Buying in Bulk: What’s the Big Deal?

In considering whether or not to buy in bulk, there are many pros. And in my book, there are also some challenges. (To clarify, for the purposes of this posting, bulk is when you can get any amount of something you want.  Pre-packaged items do not count.)

First, here are some benefits:

  1. Less packaging waste
    This is especially true if you bring your own container.
  2. Less food waste!
    By buying in bulk, you are able to buy only what you need.
  3. It can save you some money
    Buying heavily packaged products can mean that you are paying more for the packaging. That is, you are paying for something that you will throw away immediately.

Ok, what about the challenges?

  1. It’s not always the least expensive option.
    But you can still save money by buying less quantity and buying only what you need. If you do this, it is less likely for food to go bad, which is like throwing money away.
  2. It takes time to learn to remember your containers.
    Forming new habits takes time. And more than the mythical 21 days. While it would be nice to change yourself in 3 weeks, one study found it takes closer to 2 months. But you just have to start doing it and it will get easier every time!

So where can you buy bulk in Deschutes County? Zero-Waste extraordinaire Bea Johnson started a bulk finder website with a database of bulk sellers. There are quite a few in the area! If you know of one that isn’t on the site, you can add it. The biggest lack we noticed was beauty and animal products. As far as we know, Cornucopia Natural Foods in Redmond is the only place that sells bulk laundry and dishwasher detergent as well as shampoo and conditioner. Market of Choice does have liquid Castille soap (Dr. Bronners) on tap!

One type of bulk is loose produce: whole fruit and vegetables that are not pre-packaged. Potatoes can be put in a reusable bag rather than taking the big bag of potatoes that are pre-packaged. You can buy a whole apple and cut it up rather than buying a pre-sliced apple.

Buying your beer in a growler definitely counts as buying in bulk, by the way! Growler fill stations are not included in the list below, but most places will do it for you.

Before you go: get your clean, dry containers ready! Don’t forget to make sure they are labeled with the tare weight. You can also re-use plastic bags and mesh produce bags.


Deschutes County Bulk Locations

Below is a list of stores we know carry bulk. I didn’t include any breweries, but buying your beer in a growler definitely counts as buying in bulk! No, our list isn’t long, but we do have some great options here:

Central Oregon Locavore (1841 NE 3rd St, Bend)

Notables: Teas! Locavore also puts a deposit on your egg carton. They have deposits for some of their cream and milk as well.

Cornucopia Natural Foods
111 NW 6th St, Redmond

Notables: As far as we know, the only shop in the county that sells bulk laundry soap, dishwashing soap, shampoo, and conditioner! Plus almond oil. (In addition to Dr. Bronner’s Castille soap, spices, teas, herbs, and other general dry goods.)

Country Store (57100 Beaver Dr, Sunriver)

Food for Less (63455 N highway 97, Bend)

Notables: Maple syrup! Balsamic vinegar, liquid aminos, soy sauce. Good spice section.

Fred Meyer (61535 South Highway 97, Bend and 944 SW Veterans Way, Redmond)

Hawthorne Healing Arts
39 NW Louisiana Ave, Bend

Medicinal herbs

Market of Choice (115 NW Sisemore St, Bend)

Notables: In addition to many types of dry goods including grains, candies, fruits and nuts, Market of Choice has honey, nut butters, oils, cider vinegar, spices, teas, soy sauce, and vanilla extract! Plus, they are the only store we know of that sells bulk liquid soap (Dr. Bronners). Coffee!

Melvin’s (160 S Fir St, Sisters)

Notables: nuts, beans, grains, coffee

Navidi’s Olive Oil and Vinegars (120 NW Minnesota Ave, Bend)

Notables: An amazing array of oils and vinegars. BONUS: bottom of the barrel oils that is too small a volume to sell or a little bit old gets taken to a local soap maker who turns it into bar soap that’s sold in the shop! You can bring your own bottle as long as it is CLEAN and DRY. Plus, it must be a size they sell. That is, either 200 mL or 375 mL bottles that are clearly labeled as such.

The Pantry (1124 NW Newport Ave, Bend)

A small, locally owned, apothecary-style bulk counter with foods, spices, soaps and more.

Safeway (All 3 locations in Bend and the 1 in Redmond)

Notables: coffee!

TeaBuzz – Global Tea Bar
45 NW Greeley Ave, Bend

Notables: loose leaf tea where you can bring your own container!

The People’s Apothecary
19570 Amber Meadow Dr #120, Bend

Notables: Medicinal and culinary herbs, tinctures, and teas.

Whole Foods (2610 NE Hwy 20, Bend)

Notables: Bulk bar soap, liquid dairy with deposit bottles

WinCo Foods (60 NE Bend River Mall Dr, Bend)

Notables: Pretty much any food you can think of?

Any place we’re missing?


22 thoughts on “Buying in Bulk: What’s the Big Deal?”

  • It would be nice to note where you can bring your own containers. Whole Food lets you but I don’t believe Safeway or Freddy’s does. I don’t know if you are reducing waste if you have to use one of their plastic containers.

    • Hi Niki,

      Yes it’s tough to list this as an option because often times it just depends on who you get at the register. There is no one to stop you from reusing bags, though! I have used my own containers at Fred Meyer and Food 4 Less, although I’ve never tried at Safeway.

  • Melvin’s in Sisters has a small bulk selection of dry goods, teas, etc. And would bulk hot soup count?

    Since Melvin’s has some bulk it makes me wonder if their “parent” store, Newport Market, might too?

  • Susan Roemhildt says:

    I moved here from Eugene and I really miss Sundance Natural Foods. They have a large selection of bulk herbs and spices. I cannot find Mountain Rose Herbs bulk in Bend. I wish someone would start to carry that line. I love the idea of Locavore… I just wish they had more!

    • Hi Susan,

      Yes it’s true I don’t know where you can buy Mountain Rose Herbs in bulk here in Bend. Locavore does have quite a few herbs and the best way to get them to sell more is to keep shopping there! For Locavore, though, they tend toward products that are grown here locally or have a local company. Maybe we can encourage Whole Foods or Market of Choice to start carrying Mountain Rose Herbs?

  • Freilich Helen says:

    Ginger’s Cookware in the Old Mill also sell bulk oils and vinegar. You buy the container for $3 and then bring it back and they wash it and re-use.

  • I know Redmond usually gets left out, but we have Cornucopia Natural Foods which has a large selection of bulk food, snack and nutritional supplement items, as well as bulk Dr. Bronner’s, ShiKai shampoo and conditioner, dish powder and laundry powder!

  • You are missing Fettle Botanic for both medicinal and culinary herbs, tinctures and teas in bulk! Also, Townsend’s for bulk tea purchasing.

    • Thank you! I will add Fettle. I stopped in Townshend’s today and the woman behind the counter let me know that they no longer sell bulk tea other than what is prepackaged on the shelf.

  • Not sure if it belongs here – but bring your own containers when you go out to eat for left overs. I went to Kebaba’s restaurant and they were happy to fill my container with humus to take home instead of buying their packaged container of humus for take out.

  • Whole Foods will Tare your container for you when you walk in the door and everyone will let you use her own container and subtract the tare weight. I have done this 4-5 times and had no issues, it seems pretty standard.

    Market of choice also will subtract the tear weight of your own jar in their bulk section. Unfortunately there was no way to avoid getting the plastic container in the deli. It’s possible they would’ve put it on a plate and I could’ve transferred it into my own container but I forgot to ask. They also have the big glass milk containers but I forgot to ask how the deposit/redemption works.

    I was hoping that the savory spice shop would offer bulk spices but there is really no way to get spaces there without creating a little bit of waste. They will recycle their own spice jars if you bring them in but they can’t reuse the plastic top so that ends up getting thrown away. I think that market of choice and some of the other places are better for bulk spices.

  • Oh, and one more thing. I sent my husband to natural grocers to pick up some bulk stuff and apparently they don’t have any self-serve bulk and all of it comes pre-packaged in plastic containers.

  • Thanks Ani!! Last night I went to Market of Choice and refilled that empty Dr. Bronner’s bottle I have been keeping around in the hopes I would find a way to buy it in bulk! 🙂

    I love having my serving savers handy when it’s time to chow down at the salad bar or take leftovers home!

  • Thanks for doing all this research and compiling this information. And then also to everyone for contributing. Have any of you found a place to buy paper-wrapped toilet paper?

      • Thanks, Ani! I saw a little at Natural Grocers yesterday. $1.29/roll. There wasn’t a lot of it. I’ll check to see if they would do a custom order.

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