A couple weekends ago, my husband and I were gallivanting across the countryside of Ohio – the Amish countryside at least.
I decided to leave Lancaster, PA in the dust (usually we go at least once a year), and travel somewhere different. Now, Holmes County, Ohio has become officially my new favorite Amish destination.
What I found there was a bulk food store that trumped the one in PA, and now I can’t wait to go back. However, there’s always a niggling question when one shops bulk foods:
Are these repackaged ingredients really worth the trip, and the price?
Yes, and no. But if you continue reading, you’ll find out how to tell the difference.
Know your unit price
Bulk foods might seem cheaper when packaged by weight, but you really need to have a general idea of unit prices in your area to make sure.
For instance, if you know that a 2 lb bag of confectionery sugar is normally $1.59, and a repackaged bag weighs in at 3 1/2 lbs for 3.79, you have to do some calculations.
Grocery store price – $1.59/2lbs = $.80/lb
Bulk store price – $3.79/3.5lbs = $1.08/lb
It might not seem like much at first, but if you buy up a few bags, it could cost you close to a dollar of difference.
Know which ingredients to buy, and which ones to skip
Once you have a general idea of unit prices, you’ll spend less time calculating and more time saving. That’s because you’ll know which products to skip over, and which ones to stock up on.
I’ll give you a quick synopsis of what I’ve discovered, though it totally depends on what is available in your area.
Items to buy:
- Spices – Move over McCormicks, you can get most spices for under $1.00. (And lots of it!)
- Sprinkles – If you do a lot of decorating, you can stock up on loads of colors for dirt cheap.
- Popcorn Kernels – There’s a ton of flavors and sizes to choose from too!
- Yeast – So much cheaper than the little packets at the grocery.
- Jams & Jellies – I find the price very comparable to grocery stores, but they taste so much better and you can experiment with loads of different flavors. Raspberry Key Lime, anyone?
Can you believe I scored this vanilla bean for $1.35?
Items to skip:
- Flour & Sugar - It’s that unit price thing again.
- Soup Mixes – It’s much cheaper to buy Progresso and Campbells, or make your own.
- Peanut Butter – It’s pretty expensive because it’s bona fide homemade.
- Pasta – You can get the same amount for less than $1.00 at the grocery.
- Candies – Peppermint patties, M&M’s, and chocolate covered anything will generally be more expensive, not to mention packed in smaller quantities.
Occasionally splurge on local items
Sometimes, bulk food stores will carry items you don’t normally have at home. Cheeses, bacon, syrup…..now wait a minute – we have access to all those, right?
But we don’t always have access to the Amish version, and believe me, there’s a difference. Smooth, melted cheese from cows you can smell down the road and peppered bacon at a local B&B is just an experience you can’t get anywhere else. And sometimes you have to treat yourself. Within limits, of course.
So, next time you find yourself in an area of a bulk food store, make sure it’s on the list of must-see’s. It’s a pretty awesome experience, and you’ll get some really great ingredients to boot.
And if you shop it right, you might even save a bit of money.
What do you buy at a bulk food store?
Speaking of the Amish, if you’ve ever had a desire to make a quilt, there’s a free block-of-the-month quilting course on Craftsy right now. When you sign up, you’ll get access to all the lessons and end up with an entire quilt at the end of the year!
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.