For the love of bulk

Buying in bulk has many advantages, from saving tons of useless plastics to saving money.

I am currently trying to convert to bulk as much as I can. But why and how? Read more about it and please share your tips and comments!

Why to buy in bulk?

Buying in bulk addresses the crucial problem of packaging and our over-consumption of perfectly useless plastics. Going to supermarkets sometimes makes me mad. Why do these innocent spinach leaves, almonds, sushis, croissants have to be put into plastic boxes? This is a pure nonsense. Let alone the sanitary questions of how plastic components interact with our food over time, it is an environmental disaster.

What’s in it for me?

Savings: marketing and packaging costs are reflected on the price of the final product. And at the end, do you want to pay for your rolled oats or for their packaging? (For example, as per April 2016, rolled oats at Noah’s Natural Food bought in bulk cost 3,69/kilo. Organic rolled oats at Longos cost  6,98/kilo).

Another aspect of savings is some stores offer a small discount when you bring your containers, which is fair since you save them the cost of the bag too.

Avoiding to waste food: when buying food in bulk, we can buy the exact quantity we need, period. No need to buy a 500g bag of walnuts if it’s only to make one cake.

Aesthetics: transparent jars where you can see the food directly look really appealing ,,,. Making them more visually accessible is also a good way to diversify the menus of a week. Instead of sticking to rice and pasta, beans, quinoa, brown rice, and lentils will inspire you through the glass.

-Last (but maybe should have been 1st): buying in bulk often means buying raw materials that have not been transformed industrially. Long story short, it is incredibly healthier.

How to buy in bulk?

So, what does it mean to buy in bulk? It means, first of all, to find grocery stores that sell food in bulk. (see a list of options below). It also requires to bring containers to the store, like cotton bags, jars, or plastic tupperware. Some stores accept it and some don’t, for so-called sanitary reasons. It is often worth insisting a bit, and explaining the reasons of not wanting to produce waste when it can be avoided.

If this step seems like a big challenge, you can also, in your usual grocery store, make better choices. Veggies and fruit packaged in plastic boxes often have “nude” alternatives. Go for them.

Tips

My advice to begin would be to start with “easy food” like rice, pasta and lentils. Just start by transferring your existing food to three jars. Continue and explore quinoa, bulgur, beans of all kinds. You can then transition to food that are a little more logistically challenging like teas, spices, chocolate. The most difficult things being probably meat, dairy products and liquids in general. (I’m not there yet!)

Also, start collecting all your glass containers. I bet that once you’ve started, you’ll be running short of them.

Lastly, get inspired by Béa Johnson, a zero waste leader in the US.

Where in TO?

Basically everywhere! But here is my shortlist:

-BulkBarn: so far the most comprehensive bulk store I have found in Toronto. they have everything from pasta to rice, flour, sugar, dried fruit… in pails, tubs or bins. The bags they propose are all made in Canada and 100% recyclable. Right now, customers are not allowed to bring their own containers to refill for safety issues. The reason given is that customers may pour extra amounts back in their containers or directly dip theirs. But they are actively working on an « even-better » solution. (This is a list of stores in Toronto).

[Update from 11/05: BulkBarn is allowing Bring Your Own Containers at Liberty Village!]

-4Life Natural Food in Kensington: actually, there are plenty of organic stores that sell in bulk in Kensington. I just selected this one because it is spacious and well organized. You can find all sorts of rice and grains there. (210 Augusta Avenue).

-Saint Lawrence Market: the lower floor of the market is home to many shops where most sellers sell in bulk their bread, flour, oats, dried fruit etc.-

-Noah’s Natural Foods: they have a selection of products sold in bulk, including rice and rolled oats, and most of them are organic. (Four locations in Toronto).