Grocery Savvy

By: Nate Furler, Marketing and Outreach Manager

It has long been known that the most savvy (and frugal) of grocery shoppers plan ahead. They make lists, check them twice, watch for sales, and most definitely try not to shop on an empty stomach.

Perhaps one strategy that shoppers may not be very familiar with, or know about at all, is the opportunity to place what we call a “special order.”  A special order is just what it sounds like – an order, placed special for you – and often involving larger quantities (but not always).

Special order quantities are different in several departments at the Co-op.  For instance, placing a special order in Wellness may involve a quantity of one, special ordering in the Bulk department may involve a quantity of one pound for herbs to 25 or 50 pounds for oats and flour, and a special order in Packaged Grocery is according to the size of the case – often anywhere from 4 to 12 or more items.

Items that can be special ordered are not limited to items that we stock on our shelves.  We have access to many more products than those that hold a place in the store.  Additionally, we may have access to various sizes of the same product – like different size bags of bulk oats as I mentioned previously, or larger boxes of dishwashing powder compared to the size we sell on our shelves.  The options of what we are able to get are quite extensive in most cases and we are here to help you select what is right for your needs.

If an item is on Co+op Deals, it is already the lowest price we can get that item for, but we are still happy to special order a case or more at that price just for you – secured at that sale price.  If you are a member/owner and the item is on sale as a Member Deal, we are happy to order a case or more of that item at the sale price as well.

You don’t have to be a member/owner of the Co-op to place a Special Order (S/O).  However, being a member/owner of the Co-op will benefit you financially when it comes to special ordering product as well.  Member/owners receive a 15% discount off the retail price of items they special order (excluding items already on Co+op Deals, Member Deals, or Oneota in-store sales).

Here is a great example to think about:

Does your family have a way of eating through a box of that great Nature’s Path cereal in less than two days? Special ordering may be a good option for you when it comes to something like this.  As a member/owner, you can order a case of it and receive 15% off the regular shelf price. (See diagram on next page for savings illustration).  Better yet, time it right and when the product goes on sale as a Co+op Deal you will usually wind up saving even more because those products are often at a greater discount than 15%.

Besides the often-eaten foods, think of things like vinegar, dish soap, laundry detergent, garbage bags, and toilet paper.  These items have a shelf life of many months if not years.  As long as you have space to store it, the savings can be considerable.  We know people who haven’t purchased dishwashing powder for over two years because they bought two cases of the big size that we don’t carry on our shelf.  Imagine the savings on this when you factor in items that jump in price.  The person who purchased this dishwashing detergent two years ago not only saved on the cost of the product at the time, but additionally as the retail price of that product went up over the past two years.

During your next shopping trip, as you reach for that can of beans, bar of soap, or Co+op Deals featured pizza, think about placing a special order to increase your overall savings.  As you walk through the aisles, take note of what you use often enough to warrant buying a larger quantity.  Simply speak to a cashier on your way through the register and they can easily assist you with your special order.

Please note that we do have deadlines concerning special ordering and receipt of product.  The deadline to special order a product for pick-up the following week is 12:00 noon on Fridays.  Select items may take longer to receive, but the following week is usually possible and a buyer or manager will let you know via phone when the product is ready for pick-up.  Orders are typically ready for pick-up the following Tuesday at 2:00 pm.

A few notes:

Except in the case that product is defective, sales of special order products are non-refundable due to the nature of the transaction and the fact the item may not be sold on our store shelves.

Due to rapid price fluctuation, Produce department sales are sometimes not available beyond the stock we have on-hand.

Rainchecks are not available on Co+op Deals and Member Deals items, or on some other Oneota sale items which are at the discretion of the department manager.

Special Ordering Tips

– Consult the Co+op Deals flyer at the front of the store for special sale items available to all shoppers of the Oneota Co-op.

– Note that not all items listed in the Co+op Deals flyer may not be carried at the Oneota Co-op, but they are typically available to us through our United Natural Foods (UNFI) warehouse.

– If we have questions or concerns with your order, we will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

– If you wish to place a special order via email, please send a message to and include your full name, mailing address, phone number, and the best way to contact you with any questions.  A staff member will contact you as soon as possible with the status of your order.


For examples of savings illustrated with this article, click here!