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How to save money on bulk and packaged beans and nuts

Save money on organic dried beans

With organic bean prices up 50% this year for many dried beans, it pays to re-check your prices. In general, you'll save money and get more variety by buying beans in bulk. At my local Whole Foods, all the store-brand bagged legumes now cost the same: $2.99 a pound. By just turning around and going to the bulk section on the other side of the aisle, I can save 33% on black beans, 20% on lentils, and 10% on pinto beans. But as the chart below shows, chickpeas and kidney beans cost the same no matter who bags them.  I didn't find any packaged beans that cost less than bulk beans, so if you don't have time to compare, choose bulk.

Even though bean prices are up, they are still one of the greatest food bargains available. You'll get about 10 servings a pound from dried beans. Even now, that's only 20 to 30 cents for a key protein part of a meal. You'll almost always save money and get better results from dried beans than you will from canned beans, but even canned beans are a bargain compared to cheese, fish, or meat.

chart with prices for organic dried beans packaged or in bulk

From 2009 to 2011, most organic dried beans cost between $1.69 and $1.99 a pound in the bulk bins at my local Whole Foods. By 2015, chickpeas had gone up to $2.39 a pound. All the rest went up a dime or two but stayed under $1.99. I rarely used red lentils in those days because they cost over $2.50 a pound. The beautiful, quick-cooking legumes missed the big price hike.

At $2.79 a pound in bulk, red lentils are back on the menu. I'm also happy to see black beluga lentils, which I used to mail order as a treat.

Save money on organic walnuts and cashews

On the other hand, packaged organic walnuts are much less expensive than the ones in the bulk section. You'll save 41% buying packaged walnuts and 23% buying packaged raw cashews. But packaged roasted and salted cashews cost 20% more than the ones in the bulk section.

Bottom Line

You can save big by comparison shopping within a store. Comparing the costs in your store once a season should be enough to get the best deals.

Have you found similar price oddities in your store? Do you have other ways to get the best prices? Please log in to share your experiences in the comments section below. I'd love to hear from you!

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