Food Group Case Study – Semley Buying Group
About the Semley Food Buying Group
Avoiding the supermarkets
This excitingly (!) named buying group started about 5 years ago when I moved to Semley. Once upon a time I’d lived in Cambridge and shopped at Daily Bread – a food co-op not unlike SUMA and I then moved to Scotland where I was lucky enough to be able to join an existing buying group.
By the time we left Scotland I was addicted to buying my staples this way – it meant I could afford to buy organic and pay the real prices for products, rather than supermarket prices which seem to depend less on the real cost of a product and more on how much they think they can get away with charging. I also love being able to buy sensible quantities without the usual associated packaging that comes with supermarket shopping.
So when we moved to Hampshire I put out feelers for like minded individuals and soon set up a buying group (which still runs well) and when we moved to Semley over 5 years ago, it was the obvious thing to do!
How our food group works
As a group each individual has an old catalogue and we put through an order every 2 months or so. Tinned tomatoes feature as a regular for lots of people, as do pasta, flour, porridge oats and seeds, dried fruits and loo rolls! A couple of people take advantage of the ease of buying dairy free milk in quantity and also household cleaning stuff.
Our local Montessori pre-school order their organic snacks and recycled paper through us, our church buys FairTrade mini eggs in bulk each year and as I have started and developed my own bakery business I have been able to source great ingredients with ethics that match my own. All very satisfying…
Saving money on groceries and being green
As well as the immediate benefits of buying ethically produced and traded goods at a saving on the ‘shop’ prices, there’s the satisfaction of being part of a bigger way of living differently and hopefully more sustainably. It’s also fun to see what other people buy and is quite sociable on Wednesdays when people come to collect their piles of stuff. As far as my children are concerned, the Suma lorry arriving is a major highlight – they love helping unload the lorry and carry stuff into the house, and because the Suma team are all real people we feel that we’re part of it all too – my 5 year old’s birthday was on a Suma day last year and this year he was gutted that it wouldn’t be on a Suma day!
Collecting the orders
We’re now a group of about 20 members and not everyone puts in a big order every time (phew). I collect people’s orders on scraps of paper, by email and some people are even organized enough to send it to me as an Excel document. I give everyone a deadline that’s 24 hours before I need to get the order in, which allows for people who are sometimes late putting it in, and then I phone up and read out a great long list of people’s wants. I get a separate invoice for each individual which makes sorting out the goods and the payments much easier. The team on the phones are always really helpful and chatty and even though I make mistakes or get codes wrong they never let me know that I’m causing them grief!
I would encourage anyone to run or be part of a buying group – it’s really easy to do and Suma will be helpful every step of the way.
Written by Jemma Morgan – Semley Buying Group
Editors note – Thank you Gemma for writing such a useful and praise giving case study of us! We are all very grateful. Hopefully it will inspire others to do the same. Love from everyone at Suma.