Don’t skip over the bulk aisle next time you’re in the store! Here are 5 reasons why bulk bin shopping helps you and the planet.
BY: DIANNA SINNI DILLON, RDN, LD
The bulk department is one of my favorite sections of the grocery store. When I walk into the bulk aisle my eyes grow wide scanning the endless line of containers, searching for the usual pantry suspects, and finding a new variety of bean.
Bulk bins offer a wide variety of healthy pantry staples like whole grains, flours, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds generally at a better price than you’d pay if the same item was already packaged. Depending on the store, you can even buy nut butters, maple syrup, agave nectar, honey, or olive oil from the bulk bins!
If you aren’t one to shop the bulk section, here’s a few compelling reasons why you should start. You’ll be hooked in no time.
1. Buy Only What You Need.
I love that you can buy as much or as little of an ingredient as you need from the bulk bins. Maybe you’ve never tried chia seeds before but you’re not sure you want to splurge the $10-$15 on a large package? After all, you might not like them. Test out a new ingredient by buying only what you need, even if it’s just a few tablespoons or enough for one recipe. This not only saves you money, but also saves you from buying something you may not use later.
TIP: This can be especially useful if your bulk department has bulk teas, spices and herbs. I use this tip frequently when a recipe calls for something like white pepper or smoked paprika, something I like but won’t use often enough to keep on hand everyday.
2. Help “Green” Our Planet.
We’re all looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint, right? According to the EPA, over 23% of the material in our country’s landfills is food packaging. Shopping the bulk bins cuts down on unnecessary packaging, helping to divert a lot of food packaging waste from going to our landfills unnecessarily or being thrown to the curb.
TIP: Cut down on waste even more by bringing your own containers like glass jars, reusable cloth drawstring bags, or even your plastic bag from last week’s bulk bin trip.
3. Start Cooking From Scratch.
Consider switching from canned beans to dried beans from the bulk bins. Once you learn how to prepare dried beans (here’s a handy guide), you’ll be completely blown away by how fresh cooked beans tasted. It may take a little extra time, but once you get the hang of cooking beans and grains from scratch, you’ll be glad you made the switch.
TIP: To save time, batch cook beans and grains over the weekends or on a Monday night. Soak a few types of beans overnight on Saturday, and cook with quinoa or brown rice on Sunday afternoon to have throughout the week for quick meal prep.
4. Snack Better.
Whole, raw nuts and seeds, and naturally sweetened dried fruits are great snack options. Stock up and pre portion into little snack bags to you have on the go snacks and prevent mindless overeating.
TIP: Buy a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (look for unsweetened, raw, or dry roasted) and season yourself at home or mix into snack bags to make your own trail mixes with your personal favorites.
5. Unleash Your Kitchen Creativity.
Having access to many ingredients from the bulk bins allows you to try new recipes and expand your cooking repertoire. I personally love to try baking with new flours and cooking with different grains like millet or amaranth. I may not keep certain things-like adzuki beans, coconut flour, or amaranth-on hand all the time, but having access to them allows me to add variety to my eating pattern and explore new avenues of cooking.
Are you convinced to buy from the bulk bins yet?
HEADER IMAGE: U. LEONE
Dianna Sinni Dillon, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian based in Kansas City, MO with a passion for all things whole grain, green, and homegrown. She focuses on empowering and inspiring others to take charge of their wellness through simple plant-based recipes and science-powered advice.