Frugal Living 

Should You Buy That In Bulk?

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Buy in Bulk - Less Packaging - No WasteOne of the best ways to to save money when you make purchases is to buy in bulk. Buying in bulk allows you to pay a lower per-unit price. This means that when you buy more, you get a cheaper price per ounce. In the long run, this can be a great way to save money on your purchases, since you get a better value for your money.

Buying in bulk also has the effect of allowing you to stock up, preparing for the future so that you are ready for what’s next. Bulk purchases, and storage of the items, are important to proper emergency preparedness. You can also reduce your exposure to inflation with the help of bulk items.

However, it’s important to understand that some items are better bought in bulk than others.

Items to Buy in Bulk

For the most part, the best items to buy in bulk are non-perishables. If you have room for it, purchase canned goods, and frozen fruits and vegetables, in bulk. Many stores have case lot sales once or twice a year, and you can pick up these non-perishables relatively inexpensively. However, you do need to be careful, since at some point these items do go bad. Make sure that you rotate your bulk items so that they are regularly used. Beans, wheat and white rice also last a long time when properly stored.

It’s also possible to by meat in bulk. Beef, pork, chicken and fish all freeze well, so you can purchase these food items when they are on sale and freeze them. Bread and cheese (I freeze shredded cheese for later use) can also be frozen and used later. Buying these items in bulk can be a smart move, since you will have them available for use later.

Other items that are great for bulk buying include paper products, such as paper towels, tissues, and toilet paper. Keep careful tabs on when these items are running low so that you can purchase before you run out. Keep an eye out for sales, and do your best to buy when a sale is on. Paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils are also great items to buy in bulk. Personal care items and different detergents (laundry, dishwasher) can also be bought in bulk for best effect.

Items to Avoid Buying in Bulk

There are some items that just aren’t as good in bulk. Most of these are items that are heavy on the oils. Olive oil, for example, lasts a little more than six months when you keep it cool and dark, but eventually it goes rancid. Stocking up on olive oil, when you aren’t likely to use it all quickly, can be a waste of money. Likewise, you want to be careful about purchasing nuts in bulk. The oils in the nuts go rancid as well.

Realize, too, that there is a good chance that your spices, bought in bulk, will begin to lose their savor. Buy spices in bulk, and they could just end up being bland. I grow my own herbs, so most of my spices are fresh. I dry some for the winter, but they are used up before they really lose their savor. Pay attention to how much you use when you are cooking, and don’t go crazy.

Look at expiration dates to give yourself a better idea of when something is likely to expire, and realize that if you buy a big container of it, and don’t use it quickly after opening it, you could be stuck with food waste, instead of truly saving money.


(Photo: London Permaculture)

{ 8 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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8 Responses to “Should You Buy That In Bulk?”

  1. Martha says:

    I like to buy oatmeal and granola type things in bulk, that way I can try them out one bowl at a time before I purchase a week’s worth of cereal to only find out that I dislike it!

  2. Matt M says:

    With 7 people in my family not much goes to waste so buying in bulk is great.

  3. zapeta says:

    We buy frozen foods, canned goods, and paper products in bulk. We just don’t go through most things fast enough for bulk to be effective, but we do buy things in bulk that keep for a long time.

  4. Seth says:

    One thing about buying in bulk though… don’t just assume that it’s cheaper. I’ve done lots of price comparisons between warehouse stores (Sam’s, Costco, etc.) and general grocery stores, and have found lots of times where the bulk buying was actually more expensive, especially when you factor in the ability to use coupons on individual items.

  5. Russell Wydra says:

    Seth says it all. I did an extensive ounce by ounce, piece by piece comparison between bulk buying at BJ’s and Walmart’s prices. Many times it was cheaper to buy at Walmart especially when you factor in the yearly cost of being a member and the waste of throwing out perishables that are outdated, get freezer burned, or we just got tired of eating. Sure we thought that we were going to eat that giant bag/box of (whatever) but we just get tired/bored of eating the same thing over and over again. (Some bulk buying parents go balistic if a ‘crumb’ gets waisted) But if you insist on buying bulk, do yourself (and your family) a ‘big bulk’ favor…..ALWAYS EAT BEFORE YOU SHOP! Try it both ways and you’ll see why it’s a bad idea to shop hungry.

  6. JoeTaxpayer says:

    With a bit of effort, you can learn the cycle that your local store is on. Things like boneless chicken, on sale for $2, are on a 6 week cycle, so You’d find that if you plan a bit, you’re only stocking up 8 weeks out. Mark the bags with a date, pack them right (squeeze the air out) and track what’s in the freezer. No one will argue that a great sale can be undermined by having an item lost to the back of a freezer and freezer burned when you dig it out a year later.

    Some items that might be perishable are so much cheaper at Costco that the break-even is using just about half.

    Last – the unit price is key. A good supermarket or CVS sale on things like paper towels or TP might be far better than the bulk stores. Knowing that $2.50 (for example) per hundred sheets for paper towels is a good price will let you gauge if that sale or bulk buy is good.

  7. KETRN says:

    A few comments on the article. Don’t forget about the freezer for keeping some stockpiled items fresh. Nuts, for example, last a long time in the freezer. Costco and Trader Joe’s have best prices on these in my area, I’ve found. Yeast also keeps well in the freezer for years. You can get a fabulous deal on yeast on (SAF instant) and also it’s pretty cheap at Costco (the non-instant kind). I also always stock up on spices that I tend to use often (such as chili powder and cumin for homemade taco seasoning and enchilada sauce) and store these in fridge or freezer. (I read once that all red spices, in particular, should be refrigerated and I’ve been working on the same big container of crushed red peppers for a few years w/no change in flavor.) Note, I would never buy spices in a grocery store unless it was a less common one that I couldn’t find anywhere else. Otherwise I get the large containers at Costco or look for the deals at Walgreens (they often have 2 for 1 specials). At the grocery store, don’t forget to check for bulk bins, where you can buy as much, or as little, as you need and often can save a bit that way as well.

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