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Sunday, July 14, 2013

My love/hate relationship with buying in bulk

Bacon! I LOVE bacon, however I only have two choices when it comes to buying bacon. Choice #1 - buy it in bulk packages, or #2 - buy it in smaller packages that cost WAY more.

My ideal choice would be to buy it in bulk from a local farmer who uses butcher paper to package it in perfect portions for my family, but for so many reasons, that is not a choice available to me at this time. Instead, I have to choose between the options listed above.

Option number 1 has the advantage of being good for my wallet, which is a euphemism for our EBT card. We only get a set amount of food stamps every month, and almost always we end up running out of money/food about a week before we get our next allotment. So in that sense, buying a lot of food for as little as possible makes the most sense, however...

It is a sad fact that the vast majority of the food sold in bulk in stores that take EBT are nutritionally poor. For example, I can buy 3 pounds of bacon at Sam's club for about $8.00. That's less than $3.00 a pound - roughly $2.66 a pound - which is actually less than I can buy a 12 oz package of bacon at the grocery store. Note a pound = 16 oz. This bacon is Hormel brand that uses chemical preservatives and is made from factory farmed pigs. It is almost exactly the opposite of everything I want in my food choices.

Option number 2 - on the other hand - has the blessing of being able to buy 12 oz packages of (ahem) "natural" bacon for about $5.00 a package. The term natural here is referring to bacon that hasn't been processed with chemicals, but still uses factory farmed pigs. It's my compromise food because pasture raised pigs processed without chemicals are either nonexistent around here or can be found in the health food store for about $6.00 per 8 oz - AKA $12.00 a pound.

The food nazi in me would NEVER consider buying anything less than the best because I want to support farmers using sustainable practices. However, the food stamp recipient in me knows that if I only ever bought the best, we'd have enough money to buy about 1-2 weeks of food and then we would either starve, or eat the cheapest crap from the food shelf - which is mostly processed grains that aggravate my diabetes - so compromise must ensue.

NOTE: If I could buy pasture raised bacon from a local farmer wrapped in convenient 1 pound sized packages using butcher paper, basic research tells me that I would only be paying between $2.50 and $3.00 a pound. THAT I could afford and would in fact be more cost effective that any other option.

In any case, I have to choose between options 1 and 2. Sadly, most often, I choose option #1 because even poor quality bacon is better than no bacon - and before those in the fat is bad for you camp try to argue, bacon is the ONLY food I can eat that not only prevents my blood sugar from rising, but ALSO lowers it. Even the cheap bad crap tend to lower my blood sugar by up to 10 points. Considering that my blood sugar is running really high lately, even bad bacon really IS better than no bacon, sigh...

So I must settle for poor quality over my compromise quality bacon. But then I noticed 2 problems that go hand in hand with buying bacon in bulk...

1 - Even though it has chemical preservatives in it, cheap bacon can and does go bad before I have a chance to eat all 3 pounds of it. UNLESS I cook a pound and a half at a time and make BLT's for the whole family. In which case, I use up the entire 3 pounds in approx 7-10 days. So I either end up eating or wasting bacon that has gone bad OR I use up the entire amount really quickly. Which leaves me with the second problem I have.

2 - In an attempt to only use up a little at a time, I have tried repackaging the big 3 pound plastic package into 3-4 smaller plastic ziplock baggies and then freezing the ones I don't plan to use right away. This is a problem because I HATE using plastic. Period! End of story. I would rather use glass but that doesn't work as well for freezing bacon. Even butcher paper is not a realistic option for me since it costs actual money - rather than food stamps - and I can't afford to buy it. (We get the ziplocks from hubby's mom. She buys them in bulk and then shares them with us.)

Plastic is bad for the environment and the WORST choice for food - even if you use a food safe variety - because the recycling center refuses to recycle plastic that had any sort of food residue. Ziplocks are not a recyclable form of plastic. Even if they were, they are not guaranteed to be safe for food usage, and once you DO use them for food usage, they wouldn't be recycled anyway. I TRY to reuse them as much as possible by washing and reusing them, but that still leaves me using WAY TOO MUCH plastic!!!

So, I have decided this month to buy four 12oz packages of bacon in an attempt to avoid chemical preservatives AND the frustration of breaking a 3 pound package into smaller packs, or wasting it. 4x12oz=48oz/16=3 pounds. Each package cost me approx $5.00, so I spent about $20.00 on 3 pounds of bacon rather than $8.00. Which makes me cringe, but at least it is slightly better in that it hasn't got chemical preservative in it, and that is something worth paying extra for. I can't help but notice that that is almost $7.00 per pound, which is ALMOST what I spend on the 3 pound package of cheap bacon. More cringing...

Sigh... anyway, maybe now you can understand a little bit when I say that I have a love/hate relationship with buying in bulk. It CAN be a good thing, but it can ALSO be a bad thing. I long for the days when buying directly from a local farmer is the ONLY way to buy meat :-)

Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest. Thank you for reading my rant and have a happy day,


  1. I have the same problem in not being able to afford the good stuff and not wanting to buy the crap. Actually, I can't buy the crap because I react badly to the preservatives in it. I recently bought a piece of pork belly from a local farmer and made my own bacon like this: http://crankingkitchen.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/paleo-bacon/
    I used a slightly different recipe which will need adjusting next time, but I was quite happy with my first attempt. I did use the large zip-lock bag to cure it in. Maybe I'll try something else next time. It did work out quite a bit cheaper than buying the best bacon available and I know exactly what's in it.

    1. That sounds awesome! I'll have to look around and see if I can find a butcher selling pork bellies :-)

  2. informative post keep the good work like this awaiting for a new post keep sharing.

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