And two pro-tips for avoiding the plastic bags
If you haven't heard yet, bulk bins are awesome! They have so many options, things are surprisingly cheap, and they give you a great reason to use all of those trendy mason jars you have been collecting for the last 5 years.
Seriously, I have seen all of these zero waste people talking about the wonders of bulk bins for a while, but I finally decided to give it a go. And you know what, it was kind of fun. I realized there are some surprisingly great options in the bulk bins. Like chocolate covered pretzels, popcorn, all sorts of nuts, and like 8 different options for rice (who knew there were so many). And you can get things just in the quantity that you need, so extra food isn't just sitting around getting stale. I had a list for the week, and I decided to see how much of it I could get in the bulk bins. Besides the veggies and tomato sauce, I could get pretty much everything there.
I have to say, I was a little surprised. And, apparently, so was the girl at the checkout scanner. As she rang things up, she seemed surprised by how cheap some of the things in my haul were. I don't know if that's a good thing or not, but it is definitely a testament to how inexpensive shopping the bulk bins can be.
So, why did I try shopping in the bulk bins to begin with? Well, yes, I was looking forward to using all of my pretty mason jars, but also, the fact that most of these foods are healthier was a great incentive. Not only are they healthier because of their intrinsic qualities (I bought a lot of rice, beans, nuts, and dried fruit for the week as opposed to my usual snacks of cookies and chips), but also the fact that they aren't packaged in plastic or absorbing BPA from a can lining is another one.
Often foods that you buy from the middle of the grocery store are things in cans and plastic containers and bags. A lot of research has been done recently looking at food packaging, and they have found all sorts of chemicals in the packaging. Things ranging from BPA, which we all already know is bad (or will if you read this article), to PFAS because the packaging is trying to be oil or water resistant. While I love a box of Kraft mac 'n' cheese as much as the next person, I don't know if ingesting the phthalates are worth it. Anyway, with all of this knowledge, it was enough to persuade me to give the bulk bins a chance.
And no surprise if you've made it this far, it was totally worth it! While I might not be buying everything from the bulk section just yet, you better believe I am officially a convert. And, so much so that I am ready to start bugging all of my friends, and all of you, about it.
Pro Tip: Bringing Your Own Glass Jars
Also, pro tip: if you are bringing your own glass jars, ask at the customer service counter to get the tare weight of your jars before you start filling them up (the tare weight is how much they weigh empty). This makes sure you are only paying for the food you are buying and not paying for the weight of the jars that you already own. I had to do this because, as I mentioned, I have been collected mason jars and other glass jars for a while (I didn't know what I was going to use them for, but I had them!), so I brought them with me to collect all of my bulk bin goodies.
Even Better Pro Tip: Bringing Your Own Cloth Bag
Even better pro tip: bring a set of cotton cloth bags instead of jars. Another thing I learned, filling certain jars can be difficult, especially if the opening of the jar is smaller than where the food will come out. Let's just say there were a few runaway chickpeas when I went shopping. It might be easier to use the bags, and then put things into the jars once you get home. Also, the cloth bags weigh a lot less and don't clink around as you make your way to the grocery store. You live and you learn.
So, give it a shot. It's better for you, better for the environment, and better for your bank account. What more persuading do you need? Gather your mason jars and get shopping!