The 18 Best Healthy Foods to Buy in Bulk (And the Worst)
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.
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.
Harvesting then quickly freezing berries prolongs shelf life and maintains the nutritional content of fresh berries (4).
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).
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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).
18. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast packs a powerful dose of nutrients and is especially popular with those following plant-based diets.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
By Manuela Callari
It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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