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Grocery Budget Tips – 25 Great Things to Buy in Bulk
By Joan Whetzel
In the United States, grocery stores and one-stop shopping stores like Target, Wal-Mart, Sims, Costco and the like, offer shoppers the opportunity to buy many things in bulk. The main benefits for shopping in bulk include paying less per unit and making less trips to the store for some items that you use a lot of. However, it may not always be feasible or cost effective to buy in bulk. The key questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to buy some of these bulk items are:
- How much of this product will I really use?
- Can I use it all before the expiration date or the shelf life passes?
If you won’t use all of it or you can’t use it up before it expires, then it won’t be a good deal. In the long run, then, you will save more money by buying smaller packages.
Things to Buy in Bulk That Makes Sense
- Toilet Paper is one of those products that can save money for almost everyone when purchased in bulk (12 ct, 24 ct, 36 ct). Pick the size that’s right for you. If you’re living alone a 12 count package may be more feasible for you. If you have a large family, the 36 count package may be better.
- Facial Tissue is usually sold in single boxes. Most grocery stores offer 3 count packages and some of the warehouse stores offer lager count packages. Most of the time the single package of facial tissues will be more cost effective. However, if everyone in your house has a cold or allergies, the multiple pack may be the better choice.
- Paper Towels may or may not be cost effective in bulk packaging. If your family is like mine, we go through a lot of paper towels, so the 8 and 12 count packages are the most cost effective. If living alone, buying single or double packages will probably be the better buy.
- Paper Plates are another product my family goes through a lot, especially during the warmer months when we do a lot of picnicking. The bulk size packages of paper plates is definitely a cost saver for us. If you’re someone who hates doing dishes, this may also be a benefit. If you rarely use paper plates, though, go for the small packages.
- Batteries are a cost saver at Christmas whenever you buy a lot of battery powered electronics. They may also be a cost saver throughout the year when it comes time to replace those batteries. If you find you don’t need to replace batteries that often, stick to the smaller packs.
- Laundry Detergent and other laundry products, for most people, are less expensive per ounce when bought in bulk (meaning larger packages). It can be hard to carry the larger packages to the washateria though. I’d recommend buying the larger containers of laundry products but make use of a smaller box or reusable plastic container that can be refilled for trips to the washateria.
- Your Family's Favorite Cereal are good to buy in bulk. The cereals you don’t eat often or are less popular should be bought in smaller boxes to save money. Otherwise they go stale before you can finish the box – a definite money waster.
- Garbage Bags are excellent money savers when bought in bulk because they have no expiration date and will save you trips to the store every time you run out.
- Produce is one of those iffy areas when it comes to buying in bulk. Obviously, if you have a large family or buying for a party, bulk buying can be cost effective, especially if you are buying when prices are low. Another time when it can be cost effective, is to buy the produce in bulk when the prices are low and either can or freeze the fruits and veggies for later.
- Meat is another area that is kind of iffy when it comes to buy in bulk. It makes sense when you have a large family or are buying to cook for a party. It also makes sense if you are buying with the intention of freezing some it the meat for later, with the intention of using it within 3 to 6 months. After that time, it’s a good bet that freezer burn will take its toll on the meat.
- Rice is a dry good with a long shelf life, making it a good deal when buying in larger packages, but only if you can use it before its shelf life is up.
- Pasta, is like rice when you buy it in the dry form. Buy large packages if you are going to use them before their shelf life runs out. For the fresh variety like Buitoni brand, You can buy multiple packages and freeze them for up to 3 or 4 months. They can also be cooked from frozen. So it may make sense to buy a few extra packages and put them up in the freezer as “pantry staple.”
- Pasta Sauce can be bought in bulk, especially when it’s on sale or you have coupons. They have a long shelf life and make great pantry staples.
- Canned Soup are like pasta sauces, they make great pantry staples.
- Canned Fruits and Veggies are pantry staples also.
- Frozen Veggies and Other Frozen Foods are great in bulk when on sale or when purchased with coupons. They won’t last in the freezer forever, though, so if you aren’t going to use them within 6 months, buying less of them is more cost effective.
- Charcoal is cost effective to purchase in larger packages if you have a way to store it out of the elements and if you use your charcoal grill a lot. If you grill out very little, or have nowhere to store it but outside, then a smaller package would probably be more cost effective.
- Flour and Sugar are only cost effective in larger packages if you do a lot of baking or cooking with sugar and flour. If you don’t use it a lot, then go for the smaller package.
- Peanut Butter is great in bulk or larger containers if you have a lot of children to feed (i.e. large families, schools and day care) or you really love peanut butter.
- Bottled Water in bulk has its place. Businesses and schools regularly stock their vending machines and coolers with small water bottles. If you take a lot of road trips or like to keep a bottle of water with you all the time, then the palates of water bottles are good to buy in bulk. Buying the larger containers of bottle water is cost effective if you have a water cooler that dispenses water by the glass full. The gallon bottles are best bought for road trips and for stocking up for weather emergencies (hurricanes and winter storms). The trick is to buy when the prices are low and when you have coupons.
- Dry Milk is cost effective if you are going to use this product. My mom used it when we were growing up by mixing it with water and combining half-and-half with regular milk to extend the regular milk further. With five kids, the regular milk from the dairy section got to me too expensive. This is also a great pantry item for emergency weather preparation.
- Crackers are great pantry staples, with a shelf life. So if you buy these in bulk, keep the shelf life in mind.
- Spam has a great shelf life and it’s a great emergency preparedness item – but only if you and your family are going to eat it. If you won’t it, leave it at the store.
- Shampoo and Conditioner in the larger bottles is especially cost effective when many people in your family use the same products. Ounce for ounce, the larger bottles will save you money.
- Bar Soap is another area where bulk packaging may or may not save you money. If you live alone and it takes you a long time to use that bar of soap, then buying single bars may be more cost effective for you. If you have a lot of people or don’t want to have to think about buying a bar of soap every time one runs out, then multi-packs may be more cost effective.
There are some gray areas when it comes to buying in bulk. There’s no hard and fast rules. The key is to buy in bulk only when it makes sense to you.