Yesterday, I was told that a certain monolith-sized coffee shop chain sells oatmeal, now. At minimum, two dollars a serving.

At my regular trip to the grocery store, I just paid two dollars for a pound and a half worth of oats to make my own oatmeal. That’s gonna last me… about three weeks. I can make oatmeal, granola, cereal, cookies and cupcakes. All with two dollars worth of oatmeal.

If I decide to venture down a grocery store aisle, I’ll find a bag with little packages of raisins inside for about two dollars. If I decide to buy them in bulk, I can get a pound of raisins for $3. A POUND? That’ll last me almost all summer.

When I buy my garlic powder – the actual garlic powder, not the stuff that has trans fat in it and not garlic salt – it’s something like two dollars for a two ounce container. If I buy it in bulk, I’m paying $0.39 per ounce.

In my grocery store of choice, the quinoa is $1.39/lb. In the same store, the packaged quinoa? $2.29 for one pound. No, grocery store, you cannot have my $0.90. It’s mine. It might be couch change, but it’s my couch change.

Why is buying in bulk so cheap?

When you pay for a name brand product, you’re paying for the following:

  1. Gas to get it from the factory to its location
  2. Packaging – Yes, dear consumer, you’re paying your hard earned money for that box and that plastic, that Styrofoam and that foil wrapper. Eat up!
  3. Branding – Oh, you’re going to pay a premium for that brand name. This is America. We’ll pay for a brand name.
  4. Marketing and advertisement – brands need to be hyped up. So it becomes your responsibility, dear consumer, to pay for it.

As you can see, if the branding and marketing of a product hits on all the right notes at the same time, it strikes the perfect chord: it tells the consumer that you’re paying this high of a price because you are paying for quality. I can name about five brands off the top of my head that would quickly highlight how this is not always the case.

When you buy your product in bulk, you’re not buying marketing. There’s no brand for which you have to pay a premium. There’s also no additional pollution in the form of pretty boxes, cans or wrapping to deal with. It saves the planet – a big point in clean eating – and saves your pennies. Sure, $0.90 might seem like a little, but if I buy my beans, lentils, quinoa, raisins, cashews, pretzels, brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, pastry flour, sunflower seeds, carob chips, pretzels, oatmeal, garlic powder, onion chips, bay leaves, basil, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, spearmint and peanut butter in bulk? I’m easily saving $30 by the end of my trip.

So, how do you find grocery stores with a “bulk shopping” setup?

A few grocery store chains may have a bulk shopping aisle – might be used mainly for candy, but don’t be afraid to regularly call and harass your grocer about adding healthier stuff to the bulk section. It’s cheaper not only for you, but for them, too. Once they see there’s a demand for it and that they could make money off of it, they’re sure to expand. The healthier grocery stores will more than likely have ’em, so don’t be afraid to drop in and stop by. I’m almost certain that the bulk shopping section is a staple of Whole Foods.

You also have the option of shopping online! If you are already familiar with what spices you desire, you can check out Penzey’s. For beans, grains and nuts? You might be better off trying to find a local store, and only visiting once a month. The online joints – though you can find good bulk deals there – often don’t allow you the same kind of options to choose the weight of your purchase, and can give you a little bit of a sticker shock. Good luck!

Other posts in the series: