I have been a bulk section shopper for most of my life. Growing up, my family was devoted to the bulk bins and it was always a great thrill when my mom would let me fill up the bags with rice or granola or grains. As I got older, it felt natural to keep buying oatmeal, dried fruit and beans that way. Of course, the bulk section has its inconveniences too. At Whole Foods, it’s far to easy to rip the plastic bags on the conveyor belt at check-out, leaving a trail of flour, sugar or quinoa all over the check stand. And, being that I’m not the most spatially minded person, I’ve never been good at determining exactly much product is going to fit in the assigned jar at home.
Lately, I’ve been taking clean, empty jars with me to Whole Foods for my bulk section purchases. This solves both issues of ripping bags and overestimating jar volume. It does require a bit more advanced planning than a spur-of-the-moment dash into the grocery store, but saves on plastic and frees me from some of those bulk section frustrations. I just pack up the jars and make a quick stop at customer service so they can weight the jars and make note of their tare prior to being filled, so that I’m not paying for the weight of the jars. Oh, and if I can just add a tip here, I recommend bringing a wide mouth funnel with you to the store. It will make your jar-filling life so much easier.
In addition to my jars, I have a few of these very lightweight, reusable bulk bags that I try to bring with me each time I go to a store with a bulk section. They’re designed to hold bulk section food and be light enough so that they don’t need to have their weight subtracted from that of your food. They’re also washable, so I just toss them in the laundry after each use, to ensure I don’t mix nutritional yeast with my whole wheat pastry flour. These bags allow me to make a few bulk section impulse buys without reaching for a plastic bag, which I like.
I’m certain that there are some of you out there who have been shopping like this for years. However, it’s a very rare day that I see anyone else at my urban Philadelphia Whole Foods store with their own containers. Thing is, I think this is the direction more of us should be headed. It prevents waste by keeping plastic bags out of the system and means that you’re not buying more food that you can use (I confess that there were times in the very distant past when I would just trash the few spoonfuls of grain or fruit that made the storage jar overflow instead of bundling it up and saving it to use up). And it’s just one more chance to show off all those gorgeous jars I know so many of you have!
Let’s hear from you guys. Do you take reusable containers to the grocery store with you?
I do this too!! Some people look at me like a crazy lady and others think it’s awesome. I also love the reusable bulk food bags. There are so many cute ones out there (I’m a sucker for pretty things). I always feel a little smug when I buy bulk foods because I know how much that same amount of sugar/flour/etc. would be if I purchased it prepackaged in another part of the store. Yay for bulk!
I love bringing my own jars to the coop for bulk items, including nut butters, cooking oils, and liquid soaps.
The best part about it? Once I’m done unpacking my [reusable] grocery bags, I’m done. No transporting my bulk goods from plastic bags to the jars at home.
I totally agree, Lisa. That is a definite perk.
I will have to see if they will weigh my empty jars and do the same! Thank you for the great idea.
I also take my jars and homemade bags. I was proud of the fact that I just “used up” a plastic bag from a store I haven’t shop at for 2.5 years! However, I hadn’t figured out the part of the funnel. My WF has stuff in bins that one opens and it comes out. My narrow mouth jars weren’t making that. I may have to try the funnel thing. Thanks.
And no, I don’t see others bringing jars. However, I have had checkers comment on it.
I have always kept my bulk food in jars at home, but have never brought them to the store. I really like the idea but have never done it because I wasn’t sure that the store that I shop at would be willing to weigh my jars first for me. I should call them and check, because I’d really love to do this. Thanks for reminding me! 🙂
I’ve done this for years, too, with the tags stuck right in there just like you did. Then one day I decided to paint the lids with chalkboard paint so I could write directly on it. And they look so nice.
Years ago, I would take my own containers to the Bulk Barn, but sometime over the years they started refusing it. They cite Health Canada regulations.
I’ve had the same thing, and the manager followed me around the store on 2 occasions to make sure I wasn’t using my own bags. But I overheard an employee telling a customer it was okay to dump unwanted product back in the bin, so I suspect the Health Canada thing is B.S. and they’re just worried about stealing. The owner of our neighbourhood Shop Eco store wrote to Bulk Barn head office about it and got no response.
I’m having the same issue with the Bulk Barn and Goodness Me here in Ontario. I’m trying to find a loop hole right now so that I can stop wasting so may bags. In the meantime, I’ll keep taking the Bulk Barn bags back to the store in my pocket to refill them :s
I buy all sorts of bulks in jars/reused soap dispensers/reused liquid laundry soap bags/ reused oil, vinegar, soy sauce jars, baby food jars for spices. At the old co-op I shopped at in Northern California, I could even buy tofu and salsa in bulk! At my current co-op in Colorado, they have an area where people leave clean, used jars so if you forget a jar you can grab one there instead of getting a nasty plastic bag. It may be a little more work, but it’s so much better for the environment!
What co-op in Colorado? I’m in Boulder, no co-op here, sadly.
There is a co-op in Boulder. I haven’t been, but it looks legit?
I’m in CO too! Which co-op do you shop at? Thanks for sharing.
Fort Collins Food Co-op. But I’ve never been to a co-op that isn’t supportive of BYOJ; and I make a point to visit co-ops wherever I visit!
Great idea. Although, I can see some confusion happening if I took jars to the register and have to explain how to subtract the weight of the jar from the total amount weighed. I think I need to get myself some of those reusable bulk bags.
You’d be surprised how many stores are set up for it.
I just got back from Whole Foods about an hour ago where I had used my Kootsac bag in the bulk section! I love how light they and durable they are. I realized when I got home, though, that I need more glass jars!
I worked at Whole Foods in Seattle for a few years and there were a handful of people who would bring in reusable or repurposed jars and containers; more common were people who would reuse the plastic bulk bags and twist ties. I’ve gotten pretty good about saving and reusing plastic bags when I buy bulk, but I often want to stock up on things before I’m completely out, so I hesitate to go all the way to bringing my glass canisters (plus, a lot of them exceed the tare weights that can be easily entered by the cashiers, resulting in them having to whip out a calculator and do some hasty math whilst the line behind me taps their toes – not fun!). I love those reusable bags, seems like a few of those would help me a lot!
What a wonderful idea. I just finished making reusable snack bags for my kids’ lunches, but this is another great use for some of my extra fabric! Thank you for reminding me that we can always find one more way to reduce our dependence on plastic!
This is great, Marisa – I didn’t think it was possible to just go have your containers weighed at an average Whole Foods! Some friends of ours have an amazing co-op in Milwaukee where they do this, but I thought it was just a “thing” that store did. I will definitely have to ask the next time I head to the store! And I need to find some of those bags – what a great idea!
Which co-op in Milwaukee? Are you talking about Outpost or the Riverwest Co-Op? (Haven’t been to Riverwest yet.)
I always encourage people to bring there own jars when I owned my organic store, but sadly, few did. It’s a great way to reduce so much waste from the plastic that they supply, unless that plastic can be reused (which I tend to do a lot if I don’t bring my own containers). Thanks for getting this tip out to others Marisa!
BTW, where did you get the blue bulk bags from? I would love to get some for myself!
at first, you think it’s more of a hassle to bring jars. but once you start, you’ll never go back! everytime i go, i wish that they had better signs to explain this process so it’s not so scary to newcomers!
Most stores (even the local big box store – fred meyer) know how to deal with tare weights and help you weigh the jars. most of the stores here (whole foods, etc.) have a scale in the bulk section that you can weigh the jars yourself to get the tare weight. i also just write the weight and item plu code on my shopping list, or in my phone, so i don’t have to deal with extra tape or twist ties.
when a jar of mine is empty (or near empty), i just place it on the counter next to my keys, wallet, and shopping list, so all i have to do is throw it in my canvas grocery bags as i’m walking out the door (which i also keep in this area). if i’m buying something new from the bulk bin, i try to either put a jar out or a (B) next to the item on my list, so i know it’s bulk.
i live in super eco-green-friendly portland and am amazed at how many people bring their own grocery bags to the store, but not their own bulk containers! i know the type of plastic is different, but still.
ALSO! JARS ARE SO MUCH EASIER TO CLEAN THAN BAGS!! I used to wash out bags to reuse, or bring cloth sacks. but now, i just have a bag of jangly jars that i love!
Portland is definitely more friendly to this type of shopping than other cities. However, the reason that Portland is so good about it is because consumers demanded it. I don’t see why that sort of demand couldn’t work in other places.
I have tried to bring my own jars to stores, but they will not tare them. So I either bring reused plastic bags, ziplocs that have been reused, or use bags that I made from curtain sheers with drawstrings. I use the sheer bags for produce as well.
Thanks for the idea about the reusable lightweight bags! I loathe throwing away my plastic bags after a recent stocking of bulk bin products!
P.S. Small typo: last paragraph “Thing is, I think this IS the direction…”
I used to check groceries at a co-op in Oregon, where tons of people brought in their own containers or used our recycled, sanitized ones. I am usually the only person using my own containers now that I’ve moved, and it is frustrating that Whole Foods, at least, can’t handle a tare weight of more than a pound without a little bit of hassle. I have recently noticed paper funnels in the bulk section there. I wish they’d give us reusable ones (and spoons!) that they could wash as needed, but it’s something. Trying to buy bulk spices without a funnel or spoon is a mess!
Also, my Whole Foods claims they’ll give you 10 cents off for every container you reuse, but I’ve never been given the discount without asking for it.
Great idea on the jars! And I love the bulk bags you have. I think I will make some to take to the store with me. They would work great in the produce department as well.
I hadn’t thought about having them weigh the jars. A lot of times I’m not totally out of something but I need to replenish so jar wouldn’t work then.
I do however take fabric bags, just homemade ones I store bread in, after losing what must have been close to 5 pounds of barley through a tear made in the plastic bag by the shopping cart.
I’ve thought about doing this, but dread the rolled eyes I’ll get when I ask the cashiers to weigh my jars and do the math. I still may give it a go, but for now I bring the bulk mesh bags I made and order anything I use a lot of (like oats) in bulk and just take the whole 25# bag home.
I never thought of this!!! Thank you for the idea, I will start to do this! Keep up the great work, Rachel
I’d never thought of that – but now I know!! Thanks for the hot, hot, hot tip!
Ha! I keep meaning to sew up some simple bags that carry the same volume as my jars–but this is even easier. Now why didn’t I think of that…
Ah, I still dream of a local grocery store that has bulk bins. I think the nearest one is an hour or so away.
As far as reusing your jars… I’ve been doing that lately -more re-purposing than using my canning jars. Do you use new lids or old when using the canning jars? I’m afraid of messing up the seals on the new ones so I mark the (clean, non-pickly) old ones. Advice?
Brandee, that’s just what I do. I save the non-stinky, non-rusted lids to use for these storage tasks.
Thank you for this explanation! I had heard of people doing this, but couldn’t figure out how to not pay for the weight of the jars.
I bring jars for bulk items like honey, soap, maple syrup (luckily our coop has all of these in bulk). I have homemade cloth bags that I use for other bulk items. The only thing I don’t put in those is flour because it is too fine. I usually use a paper bag for that (must remember to reuse my paper bag). I like the idea of filling jars so you don’t have to empty all the bags into jars when you get home, but I usually walk to the coop so it might get too heavy.
I do love how many many uses there are for jars!
I am getting to the point of readying my glass jars for a trip to our bulk buy spots. At the moment I am trying to take along my own bags. They are light enough for all but the expensive items (i.e. treats) but the shop assistant happily weighed them so I could save .80c when buying dried mango!! (See http://anestofgentlefolk.blogspot.com/2011/03/bulk-buys.html)
Thanks for sharing, I’m hoping to see more of this around our regular spots!!
I just did my bulk run and was beating myself up over the plastic bags. I’m going to have to see if my grocery store will allow reusable containers. Thanks for the link to the bags, I might have to pick some of those up too!
I just joined a co-op (Mariposa) that encourages that, and I’ve taken containers to my halal grocery (Makkah). Just recently, I even received an amusedly tolerant acquiescence from an Indian restaurant that let me persuade them to put this take out order in the containers I had brought back from the previous time (though they might just have been humoring me, since they took everything into the kitchen to fill it). But it did not occur to me the Whole Foods would have a tare option. Thank you for the heads up.
Love my cloth bulk bin bags. We also use mesh cloth bags for our produce. You can make your own out of old sheets, t-shirts, or any other scraps of fabric. And you can always re-use the plastic bags you still end up using.
brilliant post Marisa! 🙂
I see from the pic you’ve only used one of the Ball Jar re-usable plastic one-piece lids. Thought not suitable for canning, they are perfect after you open a jar. I always have them on hand after I open something. Perfect too for the bulk storage you’re talking about.
Marisa, I love that you are spreading the word on reusable containers. I found yards and yards of muslin at a garage sale once, so I sewed up some lightweight, washable bags for produce and bulk items. (I’m not a great seamstress, so they’re pretty funny looking, but they get the job done!) I usually prefer those to carrying jars to the store, but I do occasionally tote along wine bottles because our local natural foods store sells oils — olive oil, sesame oil, and so on — in bulk. Thank you for this post!
Thank you so much for opening my mind to this new idea. This has been something that has been bothering me about my shopping. I want to get away from using the plastic bags altogether. I have never seen anyone bring their own jars/containers with them and had no idea that this was even possible. I need to call my Coop and see if they have a policy on this. I don’t know how to sew; but I would love some of the cloth bags, as well, for produce. I try not to use the ones for produce and end up with loose fruit and veggies a lot of times. A cloth bag would be helpful for those times and some for the bulk bins would be great, as well. I’ve got to see if I can find some of those. Thank you for all of the great tips!
I do this, too! My husband and I have gotten enough of our jars pre-weighed that now we just keep a couple of extra tared jars in our market bag, so that even when we have impulse bulk bin purchases, we have our jars. We also have a few extra bags like what you show in your photos.
I never thought to keep a wide-mouth funnel in our market bag – will have to get on that! Great post.
I have muslin bags that I take, but I like your idea of bringing the jar right to the store. I store several dry goods in quart jars, so why not?
Also, for the lids – you can re-use plastic lids from peanut butter jars for pint glass jars and larger lids (like from mayo jars) for your quarts! This works great on dry bulk products, but beware as they may not have the tight seal you would need for honey, olive oil, syrup, etc.
Great idea! I always bring my own bags, but I hadn’t thought about jars. I think I might just start storing my nuts and stuff this way at home.
Great idea! Sadly, I’ve yet to jump onto the reusable shopping bag band-wagon. I feel kind of guilty about this. Maybe I’ll have to make some cute handmade grocery bags…that would encourage me to use them more!
Hi:) One of my customers this morning told me about my Kootsac bags appearing in your blog and I just wanted to stop by and say thank-you. Awesome article, and so thrilled to have found your blog to follow. Have a wonderful day!
This is a fantastic idea, but not only do I not have a co-op in my vicinity, it takes me more than 45 minutes to get to a Whole Foods or other natural food store, I’m also a person with both a herniated disk in my back and fibromyalgia. The thought of carrying the empty, then full jars seems a bit too much for me. I’m pretty picky about how much goes in each bag on a regular shopping trip, so I don’t cause myself more pain or drop a heavy bag due to pain.
However, why not use a laundry marker on the reusable bags, slip them into the jar and mark where the food would fill up the jar? Then you only need to take the bags to the store? No having to stop at customer service to have the jars weighed and the marker should stay on the bag through laundering.
I always have to figure out how to modify things…even the good ideas…so this could work for me! Now, I just have to find the bags…any resources out there?
Love the reusable bulk bags. I would think a pre-washed muslin would be tight enough to not allow leakage of fine stuff like flour. I was just at Goodwill and some of the napkins in the linen section looked good, finished edges and all!
I just brought my own jars to the co-op for the 1st time this weekend! It was awesome.
I was wondering that since I have my jars measured already (.99 lbs for a ball, wide mouth quart jar, with reusable plastic screw on lid) do you think I need to have my jars re-weighted every time i shop?
I make my own bulk bags. They are cute, functional, and earth friendly. Check it out!
Thanks for sharing the Kootsacs and THANK YOU for doing a post on bulk buying! I reuse the plastic bags from the bulk section as many times as I am able, but reusable cloth bags are such a good idea!
I’m not close by any stores with bulk sections (my somewhat-local grocery store that had one took it out) so I’m usually only going to those stores that have bulk when I realize I’m close by, so I’m not prepared. Maybe I could keep some of the jars in my car like I do my reusable bags…
I love Kootsacs! I’m actually having a Kootsacs giveaway on my blog right now: http://thornstothestars.blogspot.com/2011/04/day-two-food-is-for-eating.html
I’m actually posting about this topic tomorrow. I use Kootsacs at the store and then fill my mason jars at home. It takes a little guessing to know how much fill a quart jar but the store I go to isn’t open to the idea of pre-weighing jars. A bummer!
I just asked my Whole Foods whether or not we could bring in our own containers & the guy said no but I didn’t check at customer service. Ia m going to call today & ask. This will help me so much!!! i already come home & store all of my bulks in glass since I ahve been weeding plastic out of our lives for the past year. Thanks for the suggestion & reminder to check more than once. I am also going to look into those bags. They are great!!!
Awesome! My bulk food purchases must be done over an hour away in the city so pre-planning is a must. I will add this to my list of to dos!
i do this too! i’ve always re-used plastic bags or used reusable bags for bulk foods, but i have the same problem of always getting more than fits in the jar i have at home! i’ve recently started bringing my own jars to the store. while, as you said, it does require more planning out- it’s so much easier later on.
I always shop in bulk and bring my own containers!
When I make my grocery list, I put a simple abbreviation next to the items I need a container for – say I need dried basil, I put a “S” after it to denote “spice” (for those small spice bags). Maybe I’m buying rice, so I’ll put a “C” for “container” or apple’s so I’ll put a “B” for “bag”. At the end of my list I tally all my “B”‘s, “C”‘s and “S”‘s so I know exactly how many to bring in the store with me.
I don’t typically bring glass due to the weight, but I do bring plastic containers and bags and transfer them later. I’ve also started marking the lids of my plastic containers with chalkboard paint so I can easily write the sku and tare (then hand rinse off anything from inside the lid). I use a chalkboard pen for writing.
This is good idea!
I have been moving more and more towards buying in the bulk bins. I have a lovely collection of italian canning jars that I use to hold them in. Honestly, I’d never end up taking glass jars to the market much less managing to get them tared. I’d like to say I would, but I know I won’t. BUT: these reusable bulk bags sound perfect as they can “live” in the bottom of my grocery bags that I (usually) take anyway. I am ordering some right now!
I decided to use reusable bags in the bulk area when I thought how silly it is to use their plastic ones when I bring reusable grocery bags in. So I started to bring in muslin bags that I made to Whole Foods. I’m the only one I’ve ever seen there using reusable bags in the bulk bin area.
I love the reusable bags! I recently started taking my jars to the co-op as well. It’s a slight adjustment but worked well and I didn’t have to spend all the time transferring things to jars once I got home. Thanks for posting this!
I called the Whole Foods in Pittsburgh 6 months ago and was told that we are not allowed to do this. I hope that they change their minds but I say people need to call and check with a store before you do it.
Thank you for this post. I’ve always felt guilty using the plastic bags, and now I know that there are great alternative. I also like the idea of being able to wash the bags.
Our co-op it easy to bring your own containers. I love those reusable bags but mostly I just bring ziplocks–I have tons since we freeze a lot of tomato sauce etc. so they are old but useful for this. Plus they are a quart so its easy to know how much you are getting.
We bring our re-usable containers for items we buy large quantities of (flour, sugar, etc.) but our co-op has several small sizes of paper bags. We use those for things that would fit in pint size jars so that we have the bags to use for our compost (we don’t have a dedicated “compost pail” inside the house, and just put a bag out, fill it up, and toss the whole thing into the compost bin).
sorry, but I thought you might want to correct a typo–
“stop at customer service so they can weight the jars”
weight should be weigh. this is a great hint and I thought you might be using it in a book sometime.
I just found your blog and am going back and reading it to the start. LOVE it!
I have a tip for produce bags. I buy a package (they usually come in twos or threes) of drawstring laundry unmentionables bags at the dollar store. They are about the same size as the plastic produce bags and nearly as light so it won’t alter the weight. Plus they breathe and are washable. They work great!
Drat! My local Whole Foods informed me that a recent policy change means it is REQUIRED that you use a new/ clean plastic bag for every item in the bulk aisle… SO FRUSTRATING!!!!
Oh no! That’s such a bummer! I wonder if my Whole Foods has changed their policy too.
Like Sara I usually bring in my own plastic bags and ziplocks to reuse at my co-op – I have accumulated a ton over the years. I brought my own jars once but had a difficult time with the bins that dump-in from above as opposed to the ones that have a scoop – I made quite a mess! I’ll pick up a wide mouth funnel – great tip.
BTW – I just stumbled upon your blog a few weeks ago and have really enjoyed exploring. I made the millet muffins a few days ago – so yummy!
So glad you’ve been enjoying the blog! And aren’t the those millet muffins fantastic? I think they’re just about my very favorite morning baked good.
I must have missed your post about this – I only learned that Whole Foods allows this about two months ago. Now all my empty containers, regardless of size or weirdness, come to the store with me for refills.
I will admit first that I haven’t read all the comments, so this may be addressed already, but…
…for those who cannot take glass jars, or for those who do not want to carry all those in, why not simply take a measuring cup in? If you know your pint jar holds 2 cups, then put 2 cups into one of the store’s plastic bags? That way you aren’t spending time at customer service or lugging in breakable jars, especially if you need lots. Just make a note at home how much you need of each and only take in a measuring cup. Of course, use their scoop to fill your measuring cup so they don’t think you’re contaminating everything, lol.
My local whole foods doesn’t allow reusable containers in their bulk section. I brought a jar in for peanut butter, took it to customer service to be weighed, and was gently admonished about the dangers of cross-contamination. 🙁 Glad to hear this isn’t a company-wide practice, maybe I can lean on them a little to start allowing reusable containers…
That’s too bad!
I heard about using my own containers awhile ago and recently acquired enough jars to actually do this. I was so excited, but it has been a horrible experience so far. First, I have to wait in line twice to get my jars weighed, then no one seems able to figure out how to get their register to deduct the weight of the jar. I have ended up pouring the product from the jar to a plastic bag and very frustrated. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
I’ve been reading about your (and other’s) frustration of stores insisting you use plastic bags. I, too, do not know how to gauge the amounts. What about taking a single jar, putting the plastic bag inside the jar, then filling it? When one got home, they could put the food in the jars. Just a thought…
You could use linen bags with draw strings, which can then be washed in the laundry and ready to be reused again…
Great post, Marisa! I am also a Philadelphia resident and started bringing my own jars when shopping. I had no problems at Whole Foods getting the jars tared ahead of time for bulk items like nuts, but when I went to the bulk store at Reading Terminal Market, they refused my mason jars, citing the health code as the reason. The olive bar down the way didn’t give me any problem. Do you know anything about which section of the Philadelphia health code might address this?
I’m not entirely sure why they refuse, but it might have something two do with these two sections of the health code: health code are § 46.307. Refilling Returnables and § 46. 583. Dispensing equipment: protection of equipment and food. It could be that they’ve been burned in the past and so don’t want to risk it.
I tried the mason jar thing at Save On Foods and it was a disaster. It took almost a half hour to checkout, and the manager was not happy with me. As I walked out of the store he said that I was not welcome to shop with jars at their store as their system is not designed around it, and that I would have to use plastic bags if I wished to shop there. 🙁
That’s unfortunate. 🙁
Great post! I’m going to call ahead to the grocery stores I shop at ig Loblaws and Bulk Barn (which I think may be Canadian only?)
I think i’ll buy enough Jars to keep my products in at home, measure how much product actually will fit in each jar (may take a few times to fill the jar since everything is a different size) and then buy some reusable bulk bags. Bringing Jars sounded awesome until reading the comments of customers having problems with the deductions and such. Which is unfortunate to hear! 🙁
Thanks for the post! xx
Thank you for this lovely post! I only recently started buying in bulk and came looking for a more earth-friendly solution to the plastic bags. I love the reusable baggies and am going to buy some of those straightaway. Thanks again, this is just what I was looking for! <3
So glad to have been able to help!
Thank you so much for the tips! I have been looking for ways to avoid plastics when shopping for bulk items and this is great!
I feel so stupid now…I NEVER thought to do this before! I got rid of just about everything plastic I could in my life and one of my little annoyances was the amount of waste I produce putting spices into paper bags as well as all of my bulk grains. (I REFUSE to use the little plastic bags like they want). I only buy water and beverages in glass bottles and I come home with my paper bags and unceremoniously dump them into my glass jars as I just ADORE glass. So much flour and spices end up wasted and spilled all over my counter tops. THANK YOU for posting this tip. Might seem like common sense to some, but wasn’t to me…and I’ve ONLY shopped at Whole Foods since 1987 and no other grocer. THANKS AGAIN FOR THE WONDERFUL LIFE CHANGING POST!
My Whole Foods in Illinois does not allow you to bring in your own containers. I was literally jaw-droppingly shocked when I brought in my jars and they told me they could not tare them because Illinois sanitary/health codes won’t allow reusable containers. It kind of makes sense because who knows if the person before you really cleans their stuff well, then the scoop carries the “germs” from their container, BUT seriously all their bulk stuff is within kid level and we all choose to block out the fact that sticky hands have been all over this stuff. My solution is a refundable deposit on jars that Whole Foods would provide and sanitize between uses.
I really like your idea around the refundable deposit on jars that Whole Foods would provide. This could be a simple and inexpensive token system!
I don’t like bulk shopping – I see too many people reach in the bins with their bare hands – to taste something and/or to grab a handful to put into the bag to purchase. Yuck! Also the scoops often get dropped into the bins – with handles touching the food. How do I know the folks who used the scoop had clean hands? It all just seems too iffy for me.
It isn’t a perfect solution, but I wash the whole foods plastic containers and refill them when I shop. I understand the rules, but I can’t stand all the plastic waste.
I found that the mouth of mason jars is way too small for the bulk dispensers at whole foods. Which containers work best for you, to avoid spillage when dispensing?
I bring a wide mouth funnel with me to contain the mess.
Great ideas!! Great to see how this article has gotten traffic for years since you wrote it! Some of us are just waking up to the fact that although we bring reusable grocery bags (I’ve been doing this for 10 years now), have never changed over to bringing reusable bags for the produce/bulk items. No more!! I’ve ordered some light weight reusable bags, since the jars are a bit cumbersome for me.
Important side note: I have lost my love of bulk foods after seeing tooooooo many people with dirty hands stealthily sneak their dirty fingers into the bins to eat straight from the bins. Unless it is vertically stacked and has a control lever, so one cannot put their hands inside, I don’t buy bulk foods anymore, because of that.. It’s so gross that so many people stick their hands in the bins regularly!!! Ask the person who refills your bins about the habits of people at your store.