For starters, thank you all for your patience on this post coming out! I suddenly fell ill and wasn’t able to upload it till now!
Also, if you haven’t read my previous post on how to purchase bulk foods, I highly recommend backtracking a bit and giving it a thorough read through here Bulk Buying 101 !
Now that you know how to purchase those eco-friendly foods, let’s get you up to speed on how to store and prepare them!
You may be wondering why there is even a need for a post on preparing bulk foods- it can’t be that hard right? True, it may not be hard, but it is slightly more time consuming than purchasing pre-cooked and packaged goods for the simple reason that you now have to go through the effort of cooking, sealing, and storing it yourself!
The main things to remember when getting ready to store bulk products are how often you use that item and what its shelf-life is. Take, for example, flour as compared red kidney beans. You will more than likely use flour much more regularly than the kidney beans so you want to make it as accessible and refillable as possible. On the contrary, the beans can be stored in something a little smaller and be tucked away without it becoming frustrating.
We will go over what items require what type of storage based on shelf-life and usage here in a moment! First, let’s figure out how many jars, bottles, bags and containers you will need and where to purchase them!
If you had to choose just one way to store all of your items, I would hands down invest in Mason Jars of varying sizes. They come in all sizes- from as small as a shot glass all the way up to a monstrous 2 gallon jar! Something to note with Mason Jars is that not only do they come in virtually every size imaginable, the opening (or mouth) of the jars come in varying sizes, as well! You can find wide-mouthed or regular! Wide-mouths tend to be better for solids and grains (anything you’d need to fit a scoop into, honestly) and regular-mouthed jars are much better at storing liquids and small solids. I find the small jars ideal for storage of salt, olive oil, vinegars and homemade sauces/spice mixtures!
Thanks to the huge surge of hype in vintage-chic décor, Mason Jars are extremely easy to come by. They’re sold at hardware stores, most grocery stores, or even online! (When buying online make sure to really stock your cart up to reduce on waste from multiple packages!) Another cool plus with buying Mason Jars is the seemingly limitless possibilities for accessories! Explore your options!
Here are some quick links to fulfill all of your Mason Jar desires!
- Lifewithoutplastic.com offers a neat little selection of smaller jars, bags, accessories, and other odds and ends for a zero-waste life
- For an endless selection of sizes, accessories, and dangerously low prices, check out this killer selection of supplies from Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=mason+jar
As far as how many of each size you will need, I would reference your grocery list! You’ll need large jars (32 oz) for staples such as pastas, rice, and oats. Medium/standard sized jars (16 oz) are able to hold most of everything else. You’ll need these for your olive-oils, vinegars, beans, dried fruits, nuts, and so on. Smaller jars (8 oz or less) are ideal for storage of bulk spices and homemade sauces. The tiny guys do really well stacked up, so they’re perfect for refrigeration, too!
Did you get your fix on Mason Jars? Although you could decide to call it quits right here and just go out and load up on jars, they are quite heavy and take up lots of room in your pantry and fridge. This brings us to our second best-friend: the reusable cotton bag.
Organic Cotton Bags are great for everything save liquids (clearly). On top of being extraordinarily lightweight by nature, they are ideal for storing produce in your fridge! The fabric is much more breathable than the plastic offered in-stores and will have the added benefit of being much more durable and resistant to tears. The best part about these guys? You can make them at home! Take an old shirt, dress, pillowcase, or any other cotton item and turn it into a lovely bag for your grocery needs! I’ll post some patterns below! However, I do understand that time may not always be on our side, so I’ve included a link to my favorite bags on Amazon here: Simple Ecology Bags
I found this easy-to-follow tutorial on YouTube for your pleasure! In this video, the creator uses a sewing machine. I don’t personally find this necessary. You can use a needle and thread- just be sure that the distance between each stitch is very small so that your grains and smaller solids don’t escape!
If you’d rather not watch a tutorial, here’s a fun pattern you can save right to your device!
The author of the above-mentioned article does a wonderful job at laying out (in picture format) how to cut and sew a bag out of everyday materials! I highly recommend this pattern! You can always add on embellishments such as zippers, drawstrings, and pockets later. Draw strings come in handy when storing something such as flour whereas leaving it open without a closure attached at all is better for produce.
Alright, so now you’ve got bags and jars! What else?
Actually, that’s all! Storing bulk goodies really doesn’t require you purchasing or investing much, you just have to arm yourself with the knowledge of what sizes of bags and jars you need! Thrift stores are another great find for glassware and jars, so don’t forget to scour your local second-hand stores for deals, as well!
Are you ready to get dinner prepped?
Honestly, there are so many different types of foods you can purchase in bulk and it would be difficult to navigate the preparation of each and every one without your own personal guide. Lucky for all of us, Whole Foods has done just that! They have created an online database for every type of bulk item you could imagine and exactly how to prepare them for eating.
To give you an example, beans require that you soak them for several hours (exact length of time is dependent on the type of bean) then simmering them for a few more hours before you can add them to a recipe as usual.
Sounds like a lot of work, right? It’s actually not. Just toss anything needing soaking in a jar of water before bed, or better yet (if it’s for a meal later that day) put it in before you go to work and pull it out right when you get home!
I just got a great tip from another environmentally-conscious lady like myself saying to use a crockpot! Something so simple that I would have never thought of on my own!
For a full guide to preparing bulk items, visit this webpage:
You’ll find a small navigator located midway down the page on your right-hand side where you can select food by categories such as “seeds” and “beans”. (Can you tell I like beans?)
Hopefully you feel fully prepped and ready to grocery shop now!
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am also available t0 be booked in the St. Louis area for a more personal consultation on how to live sustainably. For those out of the area, I would be happy to have a Skype conference with you to help build your sustainable home! Shoot me a quick email or check me out on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/littlegreengoddess 😀
Stay green and have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!