Bulk Food Basics: What to buy, what NOT to buy, and how to store it

Bulk Food Basics: BrownThumbMama.com

What do you think of when I say “bulk food?” Do you picture 50-gallon drums of wheat that you have to grind into flour, or a 25-pound bag of peas, or giant tubs of mayonnaise? While those things do exist, they really aren’t practical for most of us. Just thinking about 25 pounds of peas makes my stomach hurt.

Buying food in bulk doesn’t have to be a waste of money and space in your house. With a little planning, buying bulk food makes lots of sense. It costs less than the individual packages at the grocery store. You have more food in the pantry so you don’t have to shop as often. Bulk containers also cut down on packaging waste. You need to store your bulk purchases safely, but that’s easy to do.

Here’s a peek at what I buy in bulk–and more important, what I don’t.

What I buy in bulk

  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking soda
  • Bread flour
  • Chocolate chips
  • Fruit for canning
  • Garlic and onion powder (although I’ll try making these in my dehydrator)
  • Oats
  • Olive oil
  • Onions
  • Pinto beans
  • Popcorn
  • Potatoes
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Yeast

What I don’t buy in bulk

  • Brown rice (because it contains the bran and germ, it goes rancid after about 6 months)
  • Whole-wheat flour (same)
  • Veggies and fruits that we grow in the garden
  • Things we don’t eat. You might laugh, but there’s no reason to buy 50 lbs of dried chickpeas if not a soul in the house will touch them.

How I store it

You want to keep your bulk food safe. It’s no longer a bargain if it spoils or gets spilled before you use it. The best way to do this is in food-grade buckets sealed with gamma lids. Gamma lids fit on your food-grade buckets and make them easy to open. They are waterproof, reusable, and stackable.

Bulk Food Basics: BrownThumbMama.com

Don’t be alarmed by the fact that these are shown on Amazon in the pet food department. For most people, the only food they currently buy in bulk is pet food! And we know what happens if the dog eats through the bag, or if a mouse finds the bag in the garage. It’s like a gold mine for them and a huge mess for us!

What foods do you buy in bulk? Anything I’ve missed? Share with us in the comments!

This article was shared on Simple Lives Thursday, Frugally Sustainable, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Unprocessed Fridays, Fat Tuesday, and Wildcrafting Wednesday.

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  1. says

    I buy real vanilla extract in bulk. The savings are huge. I do bake a fair amount–but my number one use is for homemade yogurt (another big money saver).

  2. says

    You are right DIY is the way to go. I buy my extract at the commissary and the price is pretty close to the DIY price (sometimes even better). However, there is always a trade off–no questions of origin of ingredients when I make my own. Thanks for the nudge; I’ll go back to DIY.

  3. amandaecriss says

    This list is really helpful. Thanks! I like to buy coconut oil in bulk (through a Tropical Traditions buying club, if possible).

  4. says

    We just started buying things in bulk from our food co op. We purchased oats, flour and some sugar. I have started making my own brown sugar by adding molasses to the white sugar. We also purchased coconut oil and use that for so many different things.

  5. Annonymous says

    I use a lot of brown rice, oats and other grains as well as nuts and do buy them in bulk. I store them in buckets in the bottom of my chest freezer, only bringing in enough for a month of cooking so they doesn’t go rancid.
    Also buy a half of a beef once a year. That too is in the freezer. I live very far from any grocery store and sometimes in the Winter our roads are too icy for me to drive safely on. Its much nicer shopping from my pantry and garage then driving miles to a store.
    When staples are on sale I try to stock up a little if I have the extra money.

  6. says

    I do a lot of baking too, and buy cocoa, salt, and powdered milk in bulk. I’ve also bought dried cranberries in bulk, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Turns out I’m the only one in the family who likes them!

  7. Beth says

    I buy my white jasmine rice in bulk and store it in usable amounts for ease of use when I am ready for it. I drop oxygen absorbers into the containers, which are tightly packed, and seal it up. Lasts for a long time. I have rice I am using that is over 2 years old with no issues. No bugs…etc.. I also buy honey, yeast, flour, sugar and some of the other dry staples. I am not a big cook and I live alone but also live remote and don’t have quick access to stores.

      • Carla says

        You should try sealing your jars with the food saver jar sealer. So cool and much cheaper than oxygen packs. You can also reseal them after you use some out of jar. I just got one and have been sealing everything. So cool.

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