Bulk buying is a practical way to use less plastic, create less waste and minimize your impact on the environment.
More and more people are cooking at home and taking pride in not only the healthy meals they make, but in choosing to do it sustainably. Choosing a low or zero-waste lifestyle definitely includes bulk shopping. The process may seem complicated at first, but with a bit of forethought, it can be done simply and even enjoyably.
The key to buying in bulk is to plan ahead, stay organised and be a mindful shopper. Here are some helpful tips, tricks and inspiration to get you going.
1. Plan Ahead. Take a quick stock take of your pantry. Review recipes you plan to make and write a shopping list. Armed with your list, reusable containers, washed resealable bags and a black marker you’re ready to hit the bulk aisle. Hot tip: Keep a shopping list on your fridge and make a note of things as they run out.
2. Bring reusable containers. To maximise the ecological benefits of bulk bin shopping, it’s important to bring reusable containers with you. A cost-effective way to do this is to repurpose glass jars that once contained peanut butter, pasta sauce, coconut yoghurt, etc. Keep a collection of jar sizes in your shopping bags. When you’re done with your jars, do a world of good by recycling them. Find a recycling guide here.
3. Rethink your habits. If your aim is to do your part for climate change, consider the resources that are used to make any type of packaging. For example, using a new paper bag is considered waste-free, as it can be recycled. However that bag still requires materials and energy to be manufactured and transported and then again to be recycled. Every time a bag is reused, there is less impact on the environment.
Washing and reusing food packets such as Chantal Organics’ resealable cereal bags (before dropping them off with the soft plastics recycling scheme) is a great way to reduce your waste.
4. Reuse what you have. When you reuse bags you already have, you can buy as little as you need, without wasting a large bag that might be available at the bulk bin store. To avoid reused bags from scanning incorrectly, use a black marker to cover the barcode. Hot tip: store a black marker in your grocery bag to label your refilled bags.
Keep in mind that heavy reusable containers need to have a tare weight prior to filling. This is the weight of the container without any food in it and needs to be weighed by a shop employee.
5. Expand your scope. Buying dry goods from bulk stations is a great place to start. From there, consider buying bulk liquids such as oil, tamari sauce or apple cider vinegar. Check your local health food store for ecostore Refill Stations for buying body care and home cleaning products in bulk.
6. Packaging hack. Bulk bins are not the only place to reduce your plastic. Ask for meat, deli or bakery items to go straight into your own bag or glass container. Bread bags are great for being reused here.
7. Build your awareness. Buying in bulk helps you slow down and take the time to choose the quantity you purchase rather than grabbing the standard pack size from the shelf. You can buy only what you need, which helps to avoid wasting food, money and excess packaging. Be realistic about the amount you buy, as overbuying can break the budget and lead to waste.
8. Stretch your food dollar. In general, buying in bulk is cheaper as you are not paying for the fancy packaging. Be sure to check prices per 100g to compare pre-packed vs bulk. Oats, rice, beans and popcorn are great economical choices. Buying organic ingredients in bulk is a great way to make organics affordable. Read about the benefits of eating more organic food here. Find your favourite Chantal Organics’ organic granola in your local bulk food shop.
Buying in bulk is better for you and the planet. If you’re new to bulk buying, don’t be afraid to ask a store employee for help. Our favourite places to buy bulk are Huckleberry (in store or online), Bin Inn and your local health food store .