The ultimate Guide for Bulk Shopping

This blog post also is available in German.

Plastic-free, bulk shopping, the topics are currently on everyone’s lips. Unwrapped shops are booming. Do you sometimes feel guilty in the supermarket when you buy something wrapped in plastic? Do you want to change to package-free, but don’t know how to integrate this into your packed everyday life with university/work/family? Or do you simply feel the pressure of society to shop in such a store, but you don’t know why, let alone whether you can afford it?
If you can answer at least one of these questions with yes, then you’ve come to the right place. In the following lines I’ll answer exactly these questions.

Why even shop in a bulk store?

I’ve already explained the effects of plastic on our environment in several blog posts. This list shows you once again the most important reasons why unpacked shopping is more sustainable:

  • less garbage & no plastic
  • support local businesses
  • shopping seasonally & regionally
  • conscious consumption
  • depending on the shop organic products with low pesticide load

Summarily said, who shops in the bulk store supports a local company that often sells products from regional suppliers and offers seasonal products that may even be produced in organic quality. If you don’t have the bulk store in the immediate vicinity, you won’t go there all the time. Purchases in the bulk shop are therefore planned. In advance you will therefore first think about what you really need and what you don’t need, because you can’t take tons of glasses/containers all at once. This way of bulk shopping indirectly promotes conscious consumption, which in turn stands for sustainability.

How do I shop in a non-packaging shop?

Are you planning your first visit to such a store? Maybe you can’t imagine how you even shop there? No problem, the explanation will follow immediately.

In the bulk store you`ll find everything from groceries to cleaning and hygiene products, everything your heart desires. Some shops even sell fresh products such as fruit and vegetables. Some only the usual dried goods, like nuts, beans, vinegar & oil, grain, pasta, rice, flour, etc.. Everything is stored in containers, without any packaging, and you simply bring your containers and jars and fill them with the desired products.

The shopping process is as follows; you arm yourself with empty containers (tupper cans, jars or cloth bags), go to the shop, weigh your empty containers and write down the tare. Then you fill them. At the checkout they are weighed again, the empty weight is deducted and you only pay for the actual contents. Super easy right?

If you don’t know your local bulk store yet, I recommend a visit in advance to get a picture of their assortment. Some shops also have a website where you can find out in advance what they have in stock. There is nothing more disappointing than taking the road to find out afterwards that your desired product isn`t sold in the store.

If you live in Bern, then I can highly recommend the “Palette“. This is my go to bulk store. Most of the products in their assortment are organic and whenever possible from regional suppliers.

Is the bulk shop more expensive than the supermarket?

By far the most frequently asked question. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a blanket answer to that. Before I researched for this article, I would have answered the question with yes. Now the answer is as follows; partly yes, partly no! So I have compared different prices of my bulk shop and my favorite supermarket and have found the following results; basmati rice is more expensive in the bulk store, nuts on the other hand somewhat cheaper, couscous and pasta had almost the same price, whereby the supermarket is minimally cheaper.

In principle, the answer depends on several factors, the individual prices of your bulk store and your regular supermarket, as well as the individual products. Supermarkets, as well as bulk stores have different prices. Sometimes you`ll find something cheaper in the supermarket, because they have better conditions with the suppliers. Also, products that are not certified organic must never be compared with those that have the organic seal. These are two different pairs of shoes. If your bulk store sells organic products, but your supermarket doesn`t, the supermarket will be cheaper.

To summarize things up and generalize it, shopping in bulk stores might be slighty more expensive. In return, you get top quality, including organic products, buy locally and ultimately do something for the health of our planet! When shopping, however, always check whether the product is organic or not. Products that are not produced according to organic standards are often heavily contaminated with pesticides.

A further point that should also be calculated is the fact that you save on waste fees when shopping unpacked. Here in Switzerland you pay a fee per garbage bag (1.40 francs per 35 litre bag). So you may invest more money in bulk shopping, but you save on waste fees.

If you are interested, I can also do a detailed analysis on this subject and make comparisons with regard to prices, longevity, savings due to waste, etc. Write me briefly here in the comment section.

How can I afford to buy unpacked at all?

Not everyone receives a giant salary at the end of the month, I am aware of that. Maybe you’re still studying, only get a small salary or feed the whole family with your income. You have to peddle your money carefully. Personally, I know that all too well! We also feel the same way during certain months, depending on how many bills come in.

but the fact is if you do bulk shopping, you think meticulously  about what you really need before every purchase anyways. This automatically means you buy less than you might have in a supermarket. Otherwise you can just compare the prices and see what you can get cheaper in your bulk shop.

In principle, however, I think that everyone has the capacity to buy unpacked, as long as you`re well organized and consciously buying. And of course it is also a matter of adjustment. If the topic of sustainability is important to you, you can always manage to shop package-free.

This topic, like the price question as well, is relatively extensive. Therefore I can definitely write a separate detailed blog post about it. Just tell me if you are interested. Write me a comment here under this post or send me your questions via email. If you are on Instagram, you can send me a DM there, too.

Organization is Alpha and Omega

Time is often the limiting factor for many of us. After work you want to buy something quickly and the supermarket is just around the corner. The bulk store, on the other hand, isn`t or maybe it is closed (our shops unfortunately don’t have the best opening hours during the week). Although there will be a detailed article on this topic, I’ll give you a few tips on the way:

  • fix fixed days for shopping in bulk stores
  • plan your meals
  • keep an inventory of your pantry
  • refill as quick as possible

If you’re interested in the topic “Bulk shopping in everyday life“, then check back again next week. By then there will be a detailed blog post on the topic. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you will receive three free templates; a menu planner, a grocery shopping list adapted for bulk shopping and an inventory list for your pantry.

I wish you a good start into the new week and would like to thank you very much for your support. Please leave me all your questions and concerns in the comment section below. Like that it`s easier for me to know what you`re interested in.

Read you soon,




2 thoughts on “The ultimate Guide for Bulk Shopping”

  1. Hi
    I was just wondering if you know what brand / where you could get those wood/glass wall mounted bulk food dispensaries in these photos?

    1. Hello Marie,
      Thanks for asking. Sadly I can’t answer your questions. These wall mounted bulk food dispensaries are from our local bulk shop in the old city in Bern. Maybe you can ask there or in one of your local bulk shops. Most of them used to have similar dispensaries.

      Hug Sarah

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