In our family, we are big fans of buying in bulk. But this isn't just because bulk foods are often cheaper. In particular, since we also like to eat organic whenever possible, we want to realize the twin savings of buying organic in bulk! Read on to learn how to get the best deals on bulk organic foods.
Want to save up to 89% on organic food?
The Bulk Is Green Council (a.k.a. BIG) has compiled research to show that buying in bulk for organic foods can net you as much as 89% in savings over buying smaller packaged portions of the same foods in stores.
Look for big bulk grocer savings in October
Every October, BIG celebrates National Bulk Foods Week. The goal is to encourage more consumers to buy organic food in bulk, and to encourage more retailers to install and market bulk bin foods.
You can view the 2014 list of participating retailers HERE (2015 lists and plans have not yet been posted).
Use these tips to save more on bulk bin organic foods.
1. Join (or start) a buying club
Whether your organic food needs run to purchasing a whole cow or an entire bin of dry lentils, a buying club can be your answer to questions like "But where do I store my bulk buy?" and "What if I can't eat it all up before it goes bad?"
- Cost saving: You can expect to save 30-40% off retail prices by participating in a buying club.
- Directory listings: Try the Coop Directory, Local Harvest, and the Cooperative Grocer's Network to find a co-op or buying club near you.
- Starting your own: If you can't find a buying club near you, ask your local food co-op if they know of a buying club or want to help you start one. If you don't have a co-op nearby, ask your local natural foods store for the contact information for their distributor. Distributors typically are not averse to selling to individuals in sufficient quantity—and they may even deliver it right to you (as opposed to you having to go pick it up at the natural foods store).
2. Buy into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture Program)
A CSA is one way to ensure a steady supply of budget-friendly, super-fresh organic produce. A CSA is set up to support local farmers by recruiting purchasers for their crops. Essentially, you buy a "share" of the CSA, and the money you spend goes to pay a portion of local farmers' operating expenses. In exchange, you enjoy fresh produce during the entire growing season (24-26 weeks).
- Costs: A typical cost for one share is $300-$400, but you may find it for less, or be able to purchase a half-share instead if your family needs less produce. As well, often CSAs will be able to put you on a weekly or monthly payment plan so you can simply allot a portion of your weekly/monthly grocery budget to the CSA instead of the grocery store.
- Cost example: If one share in your local CSA costs $300 and the growing season is 25 weeks (just under 6 months), this means you will be paying just $12 per week for your CSA bulk organic produce.
3. Visit a local farmers market to ask about bulk options
A big part about finding the best bulk deals is just doing a little sleuthing in your local community. One of the best places to conduct research is at your local farmers market.
Reason being, vendors may have access to bulk organic foods, whether through their own farming projects or via affiliations. They may know of cheaper ways to afford bulk organic food—or may even want to go in with you to start a bulk buying club or co-op!
4. Buy only the most compromised foods in bulk
If you are on a budget and can't afford to buy everything organic and in bulk, then it’s good to know which foods tend to be most compromised by pesticides and herbicides.
- The Dirty Dozen+: These are the 12+ most compromised produce foods.
- The Clean 15: These are the 15 least compromised produce foods.
5. Consider online sources
While you might not initially think to shop online to find good deals on bulk organic foods, there are a handful of online grocers that can offer you comparable prices—and some even offer free shipping!
- Amazon's bulk organic grocer: Find bulk teas, rice, nuts, spices, baking supplies, snacks, and more.
- Frontier Co-op: Find bulk herbs, spices, teas, food mixes, baking ingredients, personal care items, and more.
- Azure Standard: Find bulk pasta, produce, teas, seasonings, honey, cereal, meat, bread, snack bars, personal care items, and more.
6. Weigh your containers before filling them from the in-store bulk bins
Many bulk shoppers like to bring and fill their own containers when shopping from the organic bulk bins at local grocers or co-ops (this also saves you from having to transfer what you've bought to other containers when you get home!).
But there is one catch—if you don't remember to weigh your containers before you fill them, you may end up getting charged for the weight of your containers too!
- What to do: First, place your empty container on the scale and weigh it. Then fill your container. Now weigh it again. Subtract the container weight from the total weight and this is the weight you should be charged for.