I’ve gradually been transitioning to less-wasteful shopping, but this week I went on my first BYOC (bring your own container) bulk shopping adventure at Whole Foods and Harris Teeter.
I brought both jars and produce bags with me to Whole Foods. I recently bought a set of these canning jars, and it turned out they were the perfect size.
Anchor Hocking Pint Glass Canning Jar Set, 12pk regular mouth (Walmart)
The process to use them at Whole Foods was super easy: Since I hadn’t weighed them before, I went to the service desk to get the tare size, or container weight. These jars are about 0.61 lbs., while a reused spaghetti sauce jar I also brought was more like 0.75 lbs. (If you haven’t bulk shopped before, the reason for getting the weight is so that the container weight is subtracted from the weight of the food you’re buying.)
Here’s a picture of what I bought, with a breakdown of prices below:
Pictured (left to right): Honey peanut butter, dried cranberries, Israeli couscous, kalamata olives, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) | Not pictured: Dark chocolate chips (I used the spaghetti jar but it still smelled too much like spaghetti, so I transferred them to a different storage containers)
Honey peanut butter 0.74 lb. at $3.99/lb. = $2.95
This was fresh ground from a machine near the back of the store. They also have a honey dispenser that I’m going to use in the future ($4.99/lb.)
Dried cranberries 0.46 lb. at $4.99/lb. = $2.30
These were cheaper than the store brand I usually buy to use as a salad topper – and much less dry.
Israeli couscous 0.54 lb. at $3.49/lb. = $1.88
I bought this for a new side salad recipe I found, but this amount is at least a few meals’ worth.
Kalamata olives 0.62 lb. at $10.99/lb. = $6.81
I usually buy glass jars of these, but I wanted to see if the bulk price was better – not really. I’ll probably try the olive bar at Harris Teeter next time, which is only $8.99/lb.
Pepitas 0.34 lb. at $6.99/lb. = $2.38
I also use these as a salad topper. The price isn’t bad!
Dark chocolate chips 1.07 lbs. at $4.29/lb. = $4.59
These were kind of pricey, but still cheaper than the Ghirardelli ones we usually like to buy. I’ll still probably only get them when I need them for a specific recipe.
I was going to buy bulk almonds to try out making my own almond milk, but they were totally out of the conventional (non-organic) non-salted almonds, so I bought a 1-pound bag, as well as a nut milk bag to make the milk. Whole Foods also sells the brand of local, glass-bottled milk that we usually buy, so I grabbed a gallon of skim milk as well. Finally, I got a 6-bottle wine holder as a mason jar tote for my future shopping trips.
The only downside to this trip was that the cashier forgot to add my 10¢/lb. discount for bringing my own containers (as far as I can tell from my receipt). But it looks like Whole Foods will be my bulk go-to for the foreseeable future for everyday staples.
I used my fabric produce bags as usual here – not a lot of big changes, except for buying whole carrots instead of a bag of baby carrots and a bag of shredded carrots (for salad). I did try to buy radishes that weren’t packaged, but they looked a bit sickly, so I went with the bagged ones and will reuse the Ziploc-style bag.
I also bought several jars of Yoplait Oui, as I needed some yogurt and, although they’re a bit pricier at $1.34/each, the glass jars can be reused for a variety of storage purposes.
My favorite moment was my trip to the deli counter. I brought a reusable Tupperware container and asked if I could have my turkey put in it. It took the guy a minute to figure out that he’d need to weigh the container first, but so far so good…then this is what he handed me: an EMPTY plastic bag with the sticker on it.
The deli guy really didn’t get it.
So I’ve learned to be more explicit in my directions for next time, and say “No bag, just put the sticker on the container”!
All told, I think my first bulk shopping trip went pretty well. I did some research, found some new options for the future (bulk honey, Republic of Tea loose-leaf tea, and beef jerky), and avoided a little bit of waste. I’ll need to get some bigger jars though, for things like oatmeal and almonds.
Check out these related guides and articles for more info on bulk shopping:
- Weaver Street Market: “Why buy in bulk?”
- Going Zero Waste: “Life without Bulk Options”
- Litterless: “Zero Waste Grocery Guide: Where to Shop”