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What Does a Real Foodie Buy at…Country Life Natural Foods?

I really wonder what my neighbors think when a humongous trailer truck backs into my driveway and slides out the ramp from the back.

Are they moving?

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!

What Does a Real Foodie Buy at Country Life

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. Winking smile

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:Stacy's vitacost dec 2012

Then when I made an order, it came smelling like pickle juice and looking like this:

Vitacost crushed order 3
Vitacost crushed order
Vitacost crushed order 2

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.

DRY BEANS

  • 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…

food containers for long term bulk storage (1)

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!

dry goods

  • 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.
  • Almonds (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!), steam pasteurized, $4.35/lb. for a 5# bag, organic for $8/lb.
  • Brazil nuts, $5 for 10 oz.
  • Whole roasted cashews (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!), $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!)
  • Walnuts (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!), $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

dried fruit

  • 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

lazy susan bulk food storage (6)
  • 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!)

baking

  • Organic evaporated cane juice – <$2/lb. (better deal currently than Costco)
  • Sucanat – $2.25/lb.
  • Blackstrap molasses – $3.50/32 oz.

spices

Lots of spices are good deals, but you just need to know your other sources and price check. My favs include:

  • Cinnamon
  • Cardamom (crazy good deal)
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin

Irradiating Spices

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
  • chives
  • cilantro
  • 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
  • turmeric

I asked at Costco just this week, and they answered:

“None of the Kirkland Signature spices are irradiated. It is steam sterilized.”

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.

39 thoughts on “What Does a Real Foodie Buy at…Country Life Natural Foods?”

  1. Thank you for this post. I am compiling a Country Life Natural Foods order, and this was really helpful!

  2. Have you checked out Honeyville Grains? http://honeyvillegrain.com/ Their almond flour is much much cheaper than the one you posted, well, if you buy it in 25# quantities. They have 10% off coupons regularly if you sign up for their newsletter.

  3. Nancy Simmonds

    Hi Katie, I wanted to mention that I run a food co-op and we order from Country Life Natural Foods. I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with Chris (their buying agent); he’s wonderful and helpful. I wanted to know about the Michigan honey and it is raw…I actually suspect it is from the Amish just north of CLNF. I wanted to contact them, and there just was no web info on them or phone number. Hope this helps!

  4. I thought I’d mention that Frontier has a coop to that you can join to get wholesale prices. They have a fantastic range of quality-well sourced, products from herbs and seasonings, to essential oils, and beauty products. They are an excellent company, I’ve always been very satisfied with my purchases from them. I know I sound like an info-merical but I just never see them mentioned on these sites and I really think they are an awesome company.

  5. Elouise Bourges It just means someone who appreciates good food, in this case “real” food as in whole, traditionally prepared foods. 🙂

  6. Stacy Makes Cents

    Thanks for the love. 🙂
    We don’t have anything bulk like that here – I was doing a co-op before we moved but it was NOT cheaper. Azure is now only about 1 hour and 15 minutes away, so I’m pestering them to let me be a drop point. 🙂
    PS – You’re my food hero.

  7. In the Denver area Golden Organics is great, and similar. I don’t know what their shipping deal is, since you can just go to their warehouse and pick it up yourself if you live close enough. But, I compared prices, and I thought it was funny…the 25# organic black beans, from Michigan, are $0.02 cheaper for us than they are for you!

    Ok, fine, I know. That’s not that big a difference…:)

  8. I’ve been boycotting Vitacost ever since they proudly advertised “beauty” products containing embryonic stem cells & published an article in their newsletter promoting euthanasia. I won’t give such a company a single cent of my money!

    1. Ack! And I had an email from another reader that Amazon supports gay marriage in a BIG way…maybe I need to get back to just shopping at stores and not online. This sinful world is a pain sometimes! But thank you for sharing..sheesh, euthanasia?! Ridiculous. 🙁 Katie

      1. Ugh! Just saw this since I was reading from a non-refreshed screen until I replied. It is getting so very hard to eliminate all places that go against my beliefs.

        There are a few I feel quite convicted to not patronize, Home Depot, JCP, Sears for the most part and now Vitacost. Then again there are easy alternatives, maybe Amazon is a true test. I will need to pray.

        There are other places as well that are involved or promote agendas and products with that I disagree, but it seems quite impossible to avoid so I hope by acceptable purchasing products, I’m still staying true to God.

    2. Thank you for sharing this information! I have only ordered from them once when I signed up even though I window shopped a lot.

      iHerb is the place I really enjoyed and Amazon (Prime) is the only place that seemed to beat any of there prices.

      1. Purchasing according to your moral beliefs and ethics is one of the best ways to change the world we live in. Mother Jones did an article on warehouse wage slaves http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor?page=1. Amazon was the top retailer using this type of exploitative labor. Greenamerica.org is a good source to find products from ethical and environmentally friendly companies. They don’t have a grocery section on their Green Guide, but there are many other items available and lots of great articles and research, too.

        Thanks Katie for doing this series. My husband recently took a different job with a substantial pay cut. I’m up late working on the budget and took a break to read your posts. Great timing as my last price book is about 3 years old and now is a great time to update it given my new lower budget.

        1. I just wrote a more thorough reply, but it disappeared so I’ll just be short and sweet. 🙂

          I disagree with greenamerica.org and the opinion formed by the “journalist”, but I sincerely thank you for the links of information.

    3. Laura, could I ask where/when you saw this information? I’m trying to substantiate it but keep coming up empty handed. I do make buying decisions based on our family’s moral/ethical/religious convictions, but I do want proof.

      1. I had to go hunting, but here is the article they published last spring that sent me over the edge: http://www.wellnesstimes.com/articles/till-death-do-us-part

        I can’t remember the beauty product with fetal cells. According to COG, Neocutis is the offending brand, and I can’t find it on the Vitacost site now. Not sure if they stopped carrying it or I just don’t know how to find it!

        1. Thank you Laura. Our society has had the mentality that medicine must fight death at all costs. Now some are questioning whether life-at-any-cost is better than quality life. Unfortunately, some are concluding that physician assisted suicide is the answer. I don’t agree with this conclusion. But that has nothing to do with Katie’s post, so I’ll not debate it here. I’m not sure what I’ll do about Vitacost…I’ll have to think about this. If we boycotted every company with whom we have moral/religious/ethical disagreement, we’d soon find ourselves in isolation from all of society.

          1. Kathleen,
            I wonder about this too:
            “If we boycotted every company with whom we have moral/religious/ethical disagreement, we’d soon find ourselves in isolation from all of society.”

            It seems like there’s too much sin in the world to 100% separate from it, so what’s a Christian to do? I’m not sure yet either…
            Katie

  9. This series is really helpful. I really should make a price book. Anyway, I’m pretty sure those stretch island fruit bars are something like 25 cents each at Costco. Possibly even a little less. I just bought some there and the whole reason I did is I noticed how cheap they are.

    1. I was at the one in Cincinnati to day and they don’t have “leathers” anymore but packages of “bites.” Seemed to be same ingredients at 44 cents per package.

  10. Any suggestions for those of us living on the East Coast? I’m in West Virginia, so neither Country Life nor Azure Standards delivers here, I believe.

      1. Check out the Frankferd Farms link above if you are in the western part of VA and/or this link for the Breadbeckers. I’ve ordered from them and heard Sue at a homeschool convention.

        They have routes for FL, GA, NC, SC VA and MD.

        http://info.breadbeckers.com/co-op-locations/

        Lucky for me, I have access to both and can compare both and my local bulk store.

    1. Try this co-op to see if you are on their route.

      I ordered with friends with them adn was pleased. My only complaint is that when you order, they can’t give you an immediate total or tell you if they are out of something because they may not pull the order for a few days and things change. So you have no way of substituting something else if they are out.

      I’m in the Shen Valley of VA and am on the WV run. There is also a SW Va run.

    1. Yes, it is very cheap – er inexpensive – there and very good quality. Mine still does fine even a year after the supposed expiry date. I do keep it in the fridge after opening.

  11. I was doing some research on irradiation yesterday and I read that packages have to be marked at the first point of sale only. So, in most cases I’m guessing that’s not the package that comes to us as the consumer. I checked several packages from Aldi and Costco (including a bag of almonds) and didn’t see the symbol for irradiation on anything. In fact, I don’t remember EVER seeing it on anything I’ve ever bought! So, I have a hard time believing that the packages we buy at retailers are required to be marked. I’m sure irradiation is more widespread than that… So many things to think about when shopping now-a-days!

    1. I found this in my own research http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/sources/food_labeling.html stating “FDA requires labeling of packaged, irradiated food sold at retail stores.” and “No label is required for food products that contain irradiated ingredients, such as spices, as long as the entire product has not been irradiated.”

      The totality of my research seems to indicate that the last statement is for things like meat products, etc (sausage) which may have irradiated spices as an ingredient, but the meat/entire product has not itself been irradiated.

      Is there a reason I shouldn’t trust the EPA’s reiteration of FDA requirements? I don’t want to be one of the sheeple! (:

  12. Hi! Thank you for the info 🙂 just wanted to let you know that we picked up a #50 bag of diatomaceous earth (food grade) at Azure for $20. And yes it totally works on the ants!

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