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How Bulk Shopping works in Everyday Life

This blog post also is available in German.

how to incorporate bulk shopping into your daily life

From your feedback on the last post it got clear that many of you would not be averse to shopping unpacked, but see no possibility to integrate this into everyday life with job, children and studies. General consensus: the bulk shop is too far away, respectively is not on your way home or to work and therefore you can’t just hop in there quickly.

Does that sound familiar to you? Do you actually want to shop in bulks, but you don’t have the time to take an extra 30 minutes? Or you just can’t make it to the unpacked shop every week or several times a week? What would you say if I said the opposite? I am convinced that all of us can make it! And you will find out how this works in the following lines.

Arrival route – definition of distance

Many of you have written to me that unpacked shopping would be really great! But there isn`t any bulk store in the village or town where you live, respectively the shop is too far away….

What is your definition of nearby? Around the corner? On the way to work or home? 30 minutes away or just not in your town/village? Each and every one of us defines distances according to his or her personal view. Shopping unpacked with a travel time of 30 to 60 minutes is feasible! If you really don’t have a bulk store in your city and also not in your neighbouring city, then it will be really difficult. Because anything that takes more than 60 minutes to get there is too much to ask for most people. If this is the case, this blogpost will unfortunately not help you. In the near future, however, there will be an article about this, so that those of you who don’t have an bulk shop nearby will also get some tips. So stay tuned!

Back to the statement shopping unpacked works with a journey of 30 to 60 minutes. You wonder how? In the next section I’ll tell you.

make bulk shopping a regular thing in your household

Rethinking – away from supermarket thinking

On the way home we quickly stop at the supermarket and get something for dinner. Before you hop on the train, you do the shopping for the next day. You and me, especially the people living in larger cities, we grew up with this mentality. Everything has to become faster and more efficient. How often do you really take time for your shopping? And how often do you find yourself shopping for something small quickly after work, because you have nothing at home or something has just gone out? And if you have children, you know very well that shopping in the supermarket can be a really stressfull when children squirm and people look at you annoyed.

What I want to say: just like me, you probably grew up with this “just quick quick” mentality. This way of thinking works wonderfully in supermarkets. You can find them all over the cities. But when it comes to bulk stores, it’s time to rethink! They are less densely spread. With a little luck maybe one per big city. You can’t just stop by and do your daily shopping there. Be that you belong to the lucky one and have the shop right around the corner. In addition the restrictive opening hours of the shops can complicate the situation even more.

I’ll give you a small example. My bulk store is open Tuesdays from 08:00-13:00, Thursdays from 15:00-20:00, Fridays from 15:00-19:00 and Saturdays from 09:00-15:00. I have to work exactly on these days (Tue, Thu and Fri) from 08:00-18:30… Of course I have a lunch break from 12:30-14:00 or could go there after work, but just the way there is about 20-30 minutes and I don’t like to stress.

Nevertheless, I manage to shop unpacked with a strategy that I rigorously pull through. Try it and you’ll see! Shopping in bulks is notrunning to the shop several times a week! Shopping unpacked has nothing to do with fast shopping in the supermarket. Since we have now clarified this, we continue with the individual points that you need to make it work!

strategy to make bulk shopping work even with a busy lifestyle

Conscious consumption – What do I really need?

Now there’s a little task for you. Grab a piece of paper and a pen. Go to your kitchen or pantry and note down all the supplies you have stored there (not fresh ingredients, they are not available in many Swiss bulk shops anyways). Ready? Good! Now be completely honest with yourself, how long have these supplies been around? How often do you really need them? Are they a fixed standard in your kitchen or do you need them if it comes well 2 times a year? Create your personal scale from 1-10 (1 never used, 10 in use weekly).

With this scale you will quickly find out what you really need and consume. You don’t have to buy anything under 5-6. If you really need this ingredient again, you buy it at this time. Now write all ingredients from 5/6 to 10 on a separate list. You can also use my pantry inventory list. You will receive it when you sign up for my newsletter. These ingredients are your so-called staples. In other words, food that should not be missing in your pantry. By doing so you make sure that you consume consciously and don’t accumulate unnecessary supplies that you never use anyway. I’m currently working on a pantry staple guide that will show you what shouldn`t be missing in a vegan pantry (link it here as soon as it’s done). Otherwise, Patricia also has a great guide like this. In a few weeks I’ll show you my pantry as well.

The goal of this action is that you know your staples and can plan to buy them in the bulk shop. Take a look at your store’s assortment and check out what supplies they offer. Only buy what you really need. You can use my inventory list to mark it directly and buy it the next time you visit the bulk store.

And please ask yourselves the question with every purchase – no matter if unpacked or not; do I really need it or can it wait until the next time?

bulk shopping is easy even on a busy schedule

Good planning is the key

In the section above I told you that bulk shopping has nothing to do with shopping in the supermarket. If it comes well I can go to the unpacked shop every 2 weeks Saturday morning. Sometimes only once a month and still it works. How? With good planning! You have already taken the first step with the above exercise. If you stick to the following tips, you will be perfectly organized and shopping unpacked will become a part of your everyday life.

  • define your staples
  • inventory these foods & write them down immediately when they are used up -> use my inventory list for that
  • find out which of these foods you can buy in bulks
  • set fixed days per month where you have time to go to the bulk store -> e.g. every 2nd Saturday
  • use a weekly menu plan to plan your meals. This way you always know exactly which ingredients you need.
  • check once a week what you already have in stock for your menu, what staples should be used up & what you still need to buy
  • note down all missing food on a shopping list & think about which ones you`ll need to buy at the bulk store -> my shopping list includes the option buy at the bulk store
  • before you go to the bulk shop, take a look at your shopping list and inventory list and see at a glance what needs to be bought
  • prepare the necessary containers accordingly (preserving jars, textile bags, cans, Tupperware)

At the beginning this may sound very cumbersome, but once the initial work with the inventory is done, everything goes by itself and doesn’t take much time at all.

Every Friday I plan the menu for the next week and go to the weekly farmers market on Saturday. By planning ahead and taking a look at the inventory list, I always see which supplies I should definitely use up. From this I then create dishes for the next week. Since we don’t have to replenish most of the supplies every week, a visit to the bulk shop every 2-3 weeks is enough for me.

The best thing is to test the tips mentioned here and let me know how it works for you. Also try out the templates I created for you. Just sign up for the newsletter and receive it directly by email. You can also leave me a mail, DM or a comment below if you have any questions or problems are showing up.

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