Quantcast

The 18 Best Healthy Foods to Buy in Bulk (And the Worst)

Health + Wellness
GrapeImages / E+ / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

Buying food in large quantities, also known as bulk shopping, is an excellent way to fill your pantry and fridge while cutting down on food costs.


Certain items are heavily discounted when purchased in bulk, making it an economical habit that can save you a lot of money.

While some foods make ideal choices for bulk shopping due to their long shelf lives or freezability, more perishable foods should be bought in smaller quantities to avoid spoilage.

Here are the 18 best healthy foods to buy in bulk—and some of the worst.

1. Dried Beans and Lentils

Dried beans and lentils are one of the most shelf-stable foods.

The term "shelf-stable" refers to foods that can be stored at room temperature for an extended period before going bad.

Though storing beans and lentils may lead to degradation of certain nutrients over time, some studies have shown that some beans remain edible for 10 or more years (1, 2).

Beans and lentils are high in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, making them a healthy bulk shopping choice.

What's more, they can be added to a wide variety of dishes, such as soups, curries, stews and salads.

2. Frozen Berries

Though delicious and nutritious, fresh berries can be expensive and highly perishable.

Thankfully, frozen berries are similar in nutritional value to fresh berries and can be purchased in bulk at lower prices (3).

Harvesting then quickly freezing berries prolongs shelf life and maintains the nutritional content of fresh berries (4).

According to the USDA, frozen fruit like berries can be safely stored in the freezer for up to six months (5).

Adding berries to your diet can benefit health in many ways, including lowering your risk of heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes and mental decline (6, 7, 8).

3. Frozen Meat and Poultry

Because fresh meat and poultry spoil quickly when stored in the refrigerator, freezing them is an excellent way to avoid food waste.

According to the USDA FoodKeeper app, frozen meat like steak can last in the freezer for up to 12 months while chicken breast can last up to nine months.

Freezing protein sources immediately after purchase can extend usability so that you don't have to run to the store every time you need meat or poultry for a recipe.

4. Frozen Vegetables

Like fresh berries and other types of fruit, fresh vegetables tend to spoil quickly, even when properly stored.

For this reason, stocking up on frozen vegetables like spinach, broccoli and butternut squash is a good idea, as most can be stored in the freezer for up to eight months.

Vegetables are packed with nutrients, which is why diets that include both fresh and frozen vegetables have been linked to numerous health benefits.

For example, people who have higher vegetable intake have a lower risk of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes than those who consume small amounts of vegetables (9).

5. Honey

Although honey is often thought to stay edible indefinitely, some factors can impact its quality and decrease its shelf life.

Storage conditions, including heat and humidity, can affect the aroma, texture and flavor of honey, making its shelf life hard to determine (10).

Because there is no way to define an expiration date for all types of honey due to differences in storage, the National Honey Board recommends storing honey for up to two years.

This is still an amazingly long shelf life, making honey the perfect item to buy in bulk.

6. Oats

Not only are oats a versatile and healthy grain, but they also happen to have a lengthy shelf life.

The FoodKeeper app states that fresh oats can be stored for up to four months in the pantry.

Freezing oats in airtight containers can further extend their shelf life, tacking on another four months to their expiration date.

Oats are high in B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, as well as a particular type of fiber called beta-glucan, which may help lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar levels and increase feelings of fullness (11, 12).

7. Dried Fruits

Dried fruit is highly nutritious and contains an impressive amount of fiber, vitamins and minerals (13).

What's more, it's a healthy pantry item that has a much longer shelf life than fresh fruit.

Dried fruits like mangos, cranberries and apricots can be stored for up to six months. After opening, storing them in the refrigerator will allow them to last another six months.

Keep in mind that dried fruit is higher in calories and sugar than fresh fruit and should be eaten in small amounts. Choose unsweetened dried fruit whenever possible to limit added sugarintake.

8. Nuts in the Shell

Nuts in the shell last much longer than shelled nuts, making them a great choice for long-term storage.

In most cases, purchasing nuts in the shell extends their shelf life.

For example, almonds in the shell will keep for up to six months when stored at 68℉ (20℃), while shelled almonds only last four months when stored at the same temperature (14).

Purchase nuts like almonds, walnuts, peanuts and pecans in the shell and crack them with a nutcracker as needed.

An extra benefit of nuts in the shell is that it takes more time and effort to prepare them than shelled nuts, which may slow eating and lead to a reduction in calorie intake.

9. Certain Whole Grains

Certain whole grains such as farro, spelt, wild rice, quinoa and amaranth have surprisingly long shelf lives.

For instance, according to the FoodKeeper app, uncooked quinoa can last for up to three years when stored correctly in a pantry.

Whole grains make excellent additions to any meal, providing a hearty source of fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and powerful plant compounds that all benefit health (15).

Another reason to stock up on whole grains is that they are among the most versatile of all ingredients and can be added to breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.

10. Popcorn

Whole popcorn can be purchased in bulk and stored for up to two years at room temperature.

Unlike packaged instant popcorn that contains unhealthy ingredients like harmful additives and unhealthy fats, whole popcorn is entirely natural.

Not to mention, preparing your own popcorn is fun and allows you to control the ingredients you consume.

Plus, popcorn is high in fiber, phosphorus, manganese, zinc and polyphenol antioxidants, making it a healthy snack when consumed in moderation (16).

11. Dried Pasta

Unlike fresh pasta, which needs to be cooked within a few days, dried pasta can be stored for up to two years.

Whole wheat pasta makes a better choice than refined white pasta since it is lower in calories and higher in certain nutrients, including fiber, manganese and magnesium (17).

For those who can't tolerate the gluten found in wheat-based pasta, brown rice pasta and pasta made from gluten-free grains are healthy alternatives with similar shelf lives.

Different types of pasta can be found in the bulk section of grocery stores and are typically offered at discounted rates.

12. Coconut Oil

Many fats can't be stored long-term due to the risk of oxidation, which can lead to spoilage.

However, coconut oil has a much longer shelf life and is more resistant to oxidation than other vegetable oils (18).

Plus, unrefined virgin coconut oil contains powerful antioxidants that are thought to help protect the oil from spoilage (19).

Storage times can vary depending on temperature and light exposure, but the FoodKeeper app suggests that coconut oil stored in a cool, dark place should last up to three years.

Coconut oil can be used in cooking, baking and skin care.

13. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are often referred to as a superfood due to their impressive concentration of omega-3 fats, fiber, magnesium, calcium and antioxidants (20).

While chia seeds are nutritious, they also tend to be expensive.

Thankfully, chia seeds purchased in bulk are usually lower in price than chia seeds bought in smaller quantities.

What's more, chia seeds have a long shelf life of around 18 months when stored in a cool, dark location.

14. Peanut Butter

With its creamy texture and satisfying taste, peanut butter is a staple item in most people's pantries.

Buying peanut butter in large jars is more economical since bulk peanut butter is sold at a discounted rate.

Peanut butter is an excellent source of plant-based protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals and can be used in many ways (21).

Natural peanut butter is healthier than processed brands that contain added sugar and hydrogenated oils.

Keep unopened natural peanut butter in the fridge to keep it fresh for up to 12 months. After opening, expect your peanut butter to last about three to four months in the refrigerator.

15. Greens Powders

Getting in enough greens can be a challenge for some people.

What's more, fresh greens need to be used within a few days before they start to degrade.

Greens powders are nutritional supplements made from dried, pulverized greens like kale, spinach and wheatgrass.

Not only are greens powders highly nutritious, but most brands will also stay fresh in the refrigerator or freezer after opening for up to two years.

Buying greens powder in bulk sizes will ensure that you have a long-lasting supply of this healthy product to add to smoothies, yogurt and other recipes.

16. Protein Powders

High-quality protein powders can be costly.

However, most companies offer larger containers of various protein powders at cheaper price points.

Since most people who use protein powder do so on a regular basis, buying large amounts at a lower cost is a smart way to save money.

Some of the most popular protein powders, including whey and pea protein, typically expire around 8–18 months after purchase (22).

17. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a multipurpose ingredient that can be used both in food and as a natural cleaning agent.

Because of its versatility, apple cider vinegar can be used up quickly, especially by those who rely on it as a cleaning agent.

Thankfully, apple cider vinegar is sold in large containers that can last up to five years when stored at room temperature (23).

What's more, apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties and has even been shown to reduce blood sugar and promote weight loss (24, 25).

18. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast packs a powerful dose of nutrients and is especially popular with those following plant-based diets.

Nutritional yeast is an excellent source of vitamin B12, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate, magnesium, zinc and protein (26).

It has a savory, cheese-like flavor and can be added to dishes for a nutrient boost.

Nutritional yeast can be purchased in bulk at lower prices than smaller containers and has a shelf life of up to two years.

Worst Foods to Purchase in Bulk

It's a smart choice to purchase some foods in large quantities to save money. However, the following foods are more perishable and should only be purchased in small amounts.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

If you regularly buy fresh produce, chances are you've found a rotten veggie or fruit in your fridge that hadn't been used in time.

While there are exceptions, many fresh fruits and vegetables, such as berries, zucchini and greens, have a shelf life of less than a week before they begin to rot.

When buying fresh fruits and vegetables, only purchase what you know you will use within the coming week to avoid food waste.

Oils

While saturated oils like coconut oil and palm oil store well, other oils should not be purchased in bulk.

Vegetable oils that contain high amounts of polyunsaturated fats like safflower, soybean and sunflower oils are more susceptible to oxidation, especially when stored in clear glass or plastic containers (27).

Oils high in polyunsaturated fats should only be purchased in small quantities and stored in cool, dark locations to prevent oxidation.

Eggs

Large discount stores often sell eggs in bulk at discounted prices.

If you have a large family that eats eggs daily, then buying in bulk may be economical.

However, those who rarely eat eggs and those with small households may not be able to finish a few dozen eggs before their expiration date of three to five weeks (28).

Flour

To avoid spoilage, white, whole-wheat and nut-based flours should not be purchased in bulk.

Whole-wheat flour has a shelf life of as little as three months, while white flour can start to spoil after six months.

Certain nut-based flours are even more susceptible to spoilage and should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Spices

Because spices are used in small amounts, it's best to avoid buying bulk containers.

Spices can lose their potency over time and should be replaced as often as every 6–12 months for optimal flavor.

Prepared Foods

Don't be tempted to stock up on your favorite prepared foods when on sale unless you plan on eating the items quickly.

Dishes like egg salad, chicken salad and cooked pasta only last a few days in the fridge.

What's more, eating prepared foods past their expiration date can put you in danger of foodborne illness (29).

Summary

While it makes sense to buy some items in bulk, foods like oils, eggs, fresh produce, flour, spices and prepared food should only be bought in small quantities.

The Bottom Line

Many healthy foods can be purchased in bulk at discounted prices.

Dried beans, oats, frozen poultry, peanut butter and frozen fruits and vegetables are some examples of nutritious items that have long shelf lives.

These foods can be stored in the pantry, freezer or fridge for many months, which is why purchasing them in bulk is a smart choice.

However, buying perishable products like fresh produce and eggs should be avoided to cut back on food waste and avoid consuming spoiled foods.

Stock up on nutritious, non-perishable bulk items to ensure that you always have ingredients available to make healthy, delicious meals and snacks.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Plateau Creek near De Beque, Colorado, where land has been leased for oil and gas production. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

By Randi Spivak

Slashing two national monuments in Utah may have received the most attention, but Trump's Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service have been quietly, systematically ceding control of America's public lands to fossil fuel, mining, timber and livestock interests since the day he took office.

Read More Show Less
Global SO2 Emission Hotspot Database / Greenpeace

A new report by Greenpeace International pinpointed the world's worst sources of sulfur dioxide pollution, an irritant gas that harms human health. India has seized the top spot from Russia and China, contributing nearly 15 percent of global sulfur dioxide emissions.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
The huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about donations to the Amazon Fund. LeoFFreitas / Moment / Getty Images

By Sue Branford and Thais Borges

Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.

Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY

Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.

Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
Gina Lopez, the Philippine secretary of the environment, at a meeting with residents affected by a mine tailing disaster. Keith Schneider

Gina Lopez, a former Philippine environment secretary, philanthropist and eco-warrior, died on Aug. 19 from brain cancer. She was 65.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Trump speaks to contractors at the Shell Chemicals Petrochemical Complex on Aug. 13 in Monaca, Pennsylvania. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

Thousands of union members at a multibillion dollar petrochemical plant outside of Pittsburgh were given a choice last week: Stand and wait for a speech by Donald Trump or take the day off without pay.

Read More Show Less
Regis Lagrange / EyeEm / Getty Images

By Ariane Lang, BSc, MBA

Lemon (Citrus limon) is a common citrus fruit, alongside grapefruits, limes, and oranges (1).

Read More Show Less
A zero-emission electric car in Vail, Colorado on July 31. Sharon Hahn Darlin / CC BY 2.0

By Simon Mui

States across the country are stepping up to make clean cars cheaper and easier to find. Colorado's Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted Friday to adopt a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program that will increase the availability of electric vehicles in the state, improve air quality and increase transportation affordability.

Read More Show Less