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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bulk Barn (Mississauga, Ontario)

Today is Earth Day 2009 so I thought it would be appropriate to share a bit more about one source for bulk food purchasing, the Bulk Barn®. If you recall I spoke of this bulk food store in a Frugal Kitchens 101 post recently (Buying in Bulk). During my recent visit to the we stopped at a Bulk Barn located at 3035 Argentia Road in Mississauga, ON on one of our morning shopping excursions. Trust me I don't need an excuse to shop at a Bulk Barn!

Bulk Barn Mississauga OntarioBulk Barn

Bulk Barn is a chain of 120 stores across select Canadian provinces (ON, NB, NS, PE, NL, MB, QC, SK) that sells over 4,000 products. The stores are quite visible with their bright yellow and red signage. This colour scheme continues throughout the store interior. The vast majority of the foods sold in the Bulk Barn are in covered bins that the consumer scoops out the desired amount with provided scoops, ladles or tongs. Thin plastic bags, smaller spice bags and food grade plastic tubs with lids are available for your selections. Unfortunately you cannot bring in your own containers to put the food in due to health and safety issues but you can bring cloth shopping bags to carry your purchases home rather than using the heavy plastic grocery bags provided. Small white bread clip style tags are provided along with pencils to mark your purchases. This is important when you get your purchase home as some of the products such as flours look very similar. In addition to food, the Bulk Barn offers an extensive line of dietary supplements, packaged teas, organic boxed foods, bird seed, limited pet foods, non-toxic household cleaners and all natural bar soaps. They are also the place to shop for cake and candy supplies.

My Purchases

The Bulk Barn saves you money in three ways. The stores are smaller, compact stores with lower overhead. I don't think I've ever seen more than 3 or 4 employees at any given time in any of the stores I've been in. The vast majority of foods aren't packaged so you aren't paying for that either. Finally and most importantly you are buying what you need, not some pre-determined amount. For example you need ½ tsp of a particular spice for a dish you are trying. If you bought this spice in a regular grocery store you would be forced to buy it in an expensive glass bottle paying upwards of $4 for about 30 - 40 g depending on the spice. If you are buying for this reason and you don't know if you will ever use that spice again, it becomes a waste of money. If you buy 1 tsp of the same spice at Bulk Barn you will pay a few pennies and have enough to make 2 of the dishes allowing you to experiment with the flavour.

My purchases are pictured. Surprisingly I did not buy all that much other than a few herbs and spices I needed to restock a bit. My total bill came to $21.47 and while it doesn't look like I got a lot, I did. I'll go through what I bought and what I paid so you can compare these prices to what you would pay in a regular grocery store.

Bulk Barn receiptReceipt

I apologize that the receipt image is a bit small. I'm going to explain the receipt as item, (price per kg), amount bought and total price paid. On the receipt you will notice that 66¢ was paid between GST and PST, something residents of Ontario pay on most purchases. Of my purchases one was a spur of the moment mini Easter cookie cutter set. These adorable little cookie cutters will be used to make homemade animal style crackers for the grandkids and for cutting vegetable/cheese garnishes.

Here's what I bought:

  • ground mace ($33.39/kg), 0.065 kg, $2.17
  • ground allspice ($18.85/kg), 0.030 kg, $0.57
  • ground thyme ($9.45/kg), 0.065 kg, $0.61
  • ground oregano ($12.45/kg) 0.055 kg, $0.68
  • ground sage ($14.97/kg) 0.065, $0.97
  • ground nutmeg ($21.80/kg), 0.055, $1.20
  • Merckens light moulding chocolate ($8.62/kg), 0.55 kg, $4,74
  • Easter mini cookie cutters $3.99
  • vanilla beans $4.79
  • sesame smaps (3/$1.09), $1.09
You will notice I bought some ground herbs I also grow however, if you have been following this blog you will know I've been in the process of re-establishing our herb garden after our move here. To give you a rough idea of how much of each herb or spice I bought, it was about a 1 cup each. To give you a comparison this would be about the equivalent of 2 to 3 glass bottle containers depending on the spice in the grocery store. So if you consider I spent $6.20 on bulk herbs and spices. Had I bought the same amount in the grocery store at an average of $3 per bottle I would have spent* $36 to $54 if not a bit more total. That is a considerable savings! At the same time I reduced packaging by not buying something packaged in little glass jars or little metal tins. True in many areas these are recyclable but in a lot of areas they aren't so they end up in landfills. Reducing packaging is an eco-friendly thing to do that save both money and the environment. Savings can be found on a lot of the bulk products sold at the Bulk Barn but again you do need to know your prices. What is nice is they do carry a lot of dried products (specialty flours, snacks and etc) that a lot of regular grocery stores do not carry.

You really do need to prepare for a shopping trip to the Bulk Barn. Like any shopping trip you really will want some kind of a list but with the savings give yourself a bit of leeway to try a couple of new things as well. For example what I saved on the herbs and spices was more than enough to splurge on a couple of extras like the vanilla beans and cookie cutters.

* calculation - 6 kinds of hers/spices x number of bottles x average price per bottle

2 food lovers commented:

Anonymous said...

Hi there,I was wondering if you can still get the recipe booklets from the Bulk Store. I got one years ago,and would like another one..It contained recipes for alot of the ingredients that you would buy there.Would appreciate your answer...Barbara

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Barbara and thanks for visiting. Many of the bulk foods have a tear-off recipe or usage card in a plastic holder by the food. I know they have them for any of their mixes and how to cook certain things too. HTH