How To Shop At A Bulk Foods Store

We’re continuing to tackle Plastic Free July and have been spending more and more time in bulk food stores. It’s difficult to avoid overly packaged items at traditional supermarkets, so we’ve been steering clear of the temptation. Those who are new to this way of shopping need not worry, we’ve prepared a little Upcycle Studio guide on how to shop at a bulk foods store to ensure your experience goes smoothly, every time! (A big thank you to the lovely crew at Village Wholefoods in Marrickville for providing us with some yummy food this week!)

Village Wholefoods, Marrickville

Village Wholefoods, Marrickville

1. Be Prepared To Shop!

The trip to the bulk foods store really begins at home. It pays to be prepared before you even head out the door. Gather some containers or bags that you can pack your food into. Our Upcycle team usually takes some small mason jars for things like nuts and trail mix and a few large glass jars for pasta and cereals. Items like grains, lentils, fruit and vegetables can be easily packed into reusable bulk food bags. We were all really surprised at how painless it was to prep these containers and bags before shopping. It takes just a few minutes and quickly becomes a natural part of the grocery shopping routine.

Go prepared with some empty glass jars
Bulk food bags are great for grains and vegetables

2. Tare Your Containers

This is probably the most tricky part of the bulk food shop for newcomers. You’ll need to tare your containers before popping food into them. This means that you’ll have to weigh the empty container and write down the amount. Most shops provide markers so you can record this directly onto your jar. Otherwise, you can just make a note of your tare weight in your phone or in a notepad. Pop your container on the scale (including the lid) and weigh them one by one. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, staff members are always around to lend a helping hand!

Make sure to weigh your jar before you fill!
Write down your tare weight on the jar or on a sticker

3. Fill Your Containers

Now comes the fun! Peruse the aisles and fill up your jars and bags with some delicious food! Some bulk food stores will have special product codes for each type of food. If you happen to be in a shop that uses this system, be mindful of writing down what this code is. This is usually clearly marked right next to or on top of the tubs.

Use the scoops to fill your jars

4. Take Your Items To The Checkout

Pop all of your jars, containers and bags onto the counter and congratulate yourself on your plastic-free shop! Your cashier will then calculate the price of all of your items by looking at your product codes and tare weights. It’s that simple!

How To Shop At A Bulk Foods Store - checking out
Take your plastic free shop to the counter to be calculated

5. Carry Your Items Home In A Reusable Bag

Now that the shop is over, it’s time to take everything home to enjoy! There aren’t any plastic bags at the bulk foods store so it’s important to bring your own shopping bag. (You need to carry all your containers to the shop in something anyway!) It really doesn’t matter if you’re using a Coles bag, a backpack, a canvas tote or even a cardboard box. Use what works best for you. We’ve been using these Flip & Tumble 24/7 bags because they’re super convenient. They stash away easily into a little ball when not in use, making it really easy to always have one in your everyday bag for impromptu shops.

We love these Flip & Tumble 24/7 Bags – from ball to bag in seconds!

6. Storing Your Food At Home

Alright, now we’ve gotten to the final step in how to shop at a bulk foods store! Unpacking and storing your food at home after a bulk foods shop is super easy, you’ve already done all the hard work! All of your items are nicely packed into jars and containers that can go straight into the pantry or the fridge. No need to take things out of several plastic bags that then need to be stored somewhere too (usually in an overflowing drawer – we know everybody has one of these!)

Know what’s in your pantry – glass jars and containers make it easy to keep track of your food

Another great way to store your food is by wrapping them in some eco-friendly beeswax wraps. These are fantastic for keeping things like fruit and vegetables nice and fresh in the fridge.

There you have it! Our no fuss guide on how to shop at a bulk foods store! It’s a big change at first and takes some getting used to. But trust us, this is a great way to shop for both the environment and for your hip pocket! Buying in bulk makes your shop cheaper in the long run and you can walk away happily plastic-free every time!

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