Buying in Bulk

At the end of each aisle is a toaster oven or microwave, its bell constantly dinging with bite-sized samples, so many that you can pretty much eat lunch and not pay a dime. Well, you don't pay a dime until you let those tantalizing bites tempt you into buying, but not just one little box, you will be buying in bulk, either gigantic boxes or bundles of normal-sized boxes. While it might be tempting to go to Costco or another bulk buy store and fill your oversized cart with all that thrills your taste buds and attracts your eye, but bulk buying should not just be about impulse buys.

This is about strategy. They say you should not grocery shop without a plan, without a list. When it comes to bulk buying, a plan and list are pretty much essential. Remember: Sometimes more is better and sometimes more is worse, and sometimes more is just a space-taker and an eye-sore that infringes on your daily life.

More is Better when... Small items with long shelf lives, like canned tuna and soup, onions, garlic, potatoes, wine, beer and soda. Frozen foods that you eat often, like blueberries, edamame, and fruit popsicles.

Non-perishable items that you use often and a lot of, like toothbrushes, tape, and razors. Also, dog food.

More is Worse when... Large items with short shelf lives, like fresh fruits (unless they are freezable), fresh meats (unless you plan to freeze them before they go bad), and eggs. Other BAD items to buy in bulk? 5-pound candy jars of your favorite, totally irresistible treats, not that they are going to go bad, but that you might not be able to control yourself. Nuts, vitamins, and oils go rancid, while spices lose flavor within a few months.

More is just a Space-Taking Eye-Sore when... When you don't have enough room for the 100 rolls of toilet paper, for the sheet cake, for the giant sized boxes of cereal, for the huge and heavy cartons of bleach.... You've got a bulk buy eye sore.

While bulk buying can save you hundreds of dollars a year, it can also waste hundreds of dollars a year if you aren't strategic about it. Here's your 3-Step Strategy:

1.            Stick to the List!

But don't just make a list. Make a list of both what you need and approximately how much of it you can realistically use (and have room for in your house).

Will you really chew all 30 packs of gum without getting tired of the flavor?

How many CDs are you planning on making to warrant the package of 1000?

If you buy the family sized box of blueberries, before they go bad, will you remember to freeze them in a freezer-safe baggie?

Keep in mind that it's only a deal if you use it.

2.            Be Aware of "Unit" Pricing

Just because it's sold at a bulk buy store, doesn't mean that it's less expensive. Be aware of how much one bottle of ketchup is at your average grocery store, versus how much one single ketchup costs of the 5 that you are being wrapped into buying. If you're only saving a few cents, consider if you really need to buy all 5 right now or if they will just be space takers, with the chance of one of them even going bad if you don't use them up soon enough. Since you have your list, items that you realize don't need to be bulk bought can be purchased individually later at your regular grocery store.

3.            Don't Shop Hungry

This is an across the board rule, regardless of if you're bulk buying or shopping at your regular grocery store. Shopping hungry will just lead to impulse buys that are so totally and completely unnecessary, like an entire rack of ready-to-eat BBQ ribs.

This is a guest post by Laurel House is a lifestyle author, expert, writer, personal trainer and the "QuickieChick." Her "quickies" are all about making the most out of every moment- whether it's a saddlebag-burning "Quickie Workout in Bed," a de-puffing "Bites with Benefits" meal, or how to get a $150 spa-quality skin peel out of a $1 tomato and lemon at-home Refrigerator Facial. Her YouTube videos have received over 7 million views and now you can get even more Quickie Tips in her new book "QuickieChick's Cheat Sheet to Life, Love, Food, Fitness, Fashion and Finance on a Less than Fabulous Budget" (St. Martin's, May 2012).


Image thanks to David McKelvey on Flickr.

Leave a Comment