The Best & Worst Foods To Buy in Bulk

published May 17, 2012
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Is bulk buying the most efficient, time-and-money saving option? Not always. It really depends on what you’re buying. Here’s a quick cheat sheet to the best and worst foods to buy in bulk, as well as helpful bulk buying shopping and storage tips.

A Cheat Sheet to the Best & Worst Foods to Buy in Bulk

Best: These are the best foods to buy in larger quantities.
• In season vegetables (preserve or freeze for the colder months)
• Rice
• Soft grains and legumes (lentils, barley, quinoa, millet, rolled oats)
• Canned and dry beans
• Dried fruit
• Pasta
• Alcohol
• Canned tomatoes

Worst: These foods have shorter expiration dates, so you may end up wasting food and money.
• Condiments: yes, condiments have long shelf lives, but think about how long it takes you to make it through most of your condiments. By the time you finally open a new one, it could be expired.
• Flour: flour goes rancid, so unless you bake frequently, best to buy as needed.
• Cooking oils
• Cereal

If you do buy in bulk, Mother Earth News says the best option is to buy in large quantities through a food club which, in the study they cite, provided an average savings of 54 percent for 14 staple products over the packaged supermarket versions.

Regarding buying from the bulk BIN: Buying from the bulk bin—which, contrary to buying in bulk, means you buy smaller quantities as needed for a (generally) cheaper price— is great for things like spices and soft grains, but one study found that it was actually more expensive to buy nuts and seeds from the bulk bin. Best to always check the price per pound and compare the packaged version vs. its bulk bin counterpart.

Shopping for Bulk Foods
• How To Buy and Store Bulk Foods
Conscientious Cook: Which Foods to Buy in Bulk
Online Food Co-ops: Collective Shopping Made Convenient
• Shopping Tip: Mark the Tare Weight On Your Containers
• Good Reminder: Buy Spices from Bulk Bins
Origami Cloth Food Sacks
No More Plastic Bags: Kootsac Food Storage Sacks

Storing and Organizing Bulk Foods
Storing and Organizing Bulk Foods in a Small Kitchen?
Pantry Organization: Put Your Grains In Jars
• Scooping in Style! Bulk Bin Scoops at Home
Best Spice Storage Solution: Mason Jars
• Thrifty Kitchen: 6 Ways to Reuse Oatmeal Tins!
• Quick Tip: Five Ways to Re-Use Yogurt Containers
10 Practical Ideas for Better Spice Storage

What do you buy in bulk, either from the bulk bin or in large quantities?

It’s Reader Request Week on The Kitchn! This post was requested by lesleyida.