Vegan Wonder

Unlock the Secrets of Vegan-Friendly Bulk Bins and Zero-Waste Shopping

If you’ve ever been to a health food store or a co-op, you’ve probably seen those huge bins full of all sorts of goodies. You might have even thought to yourself, “Man, I really want to try that trail mix, but I don’t want a giant bag that I’ll never finish.”

Well, my plant-powered friend, you’re in luck. Because at many of these stores, you can bring your own darn container and get just as much or as little as you want. That’s right. You can be the Goldilocks of bulk bins.

What Are Bulk Bins and Zero-Waste Shopping?

Bulk shopping means buying products without packaging or in the smallest amount of packaging possible. It’s kind of like going to the farmer’s market and asking for a pound of kale with no bag. With bulk bins, you’re scooping up exactly what you need and weighing it before you leave.

Zero-waste shopping is the goal of getting all the things you need without any waste at all. And it’s not just about the bulk bins. It’s also bringing your reusable bags to the store, using reusable produce bags, and even saying no to the receipt if it’s not recyclable.

The point is to reduce the amount of plastic and other waste that you’re contributing to the world. It’s a chance to be part of the solution instead of the problem. Plus, it saves you money. Win-win, my friend.

Vegan-Friendly Bulk Bin Options

Here’s the deal: if a product is made of whole foods, it’s probably going to be vegan and likely available in bulk.

If you can avoid products with any sort of additives or anything that comes from an animal, then you’re golden. This means no honey (bees are animals), and that chalky stuff they sell in the bins is bone char, which is made from animal bones. (I know, gross.)

But if you avoid those, you’re good to go with all sorts of:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Spices
  • Herbs
  • Teas
  • Baking supplies
  • Snacks
  • Nut butters
  • Dried fruit
  • Candy (yes, even vegan gummy bears!)
  • Beauty products
  • Laundry detergent
  • Soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner

Navigating Bulk Bin Shopping

Now that you know what’s up with the bulk bins, it’s time to get your shop on. Here’s how it works:

  1. Before you go, make sure you have some containers to bring with you. Mason jars are perfect. You can seal them with a plastic lid and use them for all sorts of dry goods.
  2. If you don’t have any containers, many stores will sell them to you. But if you do this a lot, it’s nice to have your own.
  3. Label your container with what you’re going to get and how much it weighs. You’ll need to weigh it again at checkout, so it’s easier if you know what it weighed before.
  4. When you get to the bin, scoop up whatever you want. If it’s something sticky (like nut butter or candy), they might give it to you in a bag. You can put that in your container if you want, or you can bring your own bag to put it in.
  5. When you’re done scooping, hand your container to the person who’s running the bin. They’ll weigh it, tell you the price per pound, and you can pay then and there.
  6. Make sure you label your container with what it is and the price per pound. This makes it easier for you to know what you paid for it and how much you have. And it helps the person working the register out, too.
  7. Once you get home, store your goods in a container with a tight-fitting lid. This will keep out pests and keep your food fresh.

It might seem a little complicated at first, but it’s really just like playing shop as a kid. And there’s the added bonus of saving the planet and your hard-earned cash.

Maximizing Your Bulk Bin Experience

One of the best things about bulk bins is the cost savings. You’re only paying for the exact amount that you want, so you can save a lot of money. For example, a 32-ounce bag of lentils might cost $5.99. But if you only want 16 ounces, you can pay just $2.99. That’s a lot of legumes for your dollar.

So, as you’re scooping away, do a quick comparison in your head of what the pre-packaged version costs per pound versus what you’re paying per pound in the bin. If it’s cheaper in the bin, go for it.

Another trick is to plan your meals based on what’s in the bulk bins. If you know you’re going to make chili, you can get all the ingredients you need without any extra packaging. It’s like grocery shopping on Pinterest.

Here are some vegan-friendly meals you can make using bulk bin goods:

  • Chili: lentils, kidney beans, black beans, corn, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and vegan ground beef (if you want)
  • Stuffed bell peppers: rice, quinoa, black beans, corn, bell peppers, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and vegan cheese (if you want)
  • Granola: oats, nuts, dried fruit, maple syrup, and coconut oil
  • Trail mix: nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate (if you want)
  • Popcorn: popcorn kernels and coconut oil

One of the best things about bulk bin ingredients is that they have a long shelf life. This means you can buy a big bag of lentils and not have to use them all right away. So go ahead and buy in bulk.

If you do end up with leftover ingredients, try repurposing them in a different recipe. For example, if you have some leftover quinoa, you can turn it into a quinoa salad or add it to chili.

Embracing a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

If you really want to take your zero-waste game to the next level, there are a few other things you can do:

  • Bring your own reusable bags to the store.
  • Use reusable produce bags instead of the plastic ones they give you.
  • Buy a bulk bin container or two from the store and bring them back each time you shop.
  • Buy a set of reusable silicone bags for wet and sticky stuff.
  • Bring your own reusable water bottle with you to the store (or anywhere, really).
  • Bring your own reusable bags for bulk items (like flour or rice).
  • If you do buy pre-packaged items, make sure they have recyclable packaging.
  • Look for stores that sell in bulk and don’t have any packaging at all (like some natural food co-ops).
  • Make it a point to reduce waste in other areas of your life, too. For example, try to use reusable containers for leftovers, buy a reusable water bottle, and bring your own bag to the farmer’s market.

Find a local zero-waste group or initiative to get connected with like-minded people in your area. You can also share tips and tricks with friends and family. The goal is to build a community of sustainable shoppers.