MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s a day, week or month for just about everything these days. National Bulk Food Week is Oct. 16 through Oct. 22 and aims to help inform people how they can save money on groceries — while helping the environment.

If you’ve never shopped in bulk before, you might be picturing a cart full of four dozen sports drink bottles, eight dozen rolls of toilet paper and 10 super-sized boxes of cereal. However, the truth is you can buy anywhere from a pinch to a pound, and it saves money.

“You open up a bag of chips let’s say or say a box of cereal in a package and a lot of it’s one-third air,” said Seward Co-op Marketing & Member Services Manager, Tom Vogel. “And then you’re also paying for the cardboard container, or the plastic container and also the branding that goes on that.”

So, why pay for those extra overhead costs when you don’t have to?

“With bulk, you really can cut to the chase. You eliminate all that extra packaging and it’s basically all about the product,” said Vogel.

Bulk food proponents say there are many advantages. Vogel says it cuts down on waste for both packing and food. It allows you to buy only what you need, instead of having extra food sit in your cupboard that will eventually expire and gives you room to sample things before purchasing a large amount.

Yet still, many people seem intimidated by the idea.

“If you’re used to shopping packaged grocery your entire life, it may be a little confusing to walk up and all of the sudden see these scoops and bins, and bags with a scale” says Vogel. “So, my first advice would be to ask someone for help if you’re confused.”

At the Seward Co-op in Minneapolis, Vogel says they have staff on hand that are ready and willing to teach someone the ropes. They even have classes that explain how a co-op works, with a special section specifically on buying in bulk.

Vogel says buying in bulk works for most things. They sell everything from cereal, rice and spices to meat, peanut butter and oils. Grains and other dried goods tend to work the best as the immediate expiration date isn’t there, but Vogel says there are more bulk options than most people realize.