some thoughts on organizing a co-op

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl: I would like to get better prices on the whole foods you recommend than my small-town health food store provides, and I wouldn’t mind making some money for my effort. But I don’t know how to start. Help!

Answer: Organizing a co-op is a great idea for anyone wanting to save money and eat right. It’s especially great for stay-home moms who like to interact with people, get good deals, organize, focus on preparedness and nutrition, and (if you want) earn some money and have a long-term, repeatable source of income. There’s a lot of job satisfaction in it, because you see people building a high-nutrition food storage and getting prepared against emergencies, and you make good friends along the way. Because some of them know a lot about nutrition, you can learn much from them.

You may know someone who might want to form a co-op in their area to forward a link to this blog entry that contains tips about forming a co-op.

Yesterday I got a call from Sally in Portland, who has a 3,000 lb. almond order in advance of our kicking it off. When I called her back, having this question on my mind, I asked her what advice she would have for you. What she said, as I’ll summarize here, is my experience, too, although she was smarter and more hardworking than I was, starting my co-op. Actually I didn’t even set out to start a co-op, and I’m sure other co-op organizers  who read this blog will relate. I just got some friends to go in with me on something I wanted to obtain at a low cost with group buying power. The group just kept getting bigger and bigger!

Sally said she doesn’t even make any profit in her co-op, just likes helping people and getting better deals for herself. (I did the same thing.) She started hers as a preparedness group, tapping into that group of people, which, incidentally, is the entire base of LDS (Mormon) people in your area. Some LDS folks will make an announcement about a group buy at church and put it in the printed bulletin. Then, she said, with high-nutrition items like the truly-raw (unpasteurized) almonds, she has tapped into a second group, the raw foodist / earthy-crunchies, a group that my web research proves is growing massively.

A lot of people on her list in the beginning weren’t even interested in nutrition any more than the average person. Sally educated them! She is going to have an almond party and teach people how to soak/dehydrate them and make fun snacks. (She has also done this with quinoa and other items in her group buys.) She makes handouts and sends emails with great information. Some people in her co-op live too far away to regularly buy with the group, but just want her information! I told Sally she’s welcome to use a 12 Steps or Crunchy Snacks recipe collection recipe to hand out to her buyers (anyone reading this is welcome to do this–all I ask is that you credit the source).

Sally says, “People who care about eating right or preparedness FIND ME.” My experience parallels Sally’s. I have, however, never tapped into the “preparedness” people. I have never tracked down people to join my list, but you could certainly start that way by just asking around and finding people.

Sally said, “Every time I do a buy, my list doubles.” I agree with that as well.   She started her organization a year ago and has a few hundred on her list now.

Sally is rather ambitious, educating people as well as providing them healthy food at low prices. I know other readers who promote the products we do in our group buys with local craigslist ads, and who talk to their neighbors and people at the health food store to build a list. As Sally said (I second this, as well, with my observation that people want to be led toward a healthy lifestyle), “Eventually people have come to just trust me, and they buy whatever we offer in group buys.”

If you want to automate, make a simple web site with an order form. Take checks received in advance of your placing the order, or (these will charge fees) make it really simple by taking credit cards using (You get a discount by being referred by another account, and you’re welcome to use And you can take PayPal. Just a tip: more people have credit cards than PayPal accounts.

For the raw almonds, I suggest reselling them for $4/lb. That way if your order is 1,000 lbs., you will earn $1,000 for your efforts. Last week in this blog, I listed all the other items and prices that we are adding to the buy this year, including raw honey and raw agave.

Sales tax (but no shipping) will be assessed for Utahns in the local buy. Shipping (but no sales tax) will be assessed for everyone else. If you send a check, only ONE check per order, please. (Last year I had a nightmare to keep track of a dozen checks for one order, sometimes!) So if you are doing a group buy, have people make checks out to you, and you make a check out to GNGB. (That’s GreenSmoothieGirl Nutrition Group Buys.)

35 thoughts on “some thoughts on organizing a co-op

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  1. Robyn-

    I’m a little confused as to what will be offered. In your blog a few weeks ago you mentioned 15 items which included apricots, shredded coconut, pecans and sesame seeds. Now on your website you list 13 items which does not include the above items, but does include honey and walnuts. Are all 5 of the these items to be included or just some? Hopefully all, but just want to be sure as to what I am offering to f & f. Thanks for the clarification.

  2. Can I get in touch with Sally in Portland? Is Sally in Oregon or Maine? We may live in the same area. I would be interested in getitng some almonds also but have not found anyone interested in buying in with me at this point in time.

  3. When will orders be due for the group buy? I am considering placing an order for my coop group, but need more info before I provide info to them. Thanks!

  4. We will keep the order open about 8 weeks, to be announced.

    Cheryl, sorry–ALL those items will be available. The things listed on the website are just things I felt needed nutritional benefits explanation. It wasn’t necessarily meant to be comprehensive–it’s where the order form will link to the product to learn more about it (nutritionally).

  5. Robyn – Thanks. I figured that they were included, just wanted to be sure. And the benefits explanations are a great addition. I’m off to spread the wealth of nutritional benefits to everyone…….

  6. I am trying to get a buying club started here in eastern North Carolina. Over here it’s a bit challenging to find the better deals on these things. I am having trouble finding the shipping rates. I am trying to get things organized and working on getting a group together. Is there going to be a order window or deadline that has to be met or can the ordering be done whenever? I am really new to all of this…



    1. GSG Admin said:

      Hi Kari,
      You can find shipping rates on a past blog post that Robyn did about the Almond buy. Here are all of the other blog posts specifically about the buy: Shipping rates will be found here

      Once we begin taking orders the buy will be open for several weeks. Of course, first come first serve but you will have ample time to order.

      Thank you for your questions! Have a great day!

  7. I too would like to get in touch with Sally. I am moving to Portland (OR) in a few months and would love to have a contact point for group purchases.

  8. I would love to contact Sally. I live in the midwest and would love to educate people in our area. Sally would you share your handouts and e-mails? Thanks so much. I am such a strong advocate for educating people.

  9. I live in Arvada, a Denver, CO suburb and would love to find a Co-op in this area so I could get better prices on things like nuts and other health type foods. I am in a Green Smoothie group for reduced prices on almonds but I cannot use 100 pounds, so I need to share with maybe several people who together could use 100 pounds. Please email me if you are interested in saving money on almonds or other nuts, etc.

    Thanks Eileen

  10. Is there anyone in the Chicago area interested in doing a buy or who has a coop? If so, please contact me! I live in Naperville but would be willing to drive somewhere to pick up an order.

  11. I’m in the Seattle area. Is anyone already participating, or interested in going in on an organic almond purchase?

    pleomorphic at yahoo dot com

  12. We at have the handouts. We’re making some corrections and re-sending them, so please sign up on the site as a co-op organizer and we’ll send you the “starter kit” with a profit sheet for you, order form for your customers, etc.

  13. We’re part of a fresh produce co-op but are considering starting one with items such as nuts, dried fruit, grains, etc. Would anyone be interested in being a part of a co-op in the Tampa Bay, Florida area? Please contact me @ or 727-215-8450 as soon as possible. Thanks!

  14. hi, i saw a note from “wings of peace” from eastern n.c. who is trying to get a group to buy some almonds. i live in the raleigh durham area and if you could have her contact me i would certainly appreciate it. i have been looking at all the items i want and we certainly could put in an order together…also i was thinking of sending my son out to pick it up!! (he loves to drive…only 22), that would save on shipping, but, would we still have to pay sales tax? i can be contacted at or 919-824-2367. thanks!

  15. Hi, I am organizing a group buy in the Phoenix area (I am in Mesa). If anyone is interested in joining with us, please send me an e-mail as soon as possible!



  16. I am trying to place an order for some almonds. I live and Utah and will be pickin my order up. What do I enter in for the shipping address? It’s not letting me process the order without entering that in.

    Please e-mail me at


  17. Jenni here, GSG Admin

    Hi April,

    Even if you are picking up the order you need to enter your shipping information. You just need to enter “LOCAL” in the special promo code box which automatically signals us to know that you will be picking up your order as you won’t be paying for shipping.

    Have a great day!


  18. I live in Park City, UT. Do you know if there are any raw almond group buys I can get in on? I am only interested in around 10 lbs. Thanks! 🙂

  19. Robyn,

    This sounds great. I would like to research this a little more and join forces, any and all information that you would be willing to share would be greatly appreciated.

    I hope to hear from you soon.


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