What is a bulk food store?





I am often asked what a bulk food store is. It is the kind of store that most of us have never ventured into or have walked past without a thought. And why would you when there is the ease and convenience of a supermarket that has everything processed, packaged and ready to go under one roof!

If you are wanting to start stripping plastic from your life, then shopping at a bulk food store is going to be your best friend. After a couple of months the over packaged supermarket that you used to frequent will be a distant memory.

Some people get confused and think that shopping in bulk translates to taking kilos of flour or beans home. I don't and most bulk food shoppers don't. Bulk food shopping generally means that the store sells their produce in bulk like drums of dish-washing powder, coconut oil or even peanut butter rather than individual wrapped portions.




For those wondering what a bulk food store/bulk shopping is, this is how it works:

Supplier delivers a bag, container or drum full of grains, oil, honey etc to a shop.

The product is put onto the store floor in its original bag, container or drum OR transferred to a dispenser for the consumer. The supplier picks up the empty containers for reuse or recycling, depending on the product.


The shopper (you and me!) comes along with containers or bags. Containers and bags are weighed first, by either yourself or by the store keeper. You can write down the weight of the container and bag onto a piece of paper or into your phone, rather than use stickers. Fill your container or bags with what you need, write down the code or product name. When you are ready to pay, the store keeper will deduct the weight of your container or bag from the total weight. 


And that is it. That is bulk food shopping.



But how do you get started? Where do you get all your bottles from? And how did you find a bulk store? 

Easy. Start by collecting glass bottles or check to see if your local bulk food store has some you can buy on your first visit. Visit the bulk app to locate your nearest bulk store.


You can also ask friends and family for bottles. Thrift stores are also great place to find old glass bottles and sharing websites too.

If there is not a bulk store within an easy commute to your home grab a group of friends and make a day out of it.

Share you favorite bulk store below with a link – I would love to see it.

13 comments

  1. This is a great way to shop and I should make the effort to do this more often. I LOVE bulk food stores! I'm now imagining myself with a lovely shalf full of grains, museli, flours and delicious nuts. Great post. Bec x | www.dancingthroughsunday.typepad.com

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    1. It is easy to become addicted to bulk food stores. I have so many beans on my shelf that I have not used but I just keep adding! I will have to try your Roast Cauliflower and Farro Salad. A perfect winter warming meal :)

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  2. Anonymous1/17/2015

    Just discovered that the Source Bulk Foods has recently opened another store in Glebe! https://www.facebook.com/thesourcebulkfoodsglebe

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    1. That is great news :) Glad to see Inner West Sydney folk are getting more options to show plastic free!

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  3. Alfalfa House in Enmore, Sydney: http://www.alfalfahouse.org/

    About Life in Surry Hills Sydney, has frozen fruit and vegetables in bulk. http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/food-news/about-life-heading-to-surry-hills-20141017-117pxg.html
    However, they provide plastic bags and, it seems, their scales do not tare. I'm looking for lightweight, reusable, water resistant bags that can be used to weigh frozen berries and spinach, then go straight into jars to take home. It also needs to be said that these frozen foodstuffs are imported. So they're an emergency/temporary option if I absolutely must have them, before my spinach crop and homegrown berries take off.

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    1. Ah, wrong link there for About Life. Here it is: http://aboutlife.com.au/store/
      They also have a number of other stores in Sydney.

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    2. Thanks so much for sharing these. They are great. I will check them out next time i am in Sydney. I have been to the About Life in Rozelle (i used to live close to that one).

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  4. Great blog!!
    Naked foods just opened up on King Street in Newtown recently, and there's also one at Bondi Junction.
    http://nakedfoods.com.au/

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    1. It's good to know there are more and more of these type of stores opening up :)

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  5. Great blog! I am just starting out on this whole waste free adventure and have started my own blog to track my progress. Clothes are going to be the hardest thing for me I reckon. The Source Bulk Foods has opened a store in Camberwell now also - they are cropping up everywhere. However I was in there the other day and watched one of the staff members pour some grain into one of their big plastic containers from a large plastic bag. She then scrunched up the plastic bag and took it into the back. I was a little disheartened - seems no where is safe from unnecessary plastic waste :(

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    1. Thanks Elle :) I have passed on your query to The Source. Hopefully they will be able to shed some light on what happens to the plastic once it goes out the back. Unfortunately some food will come to bulk stores in larger plastic bags. At the moment it might be unavoidable but as the plastic free momentum grows (and it is!!!) companies will start to transport food differently.

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  6. Anonymous3/15/2016

    Hi Erin,
    A long time reader of Bea Johnson's blog I just discovered yours while searching the web for places to buy certain zerowaste necessities in the Melbourne area. As I dont have the Bulk app, I thought I would share my local bulk find with you and your readers. I shop at "Tunstall Fresh" a greengrocery in Tunstall Square Doncaster East. They have bulk bins of dried goods like nuts, seeds, pulses, dried fruit and grains and you can also buy preserved olives in your own containers, as well as fruit and veg. I dream one day of opening my own local/unwrapped/"peoples supermarket" kind of venture for the purely selfish reason of having a "one stop shop" for my zerowaste needs but for the moment Tunstall Fresh is my go-to local. I have been finding it challenging living "towards zero waste" but an re-inspired reading that you are managing to live it in Melbourne. Thanks Claire

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    1. Hi Claire, Thanks so much for sharing your local bulk store. I have added it to my Where to shop Plastic Free and Zero Waste in Melbourne page on the blog (http://www.therogueginger.com/2015/06/plastic-free-zero-waste-shopping-melbourne.html). I have a similar dream to yours of opening up a one stop shop in Melbourne's West.

      There is a Facebook group for zero waster's in Melbourne if you would like to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1013032488728490/?fref=ts

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