Be a smart shopper
Despite its boons, shopping the bulk bins does have a few downsides. It can make shopping a bit more time-consuming, you have to remember to bring the right containers with you to the store, and you won’t have a convenient recipe to follow off the side of the package once you get home. Also, some people with allergies fear bin contamination or mislabeling. These fears are largely unfounded, says Jordan. Scoops are generally attached to their bins (so there isn’t any cross-contamination from bin to bin) and stores are very careful about stocking. “I’ve been working here since 1996,” says Jordan, “and no one has ever [reported] an allergic reaction from a bulk item.”
It’s also worth noting that a few bulk products actually aren’t cheaper—they may even cost more. You need to do your homework to know if you’re getting a good deal. For example, at Whole Foods, organic white basmati rice costs the same in bulk or packaged—9 cents per ounce; organic whole-wheat spaghetti costs 12 cents per ounce in the bins and only 7 cents packaged; and pecan halves are 44 cents per ounce in the bins versus 36 cents packaged.
However, in the long run, shopping bulk will almost always be best for your pocketbook, and it’s certainly best for the already-burdened environment. So go ahead and give your bulk aisle a try. Before long you’ll be a bulk-bin geek, too.