If you’re like most grocery shoppers, your experience with those towering bins of various grains and nuts and powders goes no farther than a casual glance as you make your way from the produce section over to the freezer. You see bags and scales and that just seems too difficult for an already frazzled trip to the store. Ladies and gentlemen, let me be the first to tell you that the bulk bins are not scary. In fact, they can be a fabulous way to save money and try new things! Here are my top 8 tips for using the bulk bins to your advantage:
- Take a stroll through the bulk bin section and see what it has to offer! Glance at the labels, so you are aware of the selection and may think of trying it out the next time you’re in need of a pantry refill or are making a new recipe.
- Beware of the “Costco effect!” I love Costco as much as the next girl, but how many times have I left that store with ONLY what I had on my list in tow? Almost never. The bulk bins can work the same way, with seemingly endless options. Remember, regardless of how good of a deal that millet was, it will still go bad during the 6 years it may take you to eat it all…
- When shopping for a recipe, be sure to jot down how much of an ingredient you need and buy just slightly more. This will ensure that you have enough for the recipe, with a small margin of error. Some stores, like MOM’s and Whole Foods, have a bulk bin for spices, which allows you to avoid buying an entire container when you only need 1⁄4 teaspoon.
- Take the time, at least initially, to compare prices at different stores. Most consumers these days have one main grocery store they use, and then several on the fringe where they buy a few items at each. Take stock of the bulk bins in all of your stores, and price compare the items you use most often.
- Bulk bins are fabulous, but they are an absolute no-no for Celiac Disease and severe allergies. Most bulk bins use metal or plastic scoops that are attached to the designated bin, but the scoops can become detached or most are able to stretch to a neighboring bin, making the risk of cross-contamination far too likely.
- Store all of your bulk bin finds in a sealed container, ideally glass, in a dark, cool place (unless otherwise specified). This gives the contents the best chance of staying fresh as long as possible.
- Label those containers! Disintegrating ball jar labels or reusable labels allow you to remember what you bought AND when you bought it.
- As stated in #7, writing down the date of purchase is important in knowing how long the item will stay fresh. The shelf life varies tremendously depending on the type of food. Check out this fabulous resource for a little bit more info on how to store all of your bulk bin bounty!