Ordering direct from a wholesale supplier or local farmer is very different from buying food in a shop.

If you are buying in bulk you will need to buy whole boxes or sacks of produce, in amounts set by the supplier.

For example, potatoes usually come in 25kg sacks, and apples in 13kg crates. For some types of produce these sizes can change from one week to the next, so cucumbers may be in a box of 12 one week and a box of 10 the next, which can make it hard to plan. Most suppliers will not want to supply less that a box / sack of anything and if they do have to split a box they will usually charge you more. It will always be cheaper to buy a whole box or sack of each item, so your planning needs to take this into account.

With wholefoods and packaged goods, items will also often come in packs of 10 or 12 (sometimes called a 'case'). If you are buying bulk items then you may have slightly more choice. For example, you may be able to choose between 5kg or 10kg. Many suppliers prefer not to split cases but some will do this on some products.

To guarantee convenient delivery, many suppliers will specify a certain day and time that you need to order.

Farmers in particular may be hard to get hold of, so you may agree a time slot during the week when you can place your order. It is often easier to order by fax or email, so everything is written down and mistakes are less likely to occur. However, some suppliers will only take orders over the phone.

It is very important to get your ordering right, or you could end up with a lot of produce that goes to waste. One way to make ordering easier is to run a pre-order system, asking your customers to place their orders in advance, for example by having a bag or box scheme or wholefood buying club. However, having a pre-order system is not really possible if you run a stall, shop or market.

Click on the links on the left for more tips on ordering.

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