Whole Foods has a rep for overpriced organic goods that, for most students, just isn’t worth the money. But in the midst of $14 artisanal cheeses and specialty granola bars is the (totally underrated) bulk bin aisle. Learn to decode the labels and you can save money and help the environment.

The best thing about this aisle are the abundant pantry staples. Flour, beans, rice and sugar are all available in whatever amount you’d like, so you can forgo the standard size packages and purchase as much or as little as you need.

1. Know the Container Sizes

The small containers hold eight ounces. The medium-sized ones hold sixteen ounces, and the large containers hold thirty-two ounces. Keep this in mind when you fill them up. Use the plastic containers for dried fruit, nuts and beans, and use the bags for flours and seeds. Fill one bag, then put it inside another bag to keep the contents secure and avoid a grain spillage. Whole Foods recently introduced a self-serve weigh station, so you can quickly print labels (including prices) for your bulk bin finds.

save money at whole foods

Photo by Hannah Lin

2. Pay attention to label color

Keep an eye out for the organic ingredients available for purchase. These have green labels, and they are usually a bit more expensive than their non-organic counterparts.

3. Customize your snack mix

The best part about bulk bin shopping is making homemade trail mix. Whole Foods has some pretty tasty pre-made trail mix on the shelves, but it’s far more cost-effective to buy the ingredients from the bulk bins and assemble your trail mix in a large tub when you get home. Plus it allows you to add exactly what you want to snack on, and in the right amounts.

4. Save on spices

This aisle has a specific section for spices like cinnamon, cayenne or even bay leaves that’s paid by weight. Yeah, that’s right — you can skip those $6 bay leaf packages in the spice aisle and buy a practical amount (because who really uses bay leaves on the reg anyway) for mere cents.


The next time you’re at Whole Foods, take a look at the bulk bins. You may end up leaving the store with your own perfect trail mix. Or, you know, some organic lentils too.