I really wonder what my neighbors think when a humongous trailer truck backs into my driveway and slides out the ramp from the back.
Did they buy a new couch?
What are those boxes?
(takes a minute to read the side of the truck: Country Life Natural Foods)
Is that really all FOOD?
You betcha, neighbors – it’s called buying in bulk and getting together with friends so the truck will come right to you!
Country Life Natural Foods delivers wonderful bulk selections to certain parts of the Midwest. (2021 UPDATE: They now ship all over the contiguous US.) They’re not nearly as widespread as Azure Standard, for example, but for me, they’re a great deal and the best bulk option.
As long as I can rustle up $400 total in an order, the truck comes to my house, no shipping charge.
It’s scary how fast I can get a large portion of that $400 total tallied up with just my own order.
Every time I send out an email asking if people are interested in ordering, they ask, “So what do you buy there, anyway?”
This post is for them…and for me, so I can remember when I run out of things.
If you don’t live in the Country Life area, you might still get some ideas about bulk ordering procedures, and here are some other online bulk ordering options for you to peruse:
- Azure Standard: great prices, often recommended by readers, I believe they’re expanding their delivery area, including maybe even near me! Laura at Heavenly Homemakers is an Azure guru and can explain how it works.
- Vitacost – Stacy Makes Cents will explain the beauty of Vitacost to you (link no longer available) – I shopped for food there after seeing her picture on Facebook:
Then when I made an order, it came smelling like pickle juice and looking like this:
You’re seeing wet, open boxes of crackers, dented cans, and fragile apple chips crammed in the middle of the box, under the crackers. I thought, “Whaaaa???”
My mad detective skills led me to believe the the UPS man dropped something very, very heavy on my box – then repackaged it so he wouldn’t get caught. !!! Seriously. Vitacost handled the situation well and refunded me for the pickle jar that was missing, and I could have had replacements for the crackers, but I decided that since the inner packaging wasn’t damaged, I wasn’t willing to take the time to send them back.
- If you are a first time shopper at Vitacost, you’ll want to use this link to get $10 for your first order (and I’ll get some bucks off as well).
Mountain Rose Herbs(Link Removed) is another potential online store for certain bulk purchases, and there are many others.
The “What Does a Real Foodie Buy at…?” series is generously sponsored by Plan to Eat, where you can use the Grocery Store Menu to organize your shopping by grocery store and even set defaults for certain items to go on the list where it’s least expensive. See the other shopping ideas:
Now, on to Country Life!
What I Buy at Country Life
I’ll include current prices (as of spring 2013 when I made my last order) just to give you an idea of how inexpensively you might be able to get some items from a bulk source.
- Organic black beans, 5# for $1.45/lb. or 25# for $1.15/lb.
- Organic black-eyed peas, 5# for $1.65/lb.
- White kidney beans (cannellini), 5# for $2.30/lb. (although I usually just use Great Northern or navy beans now, more frugal)
- Organic Garbanzo beans, 5# for $2.25/lb. or 25# for $1.90/lb.
- Organic Great Northern beans, 5# for $1.70 or 25# for $1.40/lb.
- Organic kidney beans, 5# for $1.70 or 25# for $1.40/lb.
- Green lentils, 5# for $1.40/lb. or 25# for $1.10/lb. (organic is $1.90 and $1.60 respectively)
- Organic navy beans, 5# for $1.50/lb. or 25# for $1.20/lb.
- Organic pinto beans, 5# for $1.95/lb. or 25# for $1.65/lb.
Now that I’m writing those out, I can’t wait to get them all in my price book – some are considerably higher than I expected, although any price in my head is probably not for organic, so I have to take that into account. For conventionally farmed dry legumes, I hate to spend over $1/lb., but maybe that goal is outdated. I used to get lentils for 20c/lb. at Save-a-Lot about 6-7 years ago! Sigh…
I took this photo as an example of containers that I save for dividing up 25# bags of beans or grains. My oatmeal goes into about a dozen or more actual oatmeal containers that I saved from when I was buying it at Save-a-Lot. It’s just too convenient!
- Tahini, $5.25 for 15 oz. can (I use it in simple blender hummus)
- Organic peanut butter, $5.50 for 16 oz.
- Stretch Island fruit leather strips are 50-60c each…I feel like a sale at the health foods store might be less expensive. Time to price Costco’s snacks!
- Stevia extract, white powder – but I don’t know the brand – $6.25/oz.
- Gluten-free Lundberg organic brown rice pasta (and I’d love to try their spelt pasta)
nuts and seeds
- Blanched almond flour, $5.75/lb.
- , steam pasteurized, $4.35/lb. for a 5# bag, organic for $8/lb.
- Brazil nuts, $5 for 10 oz.
- Whole roasted
, $8/lb. (the quality of these guys is head and shoulders beyond Aldi, for example…); raw for baking are $6.75/lb.
- Organic “pieces” are only $6.25/lb. – oops – I’ll be getting these in the future for recipes that just blend them up anyway.
- Pecans are a better deal at Costco
- Macadamia nuts, $11.25/lb. (man, is that an indulgence! Yikes!)
- , $6.75/lb. (Costco better deal)
- Organic flax seeds, $1.75-2/lb.
- Sesame seeds, $2/lb. or $3.25/lb. organic
- Sunflower seeds, raw, $1.75/lb. or $2.70/lb. organic, 5# bags
- Unsweetened banana chips, 2# for $2.50/lb.
- Coconut chips, $2.85/lb.
- Coconut, medium (like shreds), $2.75/lb.
- Coconut, macaroon (very finely grated), $2.75/lb.
- Both are a much better deal, by more than a dollar a pound, than Tropical Traditions!
- Dates, pitted, 5# at $3/lb, 15# at $2.50/lb. (Costco would be better at both sizes! This is new information for me!)
- Raisins, organic, $2.10/lb. for 30# box, which we go through in far less than a year (that’s scary), and I also just realized that the organic raisins at Costco are only $2/lb. THAT is why it pays to make a price book! I’m so glad I made that Monday Mission for MYSELF!
- Organic figs, $4.25/lb. – might have been a better deal at Costco too!
- Organic prunes, $4.75/lb., unsorbated prunes, $3.50/lb.
grains and starches
- This is what got me started at Country Life, when the oatmeal price beat out Save-a-Lot, which was already kicking Meijer’s behind! Rolled oats, 60 cents/lb. for 25# bag, 95 cents/lb. for organic 25#
- I’d get just about any flour at Country Life if I didn’t have a Nutrimill (link goes to Amazon) already; many are not certified organic but “certified chemical free” which is a great less expensive step
- Organic coconut flour is $6/lb., better deal at Tropical Traditions
- Sorghum flour, ~$3/lb., current price at Amazon better, for 4 bags
- Whole grain teff, $3.96/lb. (better deal than Amazon)
- Arrowroot powder, $2.30/lb. (MUCH better deal than Amazon or Mountain Rose, current prices)
- Organic barley, $1.10/lb.
- Organic hulled white buckwheat, $2/lb. for 5#, $1.65/lb for 25# (this is to grind into flour and make buckwheaties, soaked and dehydrated whole groats)
- Country Life’s whole grains for grinding are great and generally have very competitive prices: spelt, Kamut, all kinds of wheat berries, millet, and more.
- Yellow organic popcorn for less than $1/lb. for a 50# bag, $1.40/lb. for 5#
- Organic long grain brown rice, $1/lb. for 50#, $1.35/lb. for 5# (Costco turns out to be 5c more for the 12-pound bag vs. Country Life’s 50#…but since brown rice really shouldn’t be around as long as my 50# bag is taking us to get through (16 mos. already, darnit!), this is not a good deal. Costco, here I come!)
- Organic evaporated cane juice – <$2/lb. (better deal currently than Costco)
- Sucanat – $2.25/lb.
- Blackstrap molasses – $3.50/32 oz.
Lots of spices are good deals, but you just need to know your other sources and price check. My favs include:
- Cardamom (crazy good deal)
- Chili powder
This isn’t the time or place to go into irradiation and why, since it’s very easy to do, I choose to avoid it whenever possible, but I did ask at Country Life and found out that about half their spices are irradiated while the others are not.
Here is the list of spices that ARE irradiated at Country Life:
- whole anise
- whole bay leaves
- whole carraway seed
- whole celery seed
- ground and whole cloves
- whole dill seed
- whole dill weed
- whole fennel
- gran. Garlic and garlic powder
- whole marjoram
- parsley flakes
- green and red bell peppers 🙁
- whole rosemary
- whole savory
- whole thyme
I asked at Costco just this week, and they answered:
I need to do some more questioning, because first of all, the spices I have from there are largely McCormick brand. Secondly, can you steam sterilize a spice? Wouldn’t the moisture compromise it? I’m not convinced this is the right answer. She also said that irradiation has to be disclosed on the package, and I’m looking into that. Is that true??
Items I Would Potentially Buy but Haven’t Yet
There are some bars and more “processed” but still healthy options at Country Life that I just haven’t bothered with before, but they look ‘clean’ in the ingredients and a possible fun purchase:
- unsweetened carob chips, $2.50/lb.
- Oskri coconut bars (yummy!), $18/20 pcs.
- Rice thins, brown – GF, simple ingredients, and a better deal than Blue Diamond Nut Thins usually are, but I’d want to taste one before buying a case.
- Have to price check coconut milk – Thai brand, not organic, $2.10/14 oz.
- Michigan honey – $38.50/gal. – Not sure if it’s raw, but for baking, oh well!
- Considering some diatomaceous earth in the next order – 5# for $11.25, and I could sprinkle around the outside of my house to naturally get rid of ants
- Yeast is $3.25/lb. – compare to Costco?
- Madhava coconut sugar – $4.25/lb.
- Date sugar – $3.75/lb.
- Psyllium husks are $6.50/lb., a good deal if I ever run out!
There are some other interesting items I should price check, like unbleached parchment paper, charcoal capsules, Bragg’s aminos, apple cider vinegar, cherry juice concentrate, and aluminum-free baking powder.
If you’re wondering how long this all took…too long. And my price book still has a LOT of holes, but it should only take 10-15 more minutes to get all the Costco and Country Life prices in there. I just need to print it out and take it to Aldi and/or simply use receipts as I get them to fill in the rest. However – as I noticed as I was going today – I’ve thought I was getting the best deal on a couple items, only to be wrong! So in the long run, I hope the price book is worth it.
What/where do you buy in bulk? How do you make sure you’re getting the best prices?
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon, Country Life, Mountain Rose Herbs, Tropical Traditions and Vitacost from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.