Bulk shopping guide in and around Mill Valley, CaliforniaBulk shopping guide in and around Mill Valley, California

Here is the list of bulk staples available from vendors in and around Mill Valley: all items mentioned here only represent a small selection of the respective bulk sections.

Mill Valley Whole Foods (New)
Agave Syrup

Baked goods (bread counter, croissants, focaccia, cookies)
Cocoa powder
Dried fruit (raisins, coconut, mango, etc…)
Flour
Ginger snaps
Grains (couscous, rice, quinoa, etc…)
Granola and Flake cereal
Honey
Juice oranges
Meat, fish, deli and cheese counters

Nuts
Olive bar: olives, cornichons, pickles, marinated mushrooms and peppers, mozarella balls, feta cheese…
Olive oil

Peanut butter
Salt (fine)
Small selection of spices and teas
Straus milk
Sugars
Sweet snacks (malt balls, gummy bears, yogurt pretzels, tiny PB cups, etc…)

Tamari Sauce
Tofu (in the fridge section next to meat department)
Trail mix bar

Whole Foods, San Rafael (12mins from downtown MV)
All items mentioned above, plus:
Baking soda (overpriced!)
Body lotion, shampoo, conditioner
Coarse salt
Dr. Bronners castile soap
Larger selection of spices (cumin seeds for ex.)

White stevia (to make tooth powder)

My Pueblo Market, San Rafael (also about 10mins from downtown MV) : Nothing here is organic but people are super friendly and accomodating. You can ask the bakery/deli to fill your cloth bag with tortillas chips and tortillas.
Fritura
Guacamole
Mexican cheese
Non-organic flavored yogurt
Pastries
Salsas
Sour cream

Good Earth, Fairfax (19mins from downtown MV)
All items mentioned above, plus:
Agave syrup
Apple cider vinegar
Different shampoos and conditioners

Dishwasher detergent (powder)
Fig bars
Laundry detergent (powder)
Pasta
Rice Crackers


Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco (26mins from downtown MV): The Bulk Mecca
All items mentioned above (excl. meat and fish counter), plus:
Active yeast
Agar Agar (to substitute for the pectin in jams)
Animal crackers
Baking soda (cheaper here than elsewhere)
Baking yeast (fresh)
Beeswax (1lb block)
Capers (large)
Cookies
Cooking oil

Dishwasher detergent (liquid)
Dog food
Epsom salt
Fresh Pasta
Henna
Large collection of teas and spices
Large selection of body lotion, shampoo and conditioner
Pretzels
Rice vinegar
Soy beans (to make soy milk)
Strauss milk (cheaper here than elsewhere)
Sun-dried tomatoes
Tofu
Tortilla chips
Wine vinegar


The following stores are in the bay area, and only worth shopping at, if visiting those areas

Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley (31mins from downtown MV): I was disappointed with this one, I heard that the bulk was fantastic and went there only to find out that they carried barely anymore than the San Rafael Whole Foods. A lot of it is items packaged in plastic bags! A total waste. I was able to find a couple hard to find items, hardly worth mentioning though.
Capers (small)
Interesting snacks (incl. wasabi peanuts)
Good pasta selection (alphabet pasta, lasagnas, etc…)

New Leaf, Santa Cruz area (1hr44mins from downtown MV): My favorite of the smaller bulk stores, because it carries the most needed staples for a simplified pantry and one-stop bulk shopping.
Balsamic
Body lotion, shampoo, conditioner
Cookies
Dr. Bronners castile Soap
Honey
Large selection of spices and teas
Licorice candy
Maple syrup
Nuts
Olive oil
Pastas
Peanut Butter
Wide selection of reusable containers

Here is the list of bulk staples available from vendors in and around Mill Valley: all items mentioned here only represent a small selection of the respective bulk sections.

Mill Valley Whole Foods (New)
Agave Syrup

Baked goods (bread counter, croissants, focaccia, cookies)
Cocoa powder
Dried fruit (raisins, coconut, mango, etc…)
Flour
Ginger snaps
Grains (couscous, rice, quinoa, etc…)
Granola and Flake cereal
Honey
Juice oranges
Meat, fish, deli and cheese counters

Nuts
Olive bar: olives, cornichons, pickles, marinated mushrooms and peppers, mozarella balls, feta cheese…
Olive oil

Peanut butter
Salt (fine)
Small selection of spices and teas
Straus milk
Sugars
Sweet snacks (malt balls, gummy bears, yogurt pretzels, tiny PB cups, etc…)

Tamari Sauce
Tofu (in the fridge section next to meat department)
Trail mix bar

Whole Foods, San Rafael (12mins from downtown MV)
All items mentioned above, plus:
Baking soda (overpriced!)
Body lotion, shampoo, conditioner
Coarse salt
Dr. Bronners castile soap
Larger selection of spices (cumin seeds for ex.)

White stevia (to make tooth powder)

My Pueblo Market, San Rafael (also about 10mins from downtown MV) : Nothing here is organic but people are super friendly and accomodating. You can ask the bakery/deli to fill your cloth bag with tortillas chips and tortillas.
Fritura
Guacamole
Mexican cheese
Non-organic flavored yogurt
Pastries
Salsas
Sour cream

Good Earth, Fairfax (19mins from downtown MV)
All items mentioned above, plus:
Agave syrup
Apple cider vinegar
Different shampoos and conditioners

Dishwasher detergent (powder)
Fig bars
Laundry detergent (powder)
Pasta
Rice Crackers


Rainbow Grocery, San Francisco (26mins from downtown MV): The Bulk Mecca
All items mentioned above (excl. meat and fish counter), plus:
Active yeast
Agar Agar (to substitute for the pectin in jams)
Animal crackers
Baking soda (cheaper here than elsewhere)
Baking yeast (fresh)
Beeswax (1lb block)
Capers (large)
Cookies
Cooking oil

Dishwasher detergent (liquid)
Dog food
Epsom salt
Fresh Pasta
Henna
Large collection of teas and spices
Large selection of body lotion, shampoo and conditioner
Pretzels
Rice vinegar
Soy beans (to make soy milk)
Strauss milk (cheaper here than elsewhere)
Sun-dried tomatoes
Tofu
Tortilla chips
Wine vinegar


The following stores are in the bay area, and only worth shopping at, if visiting those areas

Berkeley Bowl, Berkeley (31mins from downtown MV): I was disappointed with this one, I heard that the bulk was fantastic and went there only to find out that they carried barely anymore than the San Rafael Whole Foods. A lot of it is items packaged in plastic bags! A total waste. I was able to find a couple hard to find items, hardly worth mentioning though.
Capers (small)
Interesting snacks (incl. wasabi peanuts)
Good pasta selection (alphabet pasta, lasagnas, etc…)

New Leaf, Santa Cruz area (1hr44mins from downtown MV): My favorite of the smaller bulk stores, because it carries the most needed staples for a simplified pantry and one-stop bulk shopping.
Balsamic
Body lotion, shampoo, conditioner
Cookies
Dr. Bronners castile Soap
Honey
Large selection of spices and teas
Licorice candy
Maple syrup
Nuts
Olive oil
Pastas
Peanut Butter
Wide selection of reusable containers

  1. Joan Peck says:

    February 6th, 2010 at 5:27 am (#)

    Bea – your energy and enthusiasm are contagious – I like your blog very much – how about an article for the Perspective about your project/life style/blog/work, etc.

    Joan

  2. Whitney says:

    February 19th, 2010 at 1:46 am (#)

    I just hopped over here from the NYTimes article you were mentioned in. I love this! I do have one question: do you bring your mason jars to the grocery stores when buying bulk? Or do you place your bulks in paper bags and then transfer then when you get home (which is probably most likely…) and save the bags for something else? Just curious!

  3. Bea Johnson says:

    February 19th, 2010 at 2:13 am (#)

    Hi Whitney: thanks for visiting my blog, I use french jars and cloth bags… it is all described in detail in Zero Waste Grocery Shopping (january).

  4. alex gormley says:

    February 19th, 2010 at 11:33 pm (#)

    Bea, I saw your article in the NY Times and came to your site immediately. I won't subscribe to the paper but instead pick up the used papers at the gym in the morning. This is a great place and I look forward to visiting your site often.

  5. Anonymous says:

    March 4th, 2010 at 12:01 am (#)

    Bea, any suggestions for carbonated water? It is such a waste to use the plastic liter bottles. Thanks

  6. Bea Johnson says:

    March 4th, 2010 at 6:56 am (#)

    Hi there: We personally do not drink carbonated water, but I did see a system at the green festival in San Francisco that seemed interesting. I just wish they had a faucet option instead of yet another free standing counter cluttering appliance. http://www.sodastreamusa.com/carbonatorinfo.aspx

  7. Anonymous says:

    April 27th, 2010 at 8:22 pm (#)

    Bea,
    I'm surprised you still shop at Whole Foods. I've been disappointed with them in many ways lately. Mostly for their lack of local products and how if you don't read carefully you can end up buying things like factory farm chicken at "Whole Paycheck" prices. I get most of my food from 2 local farms now, neither of which produce any trash for the consumer. Do you have such an option where you live? Many farms deliver to your home or have buying clubs that make getting your food very easy.
    ,Helga

  8. Bea Johnson says:

    April 28th, 2010 at 12:17 am (#)

    Hi Helga:
    As you can read thru my articles, I am not super happy with Whole Foods, but it is the only bulk vendor in my town. And for simplifying reasons (I work full time), one stop shop is what works best for us. We now eat meat only once a week, so paying a little more and not having to go somewhere else is our best option. The "whole paycheck" is for those that shop the prepared foods. By shopping bulk only, I have actually been able to greatly reduce my weekly grocery bill. As for trying home deliveries, we've tried a couple CSA's, and they have been a complete waste nightmare.

  9. Farmer Barb says:

    May 6th, 2010 at 2:29 pm (#)

    As a fellow Mill Valley Mom and former organic chicken/egg producer, I am delighted to know about your effort. We have reduced a lot just in moving five people into a 937 square foot home. One thing that I do is try to incorporate at least one thing that I grow in every meal. When I can get the chicken thing going again, I will be able to provide almost everything we eat. It is a personal choice to reduce our waste footprint. We harvest rainwater and have reused construction materials to make our garden beds. My general policy is not to water anything that I can't eat.
    No one person can resolve the ills of the past. We can only do what we can. We are lucky that we live in a place where we can grow and enjoy the outdoors. There is no need for others to criticize our efforts because they are not "green enough". We all work at it every day.
    We live a two mile bike ride away from school. Our resolution was to ride as much as possible. I have ridden 830 miles this school year. The boys have ridden half that because they only do it once! My bike trailer carries my daughter and my groceries. We hope to complete the goal of 1000 miles by June 17th.
    Keep on reducing!

  10. Anonymous says:

    July 11th, 2010 at 7:56 am (#)

    I live in Pleasanton, CA. How can I locate local farms. I shop at the local farmer's market mostly for vegetables/ fruits. I need to buy lots of milk-3 gallons a week, sometimes more(we are a vegetarian family of 4}My only choice is organic that comes in a plastic can. Strauss sells only fatfree or whole in 1/2 gallon size bottles.
    Thanks for any suggestions

  11. Meg says:

    January 1st, 2011 at 3:52 pm (#)

    Hi Bea, I read an article about you and your family in this month's Sunset Magazine and was really inspired. I've been taking baby steps to reduce waste but I'd like to do more. I am curious about how you buy your butter or what you do with the waste from it. We are also in CA and I was wondering if you know of any sources to purchase dairy straight from a dairyman in our state. Can you recommend a good resource for learning about what is or is not recyclable? Thanks for educating and inspiring us!

  12. Bea Johnson says:

    January 4th, 2011 at 9:00 pm (#)

    Hi Meg:
    At one point, I made my own butter but it was too expensive and time consuming.
    I then found a farm that would sell their butter but in a plastic tub.
    I then bought a share of 20lb block of Strauss butter but the effort it involved was not worth doing it again.
    The best would be for Whole Foods or Rainbow to sell it in bulk like they do tofu (in rectangles), but I have not had any luck getting any of these 2 stores to get it started.
    In the meantime and for simplifying reasons, I now buy WF butter and compost the wrappers. Butter is the only food that we buy in packaging (apart from that of yogurt and milk which we return to the store).

  13. Hilary says:

    January 13th, 2011 at 5:25 am (#)

    Love your blog! Where did you get your sofa? I have been looking all over for something similar, but can't find anything. I am especially interested in the table function!

    Thanks!

  14. Gwyn says:

    February 3rd, 2011 at 5:40 am (#)

    Chips, tortillas, and salsa can also be bought directly at Chevy's. Another great spot to fill your bulk bags and jars. Guilty pleasure…hot tortillas right off "La Machine"!

  15. Gwyn says:

    February 3rd, 2011 at 5:43 am (#)

    Oh, and for those in San Jose, we may be able to fill a jar with fresh tofu from the San Jose Tofu company. I'll have to try that one next weekend.

  16. Bea Johnson says:

    February 3rd, 2011 at 6:04 am (#)

    Thanks Gwyn: I am not sure where you live in the south bay, but if you are in Palo Alto, check out Mi Pueblo (ours carries the products mentioned above). Also, check the refrigerated goods at your local WF, it might carry bulk tofu.

  17. Cindy says:

    February 18th, 2011 at 6:22 am (#)

    Bea, I notice you marked the baking soda at WF as overpriced. Have you found a reasonably priced alternative at a local location? Thanks!

  18. trishalou78 says:

    February 22nd, 2011 at 9:08 pm (#)

    Question- I cannot find baking soda in bulk. I have checked my local Whole Foods and Sunflower Market. I have found Arm n Hammer in bulk at Costco… in a thick plastic ziploc bag. I use it for cleaning and laundry, so I go through a lot. Bea, does your Whole Foods sell it in bulk? I may just have to put in a request to carry it in the bulk section.

  19. Bea Johnson says:

    February 24th, 2011 at 5:41 am (#)

    trishalou78: I am not sure where you live but in my area, Good Earth and Rainbow are best bets for baking soda. Whole Foods sometimes sells it in bulk, but it is way overpriced.
    Better than buying it in a plastic bag, would be buying a 2lb cardboard box (the cardboard is at least biodegradable and recyclable).

  20. Anonymous says:

    March 22nd, 2011 at 2:22 am (#)

    I have just recently discovered your site. I am devouring it all. I had my least wasteful trip to Whole Foods ever following your advise for the bulk and produce sections. I love the letter to Whole Foods and am planning to send one myself. Thanks for being an inspiration. I considered myself green–composting, recycling, and being vegan, but I now realize that I generate way too much trash. Keep up the fight!
    Thanks!
    Terry

  21. Anonymous says:

    March 26th, 2011 at 2:32 am (#)

    Thanks for the suggestion about new leaf in Santa Cruz. I live very close and want to start bulk shopping. Your blog is really inspiring and I want to start aiming for zero waste 🙂

  22. Anonymous says:

    March 29th, 2011 at 5:36 pm (#)

    Your family is an inspiration! God bless you!

  23. Anonymous says:

    April 16th, 2011 at 10:48 pm (#)

    Hi Bea, I wanted to post this link which lists natural and health food stores/co-ops all around the US and Canada:

    http://www.greenpeople.org/healthfood.htm

    Thanks! Katie

  24. concerned says:

    April 20th, 2011 at 1:07 am (#)

    For everyone with food allergies
    Shopping in bulk is risky because some people use one scoop for all the bins and mix everything together. Make sure you are very careful if you have serious allergies

  25. Bea Johnson says:

    April 21st, 2011 at 3:37 am (#)

    If you say so… I have not seen it happen though. Nuts are usually stored in dispensers, (non-scoopable containers).

  26. Glenn and Cristina says:

    May 30th, 2011 at 5:19 am (#)

    Hi Bea, I am new to your blog and I love it, I am so inspired. How did you get your husband and children (and rest of your family) to go along with this drastic lifestyle change? Any advice for those of us who don't have such willing participants?

  27. Adrisse says:

    June 4th, 2011 at 7:36 pm (#)

    Hello Bea,
    I am have been following your blog for a little while and I love it. I have been recycling, reducing and composting for years but you are really inspiring me to move to the next level. I live in southern CT.
    I have a few questions, if you have a minute:
    -I like to roast whole chickens and I was wondering if you had come up with a practical container to carry your whole chiken from the butcher to your house? My husband is planning to have a chiken coop in a few month, but I don't have it in me to eat the chikens we will be raising.
    -What do you do with the kids sports equipment that is so used that it is embarrassing to give away?
    Thanks!

  28. Susan d says:

    August 9th, 2011 at 1:31 am (#)

    Hi B:
    Just today I picked up some mesh laundry bags which we will now use for produce. My husband says that I will now have to go to the supermarket when we need produce but I'm sure he will adapt in no time. I am also thinking about trying to buy bread at a local French bakery using your pillow case idea. Not too sure what my husband will say! I'll let you know what happens.

  29. Anonymous says:

    June 7th, 2012 at 12:04 am (#)

    Hi Bea
    I love your energy for zero waste and I do believe this is the right step in the right direction. But I must present to you a question — when you buy for example Bronner's in bulk — this still comes in a plastic gallon jug. What is your recommendation on what to do with that gallon jug once the liquid has been consumed? Its still of course better to purchase the gallon jug instead of the smaller bottles but realize that this is only a net savings in plastic. You still have the waste of the gallon jug. I guess the point I am trying to make is — unless the system is overhauled completely — you have only passed on the waste and not really saved it. When I mean system overhaul…the question needs to be asked — what are the retailers doing? When you say buy in bulk — often that means the retailers buy it in a plastic 5-Gallon Pail…what do they do with that plastic 5 Gallon Pail once they've sold all the product? 5 Gallon Pails are difficult to recycle and most won't even take them so if these are thrown away by the retailer, then the plastic savings are lost. I'd love to hear a response to this.

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