The best bulk food stores in Toronto

Work towards your zero-waste lifestyle at these eight eco-conscious retailers


According to the province, Ontarians produce more than 850 kilograms of waste each year on average – that’s a lot. Just because Ontario Premier Doug Ford has no interest in reducing his carbon footprint, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. And one way to go zero-waste is to buy in bulk.

So, clean out your old tomato sauce jars because waste-free living looks less like a fad and more like the future. Here are eight stores where you can simultaneously shop in bulk while doing your bit for the environment.

Bulk Barn

Address: 503 Bloor West, 393 King West, 2 Carlton, 120 Front East, and other locations

Specialty: Baking goods, gluten-free options

Target customer: The Budget Buyer

Everyone’s favourite spot for late-night munchies introduced the Reusable Container Program in early 2018. Bring your container up to the cash before you start shopping to subtract the weight of your empty container from your purchase, making this an economically and ecologically friendly option. The containers must meet Bulk Barn’s standards (i.e. free of chips and cracks, must be resealable, not paper or plastic), but abide by these rules and you can happily fill as many as you want.

For gluten-free folks, BB in particular offers a wide range of baking goods, snacks and more. The massive Annex location also uniquely has an area to grind your own nut butters for freshly ground peanut, almond, and cashew butter. 

bulkbarn.ca

Anarres Natural Health

Olivia Bednar

A sample of Anarres’ unique health food selection.

Anarres Natural Health

Address: 749 Dovercourt 

Specialty: Essential oils, natural salts, herbs 

Target customer: The World Saver

This health food store is part bulk, part product with an emphasis on zero-waste packaging. They even sell reusable containers in bulk. 

Anarres started the container-return program whereupon the purchase of a container from their store allows consumers to either bring it back to refill for a discount or receive $1 for simply returning it – a pretty sweet incentive. They also live the zero-waste mantra, reusing every container and sourcing products as ethically as possible. As if that wasn’t enough, glass and metal packaging are used for their non-bulk items like biodegradable toothbrushes and natural deodorants. Unique bulk gems include essential oils, natural Himalayan sea salt, herbs and other natural organic products. They also hold weekly workshops to teach people how to make products out of their bulk items and lead an overall more sustainable lifestyle.

anarreshealth.ca

Nuthouse

Olivia Bednar

Nuthouse is a true staple of the Bloordale community.

Nuthouse

Address: 1256 Bloor West

Specialty: Nuts, organic candy, coffee beans

Target customer: The Organic Consumer

Once you’ve Instagrammed a picture of the massive walnut sitting atop this Bloor Street West spot, you can make your way inside, which, contrary to its namesake, sells more than just nuts. Fairly new to the city’s bulk food game, having opened in 2011, Nuthouse allows shoppers to bring their own reusable bags and containers as well. Their organic candy is quite the hit, as well as their prolific collection of organic coffee beans from all over the world. 

Their selection is mainly organic, meaning slightly steeper price tags. Co-owned by Toronto couple Liza and Alex Lukashevsky, it’s a great way to shop locally and ethically. 

Urban Bulk Emporium

Urban Bulk Emporium

The emporium carries over 300 items in bulk.

Urban Bulk Emporium

Address: 1380 Queen East

Specialty: Spices and herbs

Target customer: The Quality-Conscious

In the heart of Leslieville, you’ll find this shop owned by Aziza Popat and Cory Wilson, a young couple with bulk in their blood. Popat’s grandfather started up his own bulk food store and now she’s started her own place, which exudes a welcoming neighbourhood vibe. Their extensive organic spice and herb section is practically magical – find everything from allspice to wasabi. The couple really encourage a local interactive and authentic experience and bringing one’s own containers is part of that. The couple encourage customers to “#STOCKUP.”

urbanbulkemporium.com

Essence of Life Organics

Olivia Bednar

Shopping at Essence of Life feels like you’re rummaging through your own pantry.

Essence of Life Organics

Address: 50 Kensington (Kensington Market)

Specialty: Oats, spices, vitamins

Target customer: The GMO-phobic

This locally owned health food mecca will knock 25 cents off your purchase if you bring your own container. Essence of Life will fulfill your bulk grain needs with their stocked selection of oats, barley, bulgur wheat and more. It’s also a go-to for spices as their walls are lined with jars of ’em. “Bring your own pasta container-whatever!” reads one sign. The staff is extremely friendly and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, walk down the street and you’ll find Tutti Frutti, a similar bulk bonanza (64 Kensington). 

www.essenceoflifeorganics.com

Strictly Bulk 2

Olivia Bednar

Strictly Bulk also stocks a wide selection of natural soaps and body products.

Strictly Bulk

Address: 924 Bloor West, 638 Danforth

Specialty: Healthy snacks

Target Customer: The Penny Pincher

An independently owned version of Bulk Barn, this Bloor and Ossington emporium allows shoppers to bring in containers of all shapes and sizes with absolutely no restrictions, except that the containers must be weighed by a clerk before shopping. It’s a simple store and among the least costly on this list. They have every go-to healthy snack you could want, from trail mixes to seeds to the ever-so-popular wasabi green peas. Their witty motto: “Because you don’t eat packaging.”

Little Green Planet

Little Green Planet

Located beside Moonbean cafe, LGP has a cozy spot in Kensington.

Little Green Planet

Address: 28 St. Andrew 

Specialty: Protein powders, health food

Target customer: The Hipster Shopper

Wander too aimlessly through Kensington Market and you might miss this quaint shop. Having only opened just a year ago, you will be greeted with an enthusiastic staff who are eager to help and encourage shoppers to bring in containers of any shape and size.. With wood-panelled floors and a cozy interior, the aesthetically pleasing shop has bulk protein powders and healthy snacks, as well as packaged goods like organic teas and multivitamins. And yes, they have La Croix.

littlegreenplanet.ca

Karma Co-op

Karma Co-op

Karma also has an incredible bulk pasta selection.

Karma Co-op Toronto

Address: 739 Palmerston 

Specialty: Organic produce

Target customer: The Do-gooder

The co-op concept is a growing one in Toronto. It’s a simple message: community owned and run. Not only do they allow you to bring your own containers to shop with, you can also bring in your empty detergent, shampoo and conditioner bottles for refills with a discount. In 2015, Karma’s products were also found to be cheaper than 50 per cent of its competitors and also one of the only places encouraging BYOC (Bring Your Own Container) at that time. It also one of few bulk food stores that also carries a wide selection of fresh produce. With its pink paisley-patterned walls, it has a fun and inviting vibe that encourages community participation. 

www.karmacoop.org

To find more bulk stores in Toronto, visit zerowastehome.com/app.

cultureintern@nowtoronto.com | @OliviaaBednar

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