Buying in Bulk

I recently had a question from a friend about what things we buy in bulk and where. Now to be fair, S. does basically all of our food shopping since she is at home during the day (and going to the shops is generally a whole lot more pleasant during the week day than on the weekend) and I am at work. Not only that, she really is the master of the pantry too – she’s got lists for the best places to go for different things and has it pretty much down to an art. So in sitting down to write this, I’ve really just picked her brain. We try to balance eating well with being frugal, and at the same time catering to different food needs. (S. is vegetarian and has very specific/restricted dietary needs due to gut issues (she works with a dietician but it’s definitely a challenge to find exciting things to eat), T. and I eat meat, but try to avoid dairy – though I do eat cheese). In an ideal world we’d buy everything organic, but that’s not really feasible at the moment. We also try hard to avoid our waste and we’re looking to improve this even more next year.


First up – fruit and vege. We generally don’t buy this in bulk because, you know, spoilage, but we do go to the market most weekends. We are lucky in Wellington to have big fruit and vege markets on both days in the weekend. The fruit and vege is usually as good or better than you would find in the supermarket and definitely a lot cheaper. We buy and eat what is in season and are trying to grow more of our own food.

Eggs – we have chickens and they’re awesome!

Meat – we don’t eat a lot of meat but when we do we try to make sure it’s good quality. Usually T. and I only cook or eat fish or chicken at home. Generally we buy this from the counter at Moore Wilsons because they’ll happily put it into our reusable container. We try to buy sustainably fished fish, and we buy the Waitoa Free Range chicken breast (less meat waste that we don’t have capacity to deal with) and Freedom Farms shaved ham – both from Moore Wilsons or the New World Deli. For us happier meat and zero-waste packaging is more important than frugality here. (Vegans – I hear you, I know it’s better for the environment but I’ve tried it and it wasn’t a sustainably healthy option for me).

Dairy Products – since S. and T. don’t eat any cows milk products, this isn’t a big area for us. I do still eat cheese and at the moment it’s packaged in plastic and we usually buy the best value from the supermarket, but I’m looking for a plastic free option, so if you know any please comment below! T. eats sheep or goat’s cheese and we usually buy this from the Dutch Shop in Petone. It’s pretty affordable and cut straight from the wheel in front of you. They generally wrap it in paper, but will happily pack into reusable containers.

Milks – We drink Rice Milk and Soy Milk in our house and we buy these in bulk boxes from Pak-n-save.

Baking ingredients – We buy bulk organic flour and gluten-free from the bulk bins at Commonsense in brown bags and transfer it to big sealed containers, make our own baking powder at home, and buy bulk rice bran oil from whichever supermarket is cheaper.

Grains – We buy quinoa, barley and millet and lentils from Bin Inn in Petone straight into our containers. Rice and pasta, sadly seem to be cheaper to buy in smaller amounts than in bulk but we are looking into other shops to see if there might be cheaper places to buy these.

Cereals/breads – We are generally a yeast-free house as neither S. nor I eat it, so we usually have yeast-free wraps or mountain bread. S. buys these in bulk packets from Moore Wilsons (though we are looking to start making these). We haven’t had much luck with cereals straight from the bulk bins except for rolled oats and rice flakes. We also sometimes buy sourdough breads from Commonsense in town or Moore Wilsons and will generally buy multiple loaves, cut them up and freeze them.

Snacks – we buys snacking foods like nuts, dried fruits, and pulse based snacks from Pak-n-Save, New World or Bin Inn (Petone Pak-n-Save has the best range but most New Worlds tend to pretty good and a lot closer). We usually use the compostable bags from the fruit section, our own reusable bags or mushroom bags for these. Family staples are dates, banana chips, almonds, sunflower seeds, diced papaya, apricots, chia seeds, murruku, peanut butter pretzels and rice snacks.

Drinks – S. drinks ginger tea made with fresh ginger slices which she buys in bulk from the market and occasionally other loose leaf teas (which she’s usually  been given). I love hot chocolate and buy bulk bags (5kg at a time) of Trade Aid Hot Chocolate powder usually direct from Trade Aid shops as this is the means that more money goes towards the cacao bean growers.

There are definitely more changes we are wanting to implement – mostly around reducing packaging since a lot of plastic and pretty much all soft plastic can’t be recycled within NZ – so we’re doing a bit of an audit over the next few weeks and then planning for some changes. I’d love to hear from you. Do you buy the same things in bulk that we do or have a great little place you love to visit?



One thought on “Buying in Bulk

  1. Gemma Miller says:

    Thanks for this great run down on how you do it! Nice to know that paper bags and reuseable containers are accepted some places. It’s a constant challenge to improve our habits. Nice to talk about it.

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