How to Buy Bulk Food With Glass Jars

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On behalf of the lovelies who have e-mailed me with this similar question – here is how I buy bulk food with glass jars where I live.

The one exception being: Bulk Barn.
Please sign this petition started by Kathryn so we can kickstart Bulk Barn into letting consumers bring their own jars.

Pssst. Bulk Barn – I have some helpful tips for you and you know, it could save your company money in the long term. 

Anyway. The two places in Ottawa that I go to that let you bring your own jars are Kardish and Rainbow Foods. And I choose them just because they are close to me and I like them and what they offer. I don’t know what you have around you. But hey – check out this BULK APP that needs support created by Bea Johnson, the inspiration behind almost every zero waster. This app will help you locate a bulk store nearest to you. Assuming there are even bulk stores in your country. #savethebulkapp

Ok enough plugging. Jeez.

So here is what you (I) do:

STEP 1:
I bring my containers to the cashier first and ask them to ‘tare’ it or weigh it.

STEP 2:

They will then write down the weight of the jar on a sticker and put it on your jar.
Sometimes they let me write it down on the bottom with a permanent sharpie.

Step 3:

Then I go to the bulk sections and fill it up. With whatever I want. Lately my snack of choice is dried. salted fava beans. My son and I call them bean chips.

Step 4:

I make sure to keep track of the bin # (the code that tells the cashier what the bulk item is) – which I do in a text to myself or scrap paper.

Step 5:

Then I bring the jar(s) to the cash.

Step 6: 

The cashier then subtracts the weight of the jar from the weight of the bulk goods
You will see it show up on your receipt as a discount or a negative if they did it correctly. Be patient with the new cashiers as they may need your guidance. And if you aren’t sure they put it in correctly, just double check your receipt.

Step 7:
Pay.

And that’s it.

You can do this exact same thing with cloth bags too. You can do it for tiny jars that are for spices. You can do it with any size jar. Any shape. You can even use your plastic containers if you want. You can get all kinds of flour, sugar, beans, snacks, chocolate – pretty much anything except… oh yeah… bulk pasta. The one place that sold pasta in bulk was the West End Well and they closed.

So now I just make my own or use a veggie replacement like spaghetti squash or zucchini cut into thin noodle-like zoodles..

The end.
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16 thoughts on “How to Buy Bulk Food With Glass Jars

  1. Great tips. I have found that some stores have removed bulk item like certain raw nuts because they claim a loss from people snacking. Whole Foods used to carry a lot more bulk than they currently do. The good news is that I am finding that the foods I cannot find in bulk or at the farmers markets, I am better without and I continue to get healthier and leaner as a result.

    1. I have to agree with you too – so many snacks I used to eat, I’m definitely better without. Thank you for commenting.

      1. Thanks for the encouragement regarding jars. The video I saw of you enhanced my already low waste minimalist life! Truly. I recently took my own glass container to my favorite health food store for their salad bar – my favorite when I lack interest in food prep. They told me I was only the second person to use glass on the salad bar. I LOVED it. I had my own homemade salad dressing. I have taken my own bags to the market for 30 years, but taking my actual jars is new and it is working out perfectly because I need only put them directly into the cabinet when I return home! Basically, it has taken my getting over concern for what others might say or how they sometimes stare!

  2. Thanks a lot for the petition, I just signed it! I’ve contacted Bulk Barn in 2014, here’s their answer […]Our policy is to not allow any customer to bring in their own containers. We realize and understand your comments, but unfortunately not all people sterilize their containers like they say they do. There is a risk that our products could become contaminated if a customer dips their container into our products or fills their unsterilized container and then pours excess amounts of the product back into our bins.[…]
    I’ve never seen anyone doing it, plus using gravity bin models, customers are not able to pour anything back to the bin.

    1. It’s really too bad. They should just change their style of bins then. So that it’s the type that pours out rather than is scoopable. They just are lazy and don’t want to waste money to become better leaders.

  3. Hello, I’ve just discovered your blog and am so pleased to find someone in my area who provides so much information on this lifestyle philosophy.

    I live in Hull, on the Quebec side (originally raised in Montreal), and it has been a struggle to find groceries sold in bulk format not too far from my house. It has already been a struggle to move to a city where the car seems to be king of transportation and where urban sprawl in endemic, but now, I really want to also follow your path and learn to live a zero-waste lifestyle on top of it.

    Thank you for your resources and your inspiration. =)

    Also, if you ever get asked for my side of the border, I usually go all the way to Aylmer to Sol Natural Foods to buy bulk products.

    1. Annabel, thank you for writing me and for giving insight to where to shop in Aylmer. I will make sure to add it to the shopping guide. I used to live in Montreal 🙂 I do understand the overwhelming feeling of the urban sprawl. Welcome to the journey and thank you again for reaching out.

  4. Love your blog! I just found it. I want to transition into becoming zero waste. Do you ever find that you can ask stores before they print out a receipt to email it to you instead? Thanks! 🙂

    1. Hey Rebecca,
      Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog!
      There are some stores that do that but the ones that I go to don’t have that system set up. The majority of my receipts are groceries, which I don’t need and business related items which I have to keep. I hope the journey towards zero waste is fun for you ❤

  5. A quick note on bulk pasta – Herb & Spice on Bank has some, and they’re totally cool with you bringing your own containers

  6. This might sound like a stupid question, but do I have to tare my items every time I go to the grocery store? When I went to my local bulk store the cashier just jotted the weight of my jars on a piece of paper and nobody asked questions. Could I just tare them at home instead of going to customer service every time?

    1. Hi Caroline,
      I write the tare of the jar on the lid and on the bottom of the jar in permanent marker. As it washes away I just rewrite it. Over time you’ll remember the weights. Some places write it down on a sticker and it stays there until it comes off. But I’d recommend the permanent marker. 🙂

  7. That you so much for this! I am in Ottawa and I find it is so hard to cut down on waste because there was no where to fill my own containers. Do you know of Herb and Spice will do this? It is much closer to me. Or I will make a trip to Rainbow.

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