The Art of Buying in Bulk

Many people simply go into a store, look for the items they want, and leave.

Others (those who are a bit savvier) go into a store, find the item they want, compare all of the sizes, and buy the one that is the cheapest per unit. These people get a lot of bang for their buck, but they also have storage space packed with stale cereal and outdated jars of spaghetti sauce (trust me, I have a neighbor who does this and I’ve watched him pitch most of a case of spaghetti sauce).

The savviest shopper goes into a store, buys small quantities of most things, and only buys the cheapest per unit on things that they love and use all the time.

Here’s why: why spend money on stuff that will sit in your cupboards for years (and often be out of date when you finally use it) when you can save that money instead? I used to buy giant boxes of cereal and such because it was the least expensive per ounce, but I would always have stale cereal at the end of the box and wouldn’t use it anyway. So why spend the extra money?

For me, these are the only things that I buy in bulk: diapers, baby food, baby wipes, toilet paper, paper towels, soap, shampoo, dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent, and laundry softener. My family uses each of these things daily or almost daily and we see no time in the near future where that will change.

Outside of these items, we buy the least expensive version of everything. I eat cereal once a week, so why buy the jumbo box of cereal when all it will do is provide some stale cereal for me in a month? We rarely eat spaghetti, so why buy the large box so that it will eat up cupboard space (and likely wind up forgotten for a long time, way in the back)?

Sometimes, I jot down the savings on each item in the store in this fashion. What did I save buying the small item in the nonessentials, and what did I save buying the best value bulk item? It’s surprising how much you can save per store visit.

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  1. Do you ever think to take it a step further and buy the big box of spaghetti in place of a box of ziti? It’s amazing how much more storage space it takes up when your pasta is a weird shape. I’m a big buyer of bulk, but I rarely throw out anything.

  2. Trent says:

    Things that simply don’t perish, like dry spaghetti, are fine to buy in bulk if you get a good deal. My problem is that I forget about it in the back of the cupboard because we don’t use it very often, thus the extra money is often wasted.

  3. Ralph Morgan says:

    To optimise you should buy the cheapest per unit with a constraint on the maximum quantity that can be bought, based on your rate of use and shelf life (and suitable storage space).


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  5. Teri Pittman says:

    I buy brown rice, split peas, wheat (I have a grain grinder) and beans in 25 pound sacks. Make a special trip to buy them too. It’s part of my food storage plan. I also try to have powdered milk and other canned goods on hand. Buying perishables in bulk is usually not a good idea. Buying non-perishables is often a good idea. For starters, if you buy right, you have food for regular use and to get you through times when finances are tight. Since inflation continues to be a problem, your purchases were bought at a cheaper price than that food will cost several months from now.

    I’ve become a believer in food storage and learning how to use it properly. I haven’t come across anything else that can give you such a feeling of security.

  6. Marie Simon says:

    I bought a food sealer machine and it has been the best purchase I have made. I now have no packages with freezer burn in my freezer. It really seals the bags and stays longer.

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  8. BritishAlanna says:

    Isn’t it weird how when you start thinking about something – everything in your life about that issue pops up? I’ve recently started trying to play “The Grocery Game” by stocking up on items that have been dramatically reduced in price and aligning coupons and sales flyers. Now in searching online for a homemade bread recipe I came across this site and all these messages and posts about buying in bulk and coupon cutting. I have a little house and previously only bought exactly what I would need for the week with maybe a few baking supplies on hand. I’m now doing a complete turn around as the continuous news reminders about our crashing economy and the fact that no matter how much money we earn – it’s never enough is beginning to hit home. Plus – it’s starting to genuinely shock me at how much groceries are going up. I’m an organized slightly neurotic clean freak and it’s stressing me out to have eight boxes of cereal on my washing machine (I’m not kidding – I have no cupboard space!) but they’re all dated 2009 and I have kids so I should be good. Besides – I think I spent a dollar per box. Now, I probably wasted the savings by driving to the three grocery stores to obtain those savings (but that’s a whole other story!) I can already tell that it’s going to take time, commitment and tenacity to follow this program – and the jury is still out (in my house) on if it actually works or if I’ll be making a very generous donation to the local food bank of boxes of raisin bran and spaghetti! I guess only time will tell. Hopefully it won’t be an expensive lesson…

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