In trying economic times, it can be difficult to come up with concrete ways to save money—ways that actually affect the bottom line. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to cover the bases here at Willy Street Co-op. One resides in the Co-op’s bulk aisle. If you haven’t yet tried buying in bulk, perhaps we can help you discover this great source of quality and economical foods.
There are many excellent reasons to shop in bulk, and although not all are economic, you may be finding that particular argument the most persuasive these days. When you purchase common bulk staples such as beans, flour, pasta, and rice, you can achieve a better price point by “bagging it yourself” as opposed to choosing pre-packaged items. While much of that savings is in the package itself (cardboard boxes and plastic bags add a good chunk of cost to a product), there is also an opportunity for savings through volume. We buy more, which gives us a better price. You buy more, and get a better price too.
Foregoing prepackaged items when there is a bulk equivalent is also easier on the environment. Less packaging equals less waste, and that saves more than just money, it helps save our environment. As well, many of the bulk items we sell are actually the same as the Co-op favorites on the shelf, so there is no need to compromise on the quality you expect. And don’t forget that buying in bulk can also cut down on trips to the store. Plan ahead and pick up enough for the next two meals... instead of just one. Throw in some extra rice or pasta and invite a friend over for dinner. It’s easy and economical.
Buying in bulk, however, doesn’t always have to mean buying a lot. Our bulk system also presents the opportunity to try specialty items without breaking the bank. Recipes often call for a small amount of an expensivespice, or a quarter cup of some exotic bean. Instead of picking up an entire bottle or package (which may invariably spend the rest of its days in the back of your cupboard), try picking up only what you need. Test it out before committing to a whole jar or entire bag.
For those new to the store or to the bulk system in general, don’t be daunted by the variety of products and the system we use to keep track of it all. It’s really quite simple.
Aisle 2 is where we keep our bulk products. It’s lined with hundreds of bins, jars, and containers full of loose, or bulk, food—not pre-packaged. The aisle begins with dried fruits, spices, snacks, and pastas; it ends with bulk liquids, nut-butters and coffee. In between is a vast array of granolas, beans, nuts, flours, sweeteners, and rice—almost any staple imaginable.
As you walk down the aisle, you’ll notice that each product has a four-digit code, called a PLU (price look up) displayed on the label. For example, bulk peanut butter’s code is 2004. This code allows your cashier to assign the proper price to whichever product you have selected.
Using the bulk system couldn’t be easier. Simply fill a container, record the PLU number of the particular product, and then take it to your cashier. He or she will then place the container on the scale, type the code into the computer, subtract the weight of the container, and voila! You are charged only for the actual product you are buying, not the container, not the packaging, nothing else.
We supply both plastic and paper bags (free), various sizes of plastic containers (20¢ a piece), and canning-style jars (priced as marked). We have the tare weights (tare = the weight of the container when empty—to be subtracted at weighing) for containers that we sell in our computer system already. If you do use a container of your own, and we love it when you do, don’t forget to weigh it before you fill it. There is a scale right above the sink in the bulk aisle, or every cash register has a scale—just ask a cashier for assistance.
This same system can be used with almost every product in the entire aisle (a few are priced by the piece, not by weight), and it’s easy, economical, and just makes sense (cents) these days.
Buying in bulk couldn’t be easier, and it’s a tangible way to cut costs, without cutting quality. Stock up on your favorite staple, or try out a small portion of something you wouldn’t usually buy. Plan ahead by buying enough for duplicate meals (or for larger meals with friends), and remember these dry staples really do keep. You’ll feel good about the quality, the economical and environmental benefits, and of course the taste. See you in the bulk aisle!