I am a bulk food buyer from way back. My pantry is always stocked with foods purchased in bulk. For ease of use, I do package in useable sizes for the kitchen, but store the majority in large sealed containers to prevent moisture, contamination and any bugs. I use gallon jars, and sealable packaging. If I have a lot of one bulk item, I repackage, then stack them all into Rubbermaid (R) containers to keep them together and easy to use. The glass jars are in the cupboards or on a pantry shelf. All are labeled and dated. And I add a label to the storage container so I know what each of those contains. This also helps me to rotate the foods and to know when I'm getting low on some and need to replace them. My bulk storage containers are stacked on heavy shelving to prevent collapse and those are easily pulled out as needed.
We grew up in a large family, raised our own livestock for meat, eggs and milk. There were not grocery stores on every other corner in the small farming community just as today, those communities may have one grocery store or it may be a mini-mart, so shopping for groceries was not a regular past time that we see today in the urban environment. Stocking up was a way of life, not because we were preppers or worried that the world would end. Our nearest large town was 60 miles away, so it was not a trip we often took and when we did, it was to stock up, run any errands that were needed and get back to the farm to take care of the livestock.
We did all of our own canning from the orchard and from the garden and did our own butchering for meat. We milked the cows and traded some of the milk and cream for cheese from the farm co-op. We made our own butter and cottage cheese. We collected eggs from the hen house and ate fresh fruits and vegetables from our own land when in season and stored potatoes, apples and squash to use through the winter months. We had a large freezer for our processed meats, that was always kept stocked with beef, pork and poultry.
Depending on the store, you can purchase whole grains, flour of all types, all types of baking needs including baking powder and baking soda, gluten, wheat germ, dried fruits and nuts, beans, pasta, herbs and spices. These bulk items are a fraction of the cost of pre-packaged products and you can purchase as much or as little as you need or can use within the average shelf life or within your own pantry space.
Herbs and spices are where the really big savings are, many are very expensive that are in the little jars or containers. If you make your own seasoning mixes, buying these in bulk will save you a lot of money not only are the individual spices cheaper, but far cheaper than a manufacturer blend and your own mixtures will not contain preservatives that are often added to pre-made blends. Refer to my links below for making your own seasoning blends:
With all the choices of bulk goods, you can easily make your own baking mixes for convenience and make them to suit your family and dietary needs. Those same baking mixes that are pre-package, contain preservatives and are heavy on the salt content, plus you are paying for the packaging that you do not have to factor into the goods that are purchased in bulk. Refer to my links for making your own baking mixes.
In some stores you may even find pre-made mixes in the bulk bins at far cheaper than the pre-packaged varieties and they are often the same brand, just sold in bulk rather than packages. I have seen baking mix, soup mix, gravy mix, pudding mix, tapioca, nacho cheese powder and other *just add liquid* bulk products. Some stores carry bulk dry cereals, granola and snack foods, if those are items you typically purchase in pre-packaged form.
The store managers keep the bulk bins stocked and there is a large turn over, so everything is well within the shelf life. Herbs and spices have a fairly short shelf life, but they sell quickly, so nothing is ever outdated if the store you visit has a good bulk food management. Very often I have been in the bulk food section as bins and dispensers were being freshly filled and the area maintained so spills are quickly taken care of. There are disposable gloves and scoops available for picking up the foods in bins, and there are large dispensers that have a handle that you slip a bag under to fill the bag so there is no contact with that bulk food.
In my own experience, whole barley, nuts and soy beans go rancid quickly so it is best not to purchase those items in large quantity unless you have freezer space to preserve them until used up. I would suggest that you only purchase foods that you know your family will eat. Stocking up doesn't mean buying everything that is available and not cost effective if your family will not eat it. But that said, the beauty of purchasing bulk foods is that you can buy as little or as much as you choose, so if there's a product of interest that you or your family has not previously experienced, buy it in a small quantity, try it, then decide if it's something you want to stock up on. By doing this, you are not wasting money if it's something no one enjoys. If you are prepping, be sure to include some comfort foods, such as pudding and tapioca. The comfort foods help to bring normalcy if there's a serious storm or other crisis. Be sure while you are stocking up to also rotate the foods and replace as they are depleted. Arrange your storage area so that the oldest is up front and newest in the back. Any foods with a short shelf life should be up front and used within a certain time frame. It's helpful to date all foods that you have re-packaged so you know when it's been purchased and an idea of how long it is recommended to keep.
Some bulk items may be seasonal. Beans and nuts sell best in the fall and winter, and may not be regularly restocked throughout the rest of the year, so it is wise to observe your own bulk food store or ask the bulk food manager how often certain items are restocked and what goods might be best purchased at certain times of the year. Because the stores have to watch their inventory closely and make room for seasonal items, some of the foods you enjoy may not be available at all times.
For very long term storage we would recommend purchasing bulk foods that are packaged for a long shelf life. There are several companies online that sell bulk foods with a 25 to 30 year life span in factory sealed containers. Be aware, that once those are opened they carry an average shelf life, but un-opened they last many years. We have personal experience with Emergency Essentials--beprepared.com , Augason Farms www.augasonfarms.com , and Honeyville--honeyville.com/ . There is no minimum order and some either offer free shipping or one low shipping price no matter how much you order. Walmart does carry some of those bulk foods in factory sealed containers from Augason. We have no affiliation with these companies, we offer the links for your own research, and we do not receive
compensation for directing you to them.
If you're truly interested in a more self-reliant lifestyle and cooking from scratch, the bulk food stores are cost effective and you can get your pantry stocked in a few visits reliant on your budget and pantry space constraints.
Equipment you will need for repackaging:
Bulk Goods (Beans, Lentils, Flour, Sugar, Salt etc.)
Gallon Jars (Recycled jars or other storage containers)
Sealing Machine (optional)
Heat Sealable bags (optional)
Sturdy Zip Bags (Freezer type for strength)
Jar Funnel (optional but very useful)
Labels (various sizes)
Refer to the links for making your own seasoning mixes:
For a good quality sealing machine and sealable bags, refer to the links below.
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