in the kitchen

Frugal Grocery Shopping: Buying From Bulk Bins

Frugal Grocery Shopping Buying From Bulk BinsEveryone always wants to know my method for frugal grocery shopping when they learn that I don’t make a practice of using coupons.  The truth is there simply aren’t coupons for vegetables, fruit, and food purchased from bulk bins.  Frugal grocery shopping can be achieved by purchasing items in bulk from the bins.  These items are inexpensive to begin with, which is why I skip the coupons.  Even with coupons, the bulk bins have proven to cost less for the items my family uses.

Frugal Grocery Shopping Buying From Bulk Bins

When you buy from the bulk bins, you’re not buying in bulk or stockpiling.  I’m not an advocate of stockpiling groceries or other non-food items.  If there’s an item on sale that our family eats, I will purchase several and freeze them.  When you are buying items in the bulk section, it doesn’t mean you have to buy a huge amount.  You can purchase just the amount you need.  When I tell people that I buy from the bulk section they think that means I must be buying BULK (enormous amounts just to get the savings) but that is not the case.

People are often leery of  buying food from the bin section because they’re afraid of bugs or moths being in the grains or containers.  I have never had a problem but I grocery shop at Winco Foods, which has a high turnover in the bulk section.  Ask around where you live to figure out what the best stores are for bulk bin shopping.

Frugal grocery shopping

Refrigerate or freeze?
Once you get home, refrigerate or freeze your grains, brown rice or wheat germ.  You don’t need fancy containers.  Simply use glass jars that once held other items.  My favorite jar to reuse is the Adam’s peanut butter jar.  Wash thoroughly and let dry completely before putting food items into your jars.

Frugal Grocery Shopping Buying From Bulk Bins

I keep 25lbs of Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat flour in my stand alone freezer.  It’s in a large plastic food storage container from Cash & Carry.  I put a label on the container so I know exactly how much flour fits in my container.  Spices from the bulk section are another big money saver.  The bulk section has small bags for the smaller amounts purchased.  I always write on the labels what I’m purchasing so that I don’t forget by the time I get home!

Frugal Grocery Shopping Buying From Bulk Bins

Realize the savings
It’s so much less expensive to buy items from the bulk section.  Check the prices – either by the ounce or by the pound – and compare the bulk price, store brand, and name brand.  You’ll be amazed how much you can save.  Teach your kids to do this when they shop with you.  Kids can really comparison shop and their eyes can read the tiny little writing without having dig into their handbags for reading glasses.  Without all the packaging that comes with typical food purchases, buying from the bulk bins is also a more sustainable choice as well.

To clarify my coupon use…
I DO use the coupons that are mailed to me in the snail-mail.  These include Costco, Fred Meyer, and Fabric Depot.  I use those coupons regularly.  The Sunday paper has coupons and I do occasionally check them out just to be sure I’m not missing anything.  I also check to see what my local stores have on sale each week.  My favorite local store to shop by their weekly specials is New Seasons.  They also offer plastic recycling at their stores.

Stay healthy, stay simple
Simple, whole foods are much healthier for us to eat, which is another reason I don’t use coupons.  I don’t buy processed foods so our family doesn’t eat processed foods.  You can read more eating healthier here.  What I keep in my pantry is here and what I keep in my refrigerator is here.

With buying from the bulk bins, eating simple, whole foods that aren’t pre-packaged, coupled with a smart weekly meal planning, you can eat healthy food prepared at home at the best prices possible.  Sustainable living that’s good for both the environment and your wallet.

Go Gingham related links:

National Match-Up Day: A step-by-step on how to clean and organize your food storage containers!
Reusing glass jars and how to get them ready for re-use
Frugal grocery shopping – without coupons!
New to cooking at home? Fear not!
How our freezer gets used – ways to organize and optimize

11 thoughts on “Frugal Grocery Shopping: Buying From Bulk Bins

  1. Love the bulk bins! Only recently I realized that most of the organic pasta in the bulks at Freddie’s is more expensive than packaged organic pasta at Trader Joe’s. I also like TJ’s for organic canned beans & tomatoes. (I know you cook from dried beans, but with two little kids I’m giving myself a break on that lately.) I’ll try Winco – I had never heard of them!


    1. Andrea…the bins can be a better price but you’re right, you have to know the prices. Winco has the best prices on whole wheat pasta. I’m serving it tonight…you give yourself as many breaks as you need with those two little ones. Thanks Andrea! We can plan a field trip to Winco!


  2. I wish more stores in my area had bulk bins. My organic store does have some products in the bulk bins, and they’ve got lots of bulk spices. It’s great for when I need to buy a rarely-used spice…I can buy just a little instead of buying a whole container and then letting it get old in my cabinet.


    1. Kristen, you are so right about the spices! That has saved me many times. We have a new little spice store new our house that is all bulk spices and has lots of unique spices. It really makes a difference in a recipe whether your spices are fresh or not. Thanks!


  3. I also love bulk bins! Our Food For Less has plenty of them. I reuse the plastic bags(if they held something powdery or sticky) with a wash and dry, tie them in a “slip knot” and keep them in my car. Then I’m ready for the next trip with no advance preparation.

    I only refrigerate/freeze my wheat germ and nuts. Never thought about flour and rice! Thanks for the tip!


    1. Liana, you are so good about re-using! I use the plastic bags for garbage sacks in our bathroom. We have a very small garbage can and the bags just fit. It keeps me from buying new garbage bags. I have fabric to sew some re-useable bags but then what would I put in my bathroom?? Thanks for leaving a comment!


  4. Sara, you are such an inspiration. I love how you lay out the details of how you do things and what your thinking is about the choices you make – it makes it seem like I could do it too! You really have such helpful information – I always learn something from you! Thanks tons for all the details!!!!


  5. I love bulk bins! Here in Pittsburgh, East End Food Co-op has many things in bulk at great prices, and a lot of them are organic. Instead of buying in bags, you can bring your container, weigh it empty, write the weight on the label, and then fill it; the cashier deducts the weight of the container from the total weight and charges you only for the weight of the food. It’s so convenient!


  6. We have no stores with bulk bins…. to tell the truth I don’t think I’ve ever been to a store with them. Maybe it’s a regional thing.


    1. Paula, it could be. I don’t know where you live but most the stores around me have them. They are really nice and sell the brand name products (it’s listed on the bin) for less cost per pound. Totally worth having to scoop it out!!


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