Mankind has spent most of its existence on earth living in small interdependent communities or villages. Even our largest civilizations and cities were girded by a web of interdependence and mutual support. In our brief modern age, many of us who live in the industrialized world have become acclimatized to being in communities, but not of them. Instead of relying on each other’s skills, knowledge, and resources, we are reliant upon the presence of corporate goods in order to survive, and we barely know who our neighbors are.
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
~John Donne, from Meditation XVII
Although we may find ourselves living in a world that barely remembers Village living, we can still reenvision the Village model in our lives. Village is just another way of saying community, and this is our greatest strength. In fact, you could make the argument that those who have the strongest communities are wealthier than those who do not, regardless of how much money they may have.
To recreate the Village, just use your imagination. Think outside the box. But how?
Join or Create a Food Buying Club
Consider how you buy food. When you need groceries, you probably get in your car and drive to your usual grocery store, buy your food, check out, and then go home again. It would probably never occur to you to change this basic routine.
However, we know a group of people who live on low incomes, and they came up with a new way to shop. They came together to form a very simple Food Buying Club. Some members were ill, so they gave their list to other members who did their shopping for them. One person was designated to drive, and everyone chipped in for gas. Together, they bought a Costco membership. Normally, buying food at Costco is too much for a one- or two-person household, but when a group of people buy that 20 lb sack of rice, they can divide it among themselves and pay a lot less for it than they would at many grocery stores.
By banding together, this Food Buying Club stretched their grocery dollars a lot further than they could ever have done on their own. And everyone’s needs were met. No car? No problem. Too ill to shop for yourself? No problem—the other members will help you. Can’t afford a Costco membership? It’s a lot cheaper when you divide that $40 by ten people. Want to take advantage of bulk buying without having two years’ worth of an item on your shelves? No problem—somebody else probably wants some of the same thing.
Anyone can do this, and you don’t need to be poor to do it. All you need is a bunch of friends or acquaintances who are interested in going in with you.
Remember: no man is a failure who has friends.
~ Clarence the Angel, from “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Depending on where you are, there may already be established Food Buying Clubs. Here in the Portland, Oregon area, you can take your pick. These clubs use their group buying power to get quality food at wholesale prices. They buy from national companies such as Azure Standard and from local farmers and dairies. Each buying club has a designated drop-off point for the vendors, and members make sure that the person who manages the drop has the money needed to pay for the goods. Members are then responsible for picking up their orders.
If you can’t find a formal club in your area, consider creating an informal one, at least at first. Even a club with two or three of your friends could provide significant savings to your grocery budget. But best of all, grocery shopping would become a social affair. Why not take that old chore and have fun with it?