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Bulk Bins and Miscellaneous Foods

Bulk Bins

In some grocery stores or farmers markets, you may see bulk bins. Bulk bins often contain grains, nuts, seeds, and spices. When shopping with bulk bins, the customer fills a plastic bag or container with however much of the item they want and is then charged per pound.

Woman at the bulk bins

Bulk Bins: Know Before You Go

  • Write down or take a picture of the PLU code for each food item so the cashier knows what it is.
  • Do not mix items! Use a separate container for each item so that the cashier can charge you appropriately.
  • Take only what you need. It’s easy to get carried away with each food item and end up taking more than you need.
  • It is a great way to try a new grain or spice without committing to an entire package.


Spices are a great way to flavor your food. Some popular spices include pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, and many others. Spice blends, which combine many different spices into one package, are usually an option as well. These pre-mixed spices allow you to get a whole new flavor without having to buy all the spices individually.

Spices can sometimes be pricey, but you can still usually get dozens of uses out of each bottle.

Woman looking at food item

Spices: Know Before You Go

  • Be sure to read the ingredients of spice blends before you buy to make sure you don’t already own those spices. If you don’t have many of the spices listed in the ingredients list, then a blend may be a good idea. 
  • For spice blends, look for ones with no salt. This allows you to control the amount of salt you want to use in a dish.

Seeds, Nuts and Nut Butters

There are many varieties of seeds, nuts, and nut butters available at most grocery stores. Popular seeds include sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas), flax seeds, hemp seeds, and more. Common nut varieties include almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, Brazil nuts, and more. Peanuts are actually not a nut as they are in the legume family. However for the sake of this tour, we will group them with nuts since they are usually grouped together at the store. 

Nuts and seeds can be sold raw or roasted, as well as in shell or out of shell. Additionally, sometimes they are sold seasoned with salt or with a blend of other spices. They can also be turned into nut butters, such as almond butter or peanut butter. Sunflower butter (made of sunflower seeds) has become increasingly popular since many schools and workplaces have implemented nut and peanut-free policies.

pantry items organized

Seeds, Nuts and Nut Butters: Know Before You Go

  • Salted and seasoned nuts and seeds can be tasty, but can also be high in sodium. If you like a little extra flavor but want to control the sodium content, you can buy plain nuts and seeds and then season them with your favorite flavors at home.
  • Be sure to read the ingredient list when purchasing nut and seed butters. Some nut butters will just have two ingredients (such as peanuts and salt), but usually this also means you might need to stir the jar as the oil and solids will naturally separate. Palm oil and sugar are also popular additives to nut butters to give a smoother texture and added sweetness respectively.
  • Love the taste of natural peanut butter but hate that it separates? To minimize peanut butter separating, store the jar upside down. You can also give it a good stir once you open it and store in the refrigerator.

Condiments and Salad Dressings

From mustard, mayonnaise, hot sauces, wasabi, vinegar, and more, there is no shortage of condiments you can find in the grocery aisles. Condiments are a great way to easily add more flavor to your meals. Usually a little goes a long way with most condiments, and one bottle or jar will last you many meals.  

Store-bought salad dressings can be a convenient way to dress a salad. Generally, there are two categories of salad dressings. The first is a vinaigrette, which has an oil and vinegar base. This includes popular dressing such as balsamic vinaigrette, raspberry vinaigrette, Italian dressing, and others. The second type of dressing is a cream-based dressing. This would include ranch, bleu cheese, Thousand Island dressing, and others.

Man looking at some condiments

Condiments and Salad Dressings: Know Before You Go

  • Condiments and salad dressings can be hidden sources of sodium and added sugar, so be mindful of portion size.
  • Many salad dressings are easy to make at home. For a simple vinaigrette, mix together ¾ of a cup of olive oil with ¼ cup of vinegar or lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add in some Dijon mustard, honey and any seasonings you like for extra flavor. The key is to taste along the way and adjust to your liking.