DIY Packaging: De-Mystifying the Bulk Food Aisle in 3 Easy Steps.

aroma-aromatic-assortment-531446For the longest time I would avoid the bulk food aisle. Sure it looked cool, but it just seemed too much trouble. I already hate shopping. Now I have to remember to bring my own packaging?!?

But little by little, I slowly started to get the hang of it. and now I’m a bulk food master and you can be too in just three simple steps:

  1. Start Small – If you’re intimidated by the bulk food aisle like I was, start by buying just one thing in bulk. For me it was almonds and cashews. My foray into bulk food included using the store’s plastic bags which really defeats the purpose, but you have to start somewhere! Before long, I got the hang of scooping the nuts out without spilling them all over the place and writing the bin number on the twisty tie and I was ready for more!
  2. Pick the Right Packaging – Before you leave the house, consider what you’ll be buying in bulk. For things that aren’t wrapped like nuts, dried fruit, rolled oats, etc., you’ll want a light plastic container or even better, because they’re less bulky, a cloth bag like this. These mesh ones are great for produce, but not so great for food you can’t wash. For things like rolled oats, I just bring the original cardboard rolled oats packaging I got before I switched to bulk—the same thing I store them in. Otherwise, old yogurt, cottage cheese or hummus containers work great (PRO TIP: Write the container weight on them with a permanent marker. It saves you re-weighing when you’re shopping at a store that deducts the container weight at checkout). I honestly think it was all of the pre-planning of packaging that kept me from bulk shopping for so long. But now it really takes barely any time at all to go through my shopping list and grab the necessary containers before heading out the door. Don’t believe me? Try this tip I got from the great Gretchen Rubin: If you don’t want to do a small task because you think it takes too much time, use a stop watch to actually see how long it takes you to do it. You’ll be amazed to see how little time planning which containers you need to bring with you for bulk shopping really takes. And once you do it a few times, it takes even less time. Things I now buy in bulk: Cashews. Almonds. Walnuts. Rolled oats. Popcorn. Dried fruit. Oat bran. Honey. Maple Syrup. Sometimes special flours (but those can get kinda messy).
  3. Just Do It – Here’s how: Scoop the quantity you need. Write the bin number on the twisty. Place it in your shopping cart. BAM! When I need to buy just a little of something for a recipe (say, coconut), I’ve been known to bring a measuring cup with me so I don’t buy more than I need (world’s worst eye-baller here). Some grocery stores even have a scale that will print out a label for you. Just plug in your bin number, weigh your item and out comes the label that you can just stick on your container! I felt like a big dork the first few times I perused the bulk aisle and didn’t know quite what to do. But trust me, it will become habit in no time. And think of all the plastic you’ll avoid! Hooray!