I am an evangelist. I want to scream from the rooftops: “Bulk buy people. BULK BUY!” Not just because it’s a more eco-friendly way of shopping – less packaging, fewer trips to the shops and fewer deliveries – but because it’s cheaper.* I feel like the supermarkets have been conning me for years (well of course they have) into buying lots of small, expensive bottles of shampoo etc while all along there was a better and potentially cheaper alternative.
(*Cheaper for me based on a comparison with the same or similar products on Ocado)
You need a bit of time and energy
It’s taken me months to get round to buying in bulk – each week the lure of the Ocado shopping list or a quick trip to Aldi would win out. The thought of deciding where to buy from, what we needed, and what to store it in once we got it, felt like a mammoth task. But then everything feels like a mammoth task until I start.
And last week, I did it. I spent a couple of hours searching for places to bulk buy online and did a price comparison with similar products on Ocado and this is what I found…
Sustainable toiletries and household products
I chose to use TheBigGreenSmile for toiletries, beauty and household products. I like Faith in Nature so went for their 5ltr containers of body wash, shampoo, conditioner and handwash which should last about six-months. The body wash cost £41.25 for 5ltrs. The equivalent cost of buying the same quantity in 400ml bottles from Ocado was £72.50.
Granted, there are cheaper brands and supermarkets where it would still be more cost effective to buy in small quantities, but if you prefer, and can afford, sustainable and organic ranges, bulk buying or buying wholesale is probably cheaper.
I joined my local Food Co-op in Colchester to get store-cupboard items – grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, flour, seasoning, snacks and pasta. The Colchester Food Co-op a non-profit-making community project.
As a member, you can order online as part of a monthly bulk order, and/or buy items directly from the shop. You’re asked to volunteer three-times-a-year for tasks including cleaning, sorting orders and stacking shelves.
I did a price comparison during my first order and items such as raisins (we eat a lot of raisins), seeds, pasta, rice, lentils and honey where around half the price of my usual shop.
But let’s be honest – It’s the supermarkets that need to change (not just us)
In an attempt to save money, shop locally, reduce packaging and lessen my reliance on big supermarkets, I get my milk, fruit, veg, meat, fish, toiletries and household products and store-cupboard goods from different places which just isn’t realistic for many people.
Plus it’s the supermarkets fault, they need to change, not just us.
They make it hard for people to make the right choices by using excess packaging (that can’t be recycled), shipping food from hotter climates, designing shops to promote over-consumerism, and promoting convenience foods (which give them the biggest revenue) over local produce.
According to a GreenPeace article: 7 out of 10 UK supermarkets increased their plastic-footprint in the last year.
So what we should actually be doing (alongside making personal changes if they are feasible) is demanding that the systems and organisations that are really doing the damage change their ways too.
Some brave folk are leaving their packaging at the till to make a point. For my part, I’ve signed Green Peace’s petition to “Tell UK supermarkets to reduce their plastic footprint”. I’ve also joined XR Rebellion and Green Peace and will be lobbying and writing to MPs. Or you may find me standing outside Tesco with my homemade banner and three kids!
PS. I bought a couple of OXO POP storage containers (Item no. 1 of our 20 items allowance). You can get second-hand containers from ebay and Facebook Marketplace but I wanted some that are large and airtight. If you are a Tupperware, storage geek, you’ll love these!