By Catherine Moran
I’ve started buying in bulk, and I’m never going back. Ever! It is an amazing idea. And it had never occurred to me as a way to shop before this summer.
The concept of buying in bulk is extremely easy, and so is the execution. Bins are filled up with a product, all dry goods. Most items available for bulk purchase do not go bad quickly, like grains, oats, pasta, trail mix, etc. My preferred store, Integral Yoga Natural Foods/Integral Yoga Natural Apothecary in New York, also has some fun stuff, like coconut flakes, coconut sugar, sea salt, and raisins. These may be staples in most stores, but I was tickled pink that these items could be purchased in bulk.
You either scoop your item from the bin, or pull on a lever that drops the food into your bag. Once you’ve filled your bag to your heart’s content, you label a twist tie. The twist ties are large, so there is room to write. All you need to write is the bin number, so the cashiers know what to ring up at checkout. Your local store (or a nearby Whole Foods) will most likely have a scale that you can weigh your bag on near the bins, so you know how much you will be paying, or how much more of an item you need. I needed a lot of cereal on my last trip.
I like to save my twist ties so that I don’t need to get new ones. I write not only the bin number on my twist tie, but the name of the item. I keep them in an old Altoids container and bring with me when I shop. I had started out using the plastic bags provided by the store, but knew I could not continue using them – it defeats the idea of bulk buying, in my opinion! So, I purchased some bags on etsy, and they’ve been working splendidly. You can bring other containers from home, but make sure the cashier weighs them before you fill up, so they can subtract the weight of your container from the weight of the food you are buying.
I purchased some airtight glass containers from the Container Store (and inherited some secondhand) to keep my grains and pasta fresh, and they work great—not to mention how aesthetically pleasing they are. Next on my list are some cute little wooden scoops, which I hope will be a bit easier than pouring directly from the large container. I’m excited to start buying spices and teas in bulk, as well, once my large supply of both are exhausted.
Buying in bulk is not only fun; it’s also cheap! Quinoa in my local grocery store is $8.49 for 14 oz. I bought a little over 19 oz in the bulk section of Integral Yoga, and it was $5.80. I’m shouting “SAVINGS!” in Oprah’s voice in my head. I was so excited the first time I went, I took a photo of my receipt. Need I say more?
What’s exciting is that bulk food sections in stores are not just limited to food, and they may become more of a norm. At Integral, you can purchase laundry soap, hand soap, shampoo, and bath gel in bulk if you fill up your container there. How awesome is that?!
I’m super psyched for the venture known as in.gredients, Austin, TX’s “zero-waste, package-free microgrocer selling local food with pure ingredients.” Cue jaw drop. The model is similar to the model of the store Unpackaged in London, which has been open since 2007. You bring your own containers and bags to these stores, and take home your goods. It’s that simple. If you’ve forgotten your container, you take a biodegradable one with you or buy a reusable container there. Genius. It is really an exciting prospect for the future.
Have you ever bought in bulk? What’s your favorite item? I’d love to hear about your experiences!
Adventures in Greening is a column running on Kate-book.com every other Monday at noon. It is written by the very eco-conscious Catherine Moran. Follow Catherine on Twitter @folowbredcrumbs, or check out her excellent book blog.