(BPT) - Bulk buying often gets a bum rap. If you buy into common bulk myths, you probably believe “buying in bulk” means going to a warehouse store to purchase bucket-sized jars of jelly or paper towel packages so large they barely fit in an SUV — all to supply a big family. Bulk buying, you think, isn’t for smaller families with smaller needs.

Confusion is common about the difference between club purchasing and bulk buying. Club shopping requires you to have an annual membership at a specialized store that does, in fact, sell plus-size packages of common foods and household products. It can be a great way for big families to save money.

But that’s not bulk buying.

“Buying bulk” doesn’t refer to the amount you have to buy, but rather to how a store presents products for purchase. Bulk foods like spices or grains are presented in large bins, allowing you to purchase exactly as much or as little as you need, rather than locking you into purchasing pre-packaged amounts. It’s an approach that particularly makes sense when you need just a small amount of something, or want to try something new but aren’t sure you’ll like it.

What’s more, these days it’s possible to find bulk food aisles in some of your favorite grocery stores. Many stores now sell a number of products in bulk, from rice, flour and pasta to dried fruits, nuts and even sweeteners. You can also find bulk products in the aisles or for sale online from purveyors like Frontier Co-op, which sells organic and sustainably sourced spices, seasonings and teas in bulk.

With the arrival of fall and the approach of the holiday season, buying in bulk can be a great way to experiment with new recipes, stock your spice shelf for celebratory cooking and baking, and even discover ideas for creative food gifts. Here are four reasons to consider trying buying bulk this season:

1. You can buy exactly the amount you want. Perhaps you’re trying a new recipe that calls for an exotic spice you’ve never tried before. Rather than buying a large, pricey bottle of a spice you may not use again, you can go online and purchase exactly the amount of spice you need from Frontier. You won’t spend money on more than you need, nor end up with leftover spice you may not use again anytime soon.

2. Spice up your spice rack.  Your spice rack probably contains some staples you use often, like oregano, parsley, thyme, sage, etc. However, if you've ever avoided trying something new because you didn't want to end up with a large (often pricey) bottle of something you weren't sure you would ever use again, buying in bulk is a great way to try a small amount of something new. 

3. It’s more economical. Buying in bulk is less costly for multiple reasons. Packaged versions of the same teas or spices typically cost considerably more than bulk product. That’s because it takes energy and resources to make and transport packages, as well as to dispose of the shipping packaging that protects the product from the distribution center to the store. Those costs get passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

4. Bulk is better for the planet. By eliminating packaging, bulk products put less strain on the environment. Because bulk foods, spices, herbs and teas are typically presented in reusable containers in stores, there’s less packaging going into the waste stream, too. What’s more, bulk foods are more likely to be locally produced, so the costs and environmental impact of transporting them to the store is less than with packaged products.

If you’re ready to begin buying bulk this season, try this recipe from Frontier Co-op:

Baked Cranberry Apples

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon Frontier Co-op Organic Ground Nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon Frontier Co-op Organic Vanilla Extract

1/2 teaspoon Frontier Co-op Organic Orange Peel Granules

4 Frontier Co-op Organic 2 3/4" Korintje Cinnamon Sticks

1 pound Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples

2 cups rinsed and sorted fresh cranberries

1/4 cup raisins

3/4 cup orange juice

2 teaspoons melted butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/2-inch top off the stem end of the apples. Remove the stems, leaving a small hole into which you can insert a cinnamon stick. Core the apples with a melon baller. Discard cores. Scoop out the inside of the apples, being careful not to pierce the skin. Chop the flesh. Set aside.

Combine the cranberries, raisins, chopped apple flesh, orange juice, butter, nutmeg, vanilla, and orange peel in a medium bowl. Stuff this mixture inside the hollowed-out apples and place in lightly greased oven-proof dish.

Replace cap on each apple, with a cinnamon stick through the stem opening. Spread any extra stuffing around the apples and bake in preheated oven until tender, about 45 minutes.