The Many Benefits of Buying Bulk Foods

Photo: bcmom/Flickr.

More than 600 natural and whole foods stores are celebrating National Bulk Foods Week, which started on Oct. 16 and runs through Oct. 22. The focus is on foods that you can purchase from bulk bins, saving money and reducing unnecessary packaging.

Don’t confuse purchasing bulk foods with buying in bulk from a large big box store. When you purchase bulk foods, you can buy as little or as much as you need. When you buy in bulk, you often get more than you need with a lot of extra packaging. For instance, when you purchase eight cans of soup in bulk at a big box store, you get the soup in cans that are usually placed in a half box, and then wrapped in plastic.

When you want to make your own lentil soup, on the other hand, and the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of dried lentils, you can purchase exactly 1/2 cup from the bulk foods bins and put that amount in your own reusable bag or container.

Bulk is Green summarizes the benefits of buying from the bulk bins.

  1. Saving money — Buying natural and organic foods in the bulk section of the grocery store offers an average savings of 30 percent and 50 percent versus packaged food.
  2. Helping the environment — Eliminating packaging reduces carbon footprints. Buying in bulk mitigates the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills and streamlines the transportation needed to deliver goods to market, helping to reduce CO2 emissions.
  3. Reducing food waste — Buying in bulk allows shoppers to make smarter decisions, by purchasing the exact amount of foods they need, as opposed to purchasing consumer packaged goods with a pre-determined amount that may not get used before its expiration date.
  4. Flexibility to buy a pinch or a pound — Buying in bulk offers a broad selection of natural and organic products that can be purchased in the exact quantity desired. If shoppers need a large quantity of nuts for a holiday party or just a pinch of curry powder for a new recipe — bulk foods provide both options.

To give you inspiration to purchase from the bulk bins in your local store, here are some recipes from the MNN archives that use foods that can be found in bulk bins.

  • Homemade Peanut Butter Granola Bars — The oats, chocolate chips, and raisins are common foods found in bulk bins.
  • Honey and Goat Cheese Filled Fig Muffins — A half-pound of dried figs that you can measure out exactly from the bulk bins go into these muffins.
  • Savory Millet Cakes — If you want to try a new grain like millet, the bulk bins are the perfect place to get the amount you need for a recipe.
  • Taco Seasoning Mix — Buying smaller amounts of dried spices in the bulk bins will ensure your spices are fresher than when you buy large bottles of infrequently used spices.