THE BULK BINS: HOW TO UPDATE YOUR PANTRY
THE BULK BINS
Click on the image above for a slideshow of kitchen inspiration.
Up until last year my pantry was bursting at the seams with packaged ingredients of all shapes and sizes stacked and smooshed into every last nook and cranny. It was impossible to keep things in any sort of order. I wanted my pantry to look beautiful and stay organized, so I bought some reusable muslin bags and a bunch of jars and started shopping the bulk bins. My pantry is now neatly lined with ingredients showcased in glass canisters that never need to be tidied up. I love it.
It looks great. It’s very functional. And there are a bunch of other little benefits too.
Perks other than the obvious environmental ones:
I’m a better shopper and consume less. With branding and packaging pretty much removed from the equation, I am not swayed to buy things for any reason other than the quality and taste of the ingredient
Ingredients stay fresh longer in airtight canisters
I’ve learned the basic cooking technique for beans, lentils, and most grains and can cook them without looking up instructions (or referencing a package)
I’m encouraged to cook with simple, whole ingredients
Glass canisters showcase what you have on hand and make things easy to find
My cupboards stay organized effortlessly - clutter is impossible when everything is in jars.
My cupboards look beautiful - major upgrade
It is so much nicer to cook with ingredients in glass canisters than in plastic packages
I save money
Products I use:
Canisters: Bormioli, classic Italian glass jars with air tight rubber seal
Bulk bin bags: small-ish muslin bags that hold about the same amount as a 33 oz container.
*for ingredients I can’t visually identify (i.e. various flours) I label them with masking tape on the bottom of the jar
If you aren’t ready to do a full pantry overhaul, start with a few things that you eat the most of
Keep a few bulk bin bags in your shopping tote, so you don’t have to remember to bring them with you - they’re there if you need them
Buy enough bags so you can have a few in the wash, a few in your tote, and a few back ups in the kitchen. Then you’ll always have a few with you
Take a pic of the PLU code on your phone at the store instead of writing up a label. It’s faster and easier
Staples in my bulk bin derived pantry:
Raw Brazil nuts
Hemp seeds (great source of fat and protein, I add to smoothies and tonics for extra creaminess)
Black Beans (I don’t buy canned beans unless I’m in a pinch. The taste and texture from dry beans is so much better and you wind up with a delicious broth to boot. Here’s how to cook them.)
Chickpeas (here’s a great basic hummus recipe)
Jade Green Rice
Forbidden Black Rice
Millet (a seed-like grain - easier to digest compared to other grains)
All purpose flour
I buy other things as well, but these are the ones I rotate through consistently
Where to shop:
Here’s a great guide for locating places bulk goods are sold. I shop at Whole Foods, Erewhon, Lassens (cheapest organic cashews in LA by far), and the farmers market (especially for dry beans).
Bulk bin facts:
Freshness: Employees at Whole Foods and Erewhon say they sell through almost all of the bulk bin contents in just a few days. Ask someone working at your grocery store if you’re curious. A lovely gent I talked to also told me that since Amazon bought Whole Foods the work is much harder and there are fewer employees to do it. I think he told me the truth about the freshness of the ingredients based on his general candor :)
Cleanliness: Grocery stores are required by law to keep the bins clean. They are inspected by the city. I was told the bins at Whole Foods and Erewhon are cleaned at least a few times a week. Early in the morning before the store opens, the bins are dissembled and put in a high heat dishwasher (no soap/chemicals) to sanitize them.
If anyone has further intel or tips, please comment below!
PS - You might have noticed I didn’t try to convince you to do this to save the planet. That’s because I don’t think sustainability is a motivating factor for most people (which is fine! It wasn’t the main reason I did this, so I feel you). I also know that if we make choices that help us to slow down, to make time to cook, to find pleasure in cooking, and to take the time to eat at a table (on real dishes), we’ll all be living in a sustainable way by default. And our lives will be so much nicer. Food for thought :)