Why Buy in Bulk?
There are some great reasons to buy in bulk:
Bulk foods create less waste than foods in single-use packaging. This happens in two ways: first, since you’re only buying as much food as you know you’ll need, it cuts down on the food waste your household will produce. According to the USDA, Americans wasted approximately 133 billion pounds of food just in the past year alone. This creates a huge strain on the environment, both to produce the food and then to dispose of it. Buying food in bulk ensures that you’ll only get what you can actually use.
Second, buying bulk foods also means you’re not putting more single-use containers into the environment. Almost all food today comes in some sort of package. Whether it’s plastic, cardboard, or glass, that package is eventually going to wind up in the landfill or require processing. By using containers that can be refilled and reused, you will avoid putting more containers into the environment!
Bulk foods tend to cost less than their pre-packaged counterparts. Packaged food costs include not only the price of the packaging, but the cost of the brand name and marketing, too. Sometimes these markups are small, other times you might end up paying almost double for a product to absorb these costs! Not so in bulk. Additionally, bulk foods cost less to ship, meaning you’ll really just be paying for the food you’re eating. (Of course, if price is an important factor, check the unit price for packaged items you buy regularly and compare them to the unit price on bulk items. This way you know for sure you’re getting the best price possible.)
Buying in bulk means you get the freshest product possible! The product in our bulk bins is constantly being purchased and refilled, so you know that the product you’re getting is at peak freshness, even if it’s dried. This translates to less cooking time and better flavor, not to mention a potentially longer shelf life, since the product is so fresh at time of purchase.
You can be adventurous! Have you been curious to try a new spice, grain, or pasta? Our Bulk department selections are fun to explore, and include a wide array of offerings. You can buy in as small or large a quantity as you desire, making it easy to go on a food adventure without breaking the bank or wasting anything.
Buying in bulk is a great way to save money while also reducing your carbon footprint, but it can be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. What do you put things in? How do you tell things apart at checkout? Take a look at these tips for success in the glorious world of bulk foods!
Buying and Storing in Bulk
The first step to begin buying bulk products is to contain the items you purchase. Plastic bags are still available, or we are proud to offer paper and parchment bags for bulk purchases. Once you get a little experience, you may want to graduate to bringing cleanable, wipeable, non-porous containers to make your bulk purchases. (This takes more planning, but it’s a great option for many!) Your jars/containers might be saved from previous purchases or be specifically designed to be refilled. You’ll want a variety of shapes and sizes, particularly if you plan on switching entirely to bulk shopping.
Tare It Up
If you do opt for reusable containers, you need to know their weight, so it can be accounted for in your purchase. That’s called the tare weight, or unladen weight. This is crucial because otherwise you will wind up paying for the weight of your containers in addition to the items actually inside them.
Simply weigh the container while completely empty and clean, you can use any simple table-top scale to do this. OR, you can have the store weigh your containers for you, but make sure you do it BEFORE you start shopping. Once you’ve gotten the tare weight, simply label each container with either a stick-on label or by writing directly on them in permanent marker. The checker will either account for this weight before charging you, or will subtract it from the total weight, so you only pay for what you’re actually buying.
Labeling is Key
When buying bulk items, take an extra moment to carefully write down the Bin Number of each item. This allows the checker to plug in a code and charge you without needing any other information. When you go to fill up your bags or containers, label them with both the Bin Number and the actual name of the product as it appears on the bin if possible. This way, if you accidentally write down the wrong Bin Number, (it happens…), the checker can have someone retrieve the correct one, or even look it up by name in the POS system. Plus, plus you’re guaranteed to be charged correctly!
Check the Bins
Grocery stores are required to post the nutritional information that normally appears on packages on their bulk bins. Along with nutrition facts and ingredients, it may also includes cooking instructions that are specific to that product. Checking nutrition labels is a good idea in general, but it becomes extra important when you can’t bring the labels home with you. Items like pasta, soup mixes, and beans often have specific cooking times and methods. Take a glance at the bin labels as you are getting the Bin Number and check for instructions. If there is information you will want, take a quick photo on your phone to reference (or note on your container) later!
Recipes Using Bulk Ingredients
How about buying just what you need to make your own custom Granola Bars or Trail Mix? Or creating a collection of Popcorn Seasonings for your next Movie Night? Bulk purchases are great for these recipes and many more! Try these recipes for Chia Seed Pudding, DIY Granola and Lemon Pepper Crusted Corvina Sea Bass and see what buying in bulk can do to jazz up your cooking repertoire! And remember to grab the herbs and spices you need while you are there: Refilling your spice jars will never be easier — or less expensive!
Buying food in bulk can be intimidating to those who haven’t tried it before, but once you start, you’ll be hooked! Whether it’s the freshness or the savings that appeal to you, or the knowledge that you’re doing your part to help the environment, there’s no end to the satisfaction that can from buying in bulk. And there’s never been a better time to start – come into Oliver’s this week for 20% off everything in our bulk food section, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start bulking up sooner.