I love to play in the kitchen. Buying grains, flours, nuts, spices and other goodies by refilling my own containers helps me avoid an astounding amount of packaging waste. Bulk stores (or buying groups / co-ops, etc.) work by sourcing larger quantities of foods than any person or family would buy at one time, and splitting between many customers. This gives us the opportunity to buy only the amount we need, when we need it.
In the last couple of years, Sydney has exploded with places to shop in bulk. These stores are a nice alternative to the chain supermarket experience. No bright lights and gaudy sales stickers, hideous music and ads over the PA. Refill stores are full of friendly people who appreciate your efforts to reduce waste and give you discounts for bringing your own containers.
Here is a very simple granola recipe I make with ingredients that are easy to find at any bulk shop in Sydney. My favourite way to eat this is on warm oatmeal or overtop warm stewed apples.
A basic zero waste granola recipe
Makes about 4.5 cups of finished granola.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 1/2 cup pepitas
- 1/2 cup coconut flakes (large flakes)
- 1/8 cup coconut oil (optional – makes the oats a bit crispier)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/8 cup molasses
- Shake of salt
Method to make zero waste granola
My friend Claudia is an inspiration to me for many reasons. She saves sharks, she knows everything about tofu and she taught me the secret to making great granola. You toast the oats first and separately from the other ingredients. This step helps to avoid burning the nuts and seeds, and creates perfect crunchy clusters.
- Toast oats on a baking sheet for 10 minutes in an oven heated to 200 degrees celsius.
- Remove the tray from the oven and add half the coconut oil. Let it melt with the heat of the pan, then mix into the oats.
- In a bowl, mix together sesame seeds, pepitas, coconut flakes, honey, molasses, the balance of the coconut oil, plus a shake of salt.
- Work the sesame seed mixture into the toasted oats with a fork or your fingers. It doesn’t need to be perfectly even.
- Put the baking sheet back into the oven for another 10 minutes until the mixture is toasted as much as you like. I like them to be a light golden brown, not too dark.
- Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the pantry.
One you’ve got the method down, try mixing up the ingredients. Switch up the types of nuts or seeds, add some bulk store spices like cinnamon, or mix in some puffed rice to the cooled granola. Use whatever you have on hand. There are endless variations.
How to shop for granola ingredients in bulk
I’ve found Sydney’s bulk refill shops – whether coop, chain or other – to unanimously ‘get it’ when it comes to BYO containers. Shopping at the bulk spots is a little different to the grocery store, but not more difficult. Here are some tips to make it a smooth experience.
- Bring your own containers or bags to refill. You can reuse any container or bag, so long as it’s clean and will survive the journey home.
- Anything heavier than a plastic bag should be tared before filling. Most bulk shops will have scales for this purpose. Weight the item and write the ‘tare weight’ on the jar or bag in grams if you’re in Australia.
- Check if liquid items like honey and molasses are sold by weight or volume before filling.
I maintain a list (one day soon, it will be a map!) to help you find a bulk store in Sydney. I hope that one day soon, everyone has a refill shop in their own suburb.