Bulk Up in the Bulk Aisle: Good for Singles, Health Nuts, and Creative Cooks

May 15 2009, 11:27 AM

Until recently, the bulk aisles of the grocery store remained a mystery to me. You know, the section with all the plastic bins, scoops, and tiny id tags. I always sensed it was an area filled with granola and trail mix, so I would carefully shop around it.

Sidenote: I'm also allergic to peanuts, and I assumed everything in the bulk aisle would include the dreaded "may contain peanut molecules that will kill you, bwa ha ha!" I was wrong about this. There are plenty of nut-free products here, and each is marked clearly.

Here's a rundown of the essentials:Get crunchy: I was seduced into Sunflower's bulk aisle by the idea of making my own granola bars and was surprised by the variety: $2.99 for a pound of French vanilla granola? Strawberry-raspberry, pumpkin spice, or strawberries-and-cream flavors are also available. I started to wonder why I ever got stuck in the boring cereal aisle looking at Count Chocula.

Get your staples: Color me embarrassed: I didn't know plain ol' items like flour and salt are also in the bulk aisles. And the flours are plentiful: spelt flour, soy flour, and pastry flour. I also found turbinado sugar, which I can't even identify, but judging from the root word, I'm pretending it will make me extremely fast.

Legumes and grains: As someone with limited pantry space, I can no longer afford the real estate of purchasing the dog-food-size bag of jasmine rice. Here, I can get smaller amounts of my beloved jasmine, as well as other varieties like wild dark rice and sushi rice. I've also been hesitant to buy dried beans--the soaking process always seemed tedious--but the variety of dried legumes that aren't available in cans is impressive. I noted cranberry beans, green split peas, and red and green lentils.

Extras: A few more options from your bulk aisle: multi-grain pancake mix, soy milk powder, instant refried beans, falafel mix, and hummus mix.

Storage: There are many storage options for your bulk bounty, but I've become smitten with the old-fashioned canning jars. The small size is perfect for my tiny, bachelorette-pad kitchen. Also, they're easy on the pocketbook: 12 jars cost around $10.