Italian Hazelnuts and rice in different variations are inside big dispenser. You only have to turn a tiny wheel in front of you round to get them out. I am just standing there, watching the little metal shovels, provided for taking cocoa, sugar and desiccated coconuts out of their closed bowls. No doubt, this is the Elysium for every Zero Waster – commonly called “Bulk store”.
How does such a shop work?
Although the products aren’t packed, you don’t need to take everything home with you in a wheelbarrow. Most of the bulk shops provide a list of their products online. So you can reflect before on the products you want to buy and which bags or boxes you need for them.
Some bulk shops also sell suitable bags and boxes for the food you buy there. That’s really fine for beginners. But if you have got enough bags&boxes at home I recommend taking them with you when you go to the bulk store.
You can fill dry, bulk food like nuts, lentils and flour in big cookie jars or old big preserving jars. Bigger bulk food like whole grains, bread or beand can also be put into a cloth bag, ideally with a curdle to close it. I put spices in jam jars and oil, vinegar or alcoholic beverage in well shutting clip-top bottles.
Before you fill the boxes or bags, you weigh them. Usually the bulk stores have a scale for this. They provide also a pen to note the weight of your boxes. Then you can buy as much as you want. At the pay desk the cashier weighs your products, subtracts the tare weight and you pay for your shopping.Why should you shop in a bulk store?
+That’s obvious: A purchase in the bulk store saves packaging and waste. And you get many more benefits as seen in the following points!
+The feeling: A bulk store sells pure, natural food, a lot of shops attach importance to organic food. The atmosphere is pleasant and individual, often I stay with some tea and coffee a bit longer in the bulk store – the shops I visit offer little meals respectively pastry & coffee.
Here I feel like at home, here I can shop how I like it.
+That’s the next advantage: I determine how much I want to buy. Whether I prefer 50g of hazelnuts or 500g, with a suitable box I have all the possibilities. In contrast in the supermarket you often buy too much, because it is packed like this or because there is a special 3 for 2 offers. You can save money and food waste because you only buy the quantities you really need.
+ Furthermore I appreciate talking with the staff or with other visitors. In a big supermarket this doesn’t happen very often. In addition, the staffs of the bulk shops which I already visited willingly inform me about the origin and the cultivation of the products. The people working there are competent – a characteristic I couldn’t fulfil when I worked at the supermarket in the summer a long time ago. Well, I knew where I found the garlic paste, the dried apples (packed à 39g) and the convenience pancakes were stored. But I wasn’t informed about the origin, the ingredients and the production of these thousands of products. When you are interested in the content and the origin of products, you have to read the fine print texts on the packaging and to study critically the seals and promises.
+In the bulk store you don’t have to do this. Most of the products only consist of one single ingredient. Because the food isn’t packed, you can see it directly through the transparent dispensers and control the quality. On request you can also taste certain products like oil and vinegar.
+The last advantage (in this list, but certainly not the very last) of the bulk store is its structure. Supermarkets are tactically planned to make you spend more money. In a bulk store you don’t see this. The stores I visited don’t want to imitate the business strategies of supermarkets. A profit as big as possible isn’t the target of the shop owners, which usually run their store also out of ideational motives. That’s your advantage: You only buy the things which you planned to buy. You can’t even buy more than you planned – depending on the means of transport you used to reach the shop. The bags and boxes may weigh more than the throw-away packaging from the supermarket. So you won’t even need that much discipline to buy exactly the things that you really need in a bulk store. There are no useless products!
Where do I find a store near my hometown?
You can’t wait to go to a bulk store now? Look at this map (german, but it’s definitely the best one) or at this index if you aren’t living in Germany, Austria or Switzerland at the moment). Maybe you will even find the shop which I visited last weekend.
My purchase in the bulk store
In my region there are different bulk stores. I usually shop every two months in a bulk store, but then I buy quite a lot of things. That’s the best method for me because it takes me some time to get to the shops.
In the following paragraphs I describe you my purchase of last week: Here I visited “Heimatliebe Unverpackt” in Markdorf, Germany at the Lake of Constance.
(Even more bulk stores – contents follow)
You find a big assortment on a little surface in this bulk store situated in the heart of Markdorf. When I go shopping there I always walk through the beautiful streets of the old town here.
The shop itself is very classy designed: Simone Keller, the shop owner, personally designed and built the décor of “Heimatliebe Unverpackt”. By the way she could celebrate the first anniversary of her shop last weekend!
All the dispensers are made of wood and glass. You even can fill your spices in provided little metallic boxes. There are little blackbords under each dispenser – I love them. And the lion’s share of the content of the dispensers is from organic agriculture, when they are exceptions it’s explicitly indicated.
Concerning the assortment, I really appreciate the sugar-free cocoa powder and the various kinds of chocolate! So I filled my boxes with them…and with hazelnuts, spaghetti, cinnamon and many more (see below).I quickly want to explain my packaging as seen in the photo above: When I shop bulk I use in addition to jam jars, preserving jars and cookie jars also boxes which come from my earlier “shopping life”. On the photo you may spot oghurt buckets (1l) and special cereal packaging. I use them to store and transport dry food. The cereal packaging is sort of a composite packaging, the yoghurt bucket is made from plastic. At the moment I use them for further shopping tours in the bulk store. But it’s obvious: The yoghurt cups are made from plastic, so I buy “new” yoghurt only in returnable glass packaging. And I mix cereals at home or buy them here at the bulk store.
Apropos yoghurt: Dairy products with the “Demeter” label are available here!
What`s more? “Heimatliebe unverpackt” offers some body care products, shampoo bars, detergents and even toothbrushes made from wood!
After half an hour of shopping I leave the shop with many fresh, tasty products and I`m sure I made a good choice.
“Make a good choice”. Did the German people do this last Sunday? Und why is voting connected with our life (as a consumer)? However, that`s a new article. See you next week!
Where do you shop bulk? Do you like this form of shopping? What are your pros and cons? I would be happy to read your comment!
 In every article all the personified nouns include all genders.
 Photos are from: Heimatliebe Unverpackt, Markdorf am Bodensee. By courtesy of Simone Keller
 On this photo I removed some brand names from Cookie jars and other packaging I use. Therefore you see those Little colourful Points on it. Reason: I didn`t want to do any uncontrolled promotion.