Co-operatives or “co-ops” spring up in lots of different ways these days. A co-op is simply any group of people who do something together for their mutual benefit. The benefits can be a huge range of things, such as food, goods, services, housing, banking or insurance. It means that everyone puts in a bit of something to make the wheels turn better; often money, but other times it’s shared resources, sharing the packing of boxes or minding children while others work for the whole group.
Have you ever wondered what the place of co-ops could be in your modern life? These days co-ops come in many shapes and sizes. It may be as simple as you sharing the postage on an overseas purchase with your sister, or buying building supplies in larger quantities with another family doing renovations, so that you access the next “price point” and save money on a purchase you were always going to make.
Here are some ideas of how to incorporate co-ops into your life:
Find a food co-op. There are local ones in capital cities that are thriving and there are lots of different models to consider. Some require a bond, others require you to volunteer your time in some way, and others are groups that need you to be vouched for before you can join. www.realfoodcoop.com.au or www.huntingthealternative.com are a good place to start, or look on Facebook for a co-op in your local suburb.
This is particularly beneficial for people who want or need to eat a particular way as some foods can be difficult to source and when found they can be prohibitively expensive! A co-op of other like-minded families can help you access these ingredients without breaking the bank.
Ask your crunchier friends where they source their bulk dry goods, spices, meat, cleaning products, toilet paper, essential oils, or nappies. They may have a good lead for you and you can capitalise on knowing people who know people to get into a co-op.
Arts, Crafts, Hobbies etc
Maybe you would like to get fabric in larger quantities at a cheaper price, or yarn that is not available in your local shop? Or maybe you can find someone who has a shared hobby or interest to ‘go in’ on the cost of shipping merchandise or collectables?
Start Your Own Co-Op
And if you don’t find one that tickles your fancy why don’t you start one? Perhaps for something with a small market you could buy in bulk, split the order and post it back out and still come out in front of the retail price you’d otherwise pay. Maybe there is something in your life that you buy all the time, can’t not buy, and would love to get cheaper but really you can’t store 480 double-length roles of it (toilet paper I’m looking at you!) Or something you’d love to buy, eat or use but you have no way of eating a half side of beef, or 20kg of flour, before it goes off, so you run a co-op and split it with other people.
Co-ops have been around since the dawn of civilisation, and continue today. The trick to getting the most out of co-ops is to still only buy what you need. A good price on a kilogram of cinnamon is not a good price when you toss out 95% of the spice a year later when it resembles pencil shavings. So don’t over buy, do some research on the best way to store it, how long the goods will keep and how to use it. Be prepared to give something to help make the co-op work as they rely on social capital to function, not just cold hard cash.
What’s the best co-op you’ve been a part of? What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever shared through a co-op?