Not Your Momma’s Bulk Department

October 4, 2018
| Created by Melanie Taylor, MS, RDN, CD

When I hear “bulk food,” childhood memories emerge of that strange, smelly aisle we avoided on the rare occasion I was allowed to accompany my mom to the grocery store. The aisle was filled with odd ingredients (sadly, whole-grains were foreign in our house), it was overwhelming (all those scoops and twisty ties!), and it really did smell funny (carob will never smell like chocolate). However, the bulk department of my childhood has evolved into one of my favorite aisles of the grocery store. Here are a few reasons why:

Why is bulk so great?

You can buy as much or as little as you need, reducing food waste
You can experiment with new products without getting stuck with something that doesn’t suit you
Bins are replenished often, so ingredients are fresh
Minimal packaging is eco-friendly and can result in cost savings

My Top 5 Favorite Bulk Items:

All the Spices! Do you avoid making new recipes because you don’t want to invest in obscure spices? Well, dust off your cookbooks, because with bulk spices you can purchase as much or as little as you need. This also keeps less frequently-used spices from going flavorless in your cabinet. 
Random Grains: My grain habits tend to change with the wind. I’ll be on a quinoa kick for weeks and then suddenly have to have wild rice. I appreciate buying just enough of whatever grain I need so my pantry doesn’t become cluttered with partially used packages of say, almond flour that may not get a second look during my oat flour phase. 
Dried Fruit: My go-to sweet treat is dried mango! I love the unsweetened variety in Harmons bulk department (varies by location). Dried fruit is a great addition to hot and cold cereals, trail mixes and salads or to just snack on straight from the bag.
Nuts: I have a habit of letting walnuts and baking nuts go rancid. On the flip side, I love to eat nuts as a snack or add them to salads, stir-fry, oatmeal and yogurt. Nuts in bulk are fresher than packaged and I can buy only as much as I need. 
Candy: You read that right. Sometimes you just need a little candy in your life: Chocolate, cinnamon bears — whatever. In bulk, I can buy just enough rather than a whole package that will beg me to eat more than I feel good about. 

National Bulk Foods Week is Oct. 14-20, by the way. Whether you’re a seasoned regular or you usually pass right over the bulk bins, I encourage you to turn your cart around and try something new in bulk foods next week to celebrate!