5 Benefits of Buying in Bulk
By: Delayna Fitzgerald
July 26, 2016
When you hear the words Bulk Shopping what do you think? Maybe gigantic bottles of mayo, weekend trips to Costco or possibly stocking up for the Zombie apocalypse? While these descriptors can be used in certain cases, bulk shopping doesn’t necessarily mean going home with your arms full and your car’s suspension in crisis from the weight of your trunk.
Here at Eat Farm-to-Fork, the term “Bulk” means something very different to us. It’s not a new concept, but it has recently found resurgence among several different food and environmental groups. And now, thanks to the demand, lots of grocery stores have a bulk section where they offer loosely stored products in containers that are measured out by the shopper, then purchased based on weight or portion size.
So, shopping bulk is a lot like shopping for loose produce in the grocery store. When you’re shopping for apples you choose how many you want and when you check out, the cashier either weighs them, or prices them per apple. Bulk shopping is exactly the same but with a lot more options than just produce. Stores that carry bulk sections typically offer products that would otherwise be packaged in a plastic container or box. Bulk is beautiful and here’s why.
Bulk Saves Bucks
Stop buying more than you need! You don’t have to anymore. Control what you put in your cart and on your card. You don’t have to pay for an allotted amount of product that might end up getting wasted in the long run. Not to mention, you’re never paying for the embedded price of packaging. When you pay per ounce instead of per product the money that is spent is more cost effective for the consumer and the producer because there is less hassle to getting the product on the shelf.
When you compare bulk prices to pre-packaged products, it’s amazing to see the difference. For instance, a 32oz jar of local honey, in bulk, can be priced at $10 dollars and a 32oz jar of that same honey on the shelf is priced at $22 dollars. A small jar of vanilla extract can be priced at $4 dollars as opposed the smaller portions found in stores for nearly $8 dollars or more. Don’t even get me started on the price of teas and spices. For certain products, the difference is nearly unreal.
Typical Bulk Buys:
- Baking essentials
- Nut butters
- Dried fruits
- Cooking Oils
- Pet food
- Laundry detergent
- Hygiene products
#ProTips: Because there is not a package with a barcode, you have to write down the designated PLU number so the cashier knows what the product is at the register. Be sure to look at the price per ounce and weigh out your ingredients at the designated weigh stations before heading to the counter. This way, there are no unexpected costs. Don’t forget to utilize your phone’s features! Use the calculator for calculating exact prices and the camera for taking photos of PLU numbers rather than writing them down.
A little thing called portion control
The recipe for the party says you need two cups of flour and the only thing on the shelf if a 64oz bag. Of course it sits in your cupboard for months unused. With bulk you can get the two cups you need and save yourself some space and some money. It instills the concept of only buying what you need or want and not just settling on what producers decide you need. What about finishing the whole bag of chips? You can save yourself from diet blunders before you even get home. As someone who shops primarily bulk, I can say that my waistline has definitely seen the benefits. I can satiate my cravings without overdoing it.
#ProTips: Get familiar with weight vs. measure. If you know that a recipe calls for 2 cups of an ingredient, it’s good to know that it would typically equate to 16 oz. When following recipes always get a little extra to account for spills. If you’re watching your waistline, be sure to bring a specific sized container so that you don’t overdo it on your favorite snacks.
It’s a Time Saver
Oh that’s on aisle 6…or was it 7? Walking up and down aisles and all across the store just to fulfill a shopping list can be tedious. While that’s great for getting your FitBit steps in, it can be time consuming. Shopping by bulk instead cuts a lot of the navigational BS out of the process because it’s all in one section and easy to see. They are clearly labeled and often kept in see through containers so you know exactly what to look for. Rice looks like rice and cereal looks like cereal instead of some charismatic rabbit having a seizure on a box. And when you really break it down, you can save time on trips to the store if you’re smart about planning out your meals.
#ProTips: Meal prepping is a really good way to save time in the grocery store. Planning out your meals ahead of time allows you to get in the grocery and get out and you only return when it’s time to fulfill the items on your next meal plan.
Definitely No Frills and No Gimmicks
Grocery stores can be a maze and can tend to suck you into what feels like an all-day shopping trip. But they are set-up in a very specific way. All of the fresh minimally processed staple type items such as produce, dairy and meats, line the walls of the store. As you move towards the inner aisle, you will find the majority of it all of the canned, jarred and more heavily processed items lining the shelves. There is actually a growing group of health conscious individuals that will only shop for things on the outside aisles and never venture into the inner sanctum of the processed world.
The bulk section is often found on the outer aisles (usually in the produce section) because they’re considered more natural and minimally processed. Not to mention generally healthier than the items in the middle of the store. More often than not, it’s a small section where you can find the basics, but there are some specialty stores that have much larger assortments (we have provided a local list at the end of this post).
The great thing about the bulk section is that it simplifies and strips away the clever flashy marketing techniques used by the processed food industry. The bulk section is honest, and we gotta say, we love honesty! We love it both in our relationships and our food. More importantly, you get to see the actual food product and its contents instead of it being hidden behind a bunch of flashy colors, mascots or misleading words. It’s straightforward just like any relationship should be.
#ProTips: Even though you can see the product, be sure to read the ingredients, which should be listed in or on the bulk container. Knowing what’s in your food is very important because labels don’t always tell the whole story. But at least with bulk, the investigation process is more lax. When it comes to packaging, less is more!
Best of All its Environmentally Friendly
Bulk shopping has become a phenomenon in the sustainable food community because it allows consumers to shop consciously. Bulk is a huge part of the Zero Waste Movement, which is structured around reducing consumer waste by not sending anything to a landfill. The desired result is less demand for harmful wrappers and containers, hopefully eventually stopping such non-recyclables and plastics from being produced (or at least reducing their usage). It’s an ethical and economical guide to people changing their practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles. The Zero Waste movement strives to ensure all discarded items are to be used.
Landfills are made up of primarily food waste and food packaging; hardcore adopters of this lifestyle are starting to get rid of their garbage cans in order to reduce their waste altogether. According to a report by UNEP, 30 to 40% of the food supply is wasted in the US, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. All the resources such as water that went into producing these products go to waste, the product itself goes to waste, and then it is typically incinerated at the landfill causing a release of toxic carbon gases harmful to the earth. The cycle has to stop and you can help by starting with bulk. Many stores will even give you a discount for bringing your own reusable containers!
#ProTips: Bring your own reusable containers and bags. Many bulk sections provide plastic bulk bags but you can avoid them by planning ahead. You can find or even make mesh and cloth produce bags. Bringing your own containers helps stop the production of plastics and unnecessary resources. If you bring your own jars be sure to take them to the front of the store before shopping to get a Tare (weight) on your jars so they can subtract the container weight upon purchase.
For those of you food conscious consumers, this is certainly the way to go. Not to mention, many bulk sections carry local producers and distributors so you know you can keep it fresh and LOCAL in the kitchen. We encourage you to check out zerowastehome.com to find bulk stores near you, as well as visit eatfarmtofork.com on a regular basis, to help you incorporate a more sustainable ethos in your Farm-to-Fork lifestyle.
Bulk on Shoppers!
Bulk stores in the Sacramento area:
331 S. Lower Sacramento Road
39 Lincoln Blvd
1828 29th St
Sacramento Natural Foods Coop
1900 Alhambra Blvd
1040 Florin Road
Whole Foods Market
4315 Arden Way
Sprouts Farmers Market
8211 Laguna Blvd
Elk Grove, California
Davis Food Co-op
620 G Street
Elliott’s Natural Foods
8063 Greenback Lane
Citrus Heights, California
Whole Foods Market
1001 Galleria Blvd.
10151 Fairway Drive
855 Davis St.
Vacaville , California
Sheri’s Sonshine Nutrition Center
6 N School Street
Grass valley highway
Auburn , California
New Earth Market
1475 Tharp Road
Yuba City, California
5110 Montauban Ave
2400 North Park Boulevard
6700 Lone Tree Way
Brentwood , California