I had never thought much about bulk bins growing up, except maybe for the bulk candy aisle at the local grocery chain. I think it may have had a few options of nuts, but not much else in the form of real food. Over the past few years, as I've slowly started experimenting with different foods and making healthier choices, I've been drawn to the bulk bins in health food stores. I hate to waste money and food, so I found it much more convenient to buy a small portion of something new to try out. That way if I didn't like it, I wouldn't have a pound of it sitting in my pantry for the next year. The more I bought and experimented, the more benefits I started seeing. I've heard varying opinions on the bulk section, with questions like "how fresh is the food?" It really comes down to knowing your grocery store and being willing to ask questions. I've gotten bulk items from larger health food stores like Earth Fare to small local co-ops and have never had an issue with freshness. I've actually become obsessed with hitting up the bulk section whenever going to a new store, now. It's fun to see the selection and try new things.
Items you can find in bulk bins:
- Dry beans
- Flours (including GF options)
- Seeds (including flax and chia)
- Spices and herbs
- Ground and whole bean coffee
- Powders (such as baking powder)
- Cereal and granola
- Trail mix and dried fruits
- Dry pasta
- Nutritional yeast and other odds and ends
Benefits of buying from the bulk bins:
- Save money (savings passed on from no individual packaging, labeling or advertising)
- In fact, a study from Portland State University states that, "Organic bulk foods on average are 89 percent less expensive than their organic packaged counterparts"
- More eco-friendly because of less individual packaging and waste.
- PSU also states, "if all Americans switched to bulk purchases for common items, it would save tens of millions of pounds of trash from entering landfills each year."
- Buy in the quantities you need so you waste less.
- Test new grains/nuts/beans/etc. without committing to a whole package.
- Buy hard-to-find items like nutritional yeast.
Tips for buying in bulk:
- Calculate the price per ounce/lb/etc.
- Feel comfortable asking the workers when the bins were last changed, what their cleaning practices are, etc.
- Take your own containers or re-use containers (make sure to get the tare weight if using your own)
What are your favorite things to buy from the bulk bins? Do you have any tips?