Lesson #62: When Broke-Ass Hoes Want to Bake

by Rachel on January 5, 2011

One of my favorite recipes is my recipe for earth muffins. An earth muffin is a cute girl who recycles and goes green but still showers regularly; my earth muffins are the most delicious, healthy, non-tree-bark-tasting bran muffins I’ve ever come across. They also taste great made as mini loaves of bread.

The only downside to this recipe is that it requires ten thousand dry ingredients. I got smart this time around and cut the recipe in half, because honestly, working with that much flour is just exhausting. But it still required a lot of ingredients I didn’t already have.

Enter the best broke-ass ho solution to cooking with random ingredients that can only be found at overpriced stores like Whole Foods and that make you say, “Eight dollars for one vanilla bean!? Fuck you, delicious homemade dessert!”

Use the bulk section.

The bulk section is changing my life.

Now, not every supermarket has one (although they should) but Whole Foods does, and even though Whole Foods is a ridiculous store in many ways, you can justify a trip there if you promise to stick to the bulk section. Fortunately for me, I’ve been lucky enough to find one at Central Market — just another reason that grocery store is one of my favorite things about living in Houston.

I never understood the appeal of the bulk foods section because I always said to myself, “I don’t need that much flour.” But then I realized, Yes! Exactly! You don’t need that much flour…you only need a little flour…and you can get that flour in the bulk foods section and then be on your merry way!

For my earth muffins, I needed oat bran, nonfat dry milk, flaxseeds, and raisins. Nonfat dry milk is annoyingly expensive, so I decided I was only making the muffins if Central Market had it in bulk. Luckily, they had everything I needed!

I’m really glad I found the ingredients I needed because those earth muffins are the deal; I had forgotten how much I love them. Seriously, I don’t know why it’s so hard to find a decent healthy bran muffin box mix, but I’m kind of over trying.

There are few things more satisfying than realizing your single serving costs under $2 (and in some cases, costs just 13 cents). It’s so nice to be able to just buy a small amount. I’ve visited the bulk section for things like whole-wheat pastry flour and pumpkin seeds for my pumpkin bread, and just two cinnamon sticks for the hot buttered rum recipe in my Christmas card.

It’s also great if your recipe requires nuts; nuts are so expensive by the bag, and really, what are you going to do with all those extra hazelnuts? I love the fact that by buying in bulk, I will no longer have four pounds of nuts taking up space in my pantry for the next year.

I took some time to browse in the bulk section at Central Market and I was wholly impressed; they have tons of those ingredients that always make me say, “Nope, can’t, I’m not investing in a barrel of star anise right now. Sorry, Giada.” So not only is it helping me save money, it’s also helping me try recipes that I never considered making before!

No one wants to make Giada sad. And now we don’t have to.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrea@Thin Thighs & Sweet Potato Fries January 5, 2011 at 10:45 am

SO jealous! I can’t think of any store I shop at that has a bulk section–that I know of anyway. Now I’m going to have to investigate this! We won’t even have a Whole Foods until 2012.

You are right, baking with too much flour is exhausting. I made pumpkin cookies over the holidays which required a crap load of dry ingredients, and an hour later (when I was finally finished) I felt like I’d just competed in an Iron Man Challenge. Want ripped arms? BAKE! ;) Your Earth Muffins look yummy, btw and I love the definition!

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2 Paige January 5, 2011 at 10:46 am

I really wish my stores had bulk sections. I’m usually cooking for just one or two, and it feels crazy to have to buy enough to feed 12.

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3 andrea @ a cake for a wife. January 5, 2011 at 10:58 am

So true! I too recently discovered the glory that is the bulk section — or in my case, bulk store. I was making a clementine cake over the holidays that called for 2.5 cups of ground almonds — I don’t have a food processor, so I had to buy them pre-ground. I looked around at the groceries store but it wasn’t looking good. Then I tried the bulk store — I loaded up a bag, convinced it was going to cost me about $15 — and it was $4.78! It was a Christmas miracle. :)

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4 Rachel January 5, 2011 at 10:59 am

Oh that is the BEST — I get SO excited about moments like those!!

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5 Liz @ Blog is the New Black January 5, 2011 at 11:26 am

Baking is SO expensive… good call on the bulk section!

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6 Kaley January 5, 2011 at 11:33 am

This is why I am toting back vanilla extract and cream of tartar! Money’s gotta be saved, ya know

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7 whitney January 5, 2011 at 11:35 am

I love the bulk bins for that reason, too. Though, I was at WF yesterday (for the salad bar) and stopped by the bulk bins just as someones child pull the lever on the red lentils. That is annoying

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8 Stina January 5, 2011 at 11:50 am

I’ve been on the quest for a decent bulk section for months now! So far my only luck has been with Whole Foods, but I don’t have the self-discipline to stick to the bulk section in that place. Maybe I should just start petitioning Central Market to come to Chicago… I keep hearing such great things about it.

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9 Nicole January 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Oh how I love the bulk section … I used to think the same was as you and now, I go straight for that area. I laughed out loud at the Sorry Giada part bc I’ve done the same thing, “what the hell is agar agar? How much is that shit gonna cost me? NEXT!”

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10 Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter January 5, 2011 at 12:15 pm

The bulk section is my best friend! I’m not a huge baker either, so all that extra flour and dry stuff is a complete waste too. I don’t like not buying in bulk for those things.

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11 liane January 5, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I <3 the bulk section… I have a bunch of WF's in my town, which I will use in a pinch but there is also this one little gem of a store, tucked away, and it's all organic, fancy-pants bulk items for a quarter of the price of the WF's bulk area.
Part of me wants to keep it my little secret though…

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12 Salah (My Healthiest Lifestyle) January 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm

hahahahaha love the title of this post!! lol

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13 jenna January 5, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Yes! I recently discovered that section at Earth Fare (awesome grocery store located in the Southeast). I got pecans and whole wheat flour for a new recipe. I was so glad to not have to buy a whole $8 bag of pecans. I’m going to visit again soon for bread flour and arborio rice! It’s so great to be able to buy just a cup or two of something a little more obscure (for me anyway).

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14 Gracie January 5, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Holy mother, those muffins do have a ton of ingredients. Bulk section it is!

Honestly, I always skip right past the bulk section. There’s just something so neat and tidy about pre-packaged goods. But you’re so right…and this broke-ass hoe needs all the help she can get.

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15 Jess-The SemiAbnormal Gal January 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm

What a great idea! I never though about the bulk section in terms of “single servings” before. As a single lady myself, with only a dog for a roommate, I feel like I end up wasting a lot of food, but I don’t want to be stuck eating “dinners for one” I love to cook and bake and that isn’t going away. Thanks for the great tip, Rachel!

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16 Erin January 5, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Central Market is the BEST.

When I lived in Dallas I was always intimidated by the bulk section, but then I wandered through one day and discovered the most amazing trail mix. The bulk section ensured I would only but a little (portion control) and not end up eating my weight in dried fruit, white chocolate chips and almonds.

Also, I live overseas now and on my first trip back to Dallas I literally made it a point to eat one of my meals from the CM salad bar because I missed it that much. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Totally.

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17 Rachel January 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm

The CM salad bar is just WONDERFUL. But it’s the pre-chopped veggies in the produce section that make my life a little bit better.

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18 Bethany @Bridezilla Bakes January 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I love getting lentils at the bulk section — you can find SO many more varieties there — but as much as I bake, I’ve never thought to look there for flours, etc.! Great idea!

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19 Margot January 6, 2011 at 8:14 am

I made the bulk section discovery a few months ago – it really is incredible! I’m also a big fan of getting anything granola and beans for chili there – things that really aren’t used in many recipes.

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20 Christina January 6, 2011 at 8:19 am

I don’t know if the costs would be any different, but HEB stores also have a bulk section, maybe the stuff is priced different than Central Market? I think you are sort of new-ish to Houston so that’s why I wanted to comment on this.

PS New reader, new commentor and enjoying your blog!

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21 Kelsey January 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I try to stay away from Whole Foods, but the bulk granola sometimes makes it worth it.

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