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Organic on a Budget: Bulk Bins = Bargains

When you first start buying organic foods you might have sticker shock.  The price difference on some items can be steep.  And, while I must admit, buying organic foods can be a bit more expensive, it doesn’t mean you can’t afford it.  Sometimes it just takes knowing a few tricks and paying attention.

That’s what this series is all about: teaching you a few tricks.

First off, you should know I don’t buy EVERYTHING organic.  AND, processed foods cost more (especially organic, processed foods) than whole foods.  And finally, cooking things from scratch {ie: making your own “convenience foods”} takes much fewer ingredients than buying processed foods.

Here is an example of what I mean: If you’re already buying flour, milk, butter, eggs, yeast, and vanilla you can make a whole host of things: pancakes, waffles, homemade bread, hamburger buns, hotdog buns, bagels, muffins, the list literally goes on and on. But, most traditional shoppers buy the above said ingredients PLUS a lot of the items mentioned here premade, such as frozen waffles, hamburger buns, hotdog buns, muffins, muffin mixes, etc. that they could be making out of things they already have on hand.

One of the first things I noticed when I decided to feed my family more wholesomely is that I required a LOT less at the grocery store!  Less items = less money.  So, although the items I bought were costing me a bit more, I wasn’t spending a whole lot more and my family was eating {and feeling} much better. Okay, with that knowledge you may be thinking about what basic ingredients you would need that are versatile for lots of meals/items.  Here’s a list of dry goods to get you started:

  • oats
  • all purpose flour
  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • dried beans
  • rice
  • sugar
  • yeast
  • popcorn

Almost all of these items can be found in your store’s bulk bins.  Never shopped the bulk bins?  You should, and here’s why:

  1. All that pretty packaging = money.  When companies save money they often pass the savings on to you.
  2. Organic from bulk bins often costs the same {and sometimes even less!} than conventional of the same product. Why?  Organic companies are often small businesses and just like I said in #1, packaging can be costly.  By selling in bulk they save money so you save money!
  3. You can buy only the amount you need.  Since some items are costly, you can buy only what you need instead of a large package off the shelf that has more than you need, eating up more of your weekly budget than you need!


Me too!  So, here’s what I’ve been buying in the bulk bins so far:

  • Oatmeal
  • Organic popcorn
  • Conventional (not organic) dried beans and lentils
  • Organic dried fruit (blueberries, raisins, cranberries)
  • Nuts (almonds and pecans)

I’ve found that all of these items are cheaper than their counterparts (per ounce) on the shelf, prepackaged.  I was pleasantly suprised to find out my organic popcorn was CHEAPER than conventional popcorn found at any grocery store!  And, with corn being a GMO crop, buying organic was important to me.  But, don’t just take my word for it, All You magazine recently published an article called, “Scoop up Great Deals on Food,” by Cecily McAndrews.  She listed other items that she found up to 60% cheaper than the “shelved” alternatives such as flax, cinnamon, and chocolate chips!

A Few More Tips to Make Sure Buying in Bulk is the Best “Bang for Your Buck”

  1. Take a calculator.  Compare the bulk item’s price per ounce with the prepackaged ones on the shelf.  Sometimes a sale item on the shelf if going to be cheaper, sometimes the bulk items will be.
  2. Only buy what you NEED.  If you buy more than your recipe calls for, and you don’t use it all, you’re not saving money!  Just because they are called “bulk bins” doesn’t mean you are required to buy 10 lbs. of something.  You can purchase a little or as much as you want.  Just need a 1/4 lb? – then purchase that amount.  Wasted food = wasted money.
  3. Shop the bulk bins in stores where the bulk bins are used…a lot. Quick turnover means a fresher product.
  4. Make sure the bins you’re shopping from have lids and scoops or levers that dispense and don’t require touching. This is much more sanitary.
  5. Make sure you have storage at home for the items you buy.  Sometimes I leave items in the bags – like for the beans and popcorn.  But, you’ll want an airtight container to keep pests out of things like flour and oats.
  6. Don’t get the “kid in the candy store syndrome.”  Bulk bins can be very enticing, especially all the candies, premixed granolas, and other goodies.  Don’t buy a whole bunch of products you don’t normally buy – or need.  Stick with your list and the bins will save you money.

Do you shop the bulk bins?  I’d love to hear your tips and tricks too!  Which items are YOU buying in bulk?

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  1. Melanie Sullivan says:

    Thanks for the tips, Denise! We get the whole “kid in the candy store” syndrome big time – the first time Greg and I went to Earth Fare, he was determined to buy almonds in bulk… we ended up with a TON of almonds! (I think one reason was he wasn’t sure how the dispenser worked exactly and a lot came out – LOL!)

  2. Lately, there have been a number of daily deals that have been for organic items. There was one for

    Today, you can get $50 worth of organic clothes for only $25 from Autonomie Project. http://deals.mamapedia.com/deals/autonomie-project?ref_id=331416

    The other day, Living Social had an offer of $15 for $32 at Organically Grown Group for clothes.

    The best one, which has been brought back again (and might be again) was $19 for a Taste of the Farm Sampler Box, Plus Shipping, from MyOrganicAcres.com ($70 Value) on Moolala. http://getadeal.moolala.com/deals/id/V8QU1JM/organic-acres

    I’m really digging these daily deals, especially when they can help get something at such a discount.

  3. I love your post and totally agree! Even our Winco that has, what feels like, zero organic has organic oats. And I was buying Organic Popcorn from Amazon until I realized that Raley’s had it for cheaper than the regular! Then I can work it into my Friday Freebies at Raley’s. Double Plus. Bulk bins really are a natural girls best friend.

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