Bulk food buying is the hallmark of eco-conscious consumers. Buying in bulk [doesn't just mean buying huge quantities of items to save money, which makes sense for staples like toilet paper and paper towels if you have the space. It also means buying from those bulk bins you see in the grocery store. There are several advantages to doing so.
Bulk items are usually cheaper. With no packaging, companies are able to keep costs down. According to the Bulk is Green Council, "organic bulk foods on average cost 89% less than their packaged counterparts". Wow!
You can buy only what you need. If a new recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of a specialty item that you don't have on hand, you simply buy what is called for. Buying this way also allows you to experiment with certain spices, grains or flours that you don't usually buy without committing to a whole bag or box. You significantly reduce food waste and save space in your pantry by buying only what you need. How many spices are in your spice drawer that have been there for years without being used? To insure freshness and for peak flavor, spices and most food items are better bought in smaller quantities anyway.
Bulk buying also keeps tons of packaging out of the landfills. A study from Portland State University found that if Americans switched to bulk bin buying for common items, it would "it would save tens of millions of pounds of trash from entering landfills each year." Specifically, the Bulk is Green Council states, "If all Americans purchased coffee beans from bulk food bins, 260 millions pounds of foil packaging would be diverted from the landfills per year." Or, "If all American families bought peanut butter from bulk food bins, about 749 million pounds of waste would be diverted from landfills per year."
When buying from the bulk bin, you can either bring your own glass container or use the plastic or paper bags provided. Calculate the price per ounce, pound, etc. A scale is usually right there beside the bins. If you bring your own container, make sure to weigh the container first before adding the item, then subtract that weight to determine the cost of the item you are buying. If you are concerned about bin freshness or cleanliness, feel free to ask the store manager. And, don't forget to recycle or reuse the plastic bag after transferring your bulk items to a glass container at home. Store them in the pantry or dark place. I love the way the pantry looks with attractive glass containers or reused mason jars, which is all the rage today.
Items You Can Find In Bulk Bins:
Flours (including GF options)
Seeds (including flax and chia)
Spices and herbs
Ground and whole bean coffee
Powders (such as baking powder)
Cereal and granola
Trail mix and dried fruits
Nutritional yeast and other odds and ends
During the holiday season when we are baking, cooking and trying new recipes more than usual, buying from bulk bins makes even more sense. Try it and enjoy saving money and waste!
Information compiled from http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-15918/the-benefits-of-buying-in-bulk.html and http://www.bulkisgreen.org/.
For more green living tips, visit greenwithbetsy.com.