Shout Out to Bulk!

—by Nicole Infinity

After being volunteering members of the co-op for a couple of years now, we still find new foods in every section. Over the past year, we have made an increased effort to reduce our amount of recycling and garbage by buying fewer foods with packages. Also known as, bulk is fantastic.

Now, I am not talking about the Costco/Sam’s Club version of bulk with processed foods in packages within packages within packages. I am talking about the lovely corner in the co-op full of happiness and food to put into jars and other containers of your choosing.

I am sure there are numbers on how many of us co-op folks are buying food stuff in bulk, but after volunteer cashier shifts, I’ve noticed that so few people have purchased in bulk that I am left wondering how many folks really know the amazingness that is bulk.

So, here it goes, a shout out to bulk and some tips to help you ease your way into it. After reading this, I encourage you to buy one more food item in bulk the next time you are at the co-op.

First, some convincing. According to the Bulk is Green Council, buying food in bulk:

  • Reduces the amount of packaging and therefore of resources, garbage, and recycling.
  • Reduces transportation (of packaging to food production facilities).
  • Costs less than packaged foods.
  • Allows for more food products in one space (useful for a very small co-op).
  • Encourages you to purchase exactly the amount you want (less food wasted).
  • Looks pretty on your shelves (actually this one is just my opinion).

What does the co-op offer in bulk?

The co-op offers bulk oils, flours, rice, pasta, beans, chocolate, granola, sugar, yeast, flax, nuts, nutritional yeast, coffee, tea, spices, food mixes (such as falafel), maple syrup, peanut butter, greens, mushrooms, root vegetables, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and many other items with organic, conventional, and local options.

How does buying in bulk work?

  1. Bring a reusable container from home or buy one from the co-op.
  2. Weigh your container with the lid on it and write the weight (tare) on a sticker or directly on the container. You do not need to bring a totally empty container as long as you record the total container weight.
  3. Fill the container with one product.
  4. Write the PLU (the three- or four-digit number on the store's bulk container) on a sticker or directly on your container.
  5. When you bring your container to purchase, the cashier will weigh the container, now full of food or other product, and subtract the tare so that you only pay for the weight of the product.

Planning ahead makes bulk buying easier

Buying in bulk is easier with some forethought. Here are tips on how to make bulk buying work for you.

  • When you are running low on something, place the container next to your reusable co-op shopping bags so you don’t forget.
  • Save jars and other reusable containers instead of recycling them.
  • Check out thrift stores for inexpensive second-hand containers.
  • Make a grocery list, circle the foods that can be purchased in bulk, and bring a container for each of them.
  • Always bring an extra container or two so you will have enough for your bulk products.
  • Ask for help from a co-op volunteer or employee.


2. HPC sells BYOBags, washable mesh bags made by a co-op member.

[Nicole Infinity works in public education, makes art, and enjoys community living with her lady friend.]