July 11, 2009

Tips for Buying from the Bulk Bins

There are a lot of advantages to buying foods & spices from the bulk bins at your local store. The stuff is usually a lot fresher than pre-packaged items, plus you can buy only what you need. A lot less packaging goes to the landfills, too. Often you can find products in the bulk bins that you can't find pre-packaged without going to a more expensive store. And the unit cost can sometimes be much, much cheaper.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of buying from the bins:
  • Buy herbs & spices as you need them. This is great if you need a seasoning you don't use often. Buy only what you need in the quantity you need it, so take your measuring cups & spoons with you. For example, I recently got 3 tablespoons of whole dried rosemary for 9 cents.
  • If you only need a small quantity of flour, for example, don't use the large plastic bags. Put it in the smaller bags offered for spices. You'll save a teeny bit on weight, but the biggest benefit is you won't put a larger bag in the landfill.
  • Don't use the twist-ties the store provides. Instead, carry a marker with you. Write the product code on the bag itself and tie it loosely. Since the cost is calculated by weight, every little bit you can save helps.
  • Some stores offer nice, thick plastic bags to put your selections in. Unless you have a planned use for those bags when you get home, pop over to the produce section and get a lightweight bag for your purchase. Again, you're saving on weight.
  • Transfer your purchase to an airtight container when you get home. Remember that flour, seeds and nuts should be frozen (or at least refrigerated) if they're not going to be used right away. They can go rancid.
Does anyone have any other tips? Please leave them in the comments...

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