life in a tiny apartment.

June 27, 2012

Tip #19: Buy in bulk.

i’m not talking about 45 rolls of toilet paper in one go. if there’s one thing that living in a tiny apartment has done for us, it’s been to help us think about the stuff that we accumulate. it’s not just the hard goods we have to worry about. before they’re used up, pesky comestibles can take up an awful lot of room. unless we want  to share our couch with an over-sized bag of basmati rice (fragrant and heavy pillow?), we have to think carefully about what we bring home from the grocery store.

in our place, we have just a few small cabinets to store food. a certain over-zealous “raisin bran flakes” buyer has quickly realized that, try as he might, there’s just no stuffing that second box of cereal into the cabinet. you can bet your bottom dollar that thing’s not gonna have a shot at countertop real-estate.

for the most part, we solve our space issues by buying from the bulk section at our local nutty-crunchy grocery store. this technique has the triple advantage of allowing you to buy just as much as you need, leaving lots of unnessescary packing out of the equation (we use sarah’s cloth bags), and making you feel a special kinship with laura ingalls and pa.

if you do a little searching, you can probably find a grocery near you that purchases in bulk. basically, they buy lot of stuff at one go so that you don’t have to. you can buy the amount of quinoa or rice or raisins that fit into whatever jar you have at home, and never worry about finding space for awkwardly shaped boxes and bags.

i like to use ball jars for bulk storage. at around ten dollars for a pack of 12, these glass jars are definitely the best bang for our buck. they come in tons of sizes (of varying price) so there are options for things we might like to have more of, like sugar or flour.  if we move back to a place that has shelves instead of cabinets, they’re pretty enough to leave out in the open.

so there you have it: buy in bulk and use ball jars. two tips for the price of one (but if you live in a tiny apartment, you might have to reconsider that kind of deal).

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  • Reply Carrie | acookgrowsinbrooklyn June 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    All of our cabinets have open shelves – you're right, the buying in bulk thing is good because it's way more pleasing to the eye – who wants to look at rolled up, near empty bags of beans and sugar and rice? Plus, it's cheaper! Look at that…the benefits are endless!

  • Reply J+H @ Beyond The Stoop June 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    our usually-super-expensive-health-food store has quinoa in bulk for about half the price of a big box store. so if you readers are thinking "but buying in bulk is always so much more expensive", check it out again… you might be surprised!!!

    thanks for another awesome post 😀

    • Reply Erin June 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      @ carrie and @j+h yes. almost 100 % of the time, bulk is cheaper. win, win, win.

  • Reply Meg June 27, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    i always buy in bulk, mainly because i'd rather buy a little bit of everything each week when i walk to the market than have a week where i have to buy huge bags of everything and break my arms carrying it all home! i love my mason jars for everything from beans to quinoa. and usually it's way cheaper than buying pre-packaged… yay!

  • Reply jacquelyn | lark & linen June 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    This is my favourite survival tip so far, and one that I already subscribe to! Plus, it makes your cupboards just that much more presentable when open 🙂

  • Reply livefromtheburrow June 27, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    I was actually just talking to my husband about buying in bulk. Namely honey, almond butter and peanut butter, which he eats for breakfast lunch and dinner.
    Now I'm motivated!

  • Reply Joan June 27, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    hee hee I love your words…counter real-estate.
    I have always loved the look of ball jars. They carry many uses around my home.

  • Reply Rachel June 27, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I need to get better about this. Embarrassingly, I frequently buy the items in full packaging and then empty them into my bulk jars and then sometimes the whole package doesn't fit and I'm *still* stuck with boxes in the cupboard.

    • Reply Erin June 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      ah, yes. pasta's the real tricky one for us. it's hard to find in bulk. i used to empty it into a jar, but we go through so much of it in one go, it didn't make sense. i usually just jam the bag in between the jars and slam the cabinet door!

  • Reply Valerie {All Mussed Up} June 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    the laura ingalls wilder kinship is the real deal. i adore stocking my open shelving with bonne maman jam jars – dainty and pioneer-woman kick ass all at once.

    • Reply Erin June 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      totally. we have cocoa powder, baking soda and couscous in bonne maman jars!

  • Reply moxiemandie June 28, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Love this series, but this. Tip in particular.

  • Reply moxiemandie June 28, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Oops! Silly iPad punctuation….

  • Reply CocoMay July 2, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I recently discovered TONS of Mason and Kerr jars at local thrift stores for around 10-25 cents each. Run them through the sanitizer cycle and all you need to buy are lids. Can't beat that deal!

  • Reply Karissa @ Love Five July 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    When you said "cloth bags" I was ACTUALLY picturing Little House! You've inspired me to make our cabinet stock prettier.

  • Reply Dee March 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Although this is a genius idea, however in my place, our place is humid, so if we buy in bulk, we might risk spoiling the items after a week. Especially those that expire easily. Even herbs tend to spoil in this weather. Bad luck for us. This would have been an amazing help.

  • Reply Rebecca April 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Bonus tip: use a label-maker on the back-side of the jar so you know which jar has lentils and which jar has split peas! You can also tape up (inside cupboard) or otherwise cut and keep instructions (how long to cook quinoa, pancake recipes, etc) from any boxes and recycle the rest of the box. For moisture, if the stuff that goes in is dry and the lid stays on, you should be okay, but you could also try mounting a dry paper towel to the inside of the lid to absorb extra moisture that sneaks in. Works for our sugar jar.

  • Reply Rachel October 28, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    What is your neighborhood bulk store? Do you use Sahadi’s? Thanks for the info:)

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 28, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      We love Sahadi’s and Perelandra!


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