To market, to market to buy…
lots of plastic?


Have you ever stopped to take a look at just how much plastic is a part of our day to day lives? Next time you are grocery shopping (or perhaps once you come home) take a glance at how much of the food comes in some type of plastic wrapping or container. Even when shopping for healthy food, I am amazed at how once I bring my groceries in the house to put them away, much of what I am doing involves throwing packages in the trash. The bag the apples come in, the bag the pretzels came in that I ate on the way home, the plastic mesh bag that holds the onions, etc.

Bulk bins at Honest Weight Food Co-op
Our local food cooperative: Honest Weight Food Co-op

Buying food in bulk – food from bins not warehouse stores – is a way to immediately reduce packaging waste. (Farmer’s markets and CSAs are too). Bulk food shopping creates a lot of questions for the consumer.


  • What are we are going to put the food in to bring it home? (and then what to put it in when we get it home?).
  • What food are we going to buy?
  • What will we make with that food? (ie: will I ever eat it and is it worth my time scooping it out when I might never get around to learning a recipe using four ounces of agar agar powder??)

If you have answered these questions (and found a local place to buy in bulk – I have heard there are even some apps to help locate ones closet to you) and you are ready to start, I have some ideas and tips to share. If you are still on the fence and have more questions, please send them to me through my website and I can do my best to help clarify.

Bottom line reasons why we do a lot of shopping in bulk: saves money and less waste.
Bottom line reasons why we do a lot of shopping in bulk: saves money and less waste.

When you buy in bulk you can get containers at the store. Or you can bring your own and have it weighed before you shop. Of course there are those flimsy plastic bags at the ready, and in a pinch they do the job. But since they add yet more plastic to the planet, and well, since we are working to reduce single-use plastic, best to avoid these.

I took some time and made a handful of cloth food sacks. If sewing is not your thing, most bulk places sell these. But really, if you have a sewing machine, an hour and some random scrap fabric (even old pillowcases or sheets works great), these are not hard to make. (And bonus if you have a kid or several around: get out the sewing machine and kids quickly circle you and ask, ‘Can I help?’ Yes. Yes you can.)

Boy sewing bulk grain bag

I love the cloth food sacks because they’re lightweight and don’t break. There are times when I have been hauling a bag of glass jars to refill (with many little ones underfoot) and I have definitely grumbled a bit. But really, it’s a small price to pay. There are obviously times when you need those jars (hello liquid-y things like maple syrup and olive oil, or gooey things like nut butters, etc.) Besides, they can look so darn lovely in your kitchen!

Jars filled with dried legumes
Happy shopping!


Meghan Breen is a budding herbalist, training to be a Certified Herbalist with Aviva Romm. She is a former public school teacher and clinical social worker originally from Syracuse, NY. She is currently homeschooling her five kids on a small homestead outside of Albany. She has been a member of HWFC since 2006 and a contributing writer to the Co-op Voice since 2016 and feels very committed to supporting member-owned cooperatives. For this reason, she chooses to do almost all of the shopping for her family of seven at the Co-op, even if she could occasionally save a buck elsewhere. Meg is so very grateful for HWFC and its continual and evolving work to give every member a voice!