Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Buy Bulk

I love the bulk bins. I could stand there and stare at them for hours. So many pretty things. Beautiful organic package-free goodness. Have you ever tried to focus on buying things with minimal packaging? It's crazy how much cardboard and plastic companies wrap around their products!

I also love putting them in my jars when I get home (see photo). For those of you who are bulk dry foods challenged, from L to R (top row): red lentils, split peas, garbanzo beans, quinoa. Bottom row: Raisins, popcorn, long-grain brown rice, and pinto beans.

Buying bulk is cheaper, healthier and better for the environment. One of my favorite webistes (New American Dream) wrote up a nice little ditty. Here you go:

One useful piece of advice I've heard is to "buy bulk." This can mean one of three things, all of which can save money.

Firstly, there's the bulk bin section of the grocery store - the bins with loose flour, rice, etc. that you scoop into a bag and pay for by the pound. Not all grocery stores have a bulk bin area or carry organic items in it, so you may need to shop around. At my local store, I've realized big savings by purchasing staples like organic flour, dried beans, pasta, cereal, peanut butter, and cooking oil from the bulk bin section. An eco-friendly bonus is that less packaging is used for foods sold in the bulk bin section. I sometimes go the extra mile and bring my own clean, reused plastic bags to the store so that no new packaging is required.

Secondly, you can "buy bulk" by buying organic foods in bulk packages. These big packages often have a lower price per pound than smaller packages and also generate less packaging waste. In my case, I like to buy the 25-pound sack of organic brown rice. It costs less per pound than a one- or two-pound package and lasts forever. Single people, small households, or those with limited storage space can team up with one or more friends and split a bulk package between themselves. (A helpful side note: stores with bulk bin areas probably carry 25- and 50-pound bulk packages - that's what they use to fill the bins. Ask your friendly organic grocer if they will sell the bulk package to you directly, at a discount.) I've read that certain commodities like organic coffee and chocolate can cost the same as their conventional counterparts, if you purchase a year's supply at a time and then store it in individual airtight containers. And this strategy isn't limited to dry goods, either - I've also read about several families who realized savings by splitting a side of organic beef. Some possible sources for bulk packages are Costco, ShopNatural, Azure Standard, Ozark Organics, and Door to Door Organics.

A third way to "buy bulk" is to buy large numbers of organic items, especially when they are on sale. Organic canned soup on clearance? Don't stop at 5 or 10 cans - think big - buy a case or two and keep them in your closet or share with friends. Fresh produce is a good candidate for similar treatment. If you can't eat all that discounted organic produce at once, items like berries or chopped bell peppers can be frozen in plastic bags for later use. A chest freezer, especially an energy-efficient model, may come in handy for doing this on a bigger scale. These freezers come in all sizes, from ones small enough for single people, to large models for big families. Just make sure that the operating costs for your freezer don't cancel out the savings from your bulk buys! Another option for preserving large batches of discounted organic fruits and veggies is to dry or can them, if you have the time, equipment, and know-how.

Thanks New Dream for putting my thoughts into words at this late hour. Just say NO to excessive packaging!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

you have a nice blog! thanks for share recipes.
i like your jars ,nice photo.

8:07 AM, September 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the bulk bins. Of course, sometimes my kids think that they can sample what's in the bins. :)

2:13 PM, September 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I try to shop using bulk bins as well, and have for some time. I totally agree about the excess packaging. JUST SAY NO! Go, Sara!

7:34 PM, September 25, 2006  
Blogger angela said...

best grocery shopping advice ever. thanks, sara.

8:56 PM, September 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where did you get those awesome little jars?

12:35 PM, November 13, 2006  
Blogger Sara said...

KMart. You can also get bulk jars at restaurant supply stores. Thrift stores are the best for finding cool looking jars...but I was feeling impatient that day apparently. :)

12:54 PM, November 13, 2006  
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