Monday, November 23, 2009

Living in bulk

With a family of six, two chest freezers, a lot of pantry space and a penchant for whole foods, we end up buying a lot of things in bulk. And this is definitely the time of year when our bulk buying habits kick into high gear. Yesterday I picked up 100 pounds of locally grown organic wheat, 20 pounds of groats and 20 pounds of lentils. Today 80 pounds of citrus fruit has arrived.

On Friday we'll take delivery of 100 pounds of organic dried fruit, nuts and (for the first time ever) chocolate. At that point we'll be perfectly primed for the Christmas-treat-making marathon that takes place from late November to mid-December.

The treat-making has actually already begun. On Saturday we started with 8 dozen pfeffernuessen, the German spice cookies made with (among many other spices) black pepper. Fiona suggested I take a picture of the spices on the flour because they looked so enticing.

We'll be adding double batches of a dozen or so other recipes to our repository in the basement freezer as the weeks progress. Every year we try at least a couple of promising-looking new recipes, added to the many that have become annual traditions -- pfeffernuesse, almond crescents, the vile-but-nonetheless-required Christmas strawberries, candied fruit peel, shortbread, gingerbread, chocolate rum balls, penuche, cashew brittle, and fruit and nut balls. This year's new recipes will probably include pignoli and sesame snaps since we have lots of pine nuts and sesame seeds in our pantry.


  1. Miranda, would you care to share some recipes, that sounds like fab idea :-)

  2. I was just wondering, where do you get this much food, how do you keep it, and what do you do with your wheat? I want to know more, it really interest me!

  3. Grain keeps very well, for years, provided you can keep bugs and mice out of it. Once you grind the grain it starts going stale unless you refrigerate it. So we wouldn't buy in bulk if we couldn't grind it as we need it. This way it is so much fresher than anything available in the grocery store. We use the wheat primarily in 100% whole grain bread. I bake at least three loaves and a dozen buns a week. We get 10 gallon ice cream tubs from the local ice cream shop during the summer, with their tight-fitting lids. One tub will hold almost 20 pounds of grain.

    Dried fruit and nuts keep really nicely at cool household temperatures for about six months. Because we only order once a year, we keep a lot of it in a chest freezer through the winter and spring.

    We chose our house, and renovated it, to suit our food-hoarding tendencies. Not really. We did recognize though that we live a long way from grocery stores, so being able to store a lot reduces the need for long shopping trips. A fair bit of our partial basement is dedicated to food storage -- a shelving unit, a huge rubbermaid tub and a bunch of those ice cream tubs, plus a chest freezer. When we renovated our kitchen we built a small walk-in pantry which holds half-gallon jars of the stuff that is in the basement in larger quantities.

    As for sources, that's very region-specific. Keep your ears to the ground concerning wholesale suppliers, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture organizations) and informal buying clubs. Here's a link for you that might help get you started. Whole or natural foods stores are often great sources of information, as are farmers' markets. That's because bulk/wholesale/buying club customers are often doing so in large part to get access to ecologically sound more local fare.

  4. Anonymous7:06 pm

    I notice that pine nuts in particular don't keep long 'round here. I buy them in plastic bags from the grocery store so likely not all that fresh to start with, but even it the low temps that matter? It never occurred to me I could store nuts in the freezer. Thanks for the tip!

  5. The freezer will totally prevent rancidity. We were sharing some of our last case of almonds, from fall 2007, with friends about a month ago, and they commented on how sweet and fresh they were, asking if they were part of the 2009 order. Nope, they're two years old, I was embarrassed to admit. But honestly, the freezer is amazing. Especially with the oilier nuts.


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