Hints for Buying Bulk Liquids, Part 1


Last week I haunted the dry bulk section of Whole Foods to bring you some hints for shopping in bulk.  Today we explore a lesser known aisle at Albuquerque’s La Montañita Co-op:  liquid bulk.  Unlike dry goods, liquid bulk containers are often difficult to clean, so read with me for some tips.

(The prices reflect what I paid for the pictured amount of product.)

Easiest to wash.

Dish Soap  $1.43

The easiest and cheapest liquid bulk item for my money.  Get two containers; one to use and one to refill so you aren’t caught soap-less like I’ve found myself a number of times, with every intention to make it to the store shot down by every excuse not to.  Dish soap’s viscosity is low enough you can just toss the bottle, lid and all, in the sink to clean it out along with your dishes.

Liquid hand soap is similar – except that I use an old pump dispenser instead.

Vanilla  $2.64

Oh, yes.  You CAN buy vanilla in bulk.  What you want here is a small jar with a tight cap.  Otherwise you might slow-leak some really expensive air freshener all over your reusable bag and passenger seat on the way home from the store.  What I like about this half-pint jar is that it’s wide enough for my measuring spoon.  No more accidentally over-pouring $16.99/pound vanilla extract into my cookie dough.

Shampoo  $3.08

Probably another contender for the two-container method.  Shampoo is easy and the small spout on my bottle keeps me from using too much. When you finish with one of the bottles, you can give the container to your kids to play with in the bathtub.  They’ll have that thing clean in no time.

If you only have one bottle and have a tiny bit left, pour the rest of it into the toilet bowl scrubber thing we all have on the floor next to the loo.  This is a cheaper way to clean your toilet than using a specialty product.  I learned that from Fly Lady.

Peanut Butter  $4.29

Use a GLASS jar.  This is key.  Peanut butter is hard to clean and glass will make your life easier.  As will finding a wide-mouth jar.  When you get to the bottom of the jar, you need to be able to get a rubber spatula in there.  I use an old peanut butter jar because I had one on hand when I started, but a  pint-sized wide-mouthed Mason jar is perfect.

I only get a pint at a time, instead of quart for example, because I REALLY don’t like to refrigerate my peanut butter.  I don’t know how many times on a busy school morning I’ve set a jar of store-bought natural peanut butter (which suggests refrigeration) in front of the toaster oven to get it warm enough to spread.  But natural peanut butter doesn’t have any preservatives so it’s good to use it within a month before the oils go rancid.  I find I can do that with a pint.

Conditioner  $7.27 (ouch!)

I’m still on the fence with bulk conditioner.  In fact, sometimes I’m on the other side of said fence and will still buy a tube off the shelf if it’s on sale.  Good conditioner is expensive no matter where you look.  But with hair like mine (see:  Pooh-Pooh to Pooh-Less), it’s a necessity.  To help offset the cost, I use a wide-mouth pint jar (just like peanut butter) to help with portion control.  I can easily reach into my jar to get only what I need.  I can also easily scrape out the remains.

I haven’t run out of any other liquids yet but when I do, I’ll write Part 2 to this post.  Check out some of the other things you can buy in liquid bulk:

March 24, 2015

About Me

About Me

I’ve been passionate about combatting blind consumerism since 2008 and joined the Zero Waste movement by starting this blog in 2013, soon after my second child was born. I think it might have been trying to unwrap a toy or someone’s attempt to sell me a butt-wipe warmer that put me over the edge… read more



  1. IronMike

    So does the store have tons of containers, so they can zeroize the scale, or how do they weigh your vanilla extract in that mason jar? Trust you to zeroize when you're filling it and let you price it yourself, or do they have an employee there to do it?

  2. zerowastemommy

    This store has tons of containers and the customer is expected and trusted to weigh it him or herself. I brought in the mason jar, weighed it on their scale, wrote down the weight (the tare) on the top of the jar, then poured the vanilla and took it to the cashier who weighed it all together, and subtracted the weight of the jar. I hope anyway.


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