Sac Natural Food Co-op offers discounted Essentials

There are many misconceptions concerning the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. Some think a membership is necessary. Some think it's too expensive for their budget. Both of these statements are not true, especially with the introduction of their new Essentials program.

The Co-op has been in Sacramento since 1973 and is an integral part of the community. As they quickly approach the opening of the new store (tentative August 24), they want the community to know even more about their participation in helping everyone to eat healthy, whether you are a Co-op member or not. 

First is their Community Discount Program. If you come to the Co-op and are at a low income level, you can get a card to get a 10% discount every time you shop. For the rest of the public, they can enjoy 10% off on the first Friday of every month, or, if they are a senior citizen, have that discount also on Senior Appreciation Day every third Wednesday of the month. 

A new program started in February. The Essentials program features about 70 products that are the main ingredients needed to make healthy meals. (List of Essentials) Think about those lists you sometimes come across on the internet or in magazines - "50 essential items to keep in your kitchen pantry!" We're talking basics such as milk, butter, cereal, beans, rice, pasta, oils, vegetables, bread, canned tomatoes, spices, and even health items such as toothpaste and vitamins. You will find them labeled on the shelves with this logo:

These items are being offered at significantly reduced prices in order to make them affordable for anyone wanting to watch their budget, but especially those with a low, fixed income.

Terese Esperas, Education Manager, told us that in the Sacramento area there is a 34% poverty level and 18% unemployment rate. More people struggle to put meals on the table, especially healthy meals. When groceries are sold, they usually have about a 30% margin so that the store can make money. The Essentials are not marked up as high so that the Co-op actually could be losing money, but they want to make these important ingredients available to all.

I was happy to see name brands mixed in with more generic labels and the bulk food items. I'd definitely buy Tillamook butter, Silk almond milk, Nancy's yogurt, or Mary's chicken. There will also be fresh produce offered. 

chicken tikka masala
In fact, let's take Mary's chicken. This and the tilapia are the two items from the meat/seafood department. I was telling my table that I don't like to buy chicken because I know about the horrible conditions in which they are raised and organic, free range chicken is often expensive. The Co-op will be offering Mary's chicken for $2.19 per pound. A great price!

To go with the Essentials it is also important to educate people to cook and eat healthy instead of going for the easy, processed foods that are so unhealthy. For this effort the Co-op works with other community organizations to offer classes in their Community Kitchen. They work with the local food banks and other charities to offer classes so families can learn to stretch their money by buying Essential ingredients and making meals that can cost as low about $2 (or less) per person. 

We had lunch cooked for us by Co-op chef Adam Lovelace.  He made an Indian meal using Essential ingredients. The six dishes above, plus a ginger honey lemonade, came to just $6.15 per person. Everything was super flavorful and the recipes are available on the Co-op's website.

I'm excited to go and check out these great pantry items at the discounted prices. Everyone can benefit from this program and eat healthy!