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Top 6 Bulk Foods

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Ever wonder what resides in those big plastic bins at your local health food store? Bulk foods are economical, fun to shop for and easy to use, plus, buying in bulk means less food packaging waste. You buy as much or as little as you want, so the bulk bins are a great way to experiment with new foods or recipes. Most health food stores include basic recipes on the bulk bin, so don’t forget to bring a pen and paper to copy them down. Read on to find out what to look for and how to use it.

1. Whole Grains

Several grains, such as whole quinoa, millet, bulgur wheat and barley can be used as a healthy alternative to rice as a base for stir-fries and curries, as they have a similar texture and flavor. Whole grains are also usually priced very cheap at around a dollar a pound. To add extra flavor, cook in vegetable broth instead of water. Whole grains are also an excellent source of protein for vegetarians. See also: Easy Whole Grain Quinoa Recipes

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2. Vegetable Broth Mix

Veggie broth mix is a great alternative to homemade or canned vegetable broth. Just add water and stir! Sure, it's not as healthy as making your own homemade vegetable broth, but powdered veggie broth is a time saver and can add lots of flavor to vegetarian recipes, as you can make the broth as thick or as thin as needed. Its also a great general flavor-enhancer that you can sneak into a variety of dishes - try adding a spoonful to homemade veggie burgers, vegetarian chili and soups, vegetarian casseroles or vegetarian stuffing.

3. Nutritional Yeast

One versatile staple of the bulk bin is yellow, flaky nutritional yeast. Similar to brewers yeast, nutritional yeast has a cheesy, nutty flavor and a healthy dose of Vitamin B12. Nutritional yeast is also the base for many homemade vegan cheeses. I like to add nutritional yeast to just about everything. Try sprinkling a layer on garlic bread, baked potatoes or steamed veggies, and add a generous spoonful to vegetable stir-fries, mashed potatoes and pasta dishes.

4. Veggie Burger Mix

Veggie burger mix (also called Nature’s Burger mix) is quick and easy to prepare, and although tasty, you may prefer the pre-made versions. The recipe on the bin will tell you to just add water, form into patties and fry, but I like to add different spices, such as chili powder, garlic and a little extra salt. For a lower fat version, place patties on a flat surface and microwave for two minutes, flip the patties over, and cook for one more minute. Veggie burger mix can also be used to make vegetarian meat loaf. Pictured: Nature's burger from mix, with avocado

5. Tabouli Mix

Tabouli, a vegetarian Middle Eastern salad made from bulgur wheat with a tangy and rich flavor, is perfect to bring to a potluck or pack for lunch at school or work. Add water, fresh diced tomatoes and lemon juice to the bulk mix and voila - you have tabouli salad! Again, no one will know it’s not homemade, both in appearance and taste. I like to use more tomatoes than the bin recipe calls for and add a small handful of fresh spinach for some extra nutrition as well. For a flavorful variation, try adding fresh mint leaves.

6. Instant Hummus

Instant hummus tastes almost as good as fresh, for about a third the price. Just add water, lemon juice and olive oil, or, for a lower fat version, replace the olive oil with extra water. Hummus is great, not only as a healthy dip for veggies, but also as an alternative to mayonnaise in sandwiches and wraps. Spread a generous layer in the center of a flour tortilla, layer tomato slices, lettuce, cucumbers and red onions and wrap for a quick lunch. I like to add pickles too.
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