This is a guest post from City Market, Burlington’s community-owned grocery store. We asked them to highlight a few of their programs for the budget-conscious shopper, including the Food for All discount program and the Pennywise Pantry.

The New Year is here, which has left many of us pondering strategies to be healthier. As many complex resolutions are made, one quite simple approach to do this is by eating well. Eating nutritiously may seem complicated or expensive, but truthfully it is quite simple. Buying raw ingredients and cooking for yourself is often the least expensive choice when shopping, which is one point that we focus on at City Market’s Pennywise Pantry tour.  If you think shopping at the Co-op or purchasing local, healthy or organic foods is too pricey, think again. City Market offers many benefits and programs to make shopping at the Co-op affordable.

Discounts on groceries are available in coupons found in our Co-op Deals booklets located at the entrance of the store. Look for this coupon book for a great deal of savings on groceries. To further the savings, take note that many of the coupons offered are for items already on sale!

City Market

Coupons at the door and on the shelves.

Speaking of Sales, we have two main types of sales: Co-op Deals which are bimonthly and change over mid-month and Weekly Winners which run Monday to Sunday of each week. These sales are a great opportunity to stock up on non-perishable items like beans, pasta, grains, and cleaning supplies. Produce items are also included in Weekly Winner sale offerings. One final sale offered exclusively at the Co-op is Cabot Thursdays, when all 8 ounce Cabot cheeses are reduced to $1.99 each. These have a long shelf life, so it’s a good opportunity to stock up on cheese.

We offer discounts through certain Memberships, as well. The most common type of member discount is the Member Worker discount. Member Workers are eligible to work 2 hours a month to receive a 7% discount the following month or 4 hours to receive a 12% discount the following month. It’s quite simple too; just attend an Orientation and then sign up to volunteer in the community through one of our great Community Partners.

The Food for All discount program is available to those on a limited budget and provides a 10% savings on groceries. Those who qualify for 3SquaresVT, WIC or Social Security Disability are eligible to sign up for this free membership. Simply fill out the paperwork and submit proof of eligibility (a 3SquaresVT or WIC card or a Disability Award Letter from Social Security). The membership must be renewed annually.

Aside from the coupons, sales, and Member discounts, City Market offers cooking classes (free for Food for All Members) and free store tours with money-saving tips. Our Pennywise Pantry tour leads folks through the Produce and Bulk departments to find affordable foods. Items priced under $3 per pound are considered a good deals and under $2 per pound is considered great deals. Many of the fruits and veggies at this price are storage crops, and therefore will keep for a long time in the fridge or pantry.

As the tour continues in the Bulk section, the mechanism for easily comparing prices is pointed out. Note in the photo below, the unit price is in the orange box of the shelf tag. We can use this orange box to compare different sized packages or different brands of the same product. In Bulk, we note that buying raw ingredients is far less expensive than purchasing packaged foods.

City Market

Use the orange boxes on the shelf tags above to compare prices of cinnamon.

The Pennywise Pantry tour then moves on to the Grocery aisles. We continue to use the orange boxes of the shelf tags to compare prices. Since these are packaged foods, we now keep ingredients in mind as well. By focusing on products with 5 ingredients or fewer, folks can purchase nutritious food and stretch food budget by avoiding unnecessary additives. Purchasing packaged foods with five ingredients or fewer requires that you cook for yourself. Fortunately the Co-op has a packed Calendar of Classes, including the Pennywise Pantry tour to teach you how to cook or inspire you to cook new dishes.

Using a combination of the tools mentioned above will allow you to greatly reduce your grocery bill. You will likely find that while saving money, you can also purchase healthy, local and organic foods. One final resource is our friendly staff. Feel free to engage with us any time – we love our Members and our customers!

Learn more about City Market, Burlington’s community-owned grocery store.