Its a New Year and I’m a new member!

Well, I’m not, but you may be!

So, what should I do when I arrive to pick up my order at the Merle Hay Mall distribution site?

First thing, bring in your reusable grocery bags, we are doing it a bit greener after all.   Then find your invoice on the rack, grab a black tub and wait for one of the volunteers to assist you.  The Merle Hay site pick-up line  is divided into three sections:  frozen foods, refrigerated foods and dry goods.  The volunteer will gather all your product in his or her section, check them off your list, then send you on to the next area to pick up more of your product.  After your goods are checked off your list, you can start bagging them. 

When your entire order has been gathered, and you’ve bagged it, proceed to the cashier table.  You can pay your invoice with cash, check, credit or debit card, Dwolla and Paypal (Dwolla and Paypal must be done ahead of time, and a copy of your receipt given to the cashier with your invoice).  Cash and check will save the Coop  the most money as no fees are charged to process.  Credit, debit, Paypal and Dwolla do charge a percentage or per transaction charge, with Dwolla being the best value for the Coop.  Why should you care?  Well, YOU are the Iowa Food Coop, and those finance charges come out of your dividend  from the share you bought in the Coop.  The more we can keep our costs down, the more dividend, and hopefully grow enough to pass those dividends onto the members.

Fill out your check AFTER you receive your invoice, the amount may change.  You won’t believe the number of things that can happen with an order in 24 hour period!  If you have a very large order, we have wheeled carts available and most of the time can get a volunteer to help you out to your car.

After payment, you are free to leave and enjoy some awesome local food, produced by the great people of Iowa.

A few insider tips….shhh, I’m only sharing these with you!

Keep a list of Coop items that you want to try so you don’t forget and miss out.  This also helps in meal planning, and jot down a little note near an item so you don’t forget why you wanted it in the first place.  In my opinion, this is the best way to manage your order and take advantage of some cost saving, as you will buy items that you know you will be using and you have a plan.  One thing I’ve learned, if in doubt, put it in your cart anyway, you can alway take it out later.

The shopping cart opens at 12:01 on the first of the month during the winter cycles, if you want eggs, jump on the site quick and put  eggs in your cart!  Some producers don’t list all their product right away, so be sure to check every few days to make sure you get what you want.

If there is something you want from a particular producer and you don’t see it listed, email or call them.  The producers are quite open to dialogue, and do want you to be happy with your product, and are happy to assist you.  If you are seeking an unusual or very large or small cut of meat or want an oddity of some sort, contact the producer, you may be pleasantly surprised at what is available but not listed!

If you are overwhelmed or stymied because of the number of producers offering your particular favorite item, order one from each producer or a selection of producers, and taste test.  This is really good if you can’t decide on which egg producer.  You can certainly ask other members or the volunteers for opinions, but be aware, we have favorites and believe our favorite is the best.  So, using that premise, then ALL the producers, according to member opinion, produce the best food! 

If you have a problem with an item, i.e., not quite satisfied with quality etc.  immediately email the producer.  Don’t wait, don’t complain to everybody then 3 months later finally tell the producer.  Shoot off an email that night and let them know!  They want you to be happy with your product and want you to be happy with their food.  You can email the IFC and complain, but your first step in resolution is to contact the producer, then contact IFC and let us know. 

If you get home and are MISSING an item, please call Gary and let him know right away!  Sometimes this happens, distribution day can be quite active and well, after all, we are just volunteers and we try to do our best.  Actually, if you want to understand the Coop better, volunteer on distribution day, we ALWAYS need volunteers, and this will do much to help you grasp how the Coop works.  Plus, its a great way to see items in person and make a note to order the next cycle. 

I hope this answers a few questions, and I’m not kidding about ordering eggs at 12.:01 am on the first, that’s why I always have eggs!