If you’re aiming for a more self-sufficient lifestyle, it’s a good bet that you’ve got some bulk food on hand. These staples are the basis of inexpensive meals and excellent for emergency stores.
I do not claim to be fully self-sufficient.
This post may contain affiliate links; I'll earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase.
While I continually strive to decrease our dependency on outside sources, there are just some things that I’ll never be able to produce myself.
Reader Favorites from Attainable Sustainable
I still count on growers in other climates to produce the wheat, the oats, and the corn that I use in baking, granola, and polenta (among other things).
However, when I buy those products I aim to buy whole, organic, non-GMO versions that are often unavailable (or expensive) at the supermarket.
Buying these in large quantities allows me to keep the ingredients I use regularly on hand and means fewer trips to the store for supplies, which lowers my gasoline consumption.
Buying bulk food also eliminates waste – there’s often less packaging to deal with.
Another reason to buy in bulk?
Emergency preparedness. Storing whole grains and legumes assures that you’ll have a stockpile of basic, filling food in the event of an emergency. I
t will prevent you from joining the long and cranky queue when you get word that a severe storm or hurricane is on the way.
And you will have peace of mind knowing that in the event of a more quickly-developing disaster, you’ll be able to feed your family.
Buying bulk food
Finding a source for organic foods and bulk products can be difficult. If you’ve got a great place to buy bulk food locally, consider yourself lucky.
Food co-ops and bulk buying clubs are often private; fine if you know somebody who knows somebody, but if not? There could be one right down the street and you’d be none the wiser.
Your local health food store – presuming you have one – might be willing to order items in bulk for you. Mine offers a 15% discount on regular retail when I order items like bulk dry goods or products by the case.
The food co-op option
While some cities have a public store front to house their co op, there are several companies that cater to “buying clubs” or loosely organized food co ops.
Essentially, a group of people pool their orders to create a larger one that meets a company’s minimum order size.
Upon delivery, the group is responsible for dividing and distributing the order.
- Based in Oregon, Azure Standard specializes in natural, organic, earth-friendly foods and products. There are a variety of delivery options, including deliveries directly to customers and also to buying clubs. If there’s a buying club already set up in your area, Azure will put you in touch with the contact person. You place your order online and pay for it by credit card; when the delivery arrives, you’ll get a call you to arrange for pick up.
- United Natural Foods, Inc is another provider of bulk products available to buying clubs in limited areas of the United States.
- Wholeshare is a co op buying club that allows you to organize a buying group in your community. Here’s a nice description of how it works.
If there’s not already a buying club in your area, start one!
I gathered with several other ladies years ago and ordered through Mountain People’s Warehouse (now a part of UNFI). It was not difficult to set up and we had the option to split big purchases between us.
All Bulk Foods offers flour, grains, and legumes; nuts and pasta; and dried fruit in large quantities.
Nuts.com is another source of bulk grains that you can order by the pound.
While they don’t offer a lot of bulk buying options, I do have to put a plug in for Thrive Market. They offer a variety of natural, organic, non-GMO foods at wholesale prices, and they deliver right to your door. It’s an excellent resource for people who live in a food desert or don’t have a Trader Joe’s right down the road.
Long term food storage containers
It should go without saying that bulk grains and legumes should be stored in an air-tight, bug-proof container.
Heavy duty plastic bags or Food Saver bags might be air-tight, but (trust me) they are not bug-proof. If you opt to use those to store your grains, be sure to keep them in a second, bug-proof container.
I keep small amounts of flour and grains in glass jars. I have a collection of half-gallon Ball jars that I got years ago at a garage sale, and they are well-used.
For larger amounts, I use a 5-gallon bucket equipped with a gamma seal lid. They’re not cheap, but they work really well to prevent bugs and moisture from getting into my grains.
My bulk food storage trick
If you live in a humid climate, like I do, I also recommend adding moisture absorbers to your long-term storage plan. Here’s how to make your own desiccant packs easily at home.
Using your bulk food items in the kitchen
If you’re new to bulk buying — or home cooking — it might seem a little daunting to have a shelf full of dry goods that don’t quite resemble dinner. They’re the basis for some easy and inexpensive meals, though. Take a look:
- Instant pot Spanish rice
- Refried beans
- Sausage lentil soup
- Maple pumpkin granola
- Sausage mushroom risotto
- Vegan lentil soup
- Granola bars
Take a tip from me if you intend to incorporate lots of whole grains or dry beans into your diet: Get an InstantPot.
These electric pressure cookers can shave cooking time in half (or more).
Make cooking as easy as you can, and you’ll be less tempted to fall back on packaged foods.