Learn what to buy in bulk, plus why adopting this shopping practice makes good sense.

By Alexandra Lim-Chua Wee
July 18, 2019
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Buying in bulk isn't really a new trend. While it's certainly being talked about now more than ever, you might be surprised to learn that this practice was the norm in general stores and the first small independent groceries over a hundred years ago. Now, more and more shoppers are making bulk buying part of their weekly food shopping routine. If you're interested in learning more about buying in bulk (spoiler alert: it really is a smarter way to shop!), we have the information and practical tips you need.

A More Affordable Way to Shop

Buying food in bulk doesn't mean you have to buy a lot, and it can save you money because you buy what you need, not what the size of the package is. "Often times, we might buy something in a bigger package because (we think) it's cheaper," says Molly Siegler, a culinary expert at Whole Foods Market. "But if the rest ends up going bad, it's just wasted."

Encourages Exploration

"There's a lot of upsides to buying bulk, but a big one is that it encourages more people to explore cooking," says Siegler. Ever have a recipe that only needs 3/4 teaspoon of five-spice powder? Or two teaspoons of garam masala? With bulk shopping, you can buy just the amount you need without worrying what you'll do with the extra (and not just with spices). "It really allows people who might not be ready to commit to a lot of something different, like coconut sugar or spelt flour, to still try new foods."

Reduces Waste

On average in the U.S, food packaging accounts for 23 percent-or about 39 million tons a year-of the solid waste stream. As well as saving dollars and encouraging you to try new foods, buying from the bulk aisle helps cut back on packaging like snack bags, cartons, and pasta boxes that would otherwise end up in landfills. Many stores that sell foods in bulk even allow shoppers to bring their own jars and containers to help eliminate waste altogether.

These Are the Best Foods to Buy in Bulk

For cost-effective shopping that also reduces packaging, stick to less perishable items for bulk purchase: popcorn kernels, dried pasta, oats, various types of rice and other dried grains, and legumes. Nuts also work, as long as you store them in an airtight container in the freezer. Dried fruits can turn brown with lengthy exposure to light and air, and so are best purchased in smaller amounts.

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