5 Bulk Bin Buys You May Be Missing Out On

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

It all started with salt. My local grocery store had run out of their house brand sea salt and I couldn’t find another similar salt for a decent price on the shelves. Then I turned around and spotted it — in the bulk bin section, in a drawer I had never noticed before, selling for even less than the packaged generic brand.

That find inspired me to spend a little more time looking closely at the bulk bin sections of my local supermarkets, going beyond the usual nuts, grains, and snacks, and focusing on the types of foods you might not know you could buy in bulk.

I usually prefer buying foods from the bulk bins when I can. Bulk bin foods are generally (though not always) cheaper than their packaged versions, they don’t require wasteful packaging if you bring in your own containers with the tare weight marked, and you can buy as much or as little as you need. When you have a small kitchen, getting bulk-buy prices without actually having to buy and store ingredients in bulk is a huge plus.

So I’ve been happy to branch out my bulk bin shopping to include these five types of food:

1. Seasonings

Buying spices, spice blends, dried herbs, and salt from the bulk bins is almost always a huge money-saver, especially if you are buying a certain spice for a specific recipe and aren’t sure you’ll ever use it again. Instead of buying a big jar, you can buy just the teaspoon of it that you need — often for pennies.

2. Sweeteners

You might have noticed granulated sugar in the bulk bins, but some stores also carry a range of liquid sweeteners, such as maple syrup, agave syrup, and even local honey.

3. Smoothie superchargers

Some of your favorite smoothie mix-ins might be waiting for you in the bulk bin aisle — specialty ingredients like chia seeds and flax seeds, flavorings like cocoa powder, or protein supplements like whey powder.

4. Nut butters

If your store offers the option to grind your own peanut butter, almond butter, or (insert Homer Simpson drool) chocolate-almond butter, do it. You’ll have all-natural, incredibly fresh nut butter without having to deal with any oily separation or stirring.

5. Everyday oils

Sometimes you need your nicest bottled oil to drizzle over a plate of delicate greens, and sometimes you need a no-frills extra-virgin olive oil for everyday cooking. Look for it in the store’s bulk bin section, at a price that won’t break the bank.

What are some of your favorite finds in the bulk bin section?