Want a Discount? Buy in Bulk to Save Money, Cut Trash, Shop Smart

Buying in Bulk Want a smart shopping strategy that will save you money, reduce food waste, and cut down on trash? Buy in bulk. To raise awareness about the benefits of bulk buying, the Bulk is Green Council (BIG) is sponsoring National Bulk Foods Week this week.

What Makes You Green When You Buy in Bulk? 

Buy in BulkFor starters, buying in bulk is one of the best ways to save money on groceries. Why? Larger sizes deliver the same amount of product using less energy and materials than the equivalent number of smaller packages.

The next time you go shopping, browse the snack aisle and compare the difference for yourself. When you buy one large box of cookies, all you pay for are the cookies and the one box. But if you buy a “snack pack” of ten or twelve small bags, you end up with all those individual bags, plus the display box they came in and the cellophane wrapped around them. That’s a lot of excess packaging – and all that extra wrapping costs you more money.

At my local grocery store, one 15 oz. box of cookies runs around $3.99 or $.27/ounce. The package of 12 snack bags costs $5.79, or $.34 ounce. By some estimates, a family of four can save as much as $2,000 per year just buying in bulk. If you need snack packs for yourself or your kids, it’s much cheaper and more eco to buy reusable containers you can easily refill from the larger bag. Bonus: The snack containers will do a better job of protecting the snacks from getting crushed in a lunch bag or backpack.

Here’s how I saved $20 buying cat food in bulk.

Still not convinced? Take a look at these stats from a cool infographic BIG has on their website:

* If Americans purchased all of their coffee from the bulk bins for 1 month, we’d save 20 MILLION pounds of foil packaging, the equivalent of almost 8,000 compact cars

* If we purchased oatmeal from the bulk bins, we’d save 5 times the waste of its packaged equivalent

* If we purchased all of the almonds we buy in bulk just for one month, 6 MILLION pounds of waste would be saved from landfills, the equivalent of 522.5 elephants!


Buy in BulkYou’ll find the larger sizes of bulk food in the same section as the smaller containers. If you’re packaging up bulk food yourself, the bulk food section will probably be in a specific section of the grocery store. Put food in bags or other containers, weigh it on the spot, write down the weight and perhaps the product code on a tag or tape, affix the price to the container, and take it to the check out. Don’t be put off if this sounds like it takes too much time. It won’t add more than a few minutes to your shopping schedule.

You’ll probably find plastic bags to use for your loose bulk purchases. But why not bring your own bags and jars? I use mesh bags like these that I can fill up and then put right in my refrigerator or pantry when I get home. If they get dirty, I just toss them in the washing machine with my towels.

I also use glass or stainless steel containers with tight fitting lids. You will want to weigh the containers before you fill them with food so you don’t pay for the extra weight.

NOTE: You don’t need to buy tons of something to take advantage of what bulk buying has to offer. Whether you buy a lot or a little from the bulk bins, you’ll be saving money because you’ll be paying for less packaging and more actual food.

This week when I go shopping, here’s what I’ll be buying from the bulk bins:

* Loose leaf tea

* Popcorn

* Almonds

* Walnuts

* Cereal

* Apples

* Pears

* Brown sugar

* Rolled oats

* Sesame sticks

* Bagels

What about you?

Need bulk food containers?

Before you buy anything new, check your cupboards for containers you already have that will make bulk shopping easy and trash-free. But if you need anything else, we’ve combed through the offerings on Amazon to find mesh produce bags and glass and BPA-free plastic containers that can help. A one-time investment in some reusable containers now will end up saving you hundreds of dollars over the long term. (Remember that we earn a tiny commission on any purchases on our Amazon store, which helps us continue to bring you expert advice for free. Thanks!)


The Truth Behind Buying in Bulk

Buying in Bulk Just Saved Me $20!



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4 Responses to Want a Discount? Buy in Bulk to Save Money, Cut Trash, Shop Smart

  1. Tracey October 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    You have some good points. I found that I had to be really careful when I used to shop a lot at Costco, sometimes I overbought and things went to waste. Sometimes the overpackaging there was astonishing.

  2. James Paulson October 21, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Personally, I tend to keep my bulk store purchases limited to the highest-quality produce that I can find. Now that it’s getting later in the year, I am all over asparagus and other seasonal items.

  3. Katie November 7, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Hi Diane, thanks for your tips on bulk shopping! I will be purchasing some of the reusable produce bags through your site. Question for you about using the glass containers when purchasing bulk foods. . . do you just tell the checker the weight of the empty item so they don’t charge you extra? I’m wondering if you’ve ever run into any issues with this?

  4. Diane MacEachern November 19, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Katie, my apologies – I thought I replied to you. Yes, I tell the checker what the container weighed, or get the checker to weigh it before I fill it. It’s generally pretty straightforward.

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