We are all looking for ways to simplify our lives. Once way that you can do so is purchasing many grocery and household items in bulk. There are so many advantages to purchasing organic food (or any food staple) in bulk. It saves time and money in most cases. First off though there are a few things to consider when purchasing in bulk:
- Buying in bulk is not always the cheapest. So know your prices and how much you pay per ounce or per item in smaller packages.
- There are items that will always be cheaper when you pair a sale with a coupon. Once it does go on sale for the least expensive amount, purchase enough to hold you over until the next sale, usually 3-4 month cycles.
- Find out the shelf life on items. There is no sense purchasing something in bulk to get a great deal if you will have to throw away half of it due to it expiring before you can reasonably use it.
- Before you purchase 10lbs of something, try it first. You may think your family will like something but ordering 10lbs of an item only to find out no one in the house will eat it is a great waste. Even brands vary with taste and texture and you may just prefer one over the other.
- Have a place in mind to store your purchase before it arrives at your door! I store a lot of bulk grocery items in 1 gallon and 1/2 gallon glass jars I have collected from my local thrift store. They keep their eyes out for me and I only $.10 a jar! Most are pickle or jalapeno jars but soaked throughly with vinegar a then baking soda you can get the smell out. You can also purchase food grade 5 gallon buckets with air-tight lids to store large quantities of items in as well.
There are many options for bulk purchasing. I personally love to order from Azure Standard and Frontier Co-Op as well as shop at the bulk section at our Whole Foods Store.
Azure Standard is a business that is run like a family. They are very friendly and helpful! They offer seasonal organic and transitional produce, bulk grains, beans, baking items, dairy items, almost any staple you can think of! You can order almost anything even meat and frozen organic items in a quantity of 1 or 10! They offer monthly ordering options with a minimum order of $50.00 and then you meet about a week later at a scheduled local drop point, where everyone from that area meets to assist each other in separating that drop’s orders. This is a great opportunity to meet up with other families from your area that are trying to live in a similar way. For areas that they don’t yet service, you can also have items shipped via UPS. I order pretty much all of my grains, a lot of my beans, oils, and a lot of produce from Azure. If you are willing to take seconds on the produce you can get an even sweeter deal usually! I have paid $.50lb for organic apples and $.60lb for organic oranges. If you have any questions head over to the Azure Standard Blog and Jeanette is great with answering any questions you may have!
Frontier Co-Op is just that, a Co-Op where you can purchase Frontier brand items for a lower price than you can find at the store. If you belong to Co-Op that has an account with Frontier you can also order from hundreds of other brands as well at wholesale prices. I usually purchase some of my spices, extracts and all my Dr. Bronner’s items from Frontier. I can save usually 30-40% on Dr. Bronner’s organic castile soaps over paying retail.
Whole Foods offers a large variety of bulk items from flours, sugars, granola, dried fruit, candies, nuts and grains. Usually their bulk section is quite a bit less expensive than the packaged item on the shelf. Because their is no packaging with the bulk items they are far less expensive. And if you think about it, with less packaging you are creating less waste. My store will allow you to bring in your empty jars and containers from home to save even wasting the plastic bags they provide for the bulk items (just ask and they should weigh them empty before you fill them so they can subtract the weight of the jar from the price). They also often run items in their bulk section on sale as well, making the prices even lower. Again, know your prices and what you are paying per ounce to find out what is really the best deal!
There are also warehouse stores like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJs that are now offering many organic options in bulk. We live two hours from a Sam’s Club but have purchased organic butter and produce there before for a reasonable price. Many also have basic organic pantry items available as well.
Just like anything else though, bigger is not always better! Again, before you start purchasing in bulk, it may be best to track what your family eats for a month or two. You may realize you eat more or less of something than you thought. If you family eats pasta once or twice a week then it may be worth purchasing that item in a large quantity for a discount. If you eat olives once a month, then it may not be the best idea to purchase a gallon size container!
The idea of purchasing 25-50lbs of flour or anything else may seem overwhelming at first. If so, find a friend or family member that would be willing to split an order with you. Start small; don’t try to order some of everything at first. Start off with just a few items and see how it goes for your family.
For myself, I enjoy ordering in bulk to save money of course but I also like the fact when I order in larger quantities I don’t have to worry about running out of that item. It is such a pain to get started on a meal and then realize you are lacking an ingredient because you didn’t double-check you had it. As a result of ordering in bulk I always have a good supply of flour, oil, sugar and other staples. Because of the rural area that I live in, my options are rather limited with my local grocery stores. I love being able to order organic products in bulk that are cheaper than the conventional items on my local store’s shelf.
Does your family purchase in bulk? If so, feel free to share any tips that you feel make ordering in bulk easier for you! Next week we will touch on how to save money on organic food by talking about meat share programs.