It’s the holidays, and we’re told to buy, buy, buy. But we also want to save, save, save. So many of us are joining members-only “clubs” like Costco and BJ’s to get a few perks — slightly lower prices and special member sales.

But there’s another way, with such perks and more: a member-owned cooperative like the Abundance Food Co-op, where you get a real say in how the business is run, what products are on the shelves, and how your food dollars can support local farmers and neighborhood development.

When you join a real coop like Abundance, Rochester’s only cooperative food store, you become an owner. Abundance is not just committed to the Rochester community, it is owned by Rochesterians.

Yes, Abundance member-owners love the discounts, but they also value highly the role they play in setting store policies for product quality, local purchasing, and so forth. Membership is open to all, and if you can’t afford a one-time member share purchase of $100, you can get a “scholarship.” (But, importantly, you don’t have to be a member to shop at Abundance, so you can test the waters and then see if membership is right for you.)

Democracy governs at Abundance — one member, one vote. Any surplus or profit is returned to members according to how much business they’ve done with the coop, and outside investors can’t rake off all the profits. The knowledgeable staff will take the time to answer your questions about products and operations. The store labels products truthfully. Being a member can be a real education: you can learn about the food system from top to bottom.

Since most of the food Abundance sells is certified organic, prices can be a little higher. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. As a retired farmer, I live on a very modest income, but by careful shopping I can afford to eat organic foods…