By Trey Granger on Sep 20, 2010

5 Reasons to Bulk Up on Food Purchases


Even though National Bulk Foods Day is not until Oct. 23, it’s not too early to start buying food in bulk. You may be aware of the economic benefits of bulk shopping, but this practice is also beneficial to the environment.

Buying in bulk is one of the easiest ways to be a green shopper because it takes into account how the food gets to the store, how often you have to buy it and ease of disposal. Here are five reasons buying in bulk can lessen your environmental footprint.

Packaging accounts for approximately 8 percent of the cost of food. Buying in bulk greatly decreases your personal packaging waste. Photo: Flickr/coconutwaste

1. Limit product packaging

Fun fact: packaging accounts for approximately 8 percent of the cost of food. When you buy food in larger sizes, you are also reducing the amount of packaging needed to contain those products. This means less long-term cost and also less packaging to get rid of.

In some cases (such as coffee), you can choose your own quantity and package the material on your own. This may allow you to bring your own jars and reduce the need for disposable packaging entirely.

2. Cut down on transportation

Think back to physics class and the laws of motion. It takes less energy to move something that is light-weight, and bulk food means less of that weight (and space) will be used on packaging. Manufacturers can ship a larger amount of food in bulk quantities, while also using less gas during the shipment.

Buying in bulk will also mean you can reduce trips to the grocery store, which will save you gas mileage on those short car trips.

3. (Most) food has a long life

Many of the foods you are able to purchase in bulk have a long shelf-life, such as pasta and rice, cereal and oatmeal, dried fruit and nuts. This allows you store up bulk foods to be ready in case of emergencies, while also not worrying as much about expiration dates.

On the flip side, not all foods are designed for bulk purchase because they will go bad faster than you can consume a large quantity. Use caution before considering a bulk purchase for dairy, meat or produce products. Don’t do harm to your body in order to save the environment.

4. Incentive to make your own foods

The foods listed above also double as ingredients for other food, such as trail mix, pasta salad or homemade soups. Making your own concoctions from raw materials will reduce the cost of buying pre-packaged mixes, offer the chance for a healthier recipe and provides a reuse option for packaging like butter tubs and plastic sandwich bags that you might otherwise have to throw away.

5. Lessen your disposal troubles

When you think about it, most of the materials that go in your curbside recycling bin are food packaging, such as plastic bottles and paperboard boxes. But it’s unlikely your curbside program will accept the plastic wrap used to package individual quantities of food. Larger sizes of food will have a lower ratio of packaging to food, which means an overall lower waste output.

Buying in bulk is not just for large families anymore, and you can also branch outside of food to make bulk purchases for toiletries and cleaning supplies. Just make sure you have enough space to store all the extra product once you bring it home.

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      • Becky

        “National Bulk Foods Day”? Haven’t heard of that one before!

        I hadn’t thought of it in terms of being green but yeah, buying bulk can help save the environment, if only by reducing the number of car trips I make. I don’t buy everything in bulk because as you say; some things just aren’t suitable but things like pet food and kitchen roll are. (I just bung the kitchen roll up in the loft until I need it) It is handy being able to shop in wholesale outlets. You do have to watch yourself carefully but it can save you a fortune. Nice to know that I’m being a bit greener too! :)