Why I Buy in Bulk and Why You Should Too

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Post by our blog team member, Kiran. To learn more about Kiran, check out our team page!


I remember being a kid and loving to make mixed bags of candy from the bulk bins at our grocery store. Times sure have changed for me, and desires have too, but the bulk bins have a new importance in my weekly shopping.

I love buying products in bulk. In fact, I will purposely head to our local Earth Fare or Whole Foods so that I can stock up on certain items. If you aren’t shopping from bulk bins or don’t frequent them, I encourage you to do so. And below I’ve shared my reasons why.
Benefits of Buying in Bulk on 100 Days of #RealFood

Desired Quantity

Perhaps the biggest reason why I buy in bulk is that it allows me to buy exactly how much of the item I want. How many times have you needed just a little bit of a certain ingredient, but you end up buying the whole darn package only to be left with lots of leftovers?

Take pine nuts (for making pesto) for example. You can get fresh ones and only purchase the necessary three tablespoons instead of a big bag. Or way back when, I had never tried baking with almond flour. I didn’t want to get a whole bag of it, so I bought exactly what I needed for one particular recipe. It’s a great way to avoid waste (and clutter in your pantry, for that matter).

Cost

Not far behind in my reasons why I buy in bulk is simple: it’s cheaper. I actually put this notion to the test by visiting both my local Earth Fare and Whole Foods stores. See the chart below, which illustrates it all:

Food Item

Earth Fare
Bulk Bins

Whole Foods
Bulk Bins

Packaged Goods

Rolled Oats

$1.49/lb $1.59/lb $4.29 for Bob’s Red Mill 32 oz. package
= $2.14/lb
Black Beans (dry, organic) $1.67/lb $1.99/lb $3.99 for Eden’s Organic 16 oz. package
= $3.99/lb
Almonds $11.48/lb (raw organic) $12.99/lb $6.99 for 12 oz. package
= $9.32/lb
Cashews $13.00/lb (raw organic) $10.99/lb $8.99 for 12 oz. package
= $11.99/lb
Almond Flour $6.99/lb $8.99/lb $11.99 for Bob’s Red Mill 16 oz. package
= $11.99/lb
Rice (Long grain organic) $1.99/lb $1.79/lb $4.99 for Texas Best 32 oz. package
= $2.49/lb
Quinoa $5.99/lb $6.99/lb $6.49/lb for Earthly Choice 14 oz. package
= $8.65/lb
Organic Coffee $12.99/lb $9.99 – $11.99/lb $9.99 – $11.99 for 12 oz package
= $13.32 – $15.99/lb

All of the items (except for the nuts) offered significant savings – over 20%, actually!

Reduced Waste

I admit it, I’m a jar junkie. I’m constantly cleaning out jars and reusing them. At first, I drove my husband crazy. Now he admits that it makes our pantry look so much neater and cleaner (win!). Jars are also free when they come from a packaged product (think jars of unsweetened applesauce or spaghetti sauce) – double win! Anyhow, I now purchase and store nuts, rice, dates, oats, and so much more in easy-to-see jars. Sometimes I just sit and linger at my pretties in my pantry. Okay, okay. Maybe I’m going too far with that, but I really have a slight obsession :). You don’t have to become a jar junkie like me (by the way, Lisa loves using jars for storage, too!), but know that you’re significantly reducing packaging waste by buying in bulk.

Why I Buy in Bulk and Why You Should Too (Kiran's Pantry) at 100 Days of #RealFood

Kiran’s bulk goods in her pantry.

Freshness

Even though many packaged products provide “best by” dates on them, don’t you sometimes look at bags/boxes of items and wonder just how fresh they really are? With the bulk bins, because they are constantly being refilled, we can hope that the items within are fairly fresh. If nothing else, you can see up close and personal what you are buying, unlike foods in packages. If you’ve ever shopped the bulk bins, you know that they are diligent about making sure the offerings are up to par. In fact, we talked to a staff member at Earth Fare who spends a good bit of his time at work cleaning, filling, and maintaining the bins, which makes me feel pretty good about it.

Personally speaking, I’ll refill my jars of nuts, etc. and wait until that jar is completely empty before washing the jar and refilling with fresh nuts. Also it goes back to quantity—you only buy what you need so you know those foods are fresh and the rest is not going to sit and get stale.

Remove the Middle Man

This ties together cost and reducing waste. For products to be packaged, it requires fancy packaging and higher overhead for shelf space in retail stores, and let’s not forget transportation to get it all to the stores as well (bulk can be packed tighter than packaged foods in shipping) and the marketing dollars built into the cost.

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So there you have it – those are the many reasons I’m a big fan of buying in bulk! Do you agree? Why or why not?

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98 comments to Why I Buy in Bulk and Why You Should Too

  • Elaine

    I used to buy a lot of my items from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. I’ve found the rice, quinoa, beans and nuts at my Whole Foods are actually cheaper in the 1 lbs 365 pre-packaged bags. They are not cheaper by a lot, sometimes only $.30/lb, but still cheaper. The bags are also resealable. I’ve compared prices on these things numerous times in case things change but they haven’t. I assumed the quality of the product was the same, I hope I’m not missing something…

    • Kiran Dodeja Smith

      365 products definitely make you rethink some things, like nuts. They are definitely more cost-effective to buy their nuts, I’ve found. But when it comes to quantity (i.e. if you only want a little bit) the bulk bins can be effective, IMO.

  • Totally, you can save some serious cash by buying your spices and teas in bulk at Earth-fare or wholefoods!

    • Danielle Spears

      I totally agree with the spices. We had a Fresh Thyme and Earth Fare just open up down the street and I needed just a bit of a spice. I went to Fresh Thyme and got a little baggie of Cumin, enough for two recipes. It was such a little amount that they didn’t even charge me and I didn’t end up wasting a big container of spice I won’t use. It is such a wonderful idea. Now I just need my friends baby food containers and that is how I will shop for spices from now on. Plus they have lavender seeds, etc. Great for making soaps, creams, etc.

  • Steph

    I LOVE bulk bins! Unfortunately, I live in an area where bulk bins are not available in stores (yet). I drive 45 minutes – 1 hour to Earth Fare and other natural foods stores to stock my pantry. I am a jar collector, too. Don’t even get me started about the excitement of the blue and green Ball jars! Which looks better in blue? Black beans or white rice? I’ve tried both. :-) The trip is worth it to me, I buy enough for a month or two, I get organic foods for a fraction of the price (organic is pricey in this area), and I have my organized jar pantry. Triple-win!

    • Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Steph – you are so cute. Glad I’m not the only one who gets excited about the jars! At first my husband was so over it, but I’m happy to report that he now thinks it looks so organized. Woo-hoo! Thanks for making me smile with your comment;).

  • Maria

    I’m not sure if this has been addressed, too many comments to read through. But, I do not buy from bulk bins due to cross contamination concerns. I have a gluten sensitive, peanut allergic toddler and I can never trust that these items have not been in the bin recently. I also am a little, not overly, concerned about all the handsies in and out of the bin. If I think about it too much it kind of grosses me out.

  • barbara

    While I am starting to buy a few items from bulk bins if i just need a small amount but I am concerned about contamination also. I have SEEM people stick their hands in the bin! and how often do those scoops land back in the bin with the handles touching the food. I even saw a woman count out cinnamon sticks once and after she weighed them she put some of them BACK! UGHHH I got a clerk but he did nothing so i went and got the manager.. she removed the jar… but for how long i wonder??

  • Abby

    I bought my first items from the bulk bins this week! I’m so proud of myself. I bought steel cut oats to try for my granola bars and popcorn kernels that were cheaper than the bags.

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