to eat healthily, "supporting a healthy form of agriculture, and not poisoning the planet". She adds that the health benefits she sees from using organic produce are the most important factor to her.

Hannah says the system is working well and "there is always great excitement when the food arrives". The group use a spreadsheet and are able to see what each other are planning to order. This means they can choose to share or to buy one each of an item.

"I might want split peas, and if no-one else does, then I can choose to order a whole bag myself or leave it off the list. Equally, someone in the group might say that they would like some too, so we can choose to split the bag between us."

The spreadsheet and monthly ordering means the households have to plan ahead. "I never reach the end of the week and have to run out to the supermarket," says Hannah, adding that she never struggles to think of what to serve for dinner. "We always have food in, and there is always a good variety."

Being able to see the prices online before they order, Hannah says the group is able to budget and plan, and the actual sharing of the order once it arrives becomes a social event as they gather at one person's house to divide and collect it.

They are hoping that the group will grow, and once it does, they will probably look at making smaller groups for each area. Members live as far apart as Stratford, Eltham and Hawera.

- Stratford Press

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