If you were to look in our pantry, you could be forgiven for thinking we were Doomsday Preppers. We have 2 cupboards of white “maxi-pails” full of things like chickpeas, flour, brown rice, white rice, adzuki beans, red lentils, raw sugar, rapadura sugar, desiccated coconut and other goodies.
Buying in bulk has been a discovery we’ve made since moving to Katoomba. I grew up as a supermarket shopper and hadn’t really thought about the price of food and where it comes from.
The majority of our bulk food is organic or produced in Australia and when it’s bought in bulk, it ends up being comparable in price to what you would find conventionally produced (i.e. non-organic) in the supermarket. This makes buying organic food a much more viable option on our food budget.
We are lucky to have the Blue Mountains Food Co-op in Katoomba, where it’s easy to access bulk food. If you are a member ($35/year), it means you can get everything 10% off. They have everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and fresh bread to dried grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
While this has been a great way to shop, some friends and I have taken this a step further to avoid the mark-ups the co-op applies so that they can run their business.
About 2 years ago I set up a wholesale account with Honest to Goodness. This meant that I needed to spend $500 per order, but with a few families ordering this was easy. The wholesale account gives us access to wholesale prices, which means that a 12.5kg bag of spelt flour, which costs at least $85 at the co-op, then ends up costing $60.75 direct from Honest to Goodness.
The issue, of course, is space. While we were living in Katoomba all the white tubs were kept in the studio. They seal really well and mean that mice/moths/children can’t access them. In the shed we have them underneath the main pantry and in a corner cupboard, so it’s pretty easy just to grab a tub out and make porridge or bake some bread. In the house, when we build it, we have planned a really large pantry. This will mean all our tubs can stay in the house along with any ferments or preserves that need to stay at a cool temperature.
If you don’t have space for bulk quantities, it’s still worth trying to buy in bulk. If you have a co-op close by, you can just bring a container that fits in your pantry and re-fill it when necessary. Otherwise, you could start your own buying group with someone like Honest to Goodness and get a few friends together. They also do small sizes of their products, but you could still access the wholesale prices if you spent $500.
Another overlooked benefit of buying in bulk is that there is far less packaging. Instead of buying 250g almonds in their own little plastic bag every time you need to make some muesli, you could buy a 1kg bag and use them gradually or buy from a co-op where they may be unloading a 15kg bag into a container, which is then shared among many people.
And it’s not just food that you can buy in bulk. We also buy our washing powder, shampoo/body wash and dishwashing liquid in 15L containers. This is definitely a packaging saver as we just re-fill the same pump bottles over and over.
To get an idea of what we buy in bulk, here’s a list:
- Flour (white wheat, white spelt, wholemeal)
- Rice (Jasmine white, medium grain brown)
- Red lentils
- Adzuki beans
- Desiccated coconut
- Coconut oil
- Spices (cinnamon, cumin, black peppercorns)
- Raw cacao
- Nuts (cashews, almonds)
- Dried fruit (sultanas, dried fruit mix for muesli, cranberries)
- Maple syrup
- Boxes of rice crackers and rice cakes
- Milk (rice, almond, oat)
- Sugar (raw sugar for kombucha, rapadura for baking)
- Baking powder
- Bicarbonate of soda
- Pink Himalayan salt
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Washing powder
- Dishwashing liquid
- Natural disinfectant
- Shampoo/body wash