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Kingston Natural Foods Market and Buying Club in Ulster County

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In 2007, Jennifer McKinley, a certified holistic nutrition counselor, organized a buying club for friends and clients who wanted healthy foods at low prices. Through the club, Kingston Natural Foods, members purchased organic products in bulk from United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), and picked up their goodies in Jennifer’s driveway on delivery day. Before long, the original group of about 15 households had grown to 250 members, making Kingston Natural Foods the second-largest club nationwide dealing with UNFI — and earning members even more mouthwatering discounts.

Last spring, McKinley opened Kingston Natural Foods Market in a long, skinny storefront in the Rondout district, offering organic groceries to the public, and also allowing club members the convenience of picking up their orders from the store on Thursday, Friday or Saturday, instead of having to convene at a prearranged time.

Those who join the buying club find that UNFI offers a staggering selection of foods, including staples like rices, nuts, seeds, beans, oats, flours — “just on and on,” McKinley says. “The bigger the bag, the better the price.” And if you don’t want an enormous bag of whatever, you can split items when you order online. “Walnuts are pretty expensive, and I wouldn’t want to buy a 25-pound bag by myself,” explains McKinley. “So I’d put that I wanted two pounds of a 25-pound bag, and other people looking to split things can see my invitation.” McKinley keeps an eye on what members want to split and buys small, still-unsold portions of a bulk item to close the deal. “That’s another luxury of this buying club that you don’t have elsewhere,” she notes. That surplus pound or two that she buys winds up in the shop for walk-in customers.

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» Visit Kingston Natural Foods Market in Kingston, NY
» Visit other Hudson Valley CSAs and buying groups
» Read more from The Accidental Foodie blog
» Visit our Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide
» Visit our Hudson Valley Restaurants & Dining Guide

 

The shop also carries frozen, pastured meats from Gardiner’s Full Moon Farm; Vital Choice wild salmon; local fresh produce; eggs from free-running chickens (on the pricy side but worth it); dairy products from Maple Hill Creamery; artisan flour from Wild Hive Farm; and some unusual finds like dried black beans grown upstate in Cayuga. “People are unhappy about getting their beans from China,” notes McKinley, who plans to expand the homegrown, dried bean selection. Organic breads baked by Much Mor cause a minor kerfuffle every week. “The bread comes on Friday morning, and there’s always a line around the block,” McKinley says.

You’ll also find eco-friendly cleaning and bath supplies, as well as Happy Baby and Earth’s Best organic baby food, and natural pet food so that your furry family members can eat as healthily as you do (at least when they’re not scarfing down something they stole from the trash. Or maybe that’s just my dogs…)

Membership in the buying club is $36 the first year, $30 a year thereafter. The single requirement is that you “volunteer” for three hours a year, doing work like helping unload the truck and bagging up bulk items on delivery days.

If you don’t want to join the club, just drop into the market, sip a Fizzy Lizzy (a sparkly fruit drink that’s much better for you than that other fizzy stuff), see what’s temptingly nutritious that day, and chat with Jennifer. “I like supporting the farmers, and connecting the community through food,” she says. “That’s the highlight for me.”

» Visit Kingston Natural Foods Market in Kingston, NY
» Visit other Hudson Valley CSAs and buying groups
» Read more from The Accidental Foodie blog
» Visit our Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide
» Visit our Hudson Valley Restaurants & Dining Guide

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