Spend less, shop smart: Bulk bins

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Spend less, shop smart: Bulk bins

You walk past them every time you go to the supermarket, and you've seen the specialist bulk stores – here's why it's time to investigate bulk bins.

Buying food items from bulk bins has benefits that reach beyond just saving money. Because you're not paying for packaging, you are creating less environmental waste, and by buying only the amount you need, there is less chance you will be left with any excess that may hang around in your cupboard for months on end. Here are our tips for buying from bulk bins.

  • Keep an eye on prices for different types of the same thing. Roasted, salted cashews are likely to cost more than raw cashews which you can toast yourself in a pan.
  • Buying bulk gives you the chance to be hands on with organising your pantry. If you store dry goods in labelled airtight containers, you will be better able to manage the use and re-stocking of your supplies.
  • Use the bins to customise your cereal. Combine flakes, rice puffs, bran and dried fruit in your favourite combinations.
  • Often bulk bins have organic ranges of food basics – and at a saving.
  • Buy small amounts of nuts, especially walnuts, as they can go rancid quickly. It's better to buy these fresh and only as many as you need.
  • If you have specific nutritional needs, eg. gluten-free ingredients, bulk bins often have specialty foods such as gluten-free staples like rice flour and gluten-free baking mix.
  • Ask the manager of the bulk bin department or store how often stock is replenished, to make sure you are getting the freshest foods possible.
  • Bulk bins and stores are a good place to get baking mixes – like bread mix for the bread maker.
  • Be adventurous. Being able to buy a small amount from a bulk bin may be just the inspiration needed to extend your cooking repertoire. If you like what you've tried, you can buy the food in larger quantities next time. If you don't like what you've tried, you won't be stuck with unwanted food.
  • Buy only as much as you need. This is especially good for those one-off cooking ingredients you may use infrequently.

Makes about 1.28kg (1 cup mixture weighs 160g)

1 cup maize flour
2 cups rice flour
2 cups soy flour
3 cups potato flour
Mix together and store in an airtight container.

(Recipe courtesy of Bin Inn)
First published: Nov 2008

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