Buying in Bulk to Save Money

When it comes to grocery shopping, you can save a lot of money by buying from the bulk bins. Bulk foods are usually (but not always) less expensive, because there’s no packaging, cutting the cost of getting the item ready to sell. Those savings are passed on to you, the consumer.

Here are a list of things I almost always buy in bulk.

Spices

If I can convince you to change just one shopping habit it would be to buy spices in bulk. Prepackaged spices are super expensive. You’ve seen the little jars of cinnamon for over $4.

In the bulk bins, cinnamon costs less than that…per pound. All you need is your own jar or plastic bag, and you can buy as much, or as little, spice as you need. And you pay just pennies. Last time I went to Winco, I picked up some dried parsley, enough to fill a standard sized spice jar. The price? 10 cents.

Bulk spices are definitely a good deal. I buy mine at Winco, but if you don’t have a Winco, check your local health food store.

Meat

If you have the freezer space, and you eat a lot of meat, it’s worth buying a half steer all at once. Here in Oregon, I could get a half steer for $2.60 a pound. That’s pretty inexpensive, considering the meat prices in the supermarket today. And that’s for grass fed beef, too!

Even if you can’t afford (or don’t have room for, as in my case) a half steer, buying the family packages of meat are almost always less expensive than buying a single steak or pound of hamburger. I always buy the big packages of meat and split them into meal sized portions when I get home.

Wheat Flour

I always buy my wheat flour from the bulk bins. I rarely see a good sale on wheat flour, and by getting it from the bulk bins, I pay 42 cents a pound. That’s a lot less than the cost per pound of prepackaged whole wheat flour.

I can also mix and match my wheat flours in the quantities I need. I generally mix whole wheat pastry flour, whole wheat bread flour, and whole wheat flour, depending on what I’m baking. It’s nice to have all three kinds of flours available, at a fraction of the regular cost.

Whatever you buy in bulk, there are some things to keep in mind to make the most of your savings.

  • Only buy as much as you’ll use. It’s not a savings if you’re throwing it away.
  • Make sure you check the unit price, to make sure it’s actually less expensive to buy in bulk. Some things aren’t.
  • Make sure you have the storage space. If things aren’t stored properly, they can go bad before you use them.

What things do you buy in bulk? Do you have a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco? Is it worth it?

Photo by basykes.



Author

By , on Jul 1, 2008
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.

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{16 Comments}

  1. Becky:

    *only get a card, sorry. >.<

  2. JillBilly:

    We got a basic Costco membership when they first put up a store in Chicago – about 10-12 years ago. We went wild: huge tins of tomato sauce, massive sacks of beans. We lugged home a 50-lb sack of white rice that we put into 5-gallon buckets, which we bought from the White Castle for a dollar apiece, and I’m just now getting to the bottom of the last bucket. Man! That was one bulk-tastic shopping trip!

  3. Eva White:

    I totally agree with you, buying in bulk really helps in saving. There are couple of wholesale markets also which give good discounts if you pick up stuff in bulk. 2 of my cousins and I all three of us go together to shop in the wholesale market and when we all 3 buy in bulk we get huge discounts.

  4. I buy paper goods in bulk–diapers, t.p., paper towels, paper plates–at Sam’s. It is so much cheaper this way (for the off-brand), esp. when those items aren’t always on sale in the type you like.

    I had never thought of buying spices from the bulk foods section though. I buy them in big containers at Sam’s sometimes but they usually get old before I use them up. Thanks for the tip!
    Say hi to Winco for me, and eat some bulk dried cranberries in honor of me. :-) I miss that store!

  5. Unfortunately, I found that bulk shopping took up more money than regular grocery shopping. Because of this, I have let my BJ’s membership expire and will not be renewing it. We don’t have too much freezer space, so i just wait until certain meats are rock bottom and stock up. We end up eating mostly just that meat for a few weeks but lo and behold, another type goes rock bottom and we can switch it up. This keeps mutiny at bay in my house lol. Also, I now get my spices from the dollar store. I used to get them from BJs but realized that I didn’t go through them fast enough to merit getting that amount in the big jars. One thing I wish I could get in bulk is oatmeal. we don’t have bulk bins at the grocery stores in my area, so I have to wait until quakers drops to rock bottom and stock up. We’ve been out of it for a month and there hasn’t been a rock bottom sale for it in about 4 months :o(. I miss giving my boy oatmeal in the morning.

  6. Juli:

    I agree that shopping at Sam’s has to be done carefully. I can get a lot of stuff cheaper with the sales and coupons at Kroger and CVS. The one thing I do at Sam’s is watch for the clearance items. Sam’s ends all clearanced items in .81 and so it is easy to scan all the prices on the shelves as we walk through and pick out the ones marked down. I have gotten some GREAT deals this way. Last year, organic sugar for .81 for 6 lbs. Oatmeal just after Christmas in huge boxes for $1.81, just have to watch for the out for the items and then stock up. Of course letting my hubby and daughter graze their way thru the store always eliminates an entire meal, Sams has so many samples!

  7. Cynthia:

    I buy my grains, flour and rice in bulk from Bob’s Red Mill – mostly organic, and all products are “natural”. I love their products! I use some of my bulk grains, etc. to put together my own meal mixes (recipes in a jar type of things). It lets me avoid paying for packaging, additives, preservatives, food dyes, etc.

    Since I have a chronic illness and other disabilities, my quality of life is very much affected by what I put into my body. Being able to eat nutritionally, and thriftily, is essential for my health!

    I also buy my spices and herbs in bulk at Winco, but for those of you who aren’t near a Winco, try looking in the ethnic food section of your grocery store. I used to buy packages of spices from the Mexican aisle – oregano, basil, cinnamon, chili powder, paprika and garlic – at .69 per ounce.

    I buy 5 dozen eggs at a time, which provides good savings. And I keep my eyes open for organic products at the local Grocery Outlet store. When they have them, I buy in quantity at great savings! If they have fresh or frozen organic fruits and veggies in stock, I’ll buy in bulk then freeze and/or dehydrate the rest to use in soups, casseroles, etc.

    Dehydrating foods is a great way to preserve them without losing their nutrional value. I’ve done this with carrots, sweet peas, celery, onions, green onions, tomatoes, corn, strawberries, raspberriesm etc.

    Trader Joe’s sometimes has excellent sales on meat. They currently have chicken drumsticks (antibiotic and hormone free!) at only .99 per pound. And yes, I bought in bulk!

    Great ideas and advice in both the blog post and in the comments! All of you rock – thanks so much for sharing!!

  8. Marci:

    I think whether or not you can save money when you factor in the cost of the card is how much you buy.

    If a card is $60/yr – (for easy figuring) and you go once a month, you need to actually save $5/month on the groceries you buy there to pay for the card.

    I think my last renewal was $45… so if I went once a month, I’d need to save just under $4 each trip to pay for the card.

    At least that’s how I figure it. As I’m down to about 3 trips a year, I don’t feel I save $15 per trip when I only spend about $100-$150 total – so for me, it’s time to let go of the membership.

  9. glady:

    We used to have a Sam’s Club membership and we bought things in bulk. You do have to know your prices though, as some things are not cheaper when you can use coupons and sales at the local grocery store. We now have a Costco in town that my kids think is the greatest. My problem was I also bought other good deals (books,toys,etc) that were at Sam’s and would spend more money that I planned on. Do you think it is a savings to have a Sam’s Club or Costco membership when you add in the cost of a card? I really would like some feedback as my kids think I should get a Costco membership

  10. The other things we buy in bulk are the other staple items that go with everything (so you use a ton) but are REALLY inexpensive are rice, beans, tuna, and chicken (of course).

    BTW, things you never buy in bulk (and learned the hard way), disposable diapers. As a new father, we decided Huggies were the way to go. We bought the little guy a huge box of the smallest size since they supposedly went up to 14 pounds. Our boy grew out of them well before 14 pounds. Every kid is different and he simply needed the larger ones before the weight limit was reached. Had to donate the rest to other adoptive parents.

  11. Darcy:

    Did you know that in Safeway you can bring those large bulk meat selections and have them divide it up for you in the store and keep the same bulk price? Not many people know this. :)

  12. Marci:

    Sometimes, if you put your name on a list with the local meat suppliers, you can get as little as a quarter of a beef. At least ours works that way – you just have to wait until there is another person also only wanting a quarter beef instead of a half or whole.

  13. Marci:

    I have had a costco card for about 20 years – but agree with above that one has to know prices as some things can be found for less elsewhere. I still find 5 doz eggs cheaper at Costco (I save smaller cartons to repackage when home) and Tillamook cheese cheaper. The 10# shredded cheese I repackage and freeze- works fine. I also like the large vitamin and pain reliever bottles – much cheaper.

    When I was buying for a family of 5, I found it very cost effective on staples – bulk flour, sugar, beans, rice, cans, laundry detergent, meat, etc. I used to spend $150 to $200 there about 6 times a year.

    Because it’s down to just me now, and visiting grandkids, I will probably not renew my card after this year. The closest store is also over 70 miles away and I only get there a couple times a year – so with the cost of the card, it is no longer a savings for me. I’ll be going to Grocery Outlet and Bimart instead – which are only about 40 miles away – and no yearly fee.

  14. I miss Costco…I knew I shouldn’t have read this post…*cries* we saved soooo much money in Phoenix. I had a book with all the prices, and the sales were the same in the other 3 stores I shopped at about every 6 weeks so after about 3 months I knew exactly where to shop for what I needed in order to spend the least amount of money. We were making 3x as much money and spending 3x less in groceries…*sigh*

  15. Willow:

    I have Sam’s and Costco but I really have to be careful shopping there — some things are great deals and some are not. My most recent discovery is that milk is — drum roll — about $1 a gallon cheaper at Sam’s than in the grocery store! That’s significant because we go through 5-7 gallons a week. And milk can be frozen for those of your readers who maybe didn’t know that.

    In bulk: rice, pasta, mashed potato mix, soups, canned goods, pancake mix (the Krusteaz at Sam’s is great and goes a LONG way!), sugar (most pantry-type staples) and also the frozen quick-fix meals that teenagers seem to require like Bagel Bites and such. LUNCH MEAT and condiments… I know those things aren’t frugal but if you need to have them for emergency meals, then it’s better to buy them at Sam’s or Costco.

    I don’t buy from Sam’s or costco paper towels or toilet paper because with coupons and sales, they almost are always cheaper locally. I don’t buy coffee in bulk either, because I really like the Publix brand percolator coffee (that’s my vice).

    This was a great post!

    • Jessica:

      One thing that we have discovered, is that the local convenience store or gas station can often beat our best bargain grocers on milk prices. I don’t have any idea how this works, but check 7-11’s milk prices next time you fill up your tank. :)

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