Buying bulk is fun. You heard us, F-U-N. Of course it is environmentally responsible and budget-savvy as well, otherwise why would we be discussing it in the first place? How many times have you walked down that bulk aisle, past all those little goodies just beckoning you to grab a scoop? (Confessions: how many times have you snuck a chocolate-covered pretzel?) DO NOT put your dirty hand into that bulk bin! For shame! Psst…just pull out that pretzel with the scoop and gently drop it into your hand when no one is looking! If the chocolate is organic, go ahead and purchase…certainly organic chocolate doesn’t cause weight gain. Wait, does it?

With tons of items to choose from, bulk departments, or specialty bulk stores, allow you the opportunity to buy pantry staples and try new foods while saving money and reducing wasteful packaging. Bulk purchases can include everything from cereals and flours to dried fruits and chocolate confections.

Buying in bulk is economical. In the bigger scheme of things, co-ops (famous for providing large selections of bulk food — seriously, famous!) are founded in part on the advantages of bulk-buying principles; they often combine member resources to buy in bulk together, from distributors, to offer access to the best food at the best prices. In fact, many food co-ops started as bulk buying clubs, with members of the club buying in bulk together and divvying up their purchases. See – fun!

When you shop the bulk section, you can purchase only the amount you need. Most products (herbs and spices especially) are much less expensive per ounce than their prepackaged versions; after all, you’re not paying for all that packaging and advertising! And there’s no need to pay for what you won’t use. Instead, you can choose exactly what you need, whether it’s just enough tarragon to try that new salmon recipe or enough oats to make a jumbo batch of granola — without any waste.

Speaking of waste, it takes enormous resources and energy to produce all of those cans, boxes, cartons and labels — almost all of which wind up in our landfills. Even recyclable food packaging takes energy to produce and recycle (and some of it still ends up in landfills). You’re making a significant environmental difference by buying in bulk — especially when you reuse your own containers and bags. Check out kootsac reusable bulk-buying bags.

In addition to economic and environmental advantages, buying in bulk feeds tendencies to eat more healthfully. You can try quinoa or currants, adzuki beans or pine nuts or any item that’s new to you before you commit to stocking up on it. (You’ll often find a wider selection of items in bulk than on the prepackaged shelves, too.)

For more tips on how to shop green, check out this video from EnviroTips.