Plastic bags and the bulk food store

I have a dilemma on my hands.

Tonight, while my daughter is at her outdoor baseball practice, I will be visiting the Bulk Barn. They closed the store near our home, so the next most conveniently located one is near the diamond where she practices.

I love the Bulk Barn. I get all my nuts and seeds from there to eat during my low/no carb diet spurs I go through every once in a while. I get oats and specialty flours from there, spices and sprinkles for the child-baker in this house… I even get dog treats from there if we’re dog sitting.

The Bulk Barn in Canada has specialty containers you can purchase, or bring your own clean ones, to discourage from plastic bag usage. It’s no secret that there is too much plastic polluting our world today. I’ve written about this before (see further reading below), and am keenly aware of our own [mis]-use of plastic.

I try. Some weeks are better than others. But I’ll tell you one thing: the Bulk Barn visits weigh on me.

Bringing my containers shouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t for the following issues:

Most of the stuff I need replenished isn’t completely out yet. This means the jars are still about 15-20% full. What do I do here? Bring another jar or container and then pour it into the existing one?

This works if I need to purchase only a few bulk items. But, because we lost our store near home, I don’t make the trip to purchase bulk food as often as I used to. Now, by the time I do end up near a Bulk Barn location, I have a long list of items we need. Which means that I would need to bring a lot of empty containers with me. Probably at least 15 or 20 containers.

I look at my current list. I need large flake and quick cook oats, flax, spelt flour, all purpose flour, navy beans, at least four different kinds of nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, shredded coconut and about five or six different spices I’ve run out of for a while now.

I also need baking soda, baking powder and couscous. And quinoa, the multi-coloured one. Also chocolate chips. Maybe two different kinds…(The idea to chop their chocolate Easter bunnies to make chocolate chips was not well received by the girl-child. 🙂 )

That’s a lot of containers to bring with me. I don’t even know if I have enough empty, clean containers to bring with me…

I’m not sure how I’ll tackle this dilemma tonight. But if I do use the bags to scoop my food items into, I’ll re-use those bags for something at some point. Perhaps they’ll function as dog poop bags…but that’s a whole other dilemma.

For tonight, I have to force myself to remember to at least bring the re-usable shopping bags to place all my bulk food bags into. That’s at least two bags less than usual.

It’s a start.

How do you handle bulk food shopping? Is there even a choice where you live? Do you recycle or re-use your plastic bags?

Further reading:
Recycling in today’s product, not produce, society
Can you be an ecologically responsible consumer in today’s wasteful society?
Residential household recycling and its ongoing challenges

16 thoughts on “Plastic bags and the bulk food store

  1. I am late to this discussion, but I handle this in a way that, although unwieldy, works for me so far. But I am also fortunate to have a store that sells bulk goods about five minutes away. So, what I honestly do is empty the remaining food item into a bowl, bring the empty container with me, fill it most of the way, bring it home, pour the other back into it from the bowl. It’s a ridiculous method, of course–no one wants to come home from their shopping to a counter full of food-filled bowls. Still, it works for me as long as I don’t have too many items to handle.

    You are right–several smaller shopping trips make all of this easier, when possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not ridiculous at all! Makes me wonder tho…. depending on what’s in the bowls, will it be there when I get back? If it’s stackable things, like chocolate chips, nuts etc….lol. the kids word just help themselves!

      But this is a perfect viable method which I think will adopt. Thank you for your input!


  2. We have only done two trips to bulk stores here in the southwest of UK and they are both either about 1 or 2 hours away so careful planning is required. I was way out of my comfort zone at the first trip and not prepared for the available choice. For the second trip I made a list of what items I wanted and what bag/container they would each go into. Works well if they have what’s on your list … We used lots of zip lock/freezer or paper bags that we had at home and then emptied them into other glas or plastic containers at home. Also recently made some bags from voile curtains which is see-through but thin mesh so can be used for vegetables or things like seeds, nuts, rice etc. They dont weigh much and can be washed when needed. I think I am starting to get the hang of this

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found out how to bring my own jars without losing my mind…not do one big shopping, but several smaller ones over longer times apart. This is possible during outdoor sports season because there’s a bulk store near a baseball diamond where the kids practice or play.

      You’re right, ziploc bags are a great idea, or other reusable zip bags! Thank you for weighing in all the way from the UK!


  3. I have thought of doing this, but I don’t understand the pricing. A plastic or glass container that I bring will weigh more than the thin plastic bags they provide, and I don’t want to have to pay for the weight of my container, especially for expensive stuff like alternative flours or spices. How do they handle this? Do they give you some sort of credit if you bring your own container?

    As for how to manage the many things you need – I have about a million “disposable” ziploc snap-lid containers and I think that could work. They stack small (when empty) and you could grab as many as you need for stuff, then empty them into the “real” container when you get back home. They don’t weigh much either. Hm, I should do this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bulk Barn weighs the empty containers and charges you only for the content. That’s new(ish) and I think Andrea from the Fishbowl has done a blog post on this in the past. I verified that it happens here in Toronto as well…so it does work. I just didn’t know if all stores are doing it (but I was told at my last visit that yes, they do).


  4. I hear you on this!

    Add to it a large family and freezable containers etc, it‘s a huge logistics mess.

    So I comfort myself knowing that we do avoid a lot by growing our own. That conveniently cuts down on a lot of stuff.

    And the fact that the kids are getting more independent and will one day leave us with a smaller household to feed and so a boatload of empty containers.


  5. Costco has boxes if you don’t have bags. They don’t have plastic bags which to me is good. I have my grocery bags in my trunk so I just let them leave everything in the cart and bag it myself at the car.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, that’s true here too. Costco and NoFrills have boxes which is great. But at the bulk store, you have to scoop your own food into something. So, 20 baggies, or 20 containers you bring from home.

      I guess I need to plan my bulk store shopping better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sadly, there isn’t a bulk place near us. The DFW metroplex probably has oodles of them, but that’s a lot of driving so I’d have to make a full day of it and combine errands into one big trip. And of course, like you, I’d have to figure out the container situation. Perhaps some reusable produce bags (like these from thrive market would be a good option? I’m considering getting some because I buy a lot of apples but hate buying bags of them. And etcetera.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gonna check those out, thanks! I know…apples in bags. Sheesh…one of our grocery stores, FarmBoy, is selling them in paper bags with handles now. Will look at the price option, if it’s doable,t hat’ll be my go to.


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