If I were designing a new kitchen, I would create a set of built-in bulk bins - just like they have in the store - only smaller. They would be nice looking, super clean and top-load/bottom-out. That way I wouldn't have to worry about using up the older food before putting more in. Brilliant!
But I'm not. Not even close. Instead, I've been trying desperately to clean up my cupboard space to make room for more containers and to organize all the little bags of this and that. In the process, I've put together a few tips for buying in bulk:
- Don't be intimidated by bringing your own containers to the store. All you need to do is weigh the empty container and write down the weight (that's called the tare weight) and the bin number on the label or twist tie. It's that easy!
- Shop garage sales and resale shops for old spice jars, canning jars and other glass or plastic containers.
Reuse glass pasta sauce or mayonnaise jars - anything with a wide mouth and an airtight lid.
Save your cardboard Quaker Oats container to hold your bulk oats.
Organize smaller bags in plastic bins - I have one bin for dried fruits and one bin for nuts.
Don't forget about liquid or refrigerated items like peanut butter, soy sauce and oil. Save original containers for refill at the store.
If you're a bulk buying newbie and are wondering why you should even bother, consider the benefits:
- Reduced packaging - especially if you bring your own containers or plastic bags but even if you don't.
- Less expensive - On a recent shopping trip, prepackaged Jasmine rice was almost double the cost of bulk rice and a bottle of Italian seasoning was almost 4x the price of bulk!
- Buy what you need - the other day I bought a tiny amount of nutritional yeast to sprinkle on popcorn. Never in a million years would I use up a whole jar of the stuff!
- More organic options - You'll find a much broader selection of organic foods in the bulk bins than you will on the shelves. I buy organic oats, brown basmati rice, dried figs....and lots of other good stuff.
My kitchen is more organized than it was before, but it sure won't win any awards. If I win the lottery, I'll be ordering those custom bulk bins I was talking about...
(This Clean Sweep series is part of my New Year's effort to get organized for a greener & healthier year. Read Clean Sweep Part One to learn about getting a handle on shipping and gift wrapping supplies...and look for Part Three - about giving stuff away - coming soon!)