Recently, we’ve been doing a bit of research. I’ve wanted to find somewhere in Scotland that sells loose produce in bins. The idea behind this is that you take your own container, fill it up, and keep refilling it as required. No extra packaging needed, of any description. You buy exactly the amount that you require so there is no food wastage either.
There are lots of bulk bin options in the USA, quite a few in London, and only one that I’ve found so far in Scotland. So here are my findings!
Edinburgh, being the capital of Scotland, was the first place I looked to find a bulk bin shop. You’d assume because it was the capital, it would have everything that anywhere else would have. After some social media research, my sources (friends) came up with Real Foods. We couldn’t tell from the website if you could buy their wholesale foods in bulk from the shop, but they sounded great and it seemed like a great place, so we duly went there with great expectations.
There are two Real Foods shops in Edinburgh, both fairly close to each other. We went early on a Saturday morning, buggy laden with my containers, in case this was the place to go for bulk bins.
Unfortunately, it was quite a disappointment! No bulk bins. There was some loose fruit and veg, including cucumber not packaged in plastic (so I duly bought one), something I’d never seen before. There was a lot of healthy, organic, free-from-everything type products, including beauty items.
A lot of the products in the shop – I’d say a majority – were packaged in plastic. (Which isn’t great, here’s why).
Real Foods caters for the online market, by having a selection of items you can buy in bulk and have delivered to the door. I do recommend bulk buying online for the following reasons:
The only problem with buying online is the cost of postage. It can mean that any discount you receive from the store in the cost of the produce is added on again. This is what Real Foods says of their postage:
If you live in the GB mainland, we don’t charge you at all for delivery if your order is over £29.00 **unless you buy one of our bulk items that do incur a delivery charge of £4.95 per unit. These are clearly labelled as “Wholesale” in the shop.
So if you’re looking to save money, you’d have to do calculations and work out whether this was worth it.
We have two small children, aged 1 and 3. They are very amenable and good walkers. However, there’s only so far a 1 year old can walk, so we had to take our buggy with us to Real Foods.
For those wishing to check the shop out, I don’t recommend taking a buggy! There are steps to the front door, and very narrow aisles between produce. The shop was very busy when we were there (Saturday morning) so it proved difficult to navigate the shop with toddlers in tow. Not the shop’s fault, but a consideration for those with families!
I didn’t take an exact note of the prices at Real Foods apart from the fact that it did seem quite expensive. This is definitely somewhere to buy those things that you can’t buy elsewhere, especially if you’re going for all-organic diet, or need to buy special diet food such as gluten-free. However, the cost would prohibit us using it as a shop to meet our requirements.
Whole Foods Market Giffnock was our second try at finding the elusive bulk bins! This time, we were pleasantly surprised :-). I watched this video about the store before we went and am unashamed to say it made us excited for our visit!
This time I phoned beforehand and spoke to one of the store managers, Jim, to ask about bulk bins (I’d learned a lesson from our Edinburgh visit). We had a fantastic chat about bulk bins, using your own containers and generally saving the planet one good deed at a time! He told me about parking, the cafe, and to come chat when we visited. He even wanted me to show him my containers in case it was something they could source and sell to other customers in the shop. Now we were talking!
Upon arrival at the store, we had a quick browse and then made use of the cafe (and toilets!) with our children.
The cafe isn’t massive but has large tables with plenty of chairs, and even on a Saturday morning we managed to get a table. The idea is that you can eat pretty much what you want in the cafe, if you’ve bought it in the store. They make up fresh sandwiches, pizzas, and even sushi with their very own sushi chef!
We simply saw a large meringue, bought that and ate it in the shop. We didn’t have any bags with us, but the paper bags provided to carry the meringue was made from recycled paper. I was impressed! At the cafe tables, there are very clear signs telling you how to recycle each item that y0u may be using.
Granted, not everything was recyclable, for example a friend ordered a scone and the cream came in a disposable plastic pot. However the Whole Foods’ cafe is definitely leaps and bounds beyond other cafes when considering environmental factors.
The shop is as big as a standard supermarket, but with plenty of room between the aisles to navigate a buggy, woohoo!
The shop sells its own reusable containers, quite a few glass and stainless steel. They also sell plastic containers. I was excited to get A Slice of Green stainless steel container:
I also found a cooking thermometer..I can finally make jam (properly) and have a go at yoghurt! Super excited!
Purchasing these in store was definitely cheaper than buying online when factoring in postage.
The bulk bins include flour, oats, rice, pasta, dried fruit, lentils, dried beans…
Whole Foods Giffnock has great ethical credentials too, it is keen to get involved with blessing the local community:
I highly recommend a visit to Whole Foods Giffnock. The food is great, the staff friendly, the cafe easy to access with children. We will be back!