Recently, to save my marriage, I purged, cleaned and organized our kitchen pantry. Mr. President was getting so stinkin’ mad at me for letting our pantry get so out of control. He couldn’t find anything in there unless I was around to point him in the right direction. He was annoyed that there were three full jars of caraway seeds and way more white corn grits than we’d eat in a lifetime, and I wasn’t even aware of all the duplicate food. Seriously, I kept thinking about whatever women’s magazine that is with the regular “Can This Marriage Be Saved” story. I envisioned us talking it out with a marriage counselor and everything.
But, now he has to find something else to grumble about because the pantry looks great. And, it will stay that way because I’m now buying even more of our pantry staples in the very well-stocked bulk foods section at my local grocery. I refill and clearly label my jars, there’s no more crumpled bags and I can see what I have on hand more easily. Bulk foods is not a new idea, but it seems that many stores have significantly beefed up these departments. In fact, some new stores are completely built around this idea.
If you haven’t shopped bulk foods before, it will take some getting used to. You will need to have refillable containers at home – I use glass jars – to store your goods. I also arrive at the supermarket equipped with my own cloth or canvas bags to avoid using the store’s plastic ones.
Why are bulk foods so great? Here’s 5 reasons why:
1. Reduced food waste – We Americans are really good at wasting food. In fact, 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted and most ends up in landfills. When you shop bulk foods, you can buy just the amount you need. When I was single, I was often so annoyed when I was forced to buy a huge box of something when I only needed just a cup or two for a special recipe.
2. Better for the environment – Food packaging, even when it’s made from post-consumer materials, is mostly still trash that goes to landfills. Even when you use store-provided bags and containers, you are still using much less food packaging by volume. Better yet, bring your own reusable bulk foods bags for zero packaging waste.
3. Quality – With bulk foods, what you see is what you get. Most dry bulk foods are kept in gravity-fed containers so you’re always getting a fresh supply. Most of these foods are supplied by the same top manufacturers that are commonly found in the other aisles of the store.
4. Price – Fancy packaging and branding are built into the cost of packaged foods. So, while the goods found in bulk foods still come from top suppliers whose products line the shelves of supermarkets, you won’t pay a premium for their splashy marketing package.
5. Variety – At least in my local stores, the bulk foods section is home to many hard-to-find and organic ingredients that do not exist elsewhere in the store. For example, if I need dried ancho peppers, they are often not found in the same section with all of the other dried peppers, but they are frequently in a bulk foods bin. And, I can buy just the one or two that I need. Because, really, how often do I need dried ancho peppers?