Buying in Bulk


Buying from the bulk section lets you save money and help the environment. It's also a convenient way to shop — you can purchase the exact amount of spice you want, whether it's a pinch or a pound.

Have you walked by those colorful and aromatic bins at your local health market and wondered, “Who would need that much of anything?” But buying in bulk doesn't mean you have to buy large quantities. The “bulk” aspect refers only to the store’s presentation, not the quantity you purchase. (In fact, bulk is often the best option for buying smaller quantities of some products than the packaged versions.) As more of us are watching our budgets — buying in bulk has become a popular option in natural food stores. And there are growing online options for bulk buying as well.

Besides offering shoppers lower prices, bulk products reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and take less energy and other resources to produce.

Bulk also offers an exciting way to expand your food horizons. You can buy just a pinch of the exotic spice or grain called for in that magazine recipe, or experiment with small quantities of new spices. If you think you might like to try brown rice flour or flax, buy a small quantity for a test run—no worries about wasting money or product.

Consider these advantages of buying in bulk

  • Bulk buying contributes to your pocketbook. By not paying for all that individual packaging, labeling and advertising, you're getting more product for your money.

  • It's a green way to buy. Statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency show we generate about 80 million tons of waste from packaging and containers every year. This is almost 1/3 of the country's municipal solid waste. In addition to the waste products themselves, the manufacturing of them wastes energy and resources. When you buy in bulk and reuse storage containers, it's a positive contribution to our planet's health.

  • You can often find the product you want in bulk and purchase the exact amount you want. If you have special nutritional needs, you're likely to find just what you need in the bulk aisle. (And many bulk foods are fresher, locally produced and often organic.)

  • In stores with bulk sections, you can assess for yourself the color, aroma and texture of the products you're buying.

Tips for buying in bulk:

  • You might want to organize your cupboards a bit — to make room for your bulk products. Look in your cupboards to see what items you usually purchase in containers or cans that you can now purchase in bulk. If you really want to get organized, purchase some nice, airtight glass jars (safer than plastics for food storage), and some labels so you can keep track of what you have. Containers can be purchased at the store or online.

  • Find those items you can now purchase in bulk. But also explore a bit, maybe trying one or two new items each visit! Some products you'll likely find online or in the bulk aisle: beans, cereals, flours, grains, herbs and spices, nut butters (you may even get to grind your own), oils, pastas, sweeteners, teas and coffees (Fair Trade), pet food, and household and toiletry items like laundry detergent and soaps.

  • If you brought your own containers to the store, remember to weigh them before filling them (you'll find scales in the bulk section, too), so you don't get charged for the weight of the containers when the products are weighed at checkout. Note this weight, as well as the item number and the price, on the container, sticker or a piece of paper.

  • When filling your containers, use the scoops provided. If you're purchasing a liquid, you'll probably find a funnel for filling your container. Take your time to be neat, but if you spill something, don't panic. Ask a staff person for direction in cleaning it up.

Bulk buying isn't just a trend — it's smart shopping for both your pocketbook and the environment.

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