Whenever I read about how to eat organically on a budget, there's always a mention of buying from the bulk bins. The bins have organic whole grains, dried fruits, candies, nuts and other items that can be scooped in large quantities.

While they're usually a good value, they can be intimidating. Rows of organic oats: steel cut, slow cooking, quick cooking. If you grew up ripping open a packet of maple and brown sugar oatmeal like I did, all those oats in the bulk bin can be confusing. And the rice — brown, white, basmati, jasmine, long grain, short grain — makes you long for instant rice.

But don't go running to the packaged food aisle. It's time to tackle the whole grains in the bulk bins, one bin at a time.

Starting with whole grains

bulk food bins at grocery All those bulk bins can be intimidating. (Photo: Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock.com)

You know you're supposed to be eating more whole grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel which includes the bran, the germ and the endosperm. They are high in fiber. They are very good for you.

About a year ago, I decided to tackle the bulk bins myself. I started by scooping out a cup of whatever caught my eye, then coming home and finding a way to use it.

I suggest you start with brown basmati rice. Brown basmati is very high in fiber and has a strong flavor. It's very easy to cook, but it takes about 50 minutes so you need to give yourself enough time.

Here is the basic method for cooking 1 cup of organic brown basmati rice. (It will yield about 3 cups of cooked rice.)

  1. Put 2 cups of water or organic broth (chicken or vegetable works well) in pot that has a tight-fitting lid. Add rice.
  2. Bring to a boil. Stir and place on tight lid. (I prefer to use a glass lid so I can see the rice's progress.)
  3. Reduce to a light simmer and cook with lid on until all liquid has been absorbed. Start checking at 40 minutes. It should take about 50 minutes total.
  4. Remove from heat and serve.

If cooked with broth, the rice will have plenty of flavor. I cook it with organic chicken broth and serve it as is. My husband and I like to add a little salt. My 6-year-old son loves it plain. He'll eat the leftovers for breakfast.

Start with one item at a time if the bulk bins intimidate you. Try one a week or one every other week.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

How to cook brown basmati rice
Tackle your grocery's organic bulk bins with tasty basmati brown rice.