10 Best Healthy Foods to Buy in Bulk

Foods that come in bulk in stores like Costco can save you money and time—as long as you've got the place to store them. But don't buy unhealthy foods. Choose nutritious foods that can be stored for long periods of time in your kitchen or pantry. See which healthy items you can buy in bulk.


Dry Beans and Lentils

Black beans

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Dry beans (navy beans, pinto beans, black beans, etc.) are cheap, especially the dry beans and lentils in bags. They're perfect for stretching your food dollar when you use them as the main source of protein for a meal instead of meat.

Legumes are good for you, too—they're full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and they contain beneficial phytochemicals. Dehydrated dry beans and lentils will last for at least a year if you keep them in a dry place. Lentils are great because you can use them right out of the bag. The other dry beans need to soak for a few hours before you use them.

Canned beans last a long time as well and are easy to use. They're not quite as inexpensive as bagged dry beans, but you can stock up when they go on sale.


Dried Fruits

Dried fruit

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Raisins, prunes, dried apricots, and other dehydrated fruits last up to a year in unopened packages. Then keep them in airtight containers in the refrigerator after you open them. 

Dried fruits aren't as rich in vitamin C as fresh fruits, but they still contain plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Snacking on dried fruits or adding them to salads and cereal is a healthy way to increase your intake of fruit. 


Nuts Still in the Shell


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Nuts that are still in their shells are the freshest. Nuts are high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are good for your heart, and they contain other polyphenols that may have health benefits.

Raw nuts will last for up to a year in a cool, dry part of your kitchen, as long as you leave them in their shells, so stock up when they go on sale.

What about nuts that have been shelled? They're good for you too—and if you get a good buy, just keep the extras in the freezer until you need them.


Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Canned fruits and vegetables are good to buy in bulk.
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You can buy almost any fruit or vegetable in a can or jar, and it will last up to two years. Canned vegetables do suffer some nutrient loss compared to fresh produce, but they're still nutritious foods.

Canned vegetables are often high in sodium, so if you need to watch your sodium intake, be sure to read the nutrition facts labels. Likewise, canned fruits are often high in added sugar if they contain syrup.


Canned and Dry Soup

Canned soup is good to buy in bulk.
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Canned soup and dry soup mixes are inexpensive and last for a long time. Choose canned soups that are lower in fat and sodium, such as broth-based soups instead of creamed soups. 

Canned soups aren't as nutritious as fresh or frozen vegetables, but you can boost the nutritional value of your soup by adding leftover vegetables, meat or chicken to the soup while you heat it.


Frozen Vegetables

Frozen vegetables are good to buy in bulk.
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Frozen vegetables are usually much lower in sodium than canned versions. They don't last quite as long as canned, but they do taste better. Eat them within six months for maximum flavor.

There's a wide range of prices, from inexpensive bags of carrots, beans, corn or peas to more exotic blends that come with their own sauces (look out for excess sodium and calories in these sauces).

Some vegetables are sold in steamer bags that you pop right into your microwave and taste just as good as fresh. They're more expensive, but it may be worth buying a bunch when they go on sale.


Fruit and Vegetable Juice

Blueberry Juice

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Fruit or vegetable juice that has been bottled or sealed in single serving boxes and pouches will last for several months on your kitchen shelf. Once opened, they'll keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

Both fruit and vegetable juices are high in vitamins and potassium—but look for 100% juice, not juice drinks that are made with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup as their first or second ingredient.

If you're concerned about calories, choose 100% vegetable juices. Or stock up on club soda and make fizzy fruit drinks with equal parts juice and soda to cut calories and sugar in half.


Canned Fish


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Ocean fish, such as salmon and tuna, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein and will last up to one year on your pantry shelf. 

Canned salmon and tuna are perfect to have on hand for sandwiches, salads, and recipes. In addition, you can stock up on canned oysters, clams, and sardines for use in recipes or as appetizers.

Canned traditional salmon comes with the bones, or you can choose fancy salmon without the bones. Choose white or pink salmon packed in water, rather than oil, to save on calories.


Frozen Chicken Breast


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Buy bags of plain frozen chicken breasts or chicken tenders to keep on hand for making chicken soups, stir-fries, salads or sandwiches. Avoid breaded chicken strips, because they're higher in fat and calories. 

Alternatives to frozen chicken include frozen shrimp, scallops, and fish. They'll keep well for a few months in your freezer and can be thawed and ready to eat in a short time.


Rice, Barley, and Oats

Wild rice

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Long-grain rice is inexpensive and lasts for a long time, so you can keep plenty on hand. Choose brown rice over white because it's higher in fiber and nutrients. 

Wild rice is another good choice. Since it can be costly, look for it to go on sale or choose less expensive blends of white and wild rice.

Barley is a long-lasting whole grain that can be used in soup and recipes. And don't forget about dry or steel cut oats.


What Not to Buy In Bulk


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It's a great idea to stock up on bulk or sale items whenever you can, but don't buy more than what you'll consume. Bulk foods aren't a bargain if you throw them out. Fresh fruits, vegetables, or other perishables and foods that are higher in fat are not good candidates for buying in bulk.

For example, roasted seeds and nuts go stale after a few days once the containers are opened. Fresh fruits and vegetables only last a few days, even in the refrigerator. 

Vegetable oil is another product that may be tempting to buy in large amounts. But if you don't use a large amount of oil, choose smaller bottles so you don't waste the oil or end up using rancid oil in your cooking.

Flour must be stored properly in dry airtight containers for optimum freshness and only lasts up to six months. Don't buy more than what you'll need.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.