Everybody was bulk food shopping...

I often talk here about buying food at my local bulk food store. I'm lucky I have a good quality one nearby, and I shop there regularly. But I've learned one thing - I can't assume they have the best prices on all items. Here, items like flour, white sugar and all dried beans/peas/lentils etc. are significantly cheaper in the grocery stores, especially if you hit the sales. But other items, like whole grains and spices, are significantly cheaper in bulk.

I also often get coupons for the bulk food store, which makes shopping there even better. Generally, a flyer comes out once a month or so and will have three weeks worth of coupons: two for $3 off a purchase over $10, and the third for something different - a free reusable shopping bag, a gift certificate, etc.

And this is an example of how I make it work for me:

This month's flyer had the two traditional $3.00 off coupons (one good for a week each) and a third for a $5.00 gift certificate for a purchase over $15.

First week:

  • 1.56 kg of steel-cut oats (on sale for an insane $1.75/kg - the standard brand found in the grocery store is over $4/kg) = $2.73
  • 1.045 kg pot barley (not on sale, but I was low), $2.19/kg = $2.29
  • 0.43 kg cavenda nuda (aka naked oats, on "sale"), $8.80/kg = $3.78
  • a really bad treat which shall remain nameless, and is one of the bad things about bulk food stores - the temptation of the "bad" aisles  = $2.82
  • tax = $0.37
Total: $11.99 - $3.00 off = $8.99
 Over 3 kg ( 6.5 pounds) of whole grains for $9. And a treat. Not too bad!

Second week:

  • 1.765 kg brown sugar, on sale for $1.88/kg = $3.32
  • 0.920 kg couscous, on sale for $3.97/kg = $3.65
  • 0.045 kg paprika, $12.35/kg = $0.56
  • 0.060 kg smoked paprika, $12.35/kg = $0.74
  • mini hippo cookie cutter = $0.69
  • chocolate, because I have no will power = $4.80
  • tax: $0.71
Total: $14.47 - $3.00 off = $11.47
This trip wasn't as good, since I don't know the grocery store price of either the sugar or the couscous, but I'm pretty sure they are both cheaper at the bulk food store, especially when on sale. And it also shows what a great deal spices are - I wanted to try out a new recipe that required paprika, and wanted to also try smoked paprika after a friend raved about it, and for just over a dollar I was able to get both. The cost in the grocery store would have been vastly more - $3 - $6 for each of them. And again with the bad treat. This is my bulk store Achilles heel :(

This week, I'll go and source some items I need to make dog treats, and if I don't hit the magical $15 mark, I'll stock up on some things I know I'll use (like Dutch-process cocoa and skim milk powder), and possibly another small cookie cutter or seven. And I'll try not to go down the bad aisles!!

You can see from the pictures the one thing I really don't like about shopping there - the plastic. And they will not allow any type of container to be brought into the store - the policy is clearly posted on the door, and I even asked the store owner. No go.

You can also see the temptation bulk food stores can offer - both in treats, and in expensive items you might not otherwise buy (like the naked oats - don't need them, but they were on sale...).

However, for me, the pros outweigh the cons: I can find items that aren't carried by my local grocery stores (like Dutch-processed cocoa and unusual grains like buckwheat and amaranth), there are certain items that are significantly cheaper (whole grains and spices), and if I combine my trips with coupon offers, I can save even more money. Of course, I don't do these big trips every month - I know what I use and what I'm getting low on, and only shop when I have enough to buy to go over the dollar amount required in the offer. And since the store is in the same plaza as the grocery store, making three separate trips to take advantage of all the coupon offers, instead of one big trip, isn't costing me more in gas. 

One caveat: I have never (knock on wood) had any problems with pests from buying bulk food. And every time I'm in there, I see the store staff rotating and cleaning the containers. The store is CLEAN. But there are certain thing I won't buy in bulk, like coffee - it goes stale so quickly when exposed to air, and to me, it's not worth any potential savings. Yes, I am a coffee snob!

I take no responsibility if the title of the post resulted in you having this song stuck in your head. Completely coincidental. Really. Honest. :)


  1. I believe it's ok (and I used to do it at the BB in London Ontario but I'm not organised enough here yet) to bring back the BB bags and use them again. Also, I don't think they'll notice so much as it's their own bags.

    1. Thanks Jess! Another friend suggested that as well - I'll have to try it next time I go!



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