13 Foods You Should Buy From Supermarket Bulk Bins—and 2 You Should Skip
If you're not shopping from the bulk bins at your supermarket, you're missing out on some amazing deals. Not only can you find a wide selection of dry goods, but you may also score cheaper prices on essentials. (There's a reason purchasing bulk cleaning supplies is a financially savvy move.) Plus, buying only the quantities you need helps eliminate food waste, and using reusable containers and bags helps make your grocery shopping more zero waste.
"There are tons of great deals in bulk, primarily because the consumer isn't paying for packaging," says Trey McLean, a senior global category merchant for Whole Foods Market who oversees the store's bulk department.
But before you go grabbing a bag and a scoop and digging in to those bulk bins, there are a few things you need to know.
First, prioritize safety; it's unsanitary to go carelessly digging in the bins and graze the product with your hand, and equally so to let unsupervised kids reach in with their fingers. While most experts say harmful microbes aren't likely to grow in bulk bins because they don't contain enough moisture to harbor bacterial growth, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Second, be sure you transfer your items to appropriate vessels after you return home. "The best thing you can do is put your items in air-tight containers," McLean says. Store the containers in the cupboard, fridge, or freezer, depending on the item.
Third, venture outside your comfort zone. "Bulk set size and ingredients will vary [from store to store], which can be a good thing because it means you'll find regional or local items in the bulk department, like honey, that are unique to your store," McLean says.
Finally, keep in mind that you shouldn't automatically assume the price is better because it's available in bulk. "Sometimes the prices are much better, other times they are much more expensive," says Brianne Bell, a registered dietitian based in Toronto. "Always shop around if you're concerned about price."
With those four pointers added to your grocery shopping knowledge, go forth and shop in bulk: Here's what to stock up on (and what to skip) from the bulk bins.