Bulk Food Online Shopping – Pro and Contra
If you are pursuing a zero waste lifestyle, you have probably heard about bulk grocery shopping.
The concept of buying items in bulk helps minimize packaging waste. Many times, you can even bring your own container, which stops you from creating virtually any trash.
Even if you do not fill your own container, buying in bulk uses less packaging and is considered more environmentally-friendly.
Many brands are starting to offer bulk options in their stores as the waste crisis becomes more mainstream and visible.
Packaging waste accounts for nearly 30% of all landfill trash. Yikes…
That is a huge percentage!
What many people do not realize is that decomposing trash in landfills creates methane, which is a greenhouse gas. This contributes heavily to climate change.
Think about this:
We have the ability to help the world by creating less garbage. If we are more conscious of our consumer habits, we can live more sustainably and feel better about ourselves.
If you do not have a bulk store in your neighborhood or perhaps are just really busy and do not have time to go food shopping, consider trying a bulk online store! It is very easy and convenient to do.
Luckily, I have tried three different online bulk stores and I am excited to share my experiences from each of them.
Although these 3 stores do pretty much all of the same thing, they all have their differences.
I will be sharing the pros and cons of each of them.
Let’s get into it:
My Guide to Bulk Food Online
One disclaimer before we begin is that none of these stores focus on plastic-free packaging.
Although bulk buying is more eco-friendly, these brands make the economic advantage more of their marketing pitch, rather than the environmental benefits.
Although there was plastic packaging in all of the orders I received, I do think these companies are on the right track when it comes to online bulk shopping.
We all have to start somewhere and there will always be room for improvement.
Okay, now really, let’s get into it:
1. Azure Market
Okay, I would have to say that Azure Market probably is my favorite from this list, but don’t completely disregard the others! Again, they all have their differences.
Here’s why I love Azure Market:
Their success story really begins in 1971 when their family decided to stop using chemical fertilizers on their farm. In the 1950s, it became the norm to use these toxic chemicals, but it eventually led to soil degradation, so this family decided to quit “cold turkey.”
They decided to change their ways in order to be better to the planet and get this:
Their food became healthier and more nutritious by doing so. It was a win-win situation! Today, they are carrying on that tradition by providing people with organic, non-GMO, delicious, and healthy food.
Their tagline is “Standard of Healthy and Abundant Living” and boy! That’s the truth.
Here’s what they offer:
The list seems endless, but I’ll share the top categories with you.
They sell baby food, baking products, beverages, canned goods, beans, cheese, eggs, meats, fish, frozen foods, grains, ice cream, nuts, pasta, produce, snacks, tea, and soups…
That’s not even the whole list! In addition to food products, Azure Market offers household products, nutritional supplements, and gardening supplies. It’s really your one-stop-shop to healthy, organic online bulk shopping!
I personally find their website extremely easy to navigate. They show all the different categories and it’s all laid out pretty intuitively.
You can spend hours shopping on here because they really have everything you would ever need and more.
As far as getting your goods, there are two different options:
The first would be to find your local “Drop.” Drops are locations throughout the United States where they regularly deliver. Think of them as local hubs that receive your goods. They include churches, parking lots, fields, or malls.
They basically are a centralized location to get your products. Drops are unfortunately located everywhere in the United States except the northeast because of the far distance from their Oregon headquarters, but don’t worry:
Luckily, as long as you don’t live too remotely, you can ship products directly to your house via UPS or USPS. That’s what I did! I ordered some dry roasted peanuts from Azure Market via USPS shipping.
Here’s how it went:
I loved how easy it was to buy these peanuts and they tasted great, however, I was not that excited that they came in plastic. I would have loved in they came in a paper bag or some other material that could either be recycled, composted, or reused.
Mostly every product on their site comes in size variations.
For examples, the options for peanuts are 2LB, 5LB, and 30LB. I like this because it allows you to try the product before committing to the bulk size. It also allows you to get the amount that is best suited for your needs.
Although I wish the packaging was a bit more sustainable, I understand that plastic is unfortunately the standard for packaging in the food industry, and I do not blame them for this.
If you read over Azure Market’s core values, you would understand that they are dedicated to clean, healthy, and sustainable living.
Here’s a list of what they value:
Inspiring healthy & abundant living, quality service, building relationships, embracing change, pursuing learning & innovations, support family-owned ventures, keep it sustainable, promote healthy food from healthy soil, exemplify transparency, create joy, and do more with less.
Think about it:
By reading those, I get the sense that if there was a better solution for packaging, they definitely would be open to trying it.
Hopefully, they will move towards that in the future.
All in all, I really enjoyed my experience online bulk shopping from Azure Market and I hope you try it out, too!
Bulkfoods is less of a health food store and more of a general distributer of bulk food items. Not everything on their website is committed to being non-GMO or organic.
They do not even have any information about their values, mission, or goals.
Bulkfoods does not offer as many products as Azure Markets.
They sell nuts, dried fruits, snacks, baking products, beans, cereals, grains, seeds, spices, and candy. You will not find on their website any fresh produce, dairy, or meats.
Azure Markets is best for dried, non-perishable goods.
I do enjoy that again, there are choices in quantity. You can order 1LB of something or 50LB of it. I really like this because it allows you to buy bulk food online in whatever quantity makes the most sense for you.
At first glance, I would say that their website is underwhelming. It seems to be outdated and the categories of products is not that clear.
The site looks like it has not been updated since the 90s.
There also is a lack of information. There is no pages for FAQ’s, general information about the company, or shipping information. Hmmmm….
I was a little hesitant to order from this website because it sort of seemed a little sketchy, but I tried it anyway.
I ordered a big bag of quick rolled oats and they shipped via USPS.
Here’s the deal:
The service was good and the prices are hard to beat. They came quick and tasted great.
Plastic packaging! It really seems unavoidable with online bulk shopping, which really stinks if you care about minimizing waste, like me. It sort of seems counterintuitive to order bulk food online to try to be more sustainable, and then receive it wrapped in plastic.
After trying to search the internet for some more information about this company, I came across some negative reviews.
Some people complained about receiving stale product and others said that many of their products come from countries that use toxic chemicals in production.
I also came across many great reviews. Some people said that they have been buying from this shop for over a decade and that they always get amazing quality, prices, and customer service.
It seems like there is a bit of mystery around bulkfoods.com, but hey! Maybe that’s part of the experience.
I would recommend this store if you are looking for cheap, dried bulk foods, but I also do not fully trust this brand and feel left in the dark when it comes to the quality of their product.
I also have read that they sometimes make shipping mistakes and are bad at issuing refunds.
It’s quite strange how cryptic this company appears to be. When searching online for bulk food stores, it was one of the first to come up, but I guess it may be due to their generic and relevant domain name.
Here are my concluding thoughts:
This is a great lesson of “you get what you pay for.”
Cheap foods usually equate to cheap quality and that is sort of how I feel about this company.
Even though I enjoyed my oats, I probably will not order from them again.
3. Kauffman’s Fruit Farms
Kauffman’s Fruit Farms is a family-owned farm and orchard located in rural Pennsylvania. They planted their first apple tree in 1911 and have been serving their community high-quality food ever since.
This business was built on three principles: be fair, be kind, and be visionary.
This vision has carried on in the family for generations. It’s still run by the same family over 100 years later! I think that’s pretty impressive.
They have a local farm market where they sell home-grown fruits, but there’s good news if you are not local:
You can bulk shop with them online!
They sell their jams, ciders, and fruits online, but those are mostly in smaller quantities.
Their bulk section includes beans, rice, cereal, granola, chocolate, baking ingredients, flour, grains, soup mixes, nuts, seeds, and pasta.
It gets even better:
This company is extremely transparent. Right on their site, they explain how they source all of their bulk foods from local companies and they name their top distributors.
Here’s the breakdown:
Kauffman’s might not have as large of a selection as Azure Market, but they definitely are a lot more honest and straightforward than bulkfoods.com. I also ordered oats from this site.
Overall, it was really easy to order. Their site is intuitive and simple. My oats shipped via USPS and only took a few days. They also are organic!
You guessed it:
My only problem with purchasing these oats was that they were packaged in plastic. It is a common occurrence with bulk food online.
Unfortunately, it seems nearly unavoidable. Ugh!
Where does a girl got to go for some zero waste online food stores?
One other interesting thing about receiving the package was that it included the Gospel according to John in the box. I guess the company is religious.
It didn’t really affect my opinion on them, but I figured it would be worth mentioning.
All in all, I enjoyed this little online bulk food shopping experiment. It just made me realize how it’s an area of the zero waste world that totally needs improving upon. There literally is not currently such a thing as waste-free online bulk grocery shopping.
It’s always best to shop local if you can. If you have a local bulk store or farm market, that most definitely is your best option.
Here’s the deal:
Shopping local stimulates the local economy and also is more eco-friendly because there is less greenhouse gases being emitted from transportation. However, some people simply can not bulk shop locally because it is not accessible to them.
If you do not have a bulk store near you, consider one of the shops I mentioned today, but recognize that the systems are not perfect. There still is waste being created and a footprint being created due to transportation.
Here’s a thought:
We need to dismantle this “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to zero waste. Sure, we should always be thinking of ways we can improve or better ourselves, but we also need to give ourselves and others credit for any small efforts being done.
Bulk shopping is great. I hope it becomes more accessible to people and I also hope that there is more innovation in the future regarding shopping bulk online.
One day, I think that zero waste bulk shopping can become a norm for society.
Until then, we just have to make due with what we have, what we are capable of doing, and what works best with our current lifestyle.
I hope you consider trying bulk shopping if you have not already!