Food (Image: Paul Faith - PA)

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Food buying groups are member-owned voluntary organisations that see people clubbing together to purchase healthy foods, local produce and organic goods at wholesale prices.

There are thousands of these around the country with co-ops having anything from a handful to hundreds of members.

Charity Sustainweb points out that food co-ops have environmental, social and health benefits as well as supporting local economies.

"You can get organic or local produce for a similar or cheaper price as you would in the supermarkets. But this won't work if you are just looking for cheapest prices," said Kirsten Glendinning, a regional advisor for the Food Co-op project.

She added that there are no hard and fast rules for food co-ops. Each basically buys in produce depending on the requirements of its members with many ordering dried goods from wholesale shops such as Suma and Infinity, although meat products are also getting more popular.

Setting these up and then keeping them running can take a bit of time and effort but there is free support available. Alternatively has a list of local groups already operating.

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