Buying food in bulk is pretty popular in the self-sufficient community, as well as for people with large families, or individuals who want to save money.
If you’re thinking of buying food in bulk, you may be wondering what foods are best to stock up on. Here I will share the best foods to buy in bulk as well as the worst foods to buy in bulk.
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Why Buy Food in Bulk
Before we talk about the best foods to buy in bulk, let’s first talk about the main reasons to buy food in bulk.
Buying Food in Bulk Saves Money
For our family, one main reason to buy bulk food is to save money. Usually, when you buy food in bulk it’ll have a lower unit price. You’ll pay more money at one time, but you’ll save money when you compare unit costs.
Buying in bulk also helps you save money because you lock in the price. The cost of food has been rising for a while (although I think the price of eggs finally started coming down). When you buy in bulk, it’s like you’re freezing that price in place even when food costs go up. Eventually, you will have to purchase it again, but like a low-interest loan, you’re saving money over time.
You Have Food For Emergencies
Another good reason to buy in bulk is to have storage of food in case of emergency. If there’s a run of something at the store, or if your roads are closed due to a snowstorm, you’ll have extra food safely stored in your house.
You Won’t Have to Keep Buying Food
Buying in bulk saves you trips to the grocery store, saving you time and effort. You’ll also have your food on hand when you want to make something.
Buying in Bulk Can Be Good For the Environment
Fewer trips to the grocery store and less packaging can help reduce pollution and waste that affects the environment. This works best when you have a local bulk food store that allows you to fill reusable containers, but even if you order from a place like Azure Standard, you can still expect that you’re using less packaging and fewer trips to the store.
Where to Buy Food in Bulk
Now that you know the reasons why to buy in bulk, where can you find bulk foods?
We buy the majority of our bulk foods from Azure Standard. If you want to try Azure Standard you can follow that link or use our code HannahKimmel1 to help out our page…we’d greatly appreciate it! I like Azure Standard because they offer a lot of organic foods at cheaper-than-normal prices for organic.
Want to know more about Azure Standard? I wrote a whole review about it!
Another option for bulk food is in local bulk food stores. We have a local Amish bulk food store near us and they have a lot of staples like flour, sugar, nuts, chocolate chips, and more.
Best Foods to Buy in Bulk
Below is a quick list of items that you might want to add to your pantry, refrigerator, or freezer that can last from months to years. For each item, I’ll share how long it’s estimated to last.
*Note: how long something lasts is relative to how it’s stored. More on that later.
*Note #2: Sometimes how long something lasts has more do to with quality than safety. For example, commercially canned goods can last indefinitely but they may not keep their quality. Frozen foods can last longer than 6-9 months, but are prone to freezer burn and loss of quality over time.
Grains and Seeds
- Wheat berries – 6 months to 32 years
- Rice – up to 30 years
- Dried Lentils – up to 2-3 years
- Dried Chickpeas – up to 2-3 years
- Field Corn – I have trouble finding the shelf life of field corn. Some sources say it lasts up to 25 years.
- Quinoa – up to 2-3 years
- Farro – up to 1 year
- Amaranth – up to 1 year
- Popcorn – 1-5 years
- Oats – 3 months to 2 years
- Chia Seeds – 4-5 years
Fruits and Vegetables
- Frozen fruits – 6-9 months (for fresh)
- Frozen vegetables – 8-12 months (for fresh)
- Dried fruits – 1 year
- Freeze-dried fruits – 25 years plus
- Freeze-dried vegetables – 25 years plus
Nuts can be stored for months, but some are better at storing than others. You can also extend the shelf life of your nuts by storing them in the refrigerator or freezer. Storing nuts in their shells can also help them to last longer.
Chestnuts have a short shelf life but cashews and almonds can last longer.
Meat and Fish
- Canned Fish – up to 5 years for commercially canned fish and 1 year for home-canned fish.
- Packaged fish – up to 3 years
Honey and Sugar
- Honey lasts indefinitely but will change over time. If it crystallizes you can warm it up to make it smooth and runny.
- Sugar has an indefinite shelf life as well.
- Vinegar does not spoil but may change over time.
- Salt can last indefinitely.
Packaged or Canned Foods
- Dried Pasta – 2 years
- Commercially canned goods can last for years. Home canned goods are usually good for 1 year.
- Unopened cereal – 6 months to 1 year
Worst Foods to Buy in Bulk
The worst foods to buy in bulk are somewhat relative. For example, the worst foods to buy in bulk are things you don’t eat often or a lot. Flour is an item that some people think you should not buy in bulk because it doesn’t last as long once it’s ground. However, we use a lot of flour in our family, so buying flour in bulk makes sense because we use it quickly.
Here are some other tips for avoiding foods that aren’t good to buy in bulk:
- Foods that don’t last long. Anything that spoils quickly is not a good bulk food option unless you have plans to preserve it, or you think your family will eat a lot of it quickly. Personally, I would never buy spinach in bulk.
- Coffee. Unless you use a lot of coffee quickly, coffee isn’t the best choice to buy in bulk. Coffee loses flavor and quality relatively quickly.
- Baked goods. Baked goods don’t last long, so it’s best not to buy them in bulk.
Tips For Choosing Bulk Foods For Your Family
You want to buy foods in bulk, but what would be the best foods for your family? Here are some ideas to help you choose what items to buy in bulk.
- Buy foods you actually like. It doesn’t matter how cheap something is, if you don’t eat it it’s not worth your dollars. You’re not suddenly going to enjoy eating something just because you have 50 pounds of it.
- Buy foods you use often. Purchase food in bulk that you use often. Don’t buy something in bulk if you use it only occasionally. I did this once with cornmeal. We use it sometimes, but it’s not something we always use, so it didn’t make sense that I bought 25 pounds of it.
- Have somewhere to store your food. Think about food storage before you purchase something in bulk. Consider where you will keep it and where it will fit in your house. We bought a metal shelf to house our bulk foods and I like the way it looks and it holds most of our pantry bulk food items.
- Have something to store your food in. Here are some of the best items to have on hand for storing food:
What is Long-Term and Short-Term Storage?
You may have heard of long-term or short-term food storage. When you choose to buy bulk food it’s a good idea to know how you’re going to store it and how long it’s going to last. Knowing these things can help you determine how much space you have for storage, what type of containers you need, and how much you might want to buy.
Believe it or not, short-term food storage is not talking about produce that goes bad quickly. Instead, short-term food storage refers to food items that you use regularly that last between 3-5 years.
Long-term storage refers to your items that last 20-30 years. These items are things like freeze-dried foods and certain grains. These need to be properly stored to ensure they stay safe to eat and maintain quality over the years. Some people recommend sealing grains in mylar bags and putting them in food-grade buckets to help them keep the longest.
Food grade buckets won’t completely keep your foods rodent-proof, but they’re a good step in helping keep your food safe. There have been reports of rodents chewing through the buckets but it is less common if you store them this way.
Mylar bags are often recommended because they protect foods from moisture and oxygen. You can also add oxygen absorbers to your mylar bags to keep any possible pest populations from hatching in your grains and reduce the risk of bacterial growth.
If you use oxygen absorbers I suggest buying them in smaller packs at a time. The one I listed has 120 oxygen absorbers packed 10 in a package. This avoids the problem of opening 120 absorbers all at once which will immediately begin absorbing oxygen from the air.
What is Up With a Best By Date?
Most food items have an expiration date listed on the package. Generally, if something says it expires by a certain date, it’s probably not a good idea to eat it after that date. It’s possible that it won’t be safe to eat it after that date.
If a package says “best by date” it typically means that it would still be safe to consume after that date, but it will degrade in quality or taste. For example, most foods in the freezer won’t become harmful to eat after a certain date, but they will get freezer burn, lose nutrients, and taste poorly over time.
What Questions Do You Have About The Best Foods to Buy in Bulk?
Alright — we’ve covered a lot of topics about bulk food but you may still have questions. I know I had a TON of questions when I first started ordering food in bulk so I’m happy to answer your questions and help you avoid some of the mistakes that I made!
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