Katie’s Healthy Bites: Don’t Skip the Bulk Aisle

by in Healthy Tips, March 7, 2010

bulk bin

When it comes to budget shopping, I tell all my clients: “Get familiar with the bulk aisle!” This part of the supermarket can be a real money-saver for many reasons.

As the name implies, you can you get a lot of something (for a reasonable amount) in the bulk aisle, but you can also get just a little, too. How’s that helpful? Well, say you’re making a recipe that calls for an unusual ingredient, you probably just want to buy what you’ll need for the dish rather than an entire package that will likely go to waste (i.e. wasted money).

The bulk aisle works great for when you want to try new ingredients, too. I like being able to weigh out a little bit of a grain or a spice without having to commit to the whole package.  Better still, the bulk aisle always has fresh ingredients.

    More bulk-aisle basics to know:

  • Just because the ingredients are sold/displayed in bulk doesn’t mean you have to buy in bulk. Only weigh out as much as you need.
  • Buying bulk ingredients is eco-friendly — there’s less energy and packaging used during manufacturing and you can store your goodies in reusable containers at home.
  • Look for hidden treasure and get creative in the kitchen. My grocer carries millet, amaranth, mung beans, split peas and kamut, to name a few.
  • Bulk items are of equal or greater quality to their packaged counterparts…especially if you shop somewhere with high turnover.

To give you a sense of the savings, I compared some pantry staples at my local grocer and here is what I found:
Bulk Aisle Prices

TELL US: What do you buy from the bulk section?

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, owns HealthyBites, LLC.

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Comments (15)

  1. I get all of my organic steel cut oats from the bulk bin. On sale, they're only 99 cents per pound, which is the cheapest thing going so I load up.
    I also get organic milk chocolate peanuts from the bulk bins in small quantities. They're cheaper that way and I can get just enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

  2. yvette says:

    As you mentioned, being able to buy just a small amount of an ingredient for a recipe is so convenient. Especially for things like dried fruits (raisins, dates, prunes, etc) and expensive items like pine nuts. When you only need a small amount, you can buy them organic and without preservatives in bulk as well. Its also a cost-effective way to try a new grain or ingredient without buying a whole package.

  3. Julie says:

    We get a lot of whole grains and whole-grain flours from the bulk bins. They can go bad faster than their germ-stripped counterparts, making it valuable to be able to buy exactly the small amount you'll need. Who needs an extra cup of spelt flour sitting around? We also buy nuts and oats from the bulk section – again to get the amount we want for snacking or baking. And, we started getting this awesome 31-bean soup mix. I can get exactly one cup, enough for 9 cups of soup, without buying a bunch of bags of beans to mix up. I love the bulk bins!

  4. sally says:

    The store we go to doesn't have a bulk isle… they made a newer, bigger, better version of the same store about 7 miles away. I wish it were closer, but this article makes me want to shop at the store farther away just for the cheaper food. Thanks.

  5. Courtney says:

    Wow, thanks for the great tip!!! I can't believe the savings. I will be checking the bulk bin soon!!
    adventures in tri-ing

  6. Mary Ashley says:

    Don't forget spices! The store I go to has a bulk spice section. This week garlic powder and curry were on sale and I was able to get just enough so that they aren't sitting around for a while and they were so much cheaper! I'd say I saved $2-$3 on each of them when compared with the bottled stuff.

  7. Tightwadder says:

    Great idea! In fact I found the original post and comments so useful, I added the information to my "Top Tightwad Tips" blog. Check it out at http://toptightwadtips.blogspot.com/

  8. Nick Paglialonga says:

    What chain stores have a bulk isle? I live near Orlando, FL (Titusville) & not sure where to look. Thank you.

  9. Sue says:

    Whole Foods stores in Fl. sell in bulk and a lot of heath food stores like Good Earth do also. There should be one of those near you.

  10. Susan says:

    I take advantage of the bulk foods at Whole Foods for grains and nuts….especially brazil nuts since I cant find them anywhere else. Did you know that theyre high in selenium? Its an important antioxidant.

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