Mar 3, 2012

Posted by in Green Resources | 7 Comments

Small Steps to Live Green: Buy (and store) in bulk! (Step #2)

Small Steps To Living Green Saturday

Step #2: Buy and store in bulk

Why is this an important “green” step?

“Going Green” is about many things, not just what is more “organic” and free of synthetic chemicals.  You should consider other aspects of going green as well.  With buying in bulk you will be reducing your overall waste that is accumulated through purchasing pre-packaged goods.  It is amazing just how much waste we have each week just from containers!

Some common side-effects of purchasing in bulk include that the product is often more local, has less chance of toxins leaching into it from the packaging (think BPA from plastic) and less waste of food since you can buy what you need, not the per-determined sizes companies feel their consumers want.

Step away from…

Prepackaged goods.  From boxes of “minute rice” to cans of black beans or even bags of flour, all prepackaged foods have a greater amount of waste associated with them as well as preservatives and chemicals in them.

Though quick-cook rice or already cooked and canned beans save time (which I know us busy families have in short supply these days!) you are ultimately paying more for a product that is not as healthy for you.

Though many consumers are fully aware of some harmful chemicals such as BPA in plastics studies show that the majority of BPA we are submitted to are from sources we don’t often consider, such as canned goods where the lining of the can is of BPA.  Soaking and cooking  your own beans can cut down on your exposure to this toxic chemical.

Eden Organics is the only canned beans/veggies company I know of that does not line their cans with BPA.

When you look at pre-packaged goods many of the aspects of them is that they are somewhat already cooked (such as “minute rice”) or that they are in a “quick cook” style (such as oatmeal packages).  Great for on the go quick meals in a busy lifestyle but all-together purchasing grains and other products in their whole form (such as rolled oats or whole grain flour or rice) will ensure you are getting all of the minerals, vitamins, and nutrition you are paying for of the food you bring into your home.

What does SAPsMaMa use?

What does SAPsMaMa’s family buy in bulk?  Well, our flour, sugars, baking soda and powder, all of our spices, our spice mixes (such as taco spice or sloppy joe mix), whole bean coffee, beans, rices, noodles of all kinds, gronolas, cereals, snacks, dried fruits, and mmmmm candy!

Bulk foods can often be purchased in any grocery store but greater selection can often be found in natural food stores such as co-ops.  If you are interested in purchasing a specific item in bulk that you do not see offered ask and many times they can get you a discount if you buy in bulk !  This is how we got SAPsDaDa’s coffee (which he drinks religiously) at a more affordable price!

Buying in bulk sometimes means you can get a wider variety in your diet!  If that wild rice is on sale grab a jar, get a couple cups, and make an interesting stir fry meal!

We purchase our bulk foods from multiple sources here in our household and store them in multiple ways depending on what it is.  The greatest thing about the bulk aisle is most stores allow you to bring your own container to fill it up.  This ensures you don’t buy too much you can’t fit it in your storage container, but it also reduces waste so you don’t have to put it in any plastic or paper bags to bring it home.   Just make sure to get a good tare reading at the service desk before filling!

For baking products such as flour and sugar (even cane sugar!) we used a canister set that I picked up cheap at a rummage sale.  There are many types of canister sets to choose from including ceramic, glass, stainless steel, and plastic and you can find them in almost any store or warehouse or even rummage sale or resale thrift store!  Though we have ceramic I do dream of large stainless steel containers for my bulk bread and pizza / tortilla dough flours I have been buying a great amount of!

Ceramic canisters have long been a great place to store baking powders, flours and sugars!  Skip the packaging and fill them right up at the grocery store!

For bulk dry beans, rices, seeds, granola, and even snacks (SAP loves her Animal Crackers!) we have come to use our larger canning jars!  Once we eat that applesauce or jelly we had canned this summer the jar sits empty, to give it a purpose we fill it up and use it for storage!  They have a nice tight seal so the product inside stays fresh and buggie free if I don’t use it for a while.  I have also purchased bulk noodles and stored them in our empty canning jars though making sure it is a wide-mouth jar so they pour out easy as they are in odd shapes.

Though our jars are multiple sizes they work great for organizing!  We can easily see what’s inside and how much is left for when we plan our shopping list.

Bulk spices can of course be kept in spice jars!  SAPsDaDa’s wonderful Christmas present to me this past year was 2 spice racks with glass and stainless steal jars, I was so happy.  I organized them so one rack is baking spices and the other stove top cooking spices and am so happy to not only have a nice organized spice area but that now I can purchase bulk spices without using a bunch of plastic bags for each, which seemed to give me just as much waste as a plastic container of spices would have.

My “baking” spices!  One more spice rack on the wall by the stove for flavoring my cooking and a cabinet shelf of larger spices in bigger jars (like cinnamon sticks and garlic powder which I use alot of!) and I still don’t feel like I have everything I want, but at least I can find it and know it’s in a non-toxic glass jar as opposed to sitting in plastic!

Something we are looking to improve on in our kitchen in the future is making our own cereal from the bulk aisle selection of flakes and dried fruits and storing in large glass jars with stainless steel scoops.  These glass storage jars made from recycled glass at Trycycle look perfect for this idea!

The wide mouth opening to the side makes this design perfect for scooping out of for cereals!

The recycled glass bottles also gave me the idea to make our own salad dressing!  I have not paid much attention to what is in our salad dressings as long as i can get SAP to eat her veggies and it’s a natural organic product, but it is a goal of mine now to learn more about it and try to create our own.

Cork top for storage, and pouring spout for when you are using it regularly!  Awesome!

Green Pros of Glass Storage Containers:
  • Buying in bulk reduces your waste by reducing  how much packaging you bring into your home…you are reusing your storage containers!
  • More choices in quantity you want to purchase
  • Food is more “whole” and so has more nutrition to it than canned or “quick” made products
  • Reduces the product’s exposure to toxic chemicals that have been known to be in canned products
  • Can keep food fresher longer, expanding shelf life
  • Buying in bulk saves money!
Cons to Glass Storage Containers
  • Bulk aisles are self-serve, so if you have an allergy or are on a gluten-free diet you need to be extra careful with the possibility there might have been some possible cross-over between bins and scoops in the products.  Keep covers on and scoops in correct containers to keep this from happening for those who have this concern.
  • Just because it is in a bulk aisle does not necessarily mean it is healthier for you than a pre-packaged item.  Look at ingredients and know what you are purchasing just like any other item!
  • If you forget your jars or bottles to refill you end up using a disposable plastic or paper bag to purchase your bulk item, creating the waste you are trying to avoid.  My advice: keep reusable bags in your car (and even your purse!) at all times, as well as extra jars!   You’d be surprised what a jar can come in handy for when you’re traveling with children!


Learn more about Small Steps To Living Green Saturday at my information post!


This is one small step of many you may take to try to help your family live more “green” and eco-friendly in this modern world!  I am using my family as an example in small simple steps through Small Steps to Living Green Saturday every week…come check out the rest of my tips and steps in my Green Resources tab!
If you would like to link up your blog post or contribute a post to Small Steps To Living Green Saturday please email me at “sapsmama at yahoo dot com”, I’d love to feature other households as well as mine!

Let me know what you think!  Small Steps to Living Green Saturday is a  new SAPsMaMa blog feature, I would love your input!  Please share what you think of this layout and what you are hoping to see in the future with this feature!
What areas would you like to see featured?  What do you want to know the most about how SAPsMaMa’s family lives green?
  1. We buy in bulk too. There are no stores in our area that sell in bulk, so all of our bulk buying is done online. I find that Frontier Organics offers bulk spices at reasonable prices (they sell on Amazon too). I pop open the packages and place them into mason jars. One package of Oregano took up 4 quart jars! But we cook from scratch most of the time and go through a ton more spices than most people. I know our bulk purchases from Amazon come in cardboard boxes, but those are perfect fire starters since our home is heated by our woodburning stove. It’s all about knowing your needs and how to meet them without creating excess waste!

  2. Andrea G. says:

    I love that you get to buy in bulk! We just don’t have the space to do that. I would love to get into storing some things in bulk though, like canning tomatoes this summer when they’re in season.

  3. Nice post! I only use glass! But then I am a recycled glass artist! 🙂 You are very organized! I have a great crock pot bean recipe! I think I will write a post and share for a Tuesday Recipe!
    I find many glass unique storage containers at resale shops…very cheap!

  4. Thanks for this info Melissa…it’s something a lot people rarely think about. Personally, I hate buying a ton of canned food and would much rather cook/bake from scratch. My in-laws are from North Africa where everything is made from scratch and it’s been wonderful learning about cooking with dry beans and buying in bulk. I am not very organized so my spice collection is overflowing with huge bags of bulk spices and I never seem to find the time to fill up the tiny jars, especially when my MIL is here cooking I would be doing it every week!

  5. Lexi Conklin says:

    i really never thought of buying in bulk like this, yours is so organized and green 😉 i may need to look more into this! thanks!

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  7. Kelley Johnsen says:

    Wonderful post. I think it is very important to be organized in the pantry and kitchen to use all your supply and no waste. Thank you for sharing.