Buying groceries in bulk is the best way to learn how to shop more mindfully so you can start transitioning into a more sustainable and healthy lifestyle.
This guide will take you through the step by step process on how to start shopping in this often-overlooked section of the grocery store.
If we all work to be more mindful about what we buy at the grocery store then we can work on eliminating unnecessary waste that is harmful to our planet.
Then as we work to save the planet with these new shopping habits in return we will learn how to eat more wholesome foods that are better for our health.
1. Take Note of What Is Available In The Bulk Food Bins at Your Supermarket
Recycling our food waste like boxes, bottles, and various plastics is not enough to reduce our impact. Research is starting to show that recycling is a broken system. A study done by the University of Georgia found that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled.
Over the past six decades we have caused irrevocable damage with 8.3 billion metric tons of various kinds of waste that has been produced. All of this and more is accumulating at extremely high rates in landfills, oceans, and other natural areas.
Every consumer can significantly reduce their impact by buying groceries in bulk. This is one of the easiest ways to start eliminating unnecessary single-use waste and food waste. The first step to accomplish this is to become aware of what is available in the bulk bins at your supermarket.
Make a list or take pictures of the foods you eat often that are available. Maybe you eat beans, rice, or almonds on a regular basis. These are common items you can find in the bulk bins.
After you learn where to buy your most-used pantry items start to pay attention to bulk food items that you are unfamiliar with at the grocery store. This is a great way to expand your pantry and try new things.
Make a list of foods in the bulk food section that you have never used before. Go home and search for new recipes to experiment with. Then buy a little bit at a time to try it out.
This tactic is a great way to shop mindfully at the grocery store which can have a huge impact on lowering food waste.
2. Organize Your Pantry and Take Inventory of the Most Common Dry Goods
Compared to the rest of the world, food in the United States is plentiful and less costly. Often times this contributes to a general sentiment of not appreciating or valuing food the way other cultures around the globe do. So Americans are more likely to toss out excess food that they don’t eat.
Specifically, Americans discard 40 million tons of food each year. That is 80 billion pounds of food that is worth approximately $161 billion. Then If you break it down that is 219 pounds of waste that each person creates every year. Which is 30-40 percent of the US food supply. Food is the single largest component in the landfills in the United States.
It is essential to create mindful habits around what you buy and use most often in the kitchen. That way you are buying food that you know you will eat up and not toss out.
The best way to do this is to organize your pantry so you can identify your most used products and the products that have been sitting in your pantry for way to long. Know what you are eating and what you are not eating. Avoid items that were obviously not a hit.
Then simply make a list of what you are running low on and stock up on your most used items. Typically these are common foods that you can buy at your local bulk food-friendly grocery store.
Keeping large jars of your most commonly eaten foods in your pantry is a convenient way to cook up quick meals that can easily fit into your daily routine.
Then these bulk foods start to become the foundation of every meal. This creates a much more healthy way of eating because you are cutting out processed foods that have a lot of preservatives and fillers that are bad for our health.
Here are some common items you may be eating from a package that you can buy in bulk:
Related: Is It Costly to Eat Healthfully?
3. Buy Bulk Food Bags and Containers
When you have your list of essential food items that you need to replenish in your pantry then you can head out to the grocery store. But make sure you are prepared with small reusable bags or glass jars that you can fill with your loot.
Avoiding another plastic bag is just as important as eliminating the pre-packaged option. If you use a plastic bag in the bulk food section it completely defeats the purpose of shopping in this section to eliminate waste.
Single use plastic bags are another one of the biggest contributors to harmful waste piling up in our landfills and oceans. We certainly don’t need any more plastic bags on this planet.
What is even worse is the fact that they are so hard to recycle. Most recycling facilities don’t even take plastic bags.
“According to Waste Management, only 1 percent of plastic bags are returned for recycling. That means that the average family only recycles 15 bags a year; the rest end up in landfills or as litter.” – Center for Biological Diversity
4. Measure the Tare Weight
Researchers from the Bulk Is Green Council, found that packaged products were, on average, 89 percent more expensive than the bulk bin alternatives. Translating to a savings of up to 56 percent when you switch from packaged products to the bulk bins.
This can vary from product, store, and state but ultimately there is always some kind of saving when buying groceries in bulk.
Before you fill your reusable bags or containers make sure you go through the check-out line to measure the tare weight of your bag or jar. This is important because then you won’t be charged for the weight of your container. You pay only for what is inside, saving you hundreds of dollars over time when you re-use your bag or jar.
Remember your tare weight number by simply writing on your jar or bag. And if you are using bags make sure you transfer your food into a jar with an airtight seal at home so your food does not go to waste.
Buying groceries in bulk it’s an easy step towards more mindful shopping habits. Every time you remember to switch a can of beans for dry beans from the bulk bin means you’re one step closer to lowering your impact on the planet. It may seem small but it all adds up when millions of us do it together.