The Beauty of Bulk Food Stores

Bulk food stores (BFS) can offer you a variety of products in an environmentally conscious way while also saving you both money and time.

We All Want to Save Money in 'Bulk'

Bulk food bins at a bulk food grocery store. I noticed when comparing grocery prices the savings was dramatic. Especially on spices, but shop carefully as not every bulk food buy is a deal. They slip in some high priced foods as well.
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Are you looking for a cost effective way to shop for staple ingredients that you use every day?

Want to avoid spending a lot of money simply to make one dish for dinner. A dish which requires a tiny amount of one single ingredient?

How about this, have you been thinking about trying a new dish that looks great in the 'photo' but don't want to purchase an entire package in case you don't like it?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should check out bulk food stores.

*Bottom line savings? Save 56-89% on bulks prepackaged counterparts according to the latest university research of 2012.

Bulk foods in large pull bins there is candy in this one! I bought some spice drops and Hershey's Kisses today which were very fresh, yum!
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What is a Bulk Food Store?

We all know from our shopping experience that it is typically less expensive per unit to buy a product in a larger package.

Which is proven in our new free mobile grocery comparison tool. In example, a five pound bag of white flour may be $5.00, while the 10 pound bag is priced at $8.00.

So, for $3.00 more, you get twice as much flour a no-brainer.

Here is a diverse selection of nuts in pull bins reasonably priced. Buying nuts in bulk is nice because at different times when baking I need only certain amounts so there is no waste. Historically often I would buy prepackaged nuts and many would just sit until they expired. you know nuts like slivered almonds etc.
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Have you ever bought a multi-pack of crackers, cleaning supplies, or spices at Costco or Sam's Club and then divided the items and their cost with a friend?

The same holds true shopping at bulk food stores if you can save $0.50 on a box of facial tissue why not given these days of financial change.

Well, bulk stores work on basically the same principle.

Since they purchase such large containers, they pay less per unit. And then they share these savings with their customers.

These stores usually have aisles of large open boxes, barrels, or bins filled with a variety of items to choose from.

 Pregnant lady who can save family dollars at bulk food stores.
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The consumer is then able to go through and pick up exactly what they need by weight, essentially customizing anything from a bag of pecans to chocolate chips or spices.

And, this is the secret ingredient to saving both money and space.

Bulk foods can save money in bulk!
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Nine Advantages of Bulk Food Stores

  • Economical: Many products are less expensive at the bulk food stores, particularly natural or organic items. In some cases, you could save between 56%-89% over pre-packed versions. That's thanks to less packaging it's advertising and pre portioning.

  • Customize Quantity: These stores allow you to buy as little or as much as you need. Think of them as the best of both worlds. Not only can you purchase large quantities of the items that you reach for daily, but you can also buy as small a quantity as needed for a special anniversary dinner or a new recipe you are trying out.
  • Try Something New: Since you can buy a small portion, there isn't much risk in trying things such as quinoa or rice pasta. In a typical grocery store you would have to buy an entire package, which can be costly, and wasteful especially if you end up throwing most of it away because you don't like it, or much time passes prior to a second attempt at the recipe but, at a bulk food store, it is very economical to try something new. And, you never know, you just might find your next favorite recipe ingredient!

  • Environmentally Conscious: Once an item is ready for shipment, it is able to skip the costly mass packaging process and is packed into barrels, bins, or boxes for shipping to the BFS. These containers are then put right into the aisles. There is no fancy packaging used to increase the price of an item. Transportation is also more efficient since this type of packaging fits much better into a truck.

  • Product Visibility: Packaging sometimes makes it difficult for consumers to see exactly what they are purchasing. Have you ever been tempted to open up a box of crackers so you can see their actual size, or a bag of Hershey Kisses so you can count how many are inside? Well, with bulk store shopping, you can see everything clearly so the guesswork is removed.
Bulk bags of fresh legumes buy only what you need.
  • Save Space: Saving money and the environment are not the only benefits of a bulk food store. Your cupboards and pantry will thank you for eliminating the waste. By only purchasing what you actually need at bulk food stores, your pantry will not be cluttered with all of the leftovers that you are forced to buy in grocery stores due to packaging. This, in turn, drastically reduces the amount of food that will go to waste just sitting on a shelf somewhere, never to be used again.

  • Less garbage will end up in landfill sites, less fuel is being burned in transportation, and less money is being invested into packaging and advertising – which is a cost that is usually passed along to the consumer thanks to your savvy decision to buy from bulk food stores. 

  • All these things not only help preserve the environment but they also save you money. And, some stores will allow you to bring your own containers/jars (you just have to weigh them before you fill them), so that you don't even have to use the plastic bags provided, and you won't have to transfer the products to a more convenient container once you get home.

  • We think this one is worth repeating: save money and space.
Flavored coffee can be bought in bulk too, look out Starbucks!
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Seven Disadvantages of Bulk Food Stores

  • Appearance: Since most bulk stores simply open the boxes or barrels that the items are shipped in, they are usually not as fancy or aesthetically pleasing as other grocery stores.

  • Selection: Bulk stores often have a wider variety of certain items than many grocery stores; however, there are some products that they do not typically carry such as fresh produce or meat.

  • Nutritional Information and Expiry Dates: Most products purchased in grocery stores will have the nutritional information listed on the packaging.

  • Although they usually have this information posted by the product bins, you will not have access to it at home. So, if someone wants to know how many calories are in a cookie or whether or not your spice mix contains a certain ingredient, you will have to depend on your memory.

  • You will also have to take special note of expiry dates and storage instructions before you leave the store since you won't have this information at home either.

  • If allergies or special diets are a concern, you may want to request a copy of all important nutritional information and ingredient lists from the store clerk.

  • Germ-a-phobe? Just the nature of the packing in barrels and boxes lends itself to several hands and arms in and out grasping or scooping for foods.

Foods Available at Bulk Food Stores:

There are a wide variety of foods available at these types of cool stores, ranging from basic staples to specialty items to natural and organic foods.

Most stores will not have fresh produce or meats; however, with the growing popularity of this type of shopping, many stores now have coolers and carry a selection of refrigerated items.

Common items include, but are not limited to:

  • Dry Good such as cereals, flours, grains, and noodles
  • Baking supplies such as soda, powder, chocolate chips, and coconut
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Dried beans
  • Candy, cookies, wrapped chocolate, cake icing, snacks
  • Herbs, spices, cooking oils
  • Soup mixes

Five Tips for Bulk Food Shopping
to Compare Food Prices

  1. Compare food prices. While many items are less expensive, this is not the case for every product. Some things are overpriced, so be sure to compare.

  2. Use the scales provided so that you don't buy more than you need and you know exactly how much your purchase will cost.

  3. Bulk food stores usually offer a wider variety of spices at much lower prices than grocery stores so this is a good place to stock up on new and interesting flavors to make your meals more enticing.

  4. Some bulk food stores offer coupons, too! Coupons are not just for manufacturers and grocery stores, but bulk food stores also like to attract customers with great promotions and saving opportunities. Many will have offers such as $3.00 off when you spend $10.00 or more. If you plan your shopping efficiently, you can take advantage of these deals and save even more money.

  5. Take your own containers: We find this is the coolest thing. Not only does this reduce waste but it will also save you time since you will only have to handle the products once.

These whole bean coffees in bins can be ground in the store. This photos was taken in Las Vegas when I was doing some grocery price comparing.
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The Future of These Unique Stores

Traditional grocery stores have taken notice of their smaller, more calculating counterpart and, in many areas of the country, are beginning to integrate new food marketing concepts, including bulk food merchandising.

This model places a bulk food section into the chain stores, allowing the consumer the choice of purchasing the classic packaged product or the customized bulk food product.

For more information on Bulk Food Stores and their locations, please visit

  1. Top of this page bulk food stores.
  2. New trend in saving on food, Discount grocery stores.
  3. Discover more types of grocery stores.
  4. How to save even more money on groceries.
  5. The Bulk is Green Council website. 

*At Grocery411 we believe in solid research to confirm our findings and save you money. This particular research was completed at Portland State University Center of Food Industry Leadership Industry (PSUCFIL) by Masters of Business candidates.

The PSUCFIL research returned a savings of a whopping 89% on natural and organic groceries. However National Public Radio (NPR) performed their own impromptu study in Portland grocers.

NPR came up with only an average savings of 56% buying from bulk food stores over its packaged cousins. This number would drop to 14% in NPR's final non-collegiate study. So NPR performed a homemade study, but not solid unbiased research.

Nonetheless there is bulk savings buying from bulk food stores. Undeniably every little bit helps. The additional advantage of bulk is less wasteful products clutter our landfills like paper, foil, and plastic. That is the rest of the story!