Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

The Bulk Department: A Shopper’s Best Friend

By Allison Burch, August 16, 2013  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Allison Burch

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?





Diana says ...
how high of heat is the honey toasted pecans prepared for sale in the bulk department
08/16/2013 6:11:45 PM CDT
Joani Moore says ...
Do you sell and ship fresh dill in bulk for making pickles?
08/17/2013 3:27:57 PM CDT
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.
08/17/2013 7:21:31 PM CDT
Samantha says ...
You guys don't sale fruits and vegetables in bulk?
08/18/2013 5:51:22 PM CDT
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.
08/19/2013 11:36:54 AM CDT
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!
08/19/2013 4:27:22 PM CDT
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!
08/19/2013 4:28:12 PM CDT
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!
08/19/2013 4:29:27 PM CDT
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!
08/19/2013 4:30:51 PM CDT
Krista says ...
Only thing that bothers me about the bulk bins is when people stick their hands in there to 'sample' the product. Gross.
08/21/2013 4:06:20 AM CDT
Howard Snyder says ...
Do you have raw turmeric in store now? Howard Snyder
08/21/2013 4:41:29 PM CDT
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!
08/22/2013 11:19:11 AM CDT
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!'
08/22/2013 12:00:59 PM CDT
a says ...
Please bring more bulk items to the Mt. Washington store, especially spices.
08/23/2013 3:06:12 AM CDT
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! :))
08/23/2013 9:08:03 AM CDT
connie says ...
You used to carry FAVA beans. Why did you stop. One of my favorite bulk foods! Please bring them back!
08/28/2013 11:53:51 AM CDT
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. :)
08/28/2013 1:45:43 PM CDT
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
08/28/2013 1:51:35 PM CDT
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.
08/28/2013 2:58:39 PM CDT
algeisa vazquez says ...
My favorite things to buy are quinoa, old fashion oats and dry fruits and nut.
08/28/2013 2:59:45 PM CDT
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
08/28/2013 3:08:39 PM CDT
I would like to check the bulk option
08/28/2013 3:37:30 PM CDT
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.
08/28/2013 4:03:44 PM CDT
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!
08/28/2013 4:26:44 PM CDT
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!
08/28/2013 4:28:56 PM CDT