My first encounter with bulk bins as a kid was in our neighborhood chain grocery store, and all I remember is candy. The bins reminded me of the serve-yourself candy shops and movie theater concession stands, and I longingly passed by the bins wishing I could reach in there and snatch a snack. My parents were wiser, though, and steered us clear of the tempting towers of sweets.
But bulk bins have evolved to carry grains, legumes, spices, oils, sweeteners, and so many ingredients we need for everyday cooking that they're now one of my favorite sections of the grocery store. And while I load up on pantry staples there, they also hold great deals on snacks! Here are some of my favorites.
1. Veggie snacks
There are so many mind-boggling veggie chips out there now, from wasabi peas to green beans to beets, and it's fun to pick and choose from the bulk bins. But don't forget you can buy things like dry chickpeas, cook them up for a meal, and then roast the leftovers into a tasty snack!
- Make your own: Spicy Oven-Roasted Chickpeas
2. Dried fruits and nuts
Bulk bins have always offered great deals on fruits and raw nuts for cooking, but there are lots of flavored options available now too, like honey-roasted peanuts or tamari almonds. Browse this section and put together your own custom trail mix.
3. Snack mixes
Bulk bins usually have a large variety of snack mixes, from trail mix to seasoned snack mixes filled with crackers, nuts, and other tasty goodies. It's a great place to find munchies to serve during cocktail hour at your next dinner party.
We all need a sweet treat now and then, and the bulk bins are a great place to buy just a little without committing to a whole package. My favorites are gummies, sesame candy, and those addictive chocolate-covered malt balls. This is also a great place to go if you need a wide variety of seasonal candy for a project like a gingerbread house.
5. Cookies and crackers
Cookies — like animal or graham crackers, vanilla wafers, or even little crisp chocolate chip cookies — can be found in bulk bins. You can pick up just the right amount for a cookie crust for a pie instead of buying a whole box.
My favorite grocery store also has a wide variety of savory crackers in the bulk section, from cheddar guppies (their version of goldfish crackers) to gluten-free rice crackers. And while they're technically not crackers, crunchy pretzels (and even yogurt-covered ones) are also usually found in the bulk bins.
What are your favorite bulk bin snacks?