Thrifty Tip: Buy in Bulk

 Posted by on March 31, 2008  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Mar 312008

I like to buy food and household supplies in bulk, because it saves time and money.

If you want to start buying in bulk, here are some tips:

1) You must know your prices. I use a price book system to track prices, and a few hours of research saves me hundreds of dollars each year. It’s worth the extra work! If you would like to make a price book, see my “How to Keep a Price Book” post.

2) Investigate all the stores in your area, and don’t make uneducated assumptions. I’ve kept a price book for 10 years, so I only track prices at a few stores that consistently have the cheapest prices—Wal-Mart, Aldi, and a salvage store. However, I narrowed my price tracking down based on a decade of knowledge and experience. When I first began my price book, I tracked prices at a larger number of stores, but I quickly learned which ones were the most expensive. I don’t track their prices anymore, but I do check their sale flyers each week for unbeatable sales.

3) Always calculate unit price. Often, bulk foods are packaged in large quantities, particularly at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club. Don’t assume that this is cheaper! I had a one-day pass at Sam’s Club, and I took my price book and calculator with me. I checked unit prices on staple items that we buy regularly. There were some items that were cheaper, and many that were not. In several cases, I found that the large quantity was more expensive per unit, and I concluded that the overall savings weren’t significant enough to justify the yearly membership fee.

4) Develop a storage system. To effectively buy in bulk, it pays to have a chest freezer. Ours costs less than $8 a month to operate, and saves us much more than that. We use it to store garden surplus, bulk purchased sale meats, large sacks of flour and grains, even chocolate chips (75 cents for 12 ounces! I bought a lot.) You can purchase freezer organization bins, but they’re very expensive. For a freezer the size of ours, the total cost is around $56. Instead, I purchased six white, stackable, plastic storage crates, which we stacked in two columns of three. The bottom two contain meats, the middle two contain fruits and vegetables, and the top two contain baking supplies, and other miscellaneous items. Our frozen bread and grains fit snugly around them. My husband cut the top two down, because they were slightly too big for the freezer door to close. This system cost $24, for a savings of $32.

For non-perishables and canned goods, I have 2 sets of inexpensive, plastic shelves in my laundry room. Even if you don’t have room for shelves, rethink your storage space. Food doesn’t necessarily have to be stored in the kitchen. I currently have a bucket of rice in my hall closet, and I’ve been known to store cases of canned fruit and soup under our bed. Be creative!

5) Get organized. Organize stored food by expiration date, so the oldest food always gets used first, and don’t buy more than you can use just because it’s a good deal! I’ve made this mistake before, and I ended up throwing food away because it was no longer fresh. I may as well have walked to the garbage can and tossed in some cash. It was a very upsetting lesson learned the hard way.

6) Plan ahead. Bulk buying requires extra money-you can’t do it if you live paycheck to paycheck. Start small. See if you can save an extra $5 dollars a week. Eliminate non-essential items and convenience foods. Eat less-meat meals. Use the money you save to start buying in bulk. Initially, your food bill may be higher, but eventually your monthly average will drop, because you’ll be consistently eating foods purchased at the lowest possible price.

Just this weekend, I purchased 24 cans of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup (I prefer Campbell’s over generics–much creamier) and 8 cans of Del Monte sliced peaches for 50 cents each. They were in the Wal-Mart clearance aisle. Last month, I bought 6 boxes of SunLight dishwasher gel packs for $1.00 each at Dollar General. They were clearanced because the boxes had been damaged. I saved at least $14 on these two bulk purchases alone!

Though we’re all fighting respiratory illnesses, we dragged ourselves out to do errands on Saturday. We went to Wal-Mart, the bakery thrift store, the library, a hobby store, and Family Christian Stores. They were having a grand opening sale at their new location, and we had coupons. We decided that it’s time to pass our toddler Bible down to Cakes, and we got Bee a Bible of her own. Though she’s only 5 1/2, she’s already a very proficient reader. Last week, she astonished us by reading out loud from the book of Genesis! We knew she could read some words, but we didn’t realize the extent of her abilities. I asked her how she knew how to read the Bible, and she said, “Oh, I’ve been practicing.”

We got a nice kids’ study bible ($27.99), 2 boxes of DaySpring greeting cards ($10.98), a Bible-dry highlighter ($1.79), and the “Fix It and Forget It Slow Cooker Cookbook” ($13.95). You know how I love my slow cooker!

The total price for these items was $54.71. By combining our coupons with the sale prices, we paid only $28.32! I must be a true tightwad, because this $26 savings made me happy all day!