Buying in bulk, especially when you can shop at a refill store with your own reusable containers, is a great way to go greener. Buying in bulk can reduce the amount of plastic packaging you bring into your home. And it can help you in saving money too. But if you are new to buying in bulk, there are a number of important things to consider. Here are some tips to help you make sure you really are being kinder to people and planet, and really can do so in a cost-effective way:
Do Some Research
Before you determine what to buy, do your research. Success when it comes to bulk buying depends on being very well prepared. One fruitful area for research is storing and preserving various foods. The more you know about home cooking too, the more prepared you will be. Learn new skills to make the most of the bulk items you buy.
Find Sustainable Suppliers
It is also important to do some research to find suppliers who can deliver what you need in your area. In a city or town, you might be able to find a store that offers bulk foods without packaging. But even where you cannot find somewhere you can take your own reusable containers, you can still cut packaging by buying bigger containers of staples from the store, or buying them online from local suppliers.
Know Your Own Needs
This might sound obvious, but bulk buying also depends on having a very good idea of how much you and your household actually eat. Make sure you keep meticulous notes about what you buy and how long it lasts before you embark on a new period of bulk buying. Think about how you might be able to switch out processed goods and junk food for more wholesome wholesale items. For example, rather than buying breads, cakes and pastries – bulk buy flours and other baking ingredients and make your own.
Prepare Your Pantry
Having somewhere in your home to store foods effectively and safely is very important. Your freezer and refrigerator will obviously play a role. But it is also worthwhile looking at more old-fashioned and energy-free ways to keep food fresh for longer. Preparing a suitable pantry area is key. An old fashioned walk-in pantry or larder used to be a staple feature for most homes. We've often lost that facility in our modern homes. But with careful planning and some basic DIY skills, you may be able to build it back in. Prepare your pantry area (which may simply be an insulated cupboard) before you hit the stores.
Choose the Right Containers
If you are able to bulk buy from a wholefood store using your own containers, choosing the right containers is key. Think about the sustainability of the products you choose over their entire life cycle before settling on the right options.
It is also important to choose the right containers for food storage. The temperatures, humidity, and light levels in your pantry area will have a bearing on which food storage containers will be right for you to use. Again, preparation and research are important.
Know the Cost of What You're Buying
Even in a zero waste, bulk buy store, there are no guarantees that the shelves are stocked with truly sustainable products. If you want to live in as green and eco-friendly a way as possible, make sure you read labels carefully. Make sure you understand not only the financial cost, but also the cost to people and planet of the things you are buying. Try to buy local, seasonal and organic products whenever possible to reduce your impact.
Whether you are heading to the store, or shopping online, organization is key. Make sure you have a list of the items you need to bulk buy – and stick to that list. Make sure you make notes of what you have bought, and when. This will help you to know when each item must be used by, and when each thing will be past its best.
Your organization skills will also be important inside your home. When you buy in bulk, it is vitally important that you maintain good order in your pantry or storage area. It is very easy, if you are disorganised, to forget what you have, or to lose things at the back of the shelves. Keep things orderly by rotating stock in your pantry like they do in a store. Bring older items to the front of shelves and use them before you use newer items.
Use What You Have
Some people make the mistake of creating a well-stocked pantry by bulk buying food and other items. But then they simply keep those items and do not actually use them. Remember, bulk buying is not about stocking up for one day – it is about real, everyday life. It is very important to use the items you buy. Remember – most items won't store forever. At first, it is a good idea to aim to store foods you need on a three month basis. Aim to rotate out all items of bulk bought goods in your pantry or storage area around four times a year.
Avoid Food Waste
Your key goal, when bulk buying should be to avoid food waste. There is absolutely no point in bulk buying if you are then simply going to throw all that stuff away. Food waste considerably reduces the amount of money that you are able to save by bulk buying. More than this, however, food waste is a major environmental problem. Avoid waste by buying only what you need (and will actually use), by staying organized and by composting food scraps rather than throwing them away.
These are just a few simple tips to help you when buying in bulk. Follow these tips and you won't just be saving money – you'll be helping to save the planet and humanity too.