Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

The Bulk Department: A Shopper’s Best Friend

The bulk department can be a little intimidating for the uninitiated. When I first started shopping at Whole Foods Market®, all of the bins, item numbers, tiny writing utensils and the freeform, help yourself method made me a little nervous.

In the end, curiosity won out. I had heard it was a great money-saver, so I took a deep breath and asked one of the friendly Team Members manning the bins to give me a quick tour and overview of the department. Guess what? The bulk bins are now one of my favorite parts of the store!

The Basics of Bulk

The bulk department can be a shopper’s best friend, here’s why:

  • Bins are replenished to help keep ingredients super fresh
  • Since you can buy as much or as little as you need, you can try a variety of new products without getting stuck with a lot of something that doesn’t suit you
  • Many of the bulk offerings are organically grown
  • You save money by not paying for extra packaging
  • All bulk items are required to meet Whole Foods Market’s strict Quality Standards, so you’re still getting the high quality products that you expect from us

Stock Up

Most of your pantry basics are readily available in bulk, including:

  • Dried beans (pinto, white, black, lentils)
  • Whole grains (quinoa, pearled barley, long-grain brown rice)
  • Whole-wheat pasta (spaghetti, couscous)
  • Oats (rolled, steel-cut)
  • Organic raw nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds)
  • Organic dried fruit (apricots, dates, raisins)
  • Fresh-ground nut butters (peanut, almond)
  • Dried herbs and spices (oregano, paprika)

Bonus: put these staples in glass jars and clear containers and your pantry gets an instant facelift.

Explore More

Is your family trying out new whole grains, beans, rice, nuts or seeds? Buy just what you need in our bulk department.

Learn to Cook: Quinoa recipe

Learn to Cook Quinoa

If you're new to cooking with beans and grains, start with our Learn to Cook recipes: Learn to Cook Beans, Learn to Cook Quinoa, Learn to Cook Whole Grains.

Or you can go wild with ingredients like forbidden black rice, unsweetened flaked coconut, golden flax seed and nutritional yeast. Because you’re not paying for packaging (or a full package), you can explore a new world of ingredients. Looking for inspiration? Ask our friendly Team Members about their favorites or use our recipes app to find out what to do with a new ingredient. 

The bulk section also holds endless kid-friendly options if you're trying to get the whole family to eat better. Check out these fun activities to try with your kiddos when exploring the bulk department, courtesy of Whole Kids Foundation.

Bulk Finds = Meals and Snacks

From morning to night, I am always turning to bulk staples to fill up my plate.

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars

New to cooking whole grains? Here’s a handy chart for soaking times and liquid-to-grain ratios.

  • Get your snack on with popcorn, raw nuts, trail mix, fruit and nut bars or roasted seaweed.

Wholesome snacking is easy with these recipes on hand, starring some of our favorite ingredients from the bulk department: Chewy Coconut Granola Bars, Popcorn Trail Mix, Oat Date Bars, Whole Grain Almond Granola with Cranberries and Pimenton Roasted Garbanzos (you can cook dried garbanzos from our bulk bins by following this simple method).

Tell me, do you shop in bulk? What’s your favorite thing to buy?

 

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70 comments

Comments

Diana says …

how high of heat is the honey toasted pecans prepared for sale in the bulk department

Joani Moore says …

Do you sell and ship fresh dill in bulk for making pickles?

Karin Ward says …

Hi, I am new to your store but not new to Whole Foods. Do you have a bulk spice section? I love to cook with whole grains and I am very excited by your bulk food section. I was terribly excited to see that you are fully stocked of the ever elusive black lentil. I noticed that you have the black French Lentil. Is there a green French Lentil? I have a recipe that mentions French Green Lentils. I also love the granola bar. I was very excited. Great store. I hope to try the gelato soon.

Samantha says …

You guys don't sale fruits and vegetables in bulk?

Heather Buen - Dallas Single Mom says …

Great post. Honestly it's very difficult to limit yourself or to keep the quantities small because you have so much to offer.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DIANA - The vendors for our bulk items varies between stores. Check with your local store to find out, they can ask the vendor!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JOANI - We do not currently have online ordering but we do have a store in Austin that can ship products. You can reach out to them at 512-542-2243 for more info!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KARIN - While all of our stores differ, most locations should offer spices in bulk. Check with your local store to find out for sure! Yes, there are green lentils and you can check with the store to see if they stock an option!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SAMANTHA - You can totally buy fruits and veggies in bulk cases. Check with your local store for info on how much advance notice they need to place an order...often times you will even get a 10% discount for buying by the case!

Krista says …

Only thing that bothers me about the bulk bins is when people stick their hands in there to 'sample' the product. Gross.

Howard Snyder says …

Do you have raw turmeric in store now? Howard Snyder

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@HOWARD - While that is a popular spice in most of our bulk departments, check with your local store to make sure they have it in stock!

Donna L. says …

@mealfare thinks the bins are like a dream come true because there is everything you can imagine and more...one could literally eat from the 'Bins for Days!'

a says …

Please bring more bulk items to the Mt. Washington store, especially spices.

Olivia Zarnack says …

Hello we love the Bulk Dept and also looking for Matcha Green Tea - couldn't find last time we were there. Thank you! TGIF! :))

connie says …

You used to carry FAVA beans. Why did you stop. One of my favorite bulk foods! Please bring them back!

Jillian says …

So far I mostly just purchase my organic golden flax seeds from the Bulk Bins. But you've really whet my appetite to branch out! Thanks for the informative article. :)

Ruth Gentile says …

Thanks for the Whole Foods store in Lynnfield, MA. So close to me. In the bulk bins will you ever be having Yeast, not nutritional yeast, but the type that you use to bake bread with? Ruth

Marge says …

Chick peas and steel-cut oats are my big purchases. If anyone is buying steel-oats in those cute cans by McCann's, save them and store your bulk purchases. I buy enough to fill 4 cans at a time.

algeisa vazquez says …

My favorite things to buy are quinoa, old fashion oats and dry fruits and nut.

Leah heffron says …

I really wish the whole foods in be logjam had retained selling herbs and spices in bulk. I would be more willing to try more of your recipes if I did not need to buy a jar of something to use maybe a spoonful and maybe not use it again

ELVIRA LINVILLE says …

I would like to check the bulk option

Julie says …

I wish the bins were organized with more awareness of nut allergy. Too often, the product I want is directly below a nut, which in my family means we can't purchase it. Grouping the nut products together away from the grains and legumes would help.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CONNIE - Our buying is done at the regional/store level. Check with your local store to find out where the fava beans went!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RUTH - Our buying is done regionally and at the store level so let your local store know so they can look in to this for you!

mimiwilson says …

this is a such good information...I recently have had to go gluten free, so exploring the bulk products makes a lot of sense, and I like that there are a lot of organic choices

Marianne Duke says …

I just completed my first sprouted quinoa and it is beautiful and delicious! Thank you for a great bulk department and friendly, helpful people.

Martha says …

Walnuts and almonds are my favorite bulk foods--important for snacking during the day. I didn't know I could buy almond butter in bulk so will be looking for that on my next trip to the store.

KarinL says …

I would like to bring my glass jars in to put the bulk items that I purchase rather than using paper/plastic. Is that possible to do? Is it ok as long as you use the standard mason jars and lids/rings OR do you need to get the jars/lids weighed first? I'd appreciate info on this, TIA

Marcia says …

I love exploring the bulk section to see what new things I can try!

Sharon Lee Gates says …

I shop in buik for your seeds and nuts. I like to have only the freshest when I am preparing my raw foods so I only buy what I need at a time. I buy chia seeds the most.

Martin says …

Unfortunately, I live so far from my local Whole Foods Market that regularly shopping there is impractical. However, I make a point to get over there at least once a month to take advantage of the bulk food offerings. My favorite is the steel cut oats but I buy most of my grains, vegan chocolate chips, and figs. Love the store; wish I lived closer to it.

jan says …

I like to buy in bulk, but I would like to be able to buy in five pound plus increments. This is hard to do with the bags available. When I ask about this was told I just needed to use more bags. This too, is counterproductive in saving bags. I even bring my own produce bags and bags for my groceries. I shop at the Whole Foods in Virginia Beach, Va. Please help. Thanks jan b

Nancy says …

I really like your store, but find most times I can not afford to shop there as frequently as I would like. Is there a way you could show me how to save in your store. Thank you.

Susan Flessner says …

I am heart-broken that my local WF store (Naperville, IL) no longer has an almond butter machine - it was the BEST and I hope they can bring it back soon! Thanks -

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@KARINL - This option will vary between stores. Some stores cannot allow it based on health code regulations. If they do allow you to bring your own jars, you can have them weigh them empty and they can add a tare weight so it will be subtracted when you check out.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JAN - Have you been able to talk to your store about special ordering items from bulk? This way the bulk items would come in larger bags that you could store. Also, you will often receive a 10% case discount!

janice says …

I've been a big fan of bulk purchases since my old hippie cooperative grocery store days. One tip that may be helpful is to bring a variety of sizes of your own little zipper-type plastic storage bags (sometimes I mark the bags at 1- and 2-cup increments); that way I don't accidentally purchase more than I need. I also point out to the cashier that I'm using my own plastic baggies and save 5 cents for each bag I use (sometimes they notice before I mention it). I also have very large plastic zipper bags that I purchase flour in; I can scoop in 5 lbs of bread flour at a time into one of these. At home I transfer the contents to another storage receptacle, rinse, and reuse the baggies. Makes it easier to transport to and from the store than carrying glass jars, except for the glass jar I reuse for store-ground peanut butter. And, like many others, I do stock up on the bulk items when they go on sale, which they often do. Nothing like freshly popped organic popcorn at $1/something a pound (we invested in an item called a "Whirley-Pop" to make it on the stove; takes 5 minutes) when watching the Sox ... way cheaper and better than bagged or microwaved popcorn.

Mary says …

I love the bulk department, but wish you would go back to having spices, etc. stocked alphabetically. This used to be the case, but now things are just haphazard on the shelves. Takes a LOT of time to have to read each label and hunt for the item you want. Thanks for listening!

Christine O'Connor says …

I made the Chewy Coconut Granola Bars for my son to take back to college with him, and they turned out very well. The bars didn't fall apart( a problem I've had with other granola bar recipes), and they were far tastier than any store bought brands. They were also easy to make. Next time I'm going to experiment with adding chocolate chips!

dael says …

Someone mentioned you may carry bulk organic choc. Chips?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@DAEL - We should have this option but our exact products in bulk can differ. Call your local store to find out for sure if the have these in stock!

Heidi says …

I would like to know if whole foods sells fruits by the case and what the discount would be. The 10% off discount would not be economical since there is always some fresh produce that is damaged within the case, so the savings would be lost. I am looking for a more economical way of buying organic fruits and vegetables.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@HEIDI - Most stores will offer a 10% case discount but check with your local store to find out as it can differ between locations.

VeronicaOberdorf says …

I am new to Whole Foods and just purchased some bulk food items. I'm wondering if there is nutritional information on your website for these foods. I know it is available on each bin, but it was so crowded and many customers wanted access so I didn't feel I could hold the lines up to write the information down. I haven't had time to search your entire website, but I haven't seen it so far. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@VERONICA - Since our Bulk items differ between stores we don't currently offer an online database. I would suggest calling your local store to see if they are able to write down the nutritional info for you and can email it to you!

paul fierro says …

Are hemp seeds (hearts) available in bulk? Also, is the nutritional yeast a dry product, and is it available in bulk as well? Is black garlic available at Whole Foods and how long can it be stored. I will be in Long Beach this month and would like to stock up on these products. I thank you for any info that can be provided. Regards, pf.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PAUL - The exact Bulk options will vary between locations. Check with the store directly to see what they have in stock. You can find their contact info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.

Cynthia Seale says …

I was totally shocked at the price of fresh ground almond butter at 14.99/lb. at the Palm Beach Gardens store in FL. I have purchased it in CO, Highlands Ranch store and Hampden store for 7.99/lb. why the price difference? Needless to say I purchased a small amount and will have to find another source to purchase my almond butter in greater quanitiy without paying such an astronomical price increase. Was there an error in the price? Thank you for your help.

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CYNTHIA - Our prices do vary between stores but there should not be that big of a gap. Was it possible that the higher priced nut butter was for the organic option? There will be a difference in price between organic and conventional options that would sound more like this range.

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