Finally, a trip to Bulk Barn

There has been a Bulk Barn in Calgary for quite a while now, and I have actually been there before. It reminds me a lot of the Nutters we used to go to in Red Deer when I was a kid. Bulk Barn as a business is pretty self-explanatory. It is a medium-sized store off 32nd Avenue NE filled with big bins of various bulk products.

Like most bulk bin sections, at least 20% of their products are all kinds of candy: wine gums, jelly beans, chocolate-covered-whatevers, licorice, and whatever else you could be looking for. The rest of the bins are filled with baking supplies, soup mixes, allergy-sensitive flours, bread and muffin mixes, dried fruits, spices, pastas, rice, beans, nuts, snacks, coffee and tea, a few sugary liquids (honey, corn syrup, etc), and a host of cake decorating supplies.

My challenge  with this planned trip to Bulk Barn was how I was going to buy powdered products without using the supplied plastic bags. I used to try to wash out and reuse grocery store bulk bags, but that's a challenging and annoying thing to do. They are often very flimsy and when you try to dry them out, they stick to themselves. When I started this project I threw all of my saved plastic bags into the recycling bin, so I didn't even have any to bring.

I settled on using some big zipper freezer bags that I had in my kitchen. These are still annoying to wash but are at least stronger than your standard bulk bag. They have the added down-side of being a bit heavier than thin plastic bags. Since this was my first time taking my own bags to Bulk Barn, I didn't want to ask them to take the tare-weight of my bags. Maybe next time.

We were there on a Saturday afternoon and the store was really busy, so I tried not to waste time looking at anything that wasn't on my list. Here's what we left with.

So that's macaroni, parmesan cheese, baking soda, brown sugar, and gravy mix. We also bought some candy, but that was long gone before this picture was taken.

I was really disappointed that they pre-bag all of their long pastas (spaghetti, linguine, lasagna noodles). That really defeated the purpose for me. I really hope that the Superstore in the NE still has pasta in their bulk bins.

The only snag I had was a hole in one of my freezer bags that led to baking soda spilling all over the cashier's scale. This would have been less stressful if it hadn't been so busy at the time, but it was a relatively minor issue overall. Leak-test your bags, people!

Overall it was a good trip. We didn't get everything we needed due to the plastic-bagged pasta and items that were being re-stocked while we were there. I'm sure we'll be going back some time in the next few months.

Have you been to Bulk Barn? Leave a comment!


  1. Hi, Heather! Just saw your blog for the first time today- it's great! I love Bulk Barn (when I can get there), and have often wanted to bring in my own cloth/ Ziplocs (that I re-wash and use as long as they last) but I wasn't sure if they'd tare the scale for me. Do many people bring in their own bags when they purchase in bulk? Have you had success asking the staff to tare the scale for your home-brought bags?


    1. Hey Sarah,
      I haven't been back to bulk barn since I wrote this post, so I haven't tried getting my bags tared there. I have used my own bags at Superstore but generally buying things where the weight of the bag won't matter as much because of the cost/weight of the product, so haven't tried to have them tared there either. One of these days I need to try Bulk Barn again, when it's not so busy.

      For more expensive things (spices, etc), I buy those at Sunnyside Market who are always great about taring. Community Natural Foods is also good about it. Since they're quite light and last a long time, the cost still turns out reasonable.

    2. Hey guys, there is a new (as in just today) petition started to convince Bulk Barn to reverse its backwards policy on mandatory single use plastics.

      Sign and share it around. Hopefully together we can get them to change and provide Canada wide access to plastic free food shopping!


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