Bulk. The land of "Can't find anything I'm looking for" and "oh please don't let me spill this everywhere".
Shopping bulk is a different beast. I'm not talking big box stores where you walk a mile trying to buy 5 things. No, I'm talking about bag-your-own, write the number and hope you don't forget what you bought last week.
Ah yes, there she is...
But don't fret! Even if this is your first time shopping in the bulk section, keep these things in mind and no-one will guess you're a noob.
Tip #1: Know what you need
Shopping bulk can save you money, but not if you buy more than you need.
It may seem like an obvious tip but it's not like there are measuring cups in every bulk section. Even if you know you need 2 cups of brown rice, do you know what that feels like or looks like? If you are primarily there to stock up your supply at home this may apply less to you. But if you aren't interested in having leftover grain, pay attention.
If you are using a lever dispenser, a 1 cup is TYPICALLY a 1 second pull. If that freaks you out, use the ol' reliable "One Mississippi". Or if you really want to get good, practice at home. put a cup of the desired item in a bag and get a good look at it. Really though, don't sweat it. You'll get close enough.
Tip #2: Can't find it? It's all in the family.
Items in the bulk section tend to be organized alphabetically by family. Meaning the spices are all together, the grains, the flours, the beans and the legumes.
Thinking of branching out? This is a great way to try something new. We all have heard of black beans and pinto but have you heard of orca beans?? (they are beautiful and taste a lot like black beans) Expand your plate! Any out of the ordinary preparation instructions are often included on the item's label.
Tip#3:Don't like surprises? Weigh in.
With only the price per pound/ounce labeled on most items, pricing can be confusing.
Avoid sticker shock by locating the nearest digital scale. Bonus - because math is hard, keep an eye out for a "unit price" button. Press that baby, enter the price for the pound/ounce and there you have your total without even breaking a brain-sweat.
Tip#4:Paper or Plastic? Big deal.
Two words... Static Electricity.
Most people don't notice the err of their ways until they get home. Poor souls pay $$ an ounce for their chlorella powder only to find that it doesn't want to leave the bag! Aware that powders and dried leaves or small particles can get feisty. If your grocer allows you to bring in your own containers you may be able to avoid the issue entirely.
All in all, avoid plastic if at all possible. At the very least - reuse!
Tip #5: Write the number BEFORE filling your container.
Something that doesn't cross your mind until AFTER you have poked a whole in the bag - believe me.
If you are thinking " What number?" I'm referring to the item's PLU- or Price Look Up- number located on the item's label. It's how the grocery store knows what to charge you for the specific item.
Unofficial Tip #6
Already forgotten what you bought last week? Look up the PLU at home here
Shopping bulk has transformed my pantry and allowed for much more experimenting than shopping conventional packaged products. AND less waste - Wahoo! Don't just look for foods; laundry soaps, dish soaps and other household products can be sold in bulk too! Now if only I had more room to store it all!