Bargains by the Scoopful

When was the last time you stopped by the bulk food section of your local grocery? If you’ve never experienced the frugal, sustainable, delicious treats in the bulk bins or it has been a while since you last indulged now is the time to check it out.

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Why bulk?
Price – There are amazing treasures to be had for pennies on the dollar compared to packaged foods. For example, one local retailer offers organic quick cooking oats in the breakfast food section for $6.99/32oz pkg. A few aisles over in the bulk section those same organic oats are priced at $1.49/lb or $2.98/32oz. That’s a savings of $4.01 over the prepackaged product.

Freshness – Bulk foods move quickly so the product tends to be really fresh. In the oats example, think of how long it might take your family to eat two pounds of dry oats. If you purchase just as much as you need for a week or two you win twice: fresh oats for your table plus you get to keep more of your money for a longer time. If you buy the big package, the store gets the full purchase price up front while you get to store surplus oats as they age in your pantry.

Packaging – When you buy bulk you cut out all of the excess packaging that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Even if your family recycles, packaged goods force you to bring home extra “stuff” In the form of boxes, bags and plastic films. With bulk, you bring home a single plastic bag that can be reused as a trash bin liner, taken along when you walk the dog or even recycled on your next trip back to the grocery.

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Where to shop
Bulk foods are available at many grocery store chains but selection can be limited compared to natural food stores. There are some really impressive bins of healthy choices at Whole Foods and Sprouts. For the price conscious shopper who needs a bargain and a lot of options but doesn’t necessarily require organics, Winco foods can’t be beat. Some stores even have a link on their website that allows you to look up nutrition facts and recipes for their bulk foods.

What to buy
Start with pantry staples like salt, sugar, flour, oats or rice. Buy just enough though; don’t let the bargain price lead you to over-buy or you forfeit some of the benefit. Try a scoop or two of granola, nuts, candy or seeds. Next time you are planning to bake skip the baking aisle entirely and pick up your flour, sugar, oats and chocolate chips from the bulk section.

Storage
Even though you are buying in manageable quantities you’ll need to store the food at home so it stays fresh. My pick: Mason jars, of course! Jars allow food to be stored safely in glass and away from scary plastic chemicals. The clear glass makes it easy to see the food in your pantry which makes you more likely to use up what you have instead of wasting or buying duplicate. For dry goods a lid that has been used for sealing a jar in the past can be washed and reused, turning a single-use item into a reusable item.

No matter what you choose, if you try bulk food you will find good, fresh products that keep your wallet full and your carbon footprint light. The beauty of bulk is that no matter what new item you try, you are not making a commitment so try a scoop of adventure today!

Are you a bulk food newbie? Check out this video from Sprouts.

Experienced bulk buyers, what are some of your favorite finds?

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6 Responses to “Bargains by the Scoopful”

  1. Laura M says:

    Thanks for the great post! I think too often people think you have to buy a lot in the bulk section, but you don’t. Get a little or get a lot, the price is still better & you’re helping to keep less junk out of the land fill/recycling plants.
    I also get things in bulk when they are on sale…and sometimes that makes a serious difference. For instance, almonds or walnuts can be kinda pricey. But when they are on sale for $3.99 a pound, I buy a bunch and put it in a freezer bag & freeze it till the holidays when I need them for baking!

    • Laura, your comment reminds me of a time when I bought five cardamom pods for a tikka masala recipe. A jar of cardamom pods was quite expensive but by buying bulk I got just what I needed for less than $1.
      Good tip on freezing nuts for long term storage since they can go rancid if they spend too long in the pantry. Thanks for reading and sharing your insights.

  2. JustKaryce says:

    Loved this post! I never thought to put my bulk in Mason jars, thanks for the tip! I really enjoy your style of writing and giving tips. Keep up the great posts Rachael! Hugs from SoCal : )

    • Thanks for such a kind compliment, Karyce. I’m really happy to hear you are enjoying the blog. If there are any Sustainable Home Ec topics you would like to see more of, please let me know. I take requests!

  3. Scott says:

    Way to combine bulk shopping with bulk storage in jars. I like bulk shopping especially for candy and cupcakes

    • Scott, candy can actually be really beautiful in jars. When I brought home gummy worms on one of my “research” trips, my daughter was a big fan. Then again, she doesn’t see much candy in her world so she probably doesn’t care what I store ’em in as long as I make with the treats.

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