27 February 2011

Bulk Dry Food

Have you seen the bulk dry goods order form in your email as yet? I certainly have. The stocks in our home are getting low and we have been waiting with bated breath for the email to come in, letting us know it’s that crazy time again - bulk dry food ordering! I’ve been like a kid in a candy store with the list, going all googly-eyed at the yummy possibilities!

It’s a bit of a trend amongst the blogosphere world to share pics and notes on how one organises their cupboards and bulk dry foods. Bulk dry foods have really taken off in recent years as folk realise the multiple benefits of shopping in this manner. Kristen of Kristen’s Raw did a great article about how she organises her bulk foods. Of course she is raw and her ingredients are more inline with raw food eating - but the concept of how to store bulk dry goods is what I wanted to link to in this instance. There’s that old saying of ‘different strokes for different folks’ and again this comes true in bulk dry storage. One may feel bulk nuts need to be stored in a fridge or freezer, another may simply store at room temperature. We activate all our nuts before using so we store the bulk at room temperature in our ’home store’ then soak a small quantity, dry back and then store in our canister in the pantry for daily use.

So without further delay, Welcome to our ‘home store’!

It’s nothing too crazy or flash, but it serves a purpose and blends inconspicuously into it’s home along an out of the way wall of our home. In my studio room for arts and crafts, there was a vacant wall. We invested in some metal shelves from Bunnings, which are fairly inexpensive. You can also get similar shelves from Ikea. The appeal of this type of shelf is that they go together easily, they seem quite sturdy and they line up nicely along a wall to store HEAPS of bulk food. Of course depending on the weight you are going to store on the shelves, you need to consider the safety of the shelves to remain in a standing position, so you may need to fix the shelves to the wall for safety reasons.

The other thing we needed to set up our bulk dry food storage system was some tubs to put the bags of products into. The plastic bags that the produce comes in are quite thick, however the buckets serve as two fold; 1. They make lining up for storage easy, as well as fitting into the shelves well and 2. It stops any passing through rodents or bugs nibbling through the bag and stealing some of your precious produce! The buckets we use are empty mayonnaise buckets from the chicken shop! The charcoal chicken shop in Citygate at Wyoming sells off their empty buckets with a great sealing lid for $5 a piece, which we thought was a pretty good bargain, as well as finding a recycled purpose for these redundant buckets. Do ask around at local take away stores as they would more than likely be more than happy to have you take these buckets off their hands - if not for free, then for a mere few dollars. In comparison - a food grade bucket of the same size at Bunnings is around $12. After you give the mayonnaise buckets a good wash out, there is no oily residue, odour or product left in the bucket or on the lid.

So in these shelves we line up our buckets and categorise the buckets to have similar ingredients in the one bucket such as; dried fruits in one, grains in another, beans/legumes in one, chocolate powders and sugars in another, seeds in one etc etc. We then have jars and canisters in our pantry cupboard - again organised in a similar classing to our bulk dry buckets. We use ingredients from our pantry and then once a fortnight or so I have a big refill morning where I organise, refill and clean out our pantry. I refill jars in the pantry as much as possible as they run out or as I need more of that ingredient - but generally most things get refilled on our fortnightly refill morning.

Over the past six months, we have been building our bulk dry foods storage so it is now at a place where we only go to the store for minimal fresh ingredients such as any dairy, breads, personal care products or the occasional item that we have not been able to source in bulk, and of course our fruit and veg all comes to us weekly from the wonderful folk of the FIG co-op! The other consideration is items that we only use very small quantities of. We obviously do not buy bulk of these, but the majority of our food ingredients we do buy in bulk and store here in the home for ease and convenience. Rarely do we ‘run out’ of an ingredient, because if we do, our ‘store’ is only 5 seconds across the hall from the kitchen and bingo! Refilled rice jar in under 1 minute!

Our pantry is filled with canisters and jars. Some that we have bought but most of the jars are recycled food jars. Not all ours as well. We have friends and community connections (such as other LETS members) who save and pass jars on to us for our food storage. If you ask around, you’ll most probably find many folk who regularly throw large jars into their recycle bin, and they would be only too happy to save them, knowing they were going to be well used in your pantry cupboards. We have bought a few larger canisters from places such as BASE warehouse. Most discount homewares stores have large glass canisters for very reasonable prices. $10-$15 will get you an extremely large glass canister great for storing a batch of activated nuts in the pantry, with $5-$7 getting you a tall, thinner canister for items such as beans, grains and dried fruits.

Of course there is many other variations on our way to organise bulk dry foods. Kelly of Pulse, that kindly organises the bulk dry foods for us, linked to the website Provident Living in the email that came out with the bulk dry goods list. The Home Storage section of the Provident Living site gives some great information in their FAQ’s link, about the length of time foods can be stored if correctly packaged.

Now - the other big question is - “But why would I create my own ‘mini market’ in my home when I have a food store just down the road or 20 minutes away”. For me and my family, there are many many benefits to organising our food ingredients in a bulk manner. We definitely make less trips to the store, which we find to be quite a big advantage. With this latest bulk order, we are hoping to be in a position where we only need to visit a store once a month for those few products mentioned above that we still need to buy outside of bulk. If we require dairy, then we may have to visit once a fortnight, but our family consumes a very low amount of dairy - so really the main items we need outside of bulk can be purchased once a month. The advantages of not visiting the store so much include; picking up less ‘bits and pieces’ (even if you go to the store with a list, chances are there’s the odd ‘treat’ that sneaks into the shopping trolley!), not having children in over stimulating shopping spaces or out and about for hours in a car, and a much lower food bill as not only are you not often at the store with the temptations to ‘pick up extra bits and pieces’ but you are rewarded with very low per kg prices when you buy your main ingredients in bulk. In the initial months of setting up a bulk dry storage in your home, you will need to do a bit of extra food planning and consideration of what you use more of etc, but once your supply is set up and another order rolls around, all you are really doing is ‘refilling your refill station’!

Hopefully this article gives you some inspiration to realise the benefits of buying dry goods in bulk as well as a few ideas on how you can store bulk dry goods in the average family home. And if you already do buy in bulk, we’d love to hear how you manage it in your home. How do you store your bulk dry goods and what are the extra benefits you find to shopping in this way?