Saturday, April 01, 2017

Benefits of buying from the bulk aisle

Benefits of buying from the bulk aisle

By Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff
For The Hillsider

Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff
When I was a kid I remember going with my grandma to Amazing Grains, our local food co-op in Grand Forks N.D. (not to be confused with Amazing Grace, the cafe and bakery in Duluth), and seeing big bins of baking ingredients like flour, oats, and nuts. At first I thought it was strange because I’d never seen anything other than candies in bulk bins at the grocery store. I watched as my grandma, an avid bread baker, scooped flour and oatmeal into containers she’d brought from home. Once we were done we brought the containers up to the checkout counter for an employee to weigh them and calculate the cost.

Rebecca's grandma in Amazing Grains, a co-op grocery store which sells food in bulk.
Little did I know that a few years after this trip with my grandma, buying food from the bulk aisle would become a regular part of my shopping trips. Not only am I saving money, but I’m also reducing the amount of waste I bring home. Many grocery stores now have a bulk aisle, making it easy to get started buying grain, cereal, nuts, dried fruit, and other food in bulk.  

Three Reasons to Buy from the Bulk Aisle:

Save Money - Bulk foods tend to be cheaper because you’re not paying for the extra packaging and marketing costs from all the flashy labels or cartoon characters. You can buy as much or as little as you want. I especially like this advantage when buying spices. I don’t have to buy a whole spice jar if I only need a couple of teaspoons.  

Three reasons to shop bulk: cheaper, reduce waste and reduce your carbon footprint
Reduce Waste - Buying foods in bulk reduces the amount of packaging that ends up in the trash can, recycling bin, or as litter. While packaging helps keep food fresh and protect it from damage during transportation, much of it is unnecessary and mostly used to sell products. A good example if this is breakfast cereal. It often comes in plastic packaging inside a cardboard box. The box is used to make the cereal more visitable and attractive to customers, but doesn’t keep the cereal any fresher. When you buy food in bulk, you're not bring home any unnecessary packaging that you have to throw out. You can reduce waste even more by bringing your own reusable container. I like to repurpose glass jars and spice containers. Some stores will even give you a discount for bringing your own containers. Just remember to weigh them before you fill them up!   

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint - It takes a lot of energy (mostly from fossil fuels) and resources (water, trees, aluminum, plastic) to package food. Energy use gives off greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that are major contributors to climate change. A carbon footprint is a measurement of the amount of greenhouse gases produced by a person, activity, or product. Less packaging means less energy used for resource extraction and making the packaging, which lowers the carbon footprint of the food. Transportation of the food is also more efficient because without all that packaging taking up space, there’s more room for food on the delivery truck.

Tagline here: Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff lives in Lincoln Park, has a degree in environmental science, is a 5 Gyres Ambassador, leads Zumba classes and is interested in health and wellness. Full disclosure: She is also the daughter of The Hillsider editor Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff.