Bulk Foods & Shopping

Introduction to Responsibilities

As a shopper for the house, your responsibilities lie withing going to various grocery stores or supermarkets to buy items deemed necessary by the house. Most of this will be food but often times you will be tasked with buying shovels, bath tissue, and adhesive bandages. It also may includes dealing with the UNFI, the bulk food service Brooks House and Harvest House use. For more information about UNFI and the bulk ordering process please visit the UNFI section of our wiki. In the Summer and Fall, responsibilities also fall onto our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share that we get every year.

Local Stores and Selections

As you might be asking yourself as a new shopper, where is the best place to shop for a house of 14 people? I’ve complied a list here with some suggestions on getting more co-op friendly sizes.

  1. Meijer
    • Probably the most useful place to shop as it has the best selection of fruits and vegetables year round as well as having the most food and not food related item that you’ll need to get during a shopping trip. It’s big though, takes some time to find everything the first few trips and more time to explore for other items you don’t normally get
    • Great selection of Bulk Cheese! Go to the deli section and ask for the block of cheese. They might sounds confused at first but reassure them that you really do want the entire block. Great way to get a lot of cheese. May not be cheaper than other cheese options but the quality and quantity you get is usually great for the price.
  2. Aldi
    • This is the cheapest store I have been to that still has great stuff. It’s much smaller than Meijer so shopping here usually takes less time. However, the fruit and vegetable selection is lacking compared to Meijer.
    • Best things to get here are milk (soy, dairy), eggs, bread, bagels, and fair trade coffee. But honestly you can get great deals on jelly, kalamata olives, tortillas, and canned foods. But they have a select stock so don’t come here expecting obscure items, unless they happen to be German…
  3. Fresh International Market
    • This is by far the best East Asian supermarket I’ve experience in the Urbana-Champaign area. Much better selection of rice than AM-KO and a bit more bulk friendly that Far East Grocery (However, for very obscure east Asian items Far East is a good place to go. A shopper found kaffir lime leaves there once).
    • Best things to get here are rice, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice noodles, sweet potato noodles, and wheat noodles. Did I mention they have a great selection of noodles? They also have many interesting sauces, fruits, and vegetables that I sometimes get. Really fun to browse! Great activity for a Sunday afternoon, if you ask me.
  4. Annapoorna Stores
    • As far as I know it is the only Indian Grocery store in the Urbana-Champaign area. It is small and gives you a sense that you walked into someone’s house that they filled with Indian groceries. That being said it is rather cozy. They should offer tea or something while you browse, then I would go there all the time. But besides that it is right next to Fresh International Market so it is easy to hit both stores on the same trip.
    • Great place to get specialty Indian items, namely asafoetida powder and chickpea flour. However the pink “black salt” with the sulfur flavor profile you may want I have only ever found at Fresh International Market.

What is usually purchased through UNFI?

What a splendid question! Since some items are purchased through UNFI (see UNFI) shoppers will not need to go out and get them. Here is a list of items commonly bought on UNFI.

  • Tofu, silken tofu, tempeh, TVP, peanut butter, bath tissue, paper towels, flour (APF, WW, GF), beans, lentils, chocolate chips, grains (oats, barley, millet), vanilla extract, bouillon, molasses, maple syrup, etc.

Tip: If you are not sure if a certain item is ordered through UNFI consult your UNFI person before making the purchase

How much should I Buy?

Good question. As a shopper you must always rely on your sense of much-ness. Which is to say, “How much of this will I need?” A great way to answer this is to wonder how much of it you would normally use in a dish for 1 and multiply that by 14 and then contemplate how many people will go back for seconds. This may seem hard to consider but take the potato for instance - humble and starchy, people will eat a lot of them and definitely go for seconds so consider getting a lot of them, like 10 pounds. This is true for most staples, as you might have guessed, such as rice, flour, potatoes, onions, beans, and some meat. Other items, such as ginger and garlic, may still need to be purchased in larger amounts but do consider the scaling needed. You won’t need 4 pounds of ginger, probably just a large rhizome or two will do just fine. For more tips you can always consult older members or former shoppers.