Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April Food Group Recap: Buying in Bulk

Our Sustainable Food for Thought comrades met together for April's Food Group, and Emily led a helpful overview on Buying in Bulk, focusing in particular on Azure Standard, a bulk buying resource based out of Dufur, Oregon.

For those friends who weren't able to join in person, please find tidbits and thoughts from the evening shared below:

{Welcome & Announcements}

Our second PDX Food Swap is on the horizon (details here)
May's Food Group: Herbal Tea Workshop (details here ~ postponed)
Next Azure Standard Drop (to be determined ~ be in touch if you're interested in participating)

{Topic for the Night}

As with many methods of household and kitchen management, bulk buying offers a broad spectrum of options. Before becoming overwhelmed at the possibilities (and disenchanted with the effort), or dismissing the idea that it's also quite possible to start (and stay?) small, we spent the evening discussing our experiences and sharing ideas.

[For those not familiar with Azure Standard, Emily History and Mission of the company.]


Is Azure Standard Right for You?

What are your household's needs? Cost savings? Online shopping? Access to natural foods?

What are you looking for in a bulk buying experience? A way to eliminate going to the grocery store altogether? A source for staples to be supplemented by trips to the market? A source for a few particular items?

How frequently do you anticipate ordering?

Different households carry different needs and different rhythms of food purchase and preparation. There is no one-size fits all approach. Listening for others' experiences proves a good starting point, but only you can decide what may integrate well with your family's lifestyle.

Setting up an Azure Account and Navigating the Website

Anyone can visit the site, but only once you've created a login can you view prices, place orders, and save favorite items. Many people shared their experiences with the website: it can occasionally be tedious (especially when "browsing" randomly or sorting through sale items). Generally, though, it's worth the effort, and often times getting your hands on a hard copy of the catalogs can be a helpful time saver (especially when you're just getting to familiarize yourself with what they carry).

What to Buy and What to Avoid

Based entirely on first hand experience and preference and the chimed-in notes from the group:

Azure's a great resource for buying:
  • Dried beans and legumes
  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Dried fruit
  • Natural sweeteners such as molasses and Rapadura
  • Organic produce*
  • Mozzerella
  • Raw cheeses
  • Glass storage jars**
  • Homeopathic remedies
(*hit or miss, depending on the season; **beware the woes of separately-ordered-lids!)

Less preferred items:
  • Canned beans
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Pasta
  • Most bread products
  • Ricotta, Parmesan and cottage cheese
  • Packaged/processed foods
  • Organic produce*
  • Condiments
  • Dishwasher detergent
(*hit or miss, depending on the season)

Rule of thumb for the greatest cost savings: Buy staples and avoid packaged/processed foods.

General Tips
  • Know what you like to cook and what your family eats
  • Make a list before browsing Azure's website
  • Don't buy it if you won't eat it
  • Comparison shop
Storage Tips

The biggest food spoilage culprits: temperature, humidity, and oxygen.
  • Nuts, seeds, and cut grains can go rancid quickly. If you buy these in bulk, divide them into smaller portions and keep them in your freezer.
  • If you use large quantities of a certain whole grain, bean or legume, keep a smaller supply in accessible glass jars on your shelf and store the rest in food grade waterproof buckets.
  • Azure sells Gamma Seal lids that fit five gallon buckets to convert them into waterproof/airtight food storage containers. (These buckets and lids are also available locally at the Portland Preparedness Center on NE Glisan & 72nd)

{Other Bulk Buying Resources}

Search for Food Buying Clubs and Co-ops in your area for more opportunities to save on bulk purchases. The Montavilla Food Buying Club is an excellent resource, as is the Portland Eastside Buying Club (see below) spearheaded by Chris Musser of Lost Arts Kitchen. Bulk purchases can save you money and give you access to such high quality goods as pastured butter, natural maple syrup, wild caught Alaskan salmon, grass fed beef, and group orders from Frontier and Hummingbird Wholesale.

Simply in Harmony, Hillsboro, OR
This drop is a distributor for Azure, which means customers place their order with the coordinator, she places one large order with Azure, pays for it, sorts it, then calls customers to pick up their orders at their convenience. Customers pay her directly at pick up. Open to new members: sig@eburgi.com

Farm to Family, Beaverton, OR
Azure Standard and Noris Creamery deliveries. Frontier and OGC coming soon. New members welcome: vermit1@yahoo.com

North Portland Food Buying Club

Know Thy Food

Portland Eastside Buying Club
Azure Standard drop, monthly. Bulk meat and retail cut buying club: Deck Family Farm. Chicken from Deo Volente Farm. Produce during growing season: Thompson Farms, Hanson Farm. Whole Oregon albacore tuna in late summer/early fall. Open to new members.

Additional Recommendations from Food Group members:

Harmony Jack Farms, Scio, OR

Barefoot Farm & Flowers,
Clatskanie, Oregon

Full of Life Farm, St. Paul, OR
Owned and operated by Bernard Smith, brother of Charlotte Smith of Champoeg Creamery

Pure Life Farm, Molalla, OR
Run by Bethany's friend, Brenda, of The Wellfed Homestead

{Final Thoughts}

Bulk buying may not be the best choice for you right now. (What?!) And if that's the case, then give yourself a pat on the back for recognizing that fact and making a sane choice for your family.

Sustainable living isn't about keeping up with appearances or copying someone else, it's about finding what honestly works with your checkbook, kitchen sink, dining table, and family dynamic. It's about nurturing your loved ones and serving your neighbors with a grateful and generous heart, and stewarding resources in the way in which you are deeply called.

If bulk buying is something you're looking forward to testing out, or if it's something you've been practicing for many years with great success, please continue to share your thoughts and be encouraged by others' stories.

To give you a peek into a future post about my Food Life Calendar, you can check the image below and see that in my home, for example, bulk buying falls into the "Quarterly" category.

I'd love to know your best stories of buying in bulk and any favorite area resources. Please feel free to share here, or bring your experience to contribute to our next Food Group.

As always, it's a pleasure to learn alongside you dear friends.

No comments:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...