How to Shop in Bulk and Save Money
We’ve all been there: You’re in the kitchen making a meal and you reach for an ingredient — only to find that it’s gone. If you absolutely must have that ingredient for your recipe, then the only thing to do is head to the store and pay full price to refill your supply. It may be tempting to purchase a small amount of whatever you need — just enough to finish making that recipe — but you’ll actually end up paying more that way. Though it may seem expensive to spring for a larger size, buying in bulk will save you money in the long run.
One of the keys to saving money when you're food shopping is knowing where to shop. Buying a membership at a warehouse-style club is a good start, but you can bulk shop at your local supermarket if you are bargain-savvy. Savings expert Jeanette Pavini recommends planning bulk purchases around store sales and coupons. “Create a list of the essentials — those items that you know you will need, and the specific brands you like. Take a few minutes every week to scan the store ads and sites like Coupons.com, looking for offers that match up with items on your list.” If you spend a few minutes searching for deals, you could end up saving as much money as you would at a membership-only wholesale club.
Another part of successfully shopping in bulk is creating a strategy for using all of your purchases. If a store has a great deal on sweet potatoes but you can’t come up with enough delicious ways to use a 20-pound bag before they go bad, then it may not be such a bargain. In Jeanette’s words, “Bulk savings mean nothing if you’re not able to use it all before it goes bad.” Plan your menu or have a concrete plan for storing bulk foods before you shop; that way you won't waste money when you toss unused food. Jeanette also recommends glancing at expiration dates when you shop and storing bulk purchases in a cool, dry, dark place (like a pantry) for optimum shelf life.
Ready to start shopping? Before you plan your menu or make a trip to the store, consider these quick and easy tips; they'll make it easier to purchase in bulk and save money.
Know Which Foods to Buy in Bulk
Some foods have an excellent shelf life (meaning they won't go bad as they sit in your pantry or refrigerator), making them ideal for bulk purchase. Stock your pantry with items like rice, quinoa, oats, beans, lentils, and canned tomatoes. These foods are inexpensive, wholesome, and shelf-stable. Other items that make good bulk purchases are onions, garlic, and potatoes; they will last a long time if stored properly. Even boxes of cereal or crackers can last for up to six months if they’re stored in a cool, dark place.
Know Which Foods to Avoid
Unless you have a plan to use an item quickly (or can utilize techniques like canning, preserving, or freezing), avoid buying highly perishable foods in bulk. Fresh fruits and vegetables (like tomatoes, bananas, or avocados) and many dairy products (like yogurts and soft cheeses) will go bad before you can use such a large quantity.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.
Jeanette Pavini is an award-winning savings expert who has contributed to the coupons.com blog, The Wall Street Journal, and Market Watch. Her 30-minute Emmy-nominated show, The Daily Real, ran for 10 years on CBS and NBC and has received eight Press Club Awards for Best Program. Jeanette has also been featured as a guest on the TODAY Show and Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family Show.