One of my first priorities when we move somewhere new or travel to a new location is FOOD! But not just any food. I like to find the locally owned "mom-and-pop" shops and I like to find the local grocery stores that carry new things I've never tried before. It's just an added bonus if those grocery stores offer unpackaged produce and food in bulk! There is one health food store in Okinawa that offers bulk and I love going there. (Please tell me if I'm missing any others!) They have a great selection of the kitchen staples - grains, dried fruit, dried nuts, pasta and some snacks.
If you've spent any time in Japan you know it's often difficult to find unpackaged food. Sometimes even a single banana is sold in a plastic bag. My joke is that even the packaging has packaging. (If you live here you know what I mean!) While I appreciate the detail to presentation, sometimes I don't want to create so much trash with the things I buy.
When we moved here the summer of 2018 my first question for people was often times "Is there a bulk food store?!" Sometimes I got blank stares but thankfully some people in the know told me about the health food store and cafe called Green Leaf. (This post doesn't even begin to cover how wonderful the cafe is but you'd be crazy to miss out on their delicious menu!) I've really come to love this little selection of bulk food available on the island.
Shopping for bulk food really doesn't require any preparation but it's nice taking your own bags or jars so you don't have to use the thin plastic bags provided.
If you use cotton bags there are tons of options! And maybe you even have some around the house already. I bought this pack of six from Amazon and it has been great. I haven't needed more than six yet but if we lived close to a store with a bigger bulk selection then I would probably need twice that amount.
If you use glass jars then you will need to make sure you weigh the empty jar before filling them so you don't pay an extra amount for the weight of the jar. When you get to the store simply ask if they want to do that for you at the register first, or if they want you to write down the tare weight on the jar. The more you do this, the easier it gets. I love and use the Le Parfait jars in my kitchen. I use them for everything from granola to crackers! (I prefer the Le Parfait swing top jars over Mason jars with lids because you don't have to keep track of loose lid pieces and there aren't any metal lids to rust and discolor.) If you live near a store with a salad bar or other "wet" bulk foods Le Parfait jars would be perfect.
Buying food in bulk (and subsequently reducing your amount of waste) doesn't have to be a daunting task! As with everything in a sustainable and lower-waste lifestyle, do it a little bit at a time. Even if you've only purchased two things in bulk that you would normally buy in a package you're doing great! The aim is not perfection, the aim is progress.
Another thing I enjoy about buying food in bulk is that I can control the amount I purchase at once. For example, I don't have to buy a "mess load" of carob chips if I only need a 1/2 cup for a specific recipe. This also allows us to try small amounts of new things and discover new foods that we enjoy without buying a huge box of food that will potentially sit unused.
One of my favorite added bonuses - many bulk food items are a lower price than their packaged version. The lack of packaging allows stores to price the food lower which means savings for you at the end of the day!
There are many things to love about buying food in bulk. I hope you give it a try no matter where you live and see how you like it! I want to see you and your family in the bulk food aisle - tag me on Facebook or Instagram @allie_whalen and show me which new foods you've tried!
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