Monday, May 10, 2010

Tip 56: Bulk foods (and a cookie recipe!)

You may already know about my love/hate attitude toward Costco and unnecessarily out-of-control consumerism, and if so, you may find the title of today's post confusing. Let me clarify...

Tip 56: Make the most of your grocery store's bulk foods section. Consider dry goods you typically buy in packages, and see if it makes sense to purchase just the quantity you need from the bulk foods section. You will probably discover yourself being more economically and environmentally friendly.

At my grocery store's bulk foods section, I've always been tempted by the bulk candy, so much so that I often overlooked all the other treasures waiting to be uncovered.

See? I like candy and tiny containers, like these mini-gummy bears I picked up in the bulk foods aisle and stored in this small canning jar.

But then Matt started buying dried fruit and nuts in the bulk foods section, and I started to look at the section of the store from a different perspective.

Save money
Once we embraced the bulk foods section, we started saving a little money. This is partially because we started replacing some brand-name products with essentially generic bulk foods products. Before we would buy walnuts, pecans, almonds in the baking aisle in pre-packaged quantities. Then we'd put the unused pieces in the freezer, and two years would pass and we'd forget about those pecans in the freezer. Buying in bulk has helped us get what we need and use it while it's fresh.

Be green
Anytime you can waste less, you're being green in my book. Buying in bulk also helps cut down on packaging. We try to be painfully honest in our bulk foods purchases, so that we only mix together items of the same price in one bag. Even with separate bags, though, for items of different prices or from different categories, we still have less packaging on average than we would find in the regular grocery store aisles.

Welcome to the future: copious bulk foods
I'm also impressed by the variety you can now find in many bulk foods aisles. Besides dried fruit and nuts, you can also find grains, chocolate (great for baking) and snack items. Our Wegmans grocery store has an organic and non-organic bulk foods section. Whole Foods has even more selection, which includes beans (and I'm trying to get us away from canned beans thanks to their significantly higher sodium content and BPA-lined packaging). I know I'm probably not shocking you with this information, but if you're like me there's the possibility that you've never really appreciated the deals you might find in this area of the store.

And now, a recipe I tried out last week using items from Wegmans bulk foods section!

This recipe is from the September 2009 Everyday Food magazine, and though it is gluten-free, we did not make it because of any sort of dietary restrictions. This is a great recipe for anyone, but I could imagine it could be especially great for anyone who needs to avoid gluten.

Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies
From Everyday Food, with my comments in bold italics
Makes 12

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt [be careful not to add too much salt like I did accidentally]
  • 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped [we found this item in bulk foods]
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts [our substitution...bulk foods was out of pecans!]
  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and salt. Stir in chocolate and pecans. Add egg whites and stir just until incorporated (do not overmix). [This point about not overmixing is crucial.]
  2. Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls, 3 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. [If you're like me, there will be more batter than seems reasonable for 12 cookies, so you'll wind up making much bigger cookies than you anticipated.] Bake until cookie tops are dry and crackled, about 25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. [I cooked ours for a little over 30 minutes.] Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely. (To store, keep in an airtight container, up to 3 days.) [You can keep these way longer than 3 days...we're on day 6 over here, and those cookies are still great. They'll be light weight in your hands but heavy in your stomach, so proceed with caution!] 


  1. These cookies look exactly like ones we buy from Whole Foods from time to time... I will definitely give them a try! I will also have to give the bulk aisle a second look.

  2. Personal Testimonial: These cookies are amazing. I ate 1.5 cookies after I said I was full. Bravo!