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Reduce Your Waste: A Quick Guide to Shopping at a Bulk Food Store

May 28, 2018

I think you’ll agree that most people want to live a more sustainable life and lessen their environmental impact but often struggle to find ways to do so.

 

Good news!

 

One way you can live a more sustainable life is by reducing your waste by shopping at a bulk food store.

 

Do you want to know more about how to shop at a bulk food store?

 

Then keep reading.

 

What is a bulk food store?

 

Put simply,

 

A bulk food store offers copious quantities of food in large containers/bags. Consumers can buy the desired amount of a product by transferring it from the larger container/bag into their own smaller container/bag.

 

Now:

 

This doesn’t mean you have to buy in bulk; instead, it means you are buying from them. For most bulk food stores, this means you can buy as little as you like.

 

Three easy steps to shopping at a bulk food store.

 

Step 1: Get your containers tared.

 

You can do this at the store.

 

Why is this important?

 

Because you don’t want to be charged for the weight of your containers.

 

Tip:

 

Some items are sold by volume rather than weight so make sure you know the capacity of your containers or bottles.

 

If you are using reusable bags, you can skip this step.

 

Step 2: Fill up your containers/bags.

 

Select the food you want and place it in your reusable packaging.

 

Be a great customer:

 

Don’t mix products in your containers/bags as each product needs to be weighed and charged individually.

 

Also, if applicable, note the product number. (I take a photo of it with my phone.)

 

What is a product number?

 

The product number acts as a barcode and will make the checkout process easier.

 

Step 3: Pay for your goods
 

Now that you have your products, go to the counter and pay for them.

 

The salesperson will weigh your containers/bags (subtracting the weight of your container). You will then (if applicable) need to quote the product number.

 

Once everything has been weighed and charged, you can pay for your goods, and you're done.

 

Tip:
 

Make sure you bring your own reusable shopping bags as most bulk food stores don’t have bags.

 

The above steps show how it works at my local bulk food store, The Source Bulk Foods in South Yarra, Melbourne. However, the overall concept should be the same for most bulk foods stores.

 

The process is similar to buying fruit and vegetables from the supermarket.

 

What kinds of food can I buy from a bulk food store?

 

Each bulk food store will stock different products; some of the items sold at my bulk foods store include beans, pulses, cereals, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, flour, grains, herbs, spices, oils, pasta, and rice.

 

Some of the items I buy are walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, coconut oil, salt, pepper, herbs, quinoa, flour, and bi-carb soda.

 

 

Now, you're probably wondering:

 

“Am I still shopping at a traditional supermarket?”

 

Yes, I am.

 

Why?

 

This is because I cannot buy all my groceries from my bulk food store due to selected products not being available. Some of the items include almond milk, coconut milk, and sauces.

 

Sadly,

 

I haven’t yet found a local store that will allow me to refill bottles with these items.

 

Make life easier by having the right containers.

 

Here are three things to consider when selecting reusable containers.

 

1. Transport
 

How you get to and from your bulk food store will determine the type of reusable packaging choices.

 

Think about it:

 

If you are walking, you will want to travel light, so reusable bags or plastic containers would be a more suitable option than glass containers, which are heavier. That’s not to say you couldn’t use glass containers, but be mindful that they will be heavier and might be more suitable if you are driving to the bulk food store.

 

I use public transport, which means I want to travel light, so I primarily use reusable plastic containers and small glass jars.

 

2. Number of visits

 

Size really does matter here.

 

For example:

 

If you want to make fewer trips to a bulk food store, then you'll need larger containers to ensure you don’t run out of products before your next visit.  Alternatively, if your bulk food store is close to home, or you're happy to make more trips, then you can get by with smaller containers.

 

I want to limit the number of visits to my bulk food store to one in every 3-4 weeks, so I use medium-sized containers, which store enough products to last for that period.


3. Storage

 

Again, size really does matter.

 

While it might be tempting to go a little overboard at the bulk food store and start filling up huge containers of food, you need to ensure that you have the storage space for them.

 

My pantry is small, so medium-sized containers work best. Best of all, my containers are stackable, which helps with utilising my limited space.

 

This is how you shop at a bulk food store.

 

No doubt about it:

 

Shopping at a bulk food store is different from shopping at a traditional supermarket and does require some getting used to.

 

However, it’s a great way to reduce household waste, and once you have done it a few times, it will become a habit.

 

Now that you know how to shop at a bulk food store, why not give it a go? If you do, let me know how it went by posting a quick comment below.

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