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Forming a Food-Buying Co-op


lperry
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Hello - I'm going to be moving to the DC area within the next month, so I've been lurking around in the DC boards, and I have to say, I'm a little afraid of what I'm going to find in terms of groceries! I'm used to Florida produce (year round) and good grocery stores.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is a food buying co-op for DC. Not a co-op store, but a buying group that gets together once a month to put in an order to a big company. I have been in groups like this in Florida and Illinois, and it was great. We ordered from the same companies that stock the local Whole Foods sorts of stores - all you need is a minimum order. I don't use many packaged foods, but I loved the rices, nuts, dried wild mushrooms, freshly milled organic flour (bread baking is an absolute pleasure with this), fresh dried beans, sea salts etc. Then there is the fresh organic produce. We got organic, quality, fresh food at wholesale prices. Has anyone heard of a group like this in the DC area?

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Hello - I'm going to be moving to the DC area within the next month, so I've been lurking around in the DC boards, and I have to say, I'm a little afraid of what I'm going to find in terms of groceries!  I'm used to Florida produce (year round) and good grocery stores. 

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is a food buying co-op for DC.  Not a co-op store, but a buying group that gets together once a month to put in an order to a big company.  I have been in groups like this in Florida and Illinois, and it was great.  We ordered from the same companies that stock the local Whole Foods sorts of stores - all you need is a minimum order.  I don't use many packaged foods, but I loved the rices, nuts, dried wild mushrooms, freshly milled organic flour (bread baking is an absolute pleasure with this), fresh dried beans, sea salts etc.  Then there is the fresh organic produce.  We got organic, quality, fresh food at wholesale prices.  Has anyone heard of a group like this in the DC area?

If not, we could start one! Not a bad idea...

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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lperry,

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Don't be too scared. We have some great farmers' markets and some excellent specialty shops.

Unfortunately, we seem to lack top notch fish mongers and butchers.

Sounds like an interesting idea. We'll have to discuss it further once you move up here.

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I buy most of my food from farmer's markets and specialty ethnic grocery stores, so that makes me feel better. Thank you to everyone for the listing and discussion of stores in several threads. I also checked out eatwashington.com and found some interesting things. It's so nice to have this resource - usually I spend the first few months in a new place shopping every store to try to find what I need.

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One thing I haven't seen mentioned is a food buying co-op for DC. 

I second that. Had one of these with the neighborhood back home in CT way back in the day, used mostly for healthy and healthy-ish snacks for us kids, natural soda (Blue Sky Cola I think? Well, it was good anyway!), plus nuts and dried fruit and things. I think this could be worth pursuing!

Isn't there a fish market out in Arlington? I drove by it with my boss, and can't remember the name (S-something's Fish Market), but it was billed to me as 'where all the restaurants get their fish'. Was very excited to see it, but I haven't been yet.

Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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I second that.  Had one of these with the neighborhood back home in CT way back in the day, used mostly for healthy and healthy-ish snacks for us kids, natural soda (Blue Sky Cola I think? Well, it was good anyway!), plus nuts and dried fruit and things.  I think this could be worth pursuing!

Isn't there a fish market out in Arlington?  I drove by it with my boss, and can't remember the name (S-something's Fish Market), but it was billed to me as 'where all the restaurants get their fish'.  Was very excited to see it, but I haven't been yet.

'

The fish market is Slavin's and its on Glebe Rd (south if coming off of 395).

As for the food buying co-op, that sounds like something I would be interested in investigating too.

Wearing jeans to the best restaurants in town.
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we've got a food-buying co-op in my mt. pleasant/adams morgan/columbia heights neighborhood, with weekly produce and monthly dry good deliveries. since it actually keeps dry goods over for weekly sales and relies on volunteer managers to place the orders, it may not offer quite the flexibility that you'd like, but pm me if you're interested.

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'

The fish market is Slavin's and its on Glebe Rd (south if coming off of 395).

Slavin's has had a rather off-putting aroma every time I've been there. Either something has gotten ripe or they're not cleaning the gutting area often enough. I prefer the seafood counter at Super H for this reason.

We have a few real winners in terms of large ethnic grocers in the region. Most of them, regardless of the ethnicity of management, stock produce appropriate for many ethnic cuisines. Super H in Fairfax is probably the cream of the crop, with its clean store and huge produce selection (heavily Asian, predominantly Korean, some Hispanic selections). There are a number of Grand Marts in the region which vary tremendously from store to store. Some of them are nasty, but the one in Chantilly is pretty good and has an extensive Hispanic selection in addition to its Asian goods. You will also find lots of small neighborhood ethnic grocers.

When in doubt, you can always call the local embassy, be extra nice, and ask where they buy their goods.

We also have no shortage of pricey high-end grocers such as Sutton/Haymarket, Whole Foods (not everything is pricey), Giant Gourmet, Dean & Delucca, and Wegmans (not everything is pricey).

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We have a few real winners in terms of large ethnic grocers in the region.  Most of them, regardless of the ethnicity of management, stock produce appropriate for many ethnic cuisines.  Super H in Fairfax is probably the cream of the crop, with its clean store and huge produce selection (heavily Asian, predominantly Korean, some Hispanic selections).  There are a number of Grand Marts in the region which vary tremendously from store to store.  Some of them are nasty, but the one in Chantilly is pretty good and has an extensive Hispanic selection in addition to its Asian goods.  You will also find lots of small neighborhood ethnic grocers.

Hear, hear. My knowledge of ethnic groceries is Korean-skewed, but you'll find Lottes, Han Ah Rheums, Grand Marts and Super Hs scattered all over the region (I would venture to say that if you're in the city, or Montgomery, Alexandria or Fairfax, a large, clean ethnic super is no more than a 15 min drive away). They vary from incredible (Han Ah Rheum and Lotte) to dingy and a little scary. The produce, meat and fish tends to be good-looking and cheap (almost 100% of the time waaaaay better than Giant or Safeway), with some weird stuff that makes you look twice and wonder how you could use it. Bonus points because, though ostensibly grocery stores, you'll also be able to buy pretty plates and bowls, cooking equipment, cool super-tailered clothing ripped off from Korean designers (watch out though, they rarely have sizes larger than an American 4), teeny tiny electronics from Asia, newspapers, books, jewelry, and you'll be able to rent Korean videos :laugh:

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I belong to the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op. It's a store (actually they have two stores). I like owning part of my grocery store and prefer the flexibility of store hours. Arlington, Bethesda, NE DC, and some other neighborhoods have similar co-op stores. I bet it wouldn't be hard to find a food buying coop like you mention though. Have you tried looking through Craigslist?

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I've been looking on Craigslist for housing - I just checked and couldn't find anything on food coops. Finding one may be a problem, but creating one is very doable!

There is one large conglomerate that sells to food buying groups in Virginia and Maryland. It's called the Federation of Ohio River Cooperatives. I found it listed and recommended on a few sites run by people who have formed buying groups. Unfortunately, they don't have a website.

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FANTASTIC Idea! Count me in!

Any ideas on what you want?

I tend to be interested in hard to find and unusual ingredients, but I'm also interested in common ingredients...I just can't think of any now :)

Here's my unusual ingredients list that I'd be happy buy in a co-op

Lemongrass Powder

Grapeskin Powder

Any fruit powder with a high amount of Anthocyanins

Lychee Fruit Powder or Flavor Oil

Brown Sugar Flavor Oil

Chicle or Chewing Gum Base

Barley malt powder

Artichoke Powder

Cucumber Powder

Dried egg yolks

*NEED*: Lemongrass Powder, Grapeskin Powder, Flavor Oils (oil-based)

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Here's my unusual ingredients list that I'd be happy buy in a co-op

Lemongrass Powder 

Grapeskin Powder

Any fruit powder with a high amount of Anthocyanins

Lychee Fruit Powder or Flavor Oil

Brown Sugar Flavor Oil

Chicle or Chewing Gum Base

Barley malt powder

Artichoke Powder

Cucumber Powder

Dried egg yolks

Question: Do you eat your food or snort it? :wink:

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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