To some the idea of “buying in bulk” means joining warehouse stores and buying excessive amounts of items that will ultimately go unused. However, many grocery stores, health-food stores, farmers markets and coops, now offer an array of healthy, fresh, local foods sold in "bulk bins." When meal planning this week, consider buying in bulk. Bulk bins allow you to precisely purchase the quantity of an ingredient needed, meaning spending less money and allowing no food to go to waste; thus bringing a new meaning to the term “buying in bulk.”Frequenting the bulk bins at your local grocery store is not only a great way to save money but also familiarize yourself with unknown ingredients. Purchasing items in bulk, such as spices, beans, dry ingredients, nuts, etc.; is a perfect way to ‘sample’ ingredients you are unfamiliar with or do not cook with often.To navigate the bulk isles successfully, follow these tips:** Make sure you are buying from a reputable vendor that replenishes the product frequently.** The store’s bulk containers should be clean and the product should smell fresh.** Don’t be afraid to ask the store manager for a tour of the bulk department and if you can sample any of the products before purchasing. It is also a good idea to ask if the store has measuring cups or spoons for public use, or if you can bring your own, thus insuring you don’t buy more than you need.** Proper home storage is crucial to keeping bulk purchases fresh. Store dry goods in plastic storage containers or glass jars with tight fitting lids in a cool, dry place. Due to their high oil content, nuts, seeds and coconut should be stored in the freezer to prevent them from going rancid. Label each container with the ingredient name and purchase date. Keep information such as shelf life and different preparation techniques readily available.Dried beans are an excellent item to buy in bulk. They are extremely less expensive, have no added sodium, and are more flavorful than the canned version. This Red Beans and Rice, uses classic Cajun ingredients to create a flavorful, comforting meal.Classic Red Beans and RicePrep Time: 15 minutesWait Time: 1 hour 30 minutesCook Time: 2 hours Serves 6 to 81 pound dried red kidney beans**6 cups beef broth1 bay leaf1 1/2 tablespoons hot sauce1 teaspoon creole seasoning2 garlic gloves, minced1 pound smoked sausage, sliced1 tablespoon olive oil1 green bell pepper, diced3 celery ribs, diced½ large onion, diced3 cups cooked riceSalt and pepper, to tasteRinse and pick through beans discarding any broken or discolored beans. Place beans in a large pot and cover with two inches of water. Heat beans to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Cover, turn off heat and let beans soak for 1 ½ hours.After soaking, drain and rinse beans. Place soaked beans in a large pot and add beef broth, bay leaf, hot sauce, creole seasoning, and garlic. Simmer beans over low heat for 2 hours, until tender.When beans are almost done, heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced sausage and cook for 5-8 minutes. Add bell peppers, onions, and celery; cooking for 3-5 minutes. Stir sausage/vegetable mixture into beans. Add hot cooked rice to beans, season with salt and pepper and serve.**Chef Note: Three (15 ounce) cans of red kidney beans can be substituted for the dried beans. Simply drain, rinse and cook the beans over medium heat for 10-15 minutes with creole seasoning, hot sauce and garlic. Continue with recipe as directed by preparing sausage and vegetables as directed.Chef Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but has been developing family friendly meals since she was nine years old in her mother’s kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch.