The best foods and household items to buy in bulk (and why it’s a good idea)

From laundry detergent to apples and pasta, buying in bulk can be good for your wallet – and the environment.

Australian jazz vocalist Vince Jones is as passionate about the environment as he is about music and that extends to his grocery shopping.

The musician is one of a growing number of Australians turning to bulk shopping, driven by their hip pockets and a desire to reduce their ecological footprint.

“I buy a lot of my fruits, grains and vegetables in bulk,” says the vocalist and trumpeter, of Moruya on the NSW South Coast.

“My kids seem to inhale food so it’s great to have a full fridge. But for me the choice to buy in bulk is about less plastic packaging and less waste.”

Benefits of buying in bulk

Vince’s retailer of choice is Foodlum, a Sydney-based organic fruit and vegetable delivery service, which encourages customers to social share their bulk buys via a unique app.

“Buying in bulk and sharing the cost lets you access fresh produce that comes straight from the grower and also saves you dollars,” says Foodlum founder Joe Brongo.

“Our app allows customers to split the cost of their items with others.”

The Source Bulk Foods general manager Kathryn Stonehouse says another advantage of bulk shopping is that it allows you to buy only what you need.

“So if you need 200g of quinoa in a recipe you can buy exactly that amount,” Kathryn says.

“Our ethos is about reducing waste across everything and food waste is a huge factor for households across Australia, with one in five bags of groceries thrown out.”

bulk buying

Best products to buy in bulk

  1. Apples and beets

“You might think that all produce only lasts a few days or a week, but things like apples, beets, cabbage, carrots and pumpkin can last for up to a month if you keep them in the fridge or in a dark and cool place,” Joe says.

  1. Laundry detergent and dishwashing powder

“They might seem a little more expensive but unlike supermarket products, which can be bulked up with fillers, you only need half to a tablespoon, so they go a long way,” Kathryn says.

“Our lemon myrtle dishwashing powder is a super effective cleaner and smells great.”

  1. Grains and pasta

Air, moisture and heat are the enemies of grains and dry pasta but if you store them in airtight containers with tight-fitting lids they can last 12 months or longer, Joe says.

“If you have the space many dried goods such as flour, nuts, grains and seeds also freeze well,” Kathryn adds.

  1. Epsom salts

This one might surprise you, but Kathryn says magnesium-rich Epsom salts, a great addition to a relaxing bath or foot soak, are another great bulk buy. Fill up your largest jar.

  1. Paper towels and toilet paper

Two items that definitely won’t go off in your pantry or linen cupboard. Bulk buy and you won’t go short at those awkward moments.

Top tips for buying in bulk

Before you get started on your bulk food buying adventures, there are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Make sure you have enough storage.
  • Have a selection of reusable containers and produce bags ready.
  • Write down the best-before date from the bulk bin label when at the store, so that you can transfer it to your own container at home.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most stores have experienced people on hand who can assist with any questions.

Written by Liz McGrath.