When we lived at 2000 feet above sea level and a good 6 miles of hilly isolated rural roads lay between us the nearest town my dear mate and neighbour Jen and I would always put together a bulk food order and halve it when it came.
We loved seeing our shonky wonky pantry shelves packed with dried foodstuffs, tins and jars knowing that if the car broke down, illness struck or snowed heavily we would have enough to see us through. When we were snowed in for six weeks it was no matter as we were fully stocked up and ready for it.
Jen put me on to the Approved Food online clearance discount food shop which I have used ever since every few months.
It is admittedly a similar shopping experience to buying mainly from charity shops and eBay as you never know what is going to be for sale and even if you see something you want to buy it may well be gone by the time you get to the online checkout. They are as far as I can make out a retailer who specialise in end of shelf life food and household products.
This week my quarterly bulk food shopping from them cost me £101 but the RRP of the entire order had I paid full price would have been well over £300. I use Approved Foods for discount chocolate, tins of fruit and vegetables, massive catering packs of spices, pasta, bread flour and occasionally recycled toilet paper. My kids LOVE it when I tell them an Approved Food order is on its way as it is usually full of a load of stuff I would not normally buy (this time we got 20 packs of mini cream eggs, tinned Heinz tomato soup and several breakfast cereals that were not porridge).
An added bonus of doing an a quarterly shop with Approved Foods is that the food comes packed into cardboard boxes which are ideal for using as a weed-killing mulch on the areas of lawned garden I am trying to create food growing areas.
I also use a couple of other suppliers for environmentally friendly cleaning products and organic toiletries and cosmetics namely Big Green Smile for natural ingredients based and environmentally friendly shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, washing up liquid and so on. Most can be bought in huge 2-25 litre bottles which last us a very long time.
Another tried and tested supplier is the wholefoods distributor Naturally Good Food. They stock a great range and I regularly put in an order for 25kg sacks of organic and fair trade sugar, bread flour, and cereals such as oats, barley flakes, seeds and dried fruit such as raisins, apricots and so on which offer a huge cost saving over the prices for smaller packets in the baking sections of large supermarkets. I buy a massive load of raisins and then use them in tiny lidded tubs for our kids packed lunches and for baking.
I set myself a budget of £500 per year for the things I buy from these suppliers but place orders from Approved Food once every three months. Many of the things I buy last a year so when the next quarter rolls round I simply stock up on other things from that supplier instead.
This year I aim to grow and preserve some of my own home grown fruit and vegetables which has not been possible in previous years due to our transient constantly moving house lifestyle. Now we have a place we plan to stay in we can let the plants we have gathered in pots and moved with us finally spread their roots and grow!
The bulk foods I buy are mainly kept in large jars, lidded storage crates or metal bins. I need to get better at keeping an inventory of what we have got and what we need to use up as is coming to the end of its shelf life.
What bulk food suppliers do you use? How often do you order from them and how do you organise your spending and storing of the bulk products?