College Vegan on a Budget: Bulk Bonanza

Part of an ongoing series of my adventures in learning how to grocery shop on a budget, almost exclusively at health food type stores.

I’m back with another budgeting post after a weekend grocery haul and I can proudly say that I spent a lot less than last time. Like, I spent less than half the amount I did last time! This girl is definitely learning how to budget. Or maybe it’s just because I was extremely limited in funds this time around, with just over $50 to spend. Luckily I didn’t have to make any major purchases since my lovely mom was nice enough to buy me some much-needed items last weekend so this was mostly a fill-in type trip for things I am about to run out of or needed for recipes.

This week, I happened to do a lot of bulk buying. This is a great thing for budgets–you can just stock up on what you need, and generally things in bulk cost less ounce for ounce than things that are prepackaged. The bulk bins at Whole Foods and Sprouts have saved me a ton of money on must-try items like coconut flour, flavored nuts and nutritional yeast. Now let’s check out the goods!

Check out all the bulk bin bags!


I just stopped in for a few items I was hoping they’d have for less than Whole Foods, and they delivered. Well, kinda. The unsweetened coconut shreds I bought actually turned out to be a bit cheaper at WF, which kinda made me mad but I’ll know next time!

What I Got: Let’s Do Organic reduced fat unsweetened coconut shreds, So Delicious Greek-style vanilla coconut yogurt (finally they had this flavor!)

What It Cost Me: $4.99 (I paid with a 5 dollar bill, woo for having cash for little purchases)

Verdict: If only every shopping trip could be this cheap!

Whole Foods

I whittled down my original list to just a handful of must-have items and I did really well with sticking with my budget. I actually ended up with just under $10 left, which is awesome. I got 15 items here pretty cheaply, because I bought a bunch of bulk stuff and did some price comparisons for similar items.

What I Got: bulk almond flour, bulk raw macadamia nuts (I only bought about 1/8 of a pound, so they were super cheap), bulk nooch, bulk spelt flour (I was going to buy packaged buckwheat flour but it was $5 and this was just $2 per pound and pretty comparable, nutrition wise), vegan semisweet chocolate chips, Navitas Naturals raw cacao powder (a splurge at $10, but worth it), 2 Justin’s vanilla almond butter squeeze packs, 2 Vega One protein powder samples (running low on protein powder but didn’t have enough money to buy a full container), Hail Merry raw vanilla almonds (super cheap at just $3 for a raw product!), bulk loose spinach, Hannah yams (these look like regular potatoes but they’re apparently sweet potato-like), vegan cookie from bakery area, black figs (on sale for $3.99/pound, I got half a pound!).Β 

What I Spent: $36.87 (under budget…yay!)

Verdict: I was really smart about my Whole Foods trip this time around. I bought in bulk to save some money, weighed my bulk items to estimate how much they’d cost me and didn’t buy anything not on the list. Yes, there were some things I took note of that I wanted to buy another time–like, ahem, raw macaroons!–but I didn’t feel like I needed to get them since I know they’ll be there when I have more money to spend.Β 

I am definitely getting better at this budgeting thing. It feels fun to me now, instead of like a chore. I love doing comparison shopping and balancing out my purchases so they don’t end up surprising me at the register. And I’m learning the difference between splurges and staples, which is something that used to get me all the time. Some weeks, there’ll be more room for splurges and other times I’ve gotta stick with the list. And I feel like this week, I struck the perfect balance between getting the basics that I need and getting to try new-to-me items, like the almond flour and yams and almonds.

Do you like to buy things from the bulk section? What tips do you have for budget shopping?

16 thoughts on “College Vegan on a Budget: Bulk Bonanza

  1. I’ve bought from the bulk sections a few times at Earth Fare. It’s really good if you only need a little of something for a recipe or just want to try something new without having to buy the entire package. Glad you spent a lot less money this time- you did really well to come out for that at Whole Foods!

  2. Wow you’re doing really great when it comes to sticking to a budget! I wish I could do more bulk shopping, but because of my allergies to peanuts and most stores’ inability to guarantee that their bulk products haven’t been cross-contaminated, I tend to have to stick to packaged foods. I’m always keeping my eyes open for sales though, and then stocking up on non-perishables then πŸ™‚

    • That’s too bad about not being able to bulk shop, but of course you’ve gotta stay safe and healthy! I need to look for sales ahead of time to plan what to buy, I usually just go in with a game plan and don’t change it even if there’s a good sale going on.

  3. Woah,I really admire how you’re able to deal with buying in the bulk section. I hate to have huge containers of food at home; I always feel under pressure to eat it up then and that usually leads to frustration and forcing myself to eat stuff I actually don’t feel like in the end… Therefore,I’d always rather buy small packages except I know I use the respective product a lot anyways.
    However,you’re going to love those Hailmerry almonds. I won a small bag in a giveaway a while ago and they were out of this world!

    • caloricandcrazy says:

      I agree with Kat, I personally do not like buying in bulk because it has caused issues with me and my eating, but kudos to you Ashley for buying in bulk and going under budget :D!

      Since buying in bulk isn’t my thing, I try to use coupons whenever I can and only buy what I need and what I want to eat. Plus, it’s a plus that Trader Joe’s is walking distance from campus, so I can go green in the process ;)!

  4. Awesome!! I love the bulk section at stores too– there’s just so much to choose from! πŸ™‚
    PS– I bought the coconut flour in bulk from Sprouts after you suggested it and HOLY CRAP it’s so much cheaper!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the tip girl!

  5. Aja says:

    I’ve never shopped in the bulk section, none of my stores really have one. I’d like to though. I feel like I could save some money that way

    • It is a big money saver, especially if you only buy what you need. I usually buy nuts in bulk and it saves me a lot because I don’t get a full pound and it usually comes up to $4 or $5 for a bunch of nuts that’ll last me a couple weeks.

  6. Awesome job on sticking to the budget Ashley! I shop bulk sections all of the time, mostly for trail mixes and nuts, although I do get rolled oats and other forms of grains there too! I don’t use the latter as much, so those last and last… plus they don’t take up as much space in bags from bulk areas!

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