"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Friday 4 March 2011

Continuing making a difference journey - the benefits of buying in bulk

As a small income producing sideline, I am in the fortunate position of manufacturing salad dressings for a few of the local restaurants.  That entails buying as many goods as I can in bulk, in order to keep the costs as low as possible.  Bulk items are packaged in bulk containers, which are generally all recyclable.  Naturally, I am incapable of throwing these containers away, and use them for a variety of my storage solutions.

Here, on the top shelf, I am storing my herbs (which I use in cooking, salad dressings and preserving) in empty mayonnaise jars.

I also use these jars to store...

Cereals and sugar

Dried pasta and rice
and finally, they also store RMans' spare parts, nuts, screws and bolts on the farm (sorry, I don't have a pic of that).

They are perfect as they do have an inner seal on the lid, so I don't have to worry about creepy crawlies gaining access.  (Don't forget - a sprig of Bay Leaves in the jar prevents weevils.) 

It's just a pity the jars are made of plastic - I reckon they could've made cool preserving jars!!

Now, I realise that not everyone has access to bulk containers, but have you considered your local restaurant?  They probably throw away dozens of bulk containers a week, and would be grateful to someone / anyone who could assist them in disposing of their waste / relieve them of the added refuse collection - which the restaurant probably has to pay for - I know they charge restaurants per bin / weight in the UK.  (And for my readers who frequent the "Grub Shack" I'm sure that Jerry and Eva must have more bulk containers than they know what to do with LOL).

These white containers with blue lids are from 125ml (4 fl.oz) and 250ml (8 - 9 fl.oz) cream.  When they are new and full of cream they have a foil seal.  Once that is removed, the (blue) lid fits, but not airtight.  Thus, in my book, they make perfect storage containers for the (very dry) seeds obtained from plants in my vegetable patch which have gone to seed, or from vegetables / fruits which I purchase from the local greengrocer (such as paw-paws, watermelons, squash and pumpkins) as I am currently incapable of growing them (but which I hope to grow next season on the farm).  I also add a sachet of silica gel to prevent a build up of moisture in them - the silica gel sachets we get from bottles of tablets / vitamins, and I certainly can't toss them into the rubbish bin either!

The tall glass bottles are from fruit liqueurs, and I'm still debating what to store in those - possibly flavoured vinegars.

The smaller jars (on the right of the picture) are for kitchen use of herbs and spices - when I need to make salad dressings, I pull out the big guns.

Factories are always going to produce some of their goods in bulk containers.  If we can re-use these containers, we are, firstly, saving on the purchase of such containers for use in our homes / potting sheds / childrens playrooms / classrooms / garages, secondly, we are re-using something which is perfect as it is and does not need be recycled to produce (using unnecessary energy) something else, and finally, buying in bulk is cheaper - you're not having to pay extra to cover the cost of all the smaller containers.

This is a brilliant link detailing the storage life of most foodstuffs - it certainly simplifies my life :-)


  1. Glass is King! I always use 1/2 quart, quart, and 2 quart canning jars for everything. I wash the used lids and reuse them for storage items. Oh! I also ues them again for canning, but new lids. Glass is great for the earth, it is very recyclable. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Lou - Welcome

    I agree - glass is king and wish I could buy my supplies in glass. But I can't, so I have to make do with what I have :-)

  3. Just keep recycling plastics, and reusing glass till you break it and then recycle it. Have a safe day-------I guess night!

  4. I love to buy in bulk and I only restock 4 times a year. Every container I see, I try to get. In our area we have lots of elderly people who lived through WWII and they saved everything. So when they clear out their homes, there are glass containers galore going to the dump. Score

  5. Hmmm - mebbe I should move close to you and your dump? :-)

  6. I love that you are finding a good use for all of those containers. Our honey comes in plastic jugs like that we re-use...wish we had more of them. Glass is great, but plastic is much more forgiving.:)

  7. Mr H - I just wonder if plastic can be sterilized as easily as glass.

    Honey - that I can buy wholesale (until we have a hive or two up and running) and for that I'll take my own containers along.

    Also, don't forget, freezing in plastic is not advised :-) Glass is better, but in short supply here.

  8. I rarely throw any jars and containers away anymore. Or rather, put them in the recycling bin. Good point about non airtight lids and seed storage. I hadn't thought of that. Like Lou, I prefer glass too, though not everything I still buy comes in glass. One of my problems though, is that almost everything in my pantry seems to end up infested with moths. So most of it ends up getting stored in the freezer.

  9. Leigh - try putting a sprig of Bay Leaves in the jar. Or else place a good layer of non-shrink wrap between the lid and the jar - as an extra "seal". Perhaps the moth eggs are also IN the dry goods you are storing - that they got in whilst they were being packed in the factory, or whilst they are stored on the shop shelves??

  10. I have switched out a lot of the plastic for glass in the cupboards by using canning jars. I have found some glass gallon jars and use them to store some of the bulk items (oatmeal). To avoid bugs, anything think I bring home (flour, oatmeal) goes into the freezer for a few days (or longer if I forget) to kill things. It seems to work, then I can bring it out of the freezer and store. I don't have a ton of freezer room so sometimes this happens a little at at time. I like the trick/tip on putting a bay leaf in things. Emily

  11. Emilysincerely - Welcome.

    Do soooo wish I could get my bulk supplies in glass - but guess I need to be satisfied that I can re-use the packaging, and not have to send it to recycling.

    Love your tip on freezing dry goods for a couple of days - I, too, don't have much freezer space. I'm sure between the freezing and the bay loeaf - they can't but work!


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