Why buy in bulk?
Our family has been purchasing regularly from bulk food stores now for a bit over 3 years. Prior to that we were all about convenience and did the typical weekly shop at the one stop shop (supermarket) where we bought all our groceries including meat, fruit and vegetables.
Our motivation at the beginning was simply to reduce plastic waste coming into our home as part of our overall strategy to live a more low-waste lifestyle. We had identified that a lot of the waste we were producing was coming from food packaging. We changed our shopping habits significantly over a period of time, which in turn has contributed to us going from putting out our landfill bin weekly to only a handful of times per year.
How does buying in bulk work?
Having moved around a bit over the last few years we have experienced a variety of bulk food stores. Basically it’s all the same though, you choose your product, how much you want and pay for it based on weight.
We like to take our own containers and fill them up. That way, we're not only reducing packaging by reusing, but once we get home it’s simple to slot our containers straight from the shopping bag into the pantry. We don’t have fancy matching jars, just a collection we reuse that we have accumulated over the years. Other options include silicone zip lock bags or produce bags. These work well for snacks like dried apricots, dates and almonds.
If you're in need of bags for bulk food shopping you can check out our range
If you do take your own containers it’s important to weigh them before filling so you only pay for the weight of the product. Some stores like their staff to weigh the jars, others let you do it yourself. Some stores will have jars for sale, others collect jars from their customers for others to use if you forget or need extras. Failing all this there is always a paper bag option available.
Once you have made your selections it’s time to pay. This process can vary from store to store too so it’s a good idea to ask what system they use at the beginning. Some require you to write a product code or name for each item and take that to the counter. Whatever the process, staff are always willing to assist.
What are the benefits of shopping in bulk?
Shopping in bulk allows you to buy only what you need. For example, you’ll no longer have to buy a whole jar of tahini when you only need a few tablespoons, thus eliminating having foods sit around in the pantry for months, or even years, waiting to be used.
People who run bulk food stores are just like you, they care about the environment and your health. Often food is sourced from local suppliers, cutting down on those food miles and supporting local businesses. We have always found the quality of food to be top notch, with plenty of organic options available.
Our family is obsessed with peanut butter! Shopping at the bulk food store allows us to buy pure peanut butter, no added nasties. The kids also love to fill up the containers, learning in the process about where food comes from and how much we need as opposed to how much is forced upon us through set package sizing.
But it’s not just food on offer. We get all our cleaning products in bulk too. And by cleaning we mean for home and body. Shampoo, hand soap, disinfectant plus more are all available, package free!
What if I don't have a bulk food store nearby?
We understand that there is not always a bulk food store readily available to everyone. In Melbourne our store was a bit further away so we would only shop fortnightly. In Hobart we were spoilt with a bulk store just 5 mins from home. If there isn’t anything nearby check what’s available online and see if you can organise a delivery or perhaps work with a neighbour to share the travel. You go one week, they go the next time.
You can also buy in bulk or package free at other shops too. Take your own container to the butcher or a bread bag to the bakery. Load up your produce bags and reusable shopping bags and head off to a farmers market. If you’re in a regional area you may be able to buy direct from the farmers gate. Don’t be afraid to ask.
List of top tips for bulk food shopping:
- Experiment - Start by trying out a couple of products first to get accustomed to the system before attempting a full shop.
- If there’s a product they don’t have, ask. Customer demand will dictate what new products are added to their range.
- Be organised and weigh containers at home. Write the weight on the bottom with a permanent marker. This will save you time in the shop.
- Don’t stress if you spill something. A lot of flour and many stray oats have escaped our containers over the journey!
- Enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes with purchasing good quality, package free food for you and your family.
Often shopping in bulk is considered fancy, too hard or time consuming but as you can see it can actually save you money and create less food waste by only purchasing what you need. There’s no doubt you’ll eliminate a lot of waste from packaging and that’s a big tick for our environment and a big step forward in your low waste journey.