Wholesale Shopping: A Dietitian's Guide to the Foods You Should (& Shouldn't) Buy in BulkApril 28, 2021 - Amanda Beaver
So, you're at your local wholesale store and you're overwhelmed, to say the least.
The possibilities seem endless: A box of 50 protein bars means I won't have to come back here for months! I didn't even know they sold multivitamins by the pound! As do the questions: Do I even have pantry space — not to mention a need — for two gallons of butter mints? Three pounds of chocolate is probably too much, right?
Buying foods in bulk can often lower the price-per-unit of "luxury" grocery store items into a more affordable price range.
But, if you're trying to eat healthy and don't want to go overboard, where do you start while shopping healthy at a wholesale store?
This is where I come in. Let's walk through a dietitian's top seven picks when buying food in bulk.
These guys are packed with nutrition, including protein, fiber, healthy fats and magnesium — which, by the way, is a nutrient many Americans don't get enough of.
Nuts not only make the perfect snack, but they also add a healthy crunch and nutrition to salads and bowl meals.
While typically super expensive for just small quantities at the grocery store, buying nuts in bulk is an opportunity to save some serious money.
2. Frozen fruit
People always ask me if frozen fruits and veggies are less healthy than their fresh counterparts. The answer is a solid "No!"
Frozen produce has just as many nutrients as fresh produce, with the added bonus of not going bad in a week.
Delicious choices include:
- Wild blueberries
- Tropical mango mixes
- Blends of berries
These are excellent for making smoothies (yum!), oatmeal or a homemade parfait.
3. Pre-chopped veggies
Eating enough veggies seems to be the biggest challenge for many of us when trying to eat healthy. But buying veggies that are pre-chopped makes fitting them into your meals easy and convenient.
Unfortunately, the pre-chopped veggies found at a regular grocery store come at a premium.
To save money, look for pre-cut options at your local wholesale store, where chopped veggies are sold at much more manageable prices.
Next time you're at a wholesale store, consider adding the following pre-cut veggies to your cart:
- Brussels sprouts
- Your favorite lettuce mix
- Snackable veggies, like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks and sugar snap peas
Don't skip the frozen veggie aisle either. This can be a great way to get a well-balanced dinner ready quickly — as these are already washed, chopped and ready to go. Don't care for steamed veggies? You can even roast frozen vegetables!
My top frozen veggie picks include stir-fry mixes, as well as frozen edamame beans, which make a great protein-rich appetizer or snack.
The health benefits of yogurt are many, including:
- Helping you feel fuller for longer due to the protein content
- Containing important minerals, such as calcium and potassium
- Acting as a natural probiotic, which can help promote gut health
Plain Greek yogurt is my top pick, but I never eat it plain. Instead, I naturally sweeten it by melting one cup of frozen fruit in the microwave, spooning some plain yogurt over it and adding a sprinkle of flax seeds on top.
Plain Greek yogurt is also wonderful for making a smoothie with frozen fruit and a banana.
If you prefer the savory route, make a tzatziki sauce with plain yogurt and grated cucumber, garlic, dill, salt and pepper. This makes an excellent, high protein dip or condiment.
Individual yogurt cups are typically a great buy at a wholesale store, as they're usually much cheaper than buying them at the regular grocery store. Just be sure to look for brands that are lower in added sugar — with a good cutoff being no more than 8 grams of added sugar.
5. Extra-virgin olive oil & avocado oil
These are my top two recommended cooking oils out of the sea of options in the oil aisle. They're both rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.
Wholesale stores are a great place to buy these oils, as the price is often hard to beat.
I recommend using avocado oil in high-heat cooking and extra-virgin olive oil for soups, stews, sautés and dressings.
6. Rotisserie chicken
Chicken is an ideal source of lean protein, and rotisserie chicken can be an easy way to get dinner on the table fast.
And while it's true that rotisserie chicken contains more sodium than if you cooked the chicken yourself at home, it has significantly less sodium than the chicken you would find in a drive-thru. Plus, to bypass some of the extra salt, simply toss out the skin.
There are so many creative uses for rotisserie chicken that are just a Google search away, but some ideas to get you started include adding it to soup, a hearty salad, a loaded sweet potato (with a veggie on the side, of course) and tacos.
If you are the snacking type, wholesale stores offer a variety of snacking cheeses beyond the cheese sticks you had in elementary school.
Offerings include mozzarella and cheddar, which will help hold you over to your next meal due to the protein content.
Another good pick in the cheese section is feta cheese. This can take a salad from boring and bland to delicious — with just a little sprinkle. Feta cheese also tastes great on bean and grain dishes.
Last, but not least, here's what you should avoid buying in bulk
After loading your cart with healthy options, you may be tempted to check out the bakery or snack aisles. Not all snacks are bad after all, right?
While you should give yourself some leeway to enjoy from time-to-time, buying snacks or desserts in bulk may cause you to go overboard — displacing nutritious foods from your diet and/or leading to large portions. Instead, I recommend buying these at your regular grocery store and opting for wholesale only when you need a lot for a special event or gathering.
Cheap snacks abound at wholesale stores, but my advice is to stick to staples like the ones above. These whole, minimally processed foods will nourish you and provide you with the nutrients you need to feel your best.