I could get most of my groceries in one monthly trip while living in Evansville, Indiana from 1988-2000. That’s because I was a member and coordinator of The Quality Buying Club, a group of five to a few dozen women and men who pooled monthly bulk orders and received delivery together from the Federation of Ohio River Co-ops (F.O.R.C.)
I could buy pretty much everything we ate from the Co-op except fresh vegetables, which John and I would buy at Schnuck’s, a four-mile bike ride away. We had a bike trailer called a Bugger that could haul up to 100 lbs of kids or stuff. Evansville was laid out in a grid of straight streets, allowing us to ride side streets. Often, we could leave our car parked in our driveway for a week at a time and still get everywhere we wanted to go. The monthly trips to the Patchwork Central Ministry where the buying club met would be my main use of the car to get groceries.
The Quality Buying Club provided an economical way to get good quality groceries. Not only that, it made food shopping a community activity! When I joined the Co-op, I was given a member number. Mine was #33. That number was written on every product that I bought. Soon after I joined, #34 was given to Lee Lamey. That’s the most members this club ever had until it faded about 7 years later.
On our monthly Co-op day, we would all gather, hopefully before the semi-truck arrived, to unload and sort our order. Our group would purchase a couple thousand dollars worth of food packed in wholesale quantities. We would work together to divide it up into the individual parcels that we had each ordered.
F.O.R.C. had an ordering system that included detailed print-outs of each order, with extensions on quantity, price, and total, making the division process go smoothly – well most of the time! In its heyday, we would be dividing up big blocks of cheese and Amish butter, gallons of maple syrup and 25 lb bags of beans and whole grains or flour. We would set up tables and haul out an old grocer’s scale and repackage the food in plastic bags, marked with our member numbers.
Two members served as bookkeepers, checking each order, taking checks, resolving errors, and keeping the financial records. Usually, the orders went without a hitch, but sometimes there were glitches like missing products or misprinted order sheets. Then, the bookkeepers’ job could be harried.
I made a good group of friends in the Quality Buying Club and smile when I remember how we worked together and learned how to go with the flow of each delivery, each one a singular event! Although I would only see most of them just once a month, I could depend on them to be there and help. We could lean on each other for support in our life’s ups and downs as well.
Today, I remember the Quality Buying Club members with gratitude. I’m grateful for Susan, Linda, Susie, another Susan, Judi, Clark, Teri, and a number of women whose faces I just can’t recall today!
In the end, the last few years of the Quality Buying Club consisted of sporadic orders by just a handful of buyers who helped me reach the minimum order. My own household orders of full cases of jam, tortillas, cheese, beans, rice, crackers, and rice cakes would be 80% of the order and the truck would come to my house! Hurray for F.O.R.C. and the Quality Buying Club!
Please comment below on this or other posts in my Sixty Years of Gratitude series. I’m writing 60 essays of gratitude to celebrate my sixtieth birthday!