Buying in Bulk on a Budget

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I always give myself some slack in the healthful eating department at the end of my pregnancies and after a baby is born. I know some of you can pull off six-course, from-scratch breakfasts, lunches, and dinners when you have a newborn or are 10 months pregnant, but I'm just not that ambitious.

So for the past few months, we've stuck to pretty simple meals and had more convenience foods than usual. We've haven't gone over-budget and we've not been living on total junk food by any means, but there's been a lot more white flour, sugar, and processed foods consumed in our home than normal.

Now that life has settled down a bit more and we're more adjusted to
homeschooling and having three little ones, we're working on getting back
to more healthful eating around here. We're slowly using up the extra processed foods we've accumulated and going back to cooking and baking from scratch.

One of the things I'm especially ready to add back in again is using freshly-ground whole wheat flour. However, my dilemma has been how to afford buying wheat kernels.

When we were living in Kansas City, I was purchasing wheat kernels for around $0.69 per pound at Whole Foods. Now that we've moved and no longer have a Whole Foods store nearby, though, I've been on a search for a new and inexpensive source of wheat kernels. The health food stores here allow you to purchase small quantities of wheat kernels, but they are over $1.50 per pound–which adds up really quickly when you bake as much as I do!

I found that buying wheat kernels in bulk was going to save me a large amount of money but my only problem was that buying in bulk meant I'd also have to pay a larger amount of money upfront. I thought about just using some extra non-grocery money to buy a big bag of wheat kernels, but then I decided to challenge myself to see if I could set aside a little bit from our $40 per week grocery budget and, over time, save up enough to be able to afford this bulk purchase.

By staying under-budget and mostly skipping shopping one week, I was surprised to find I had enough leftover after only one month of saving to purchase a 50-pound bag of wheat kernels last week!

I was planning to make a trip to a nearby town which has a bulk foods store to pick these up, but my older sister lives near an Amish Bulk Foods Store which has incredible
prices so she offered to buy some for me and bring it with her
when she came down for our little sister's wedding last week.

In addition to the wheat kernels, she also picked up a big bag of wheat germ and wheat bran for me–two items which were much less expensive at the Amish Bulk Foods Store than they are at the grocery stores here.

Altogether, the total for all of those items was only $30! I'm guessing the wheat kernels will last me close to a year and the wheat bran and wheat germ should last me at least a few months.

I was so excited to be able to find a way to creatively afford a bulk purchase like this without going over our $40/week grocery budget. And now the wheels are turning in my brain and I'm contemplating saving up for some other bulk purchases.

Since I'm new to buying in bulk, I'd love to have input from those of you who are more experienced at this. What items do you routinely find are better deals to purchase in bulk? Are there any websites or companies you would recommend for bulk purchases?

**************************

Edit: For those of you who have asked, I have this grain mill.
My dad bought it for me for Christmas two years ago. I usually grind up about 5 pounds of wheat kernels at a time and use what I can immediately and store the rest in the freezer until I use it. If you do this, it helps preserve the nutrients in the flour.

I usually use straight whole-wheat flour in much of my baking and at least half whole-wheat and half white flour in most of the rest of my baking. Here's our favorite Whole Wheat Bread recipe and here's our favorite Whole Wheat Waffle recipe. I hope to share more of our favorite whole wheat recipes soon.

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Comments

  1. says

    I live in PA right in the middle of Amish and salvage stores, I frequently get unflavored gelatin (to make jello using fruit juice with), raw nuts, coconut, carob powder, yeast and unrefined brown sugar.

  2. Carrie says

    I live close to an Amish settlement and there is a bulk store about 30 minutes or so from home. I get all of my spices from there – all are less expensive, some much MUCH lower. More importantly I’ve found the quality and flavor is better. My shopping list always includes flour, nuts, and flaxseed. I’ve found the ground flaxseed to be a gem! A large bag for just a couple dollars and I can add it to yogurt, smoothies, and baking easily! I go a few times a year and spend around $60, which includes picking up items for family out-of-state.

  3. says

    I hate to admit this, but I didn’t even know that “regular people” did this. I guess I’ve never thought about that it’s possible. When I saw those large sacks I was amazed. I’m impressed with this… good luck and good health on getting back into the totally helpful eating habit.

  4. says

    I didn’t realize you used to live in KC! That’s where I live…and sometimes it feels like we are so behind on all the really great health foods that are out there!

  5. says

    I belong to a buying group. We order through Walton Feed and hire our own semi. We get a good discount from Walton, and the shipping is just a few pennies per pound because we hire the truck instead of using a service like UPS.

    I buy hard red and hard white wheat, pastry wheat, oats (did you know that adding a little oat flour to your bread will boost the vitamin E and retard mold growth?), and a few other things that I don’t generally mill – flax, brown rice, etc.

    I can get 25 lb. of quinoa for about $35 – much cheaper than buying it in little boxes. This last year the conventional wheats were about $15 for 50 lb and the organics were about $25 (we really do get a great discount)

    Our food/household budget is $140 a month, and I set aside a little each month for the co-op orders. We have a fall order coming soon – nuts, dry fruits, teas, chocolate, honey and the like – so I’m squirrelling the money for that right now. (Easy, since we eat so much from our garden this time of year.)

    Hope this helps! If anyone has specific questions of me, leave me a note at my blog:
    http://www.tenthingsfarm.blogspot.com

  6. Cathy says

    We order some items in bulk from Country Life Natural Foods ( http://www.clnf.org ) and others from our health foods store. Buying the whole bag of something from our health food store has proven to much more cost effective than getting it from their “bulk” bins or in the smaller bags.

    Items we buy in bulk are: hard white wheat (for bread and yeast-made items), soft white wheat berries (for pastry flour, better for use in quick breads, pancakes, or pretty much anything that calls for baking powder), sea salt, baking powder, evaporated cane juice crystals (a “healthier” sugar), popcorn (both for popping and for grinding our cornmeal), several kinds of dried beans, oats, organic raisins (much cheaper than buying organic ones other ways), brown rice and beef.

  7. yamini says

    wow, amazing. It remind me of India. That’s how we used to do in India. After coming here we buy wheat floor from Indian grocery store. They sell 20lb bags for about $12 – $15.

  8. Emily King says

    I am in Western Arkansas and had to pay $60 for my last bag of wheat. Does anyone know of a cheaper place in my area to buy wheat?

  9. says

    Someone asked about using the kitchen aid attachment to grind wheat and I will pass on what I was told. The attachment doesn’t grind the wheat as fine as the wheat grinder does. And it burns up the motor on your mixer faster, then you are out a mixer and grinder. I bought a Nutrimill to grind the wheat and then use my kitchen aid mixer to mix the dough. It works great. the mill is loud but it runs for less than 5 minutes. You can go from wheat berries to 2 loaves of bread in less than 1 1/2 hours! We also bake alot of muffins, pancakes, waffles, etc and freeze for morning breakfasts. The soft wheat makes great cookies also! I wouldn’t sneak fresh ground wheat into my baked goods without letting everyone know. Fresh wheat has an abrasive action in your insides and helps “clean you out and keep you regular”. knowing this would be useful info for some folks. We have been grinding our own wheat for 15 months. Now to figure out hamburger and hot dog buns. Bread Beckers in GA is a great resource and Urban Homemaker in Co is also!

  10. says

    For storing bulk purchases, I called the bakery section of Albertsons and asked them if I could have their left over frosting buckets (about 5 gallon size). They were delighted to give them to me along with lids that sealed tight. All I had to do was wash them out. They said they go through several each day and just recycle them. They were happy to give them to somebody who would use them. I imagine most grocery stores that have a bakery would have these buckets. They are great!

  11. says

    Love this! I have still yet to find a good deal around here on whole wheat flour, so I am stuck paying high prices until I find a better deal (I’m in Northeast GA). BTW, love that sweet potato recipe that is with the waffle recipe. I have used that several times with meals, and is so good!

  12. Lachelle Jensen says

    I saw a previous post about providentliving.org; I also get my wheat through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). Their prices ARE wonderful!

  13. says

    Mmmm, that’s the same wheat we use for our homemade bread. :) The hard white Prairie Gold wheat makes delicious 100% whole wheat bread! :) For those wondering why Crystal paid less than $30 for 50#, it is chemical-free but not “organic”, so it is cheaper than organic wheat. :)

    We go through a lot of wheat! :) 50# of wheat berries will make 50# of flour. The weight doesn’t change during grinding, only volume.

    Since we do buy our grains in bulk (I use white flour occasionally and buy it in 50# bags as well) breads are an affordable gift or potluck item for us. :) Maybe that’s why we go through so much! :D

  14. Kim says

    I have a Nutrimill Grinder and I do grind brown rice in it. I have not had a problem grinding it. I have had some difficulty grinding corn, but if I stand by it and mix the corn in the dispenser it works fine.
    I needed food grade plastic buckets to store my grains in, but after purchasing the bulk food I did not have money to buy the buckets. I got a great tip, ask your local bakeries for their used icing buckets. It took a little time and I had to find a person willing to save them for me. However, I was able to get quite a few for free.

  15. says

    I too am interested to find out how this becomes flour and how much you get from it after grinding it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you post something about it. It has piqued my interest.

  16. Caroline says

    I’ve found organic oatmeal and organic rice to be MUCH cheaper buying in a 50# bag from my co-op!

  17. says

    KellyH, I was about to comment on the kitchenaid stand grinder. I LOVE it! http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-GMA-Grain-Attachment-Mixers/dp/B00004SGFL/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=home-garden&qid=1249566537&sr=8-1 I blew up three of the electric ones that was posted. Their little motors just couldn’t handle it. I was processing 50 lb bags at a time for relief society. (Mormons women’s group) I third the provident living site. Being LDS taught me 80% or my thriftiness.

    I have tried doing rice flour and its almost impossible to get it fine enough for me. You have to get out a mortar and pestle! It is possible, my girlfriend has celicas’ (sp? the no wheat thing) and grinds rice in a coffee grinder. The one with the wheels, not the blades.

  18. Bree says

    Thanks for this post. I am really wanting to try the hard white wheat since I hear how nice it bakes with all the same nutrition (but I do love the regular red wheat too) I have a electric mill that my Mom used and I need to test it out to see if it still works. All the comments in this section have been helpful. I researched grain a few months ago and it seemed like it was going to cost me close to $70 with shipping now I know it can be found for way less. Thanks for all the info

  19. Alison Armstrong says

    Do you have HyVee out there? They order the Montana wheat 25# bag for $13 for me. That is the cheapest i have found wheat. I go through a lot of it though, we eat a lot of bread

  20. Alison Armstrong says

    I forgot to add that our Walmart has been carrying a bad of wheat montana for about $14 / 25# bag too!

  21. says

    After canning for the first time last year, my husband and I decided to plan ahead for this year by collecting our change and buying the spices we use the most in bulk. We found the best prices online at Monterey Bay Spice Company (http://www.herbco.com/). Now we’re saving up to buy parchment paper for all our bread and pizza that we bake on the baking stone, and will probably use the WEBstaurant Store for that purchase (http://www.webstaurantstore.com/). I’ll have to bookmark this post, because I think at some point my husband will want to start grinding his own wheat, and I’ll have to come back and re-read all the comments about that subject!

  22. Amy J says

    I like this site. http://www.somethingbetternaturalfoods.com .They deliver with a minimum order of $450 I think. I just formed an informal “coop” with a few friends, saved up my grocery money and bought a bunch. They deliver TO MY HOUSE in their big truck, so it’s convenient. Last time we ordered over 150 pounds of food, so it was a good thing! It’s cheaper this way than paying shipping usually. I think I’m going to save up until I have enough to do a whole order by myself and buy enough grain for a year for my growing family of 6. I usually need about 6 #50 sacks of wheat, 2 #25 sacks of rye, and some other grains. As well as spices, beans, rice, nuts, dried fruit.

    Also, I have a Bosch Universal that I got from here: http://www.pleasanthillgrain.com/bosch_universal.aspx that I love. I can make 6 loaves of #2 each made of 100% whole wheat. I can do that in about an hour total, so if I am having a very industrious day, I can bake several dozen loaves and I sell some to local people to help pay for the grain. I usually charge about $6 (it’s all organic, with local honey and olive oil) but one lady insists on paying me $10 per loaf! :)

    The things I recommend buying in bulk:
    Grains! ALWAYS store these in food buckets.
    Nuts
    Seeds (for sprouting or grinding and mixing with flour)
    spices (whatever you’ll use in 6 months, but they’re MUCH cheaper this way)
    Dried fruit
    BEANS (great cheap meal when you have no money! )
    honey (I buy a gallon at a time, sometimes 5 gallons)
    SALT (the good stuff! :) )

  23. Amy J says

    Oh, and here’s a recipe for 6 loaves of bread. If you have a Bosch. Don’t try this by hand!

    Grind about 10 cups of (wheat montana brand preferably) wheat flour (can mix barley, rye, spelt, etc too-but make sure it’s at least 2/3 wheat)
    Dump the wheat in the bowl of the bosch.
    Add:
    1/3 cup wheat gluten (any grocery store sells it usually)
    3 Tablespoons dough enhancer (it’s mainly powdered vitamin C to keep it fresh longer)
    1/3 cup SAF instant yeast. (BUY THIS IN BULK-TOO EXPENSIVE AT A STORE. Even Ebay has okay prices)

    Blend those dry ingredients together. Then add:

    1 cup honey
    1 cup Olive Oil
    6-1/2 cups Hot Water(not boiling-don’t want to kill the yeast!)

    Blend together until it’s a wet dough. Then, grind a few more cups of flour and sprinkle 2 cups on top of the mixture. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of sea salt on top of that. Blend it in slowly and add more flour gradually until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Knead in Bosch on high for about 3 minutes, until the gluten is developed (long “strings” start to form on the surface of the dough)

    Let rest in bowl 10 minutes (loosen lid of bowl or it will explode!!!) :)

    Slam on board greased with Olive Oil a few times to release the air bubbles. Shape into six loaves. Rise until double (covered with light cloth) Bake in loaf pans. Eat! Freezes well.

    The same dough also makes great cinnamon rolls, orange rolls, dinner rolls, parmesan and herb rolls, hot dog buns, sandwich buns, etc. I use it for everything.

  24. says

    I buy Basamati Rice and butter in bulk at Costco. I freeze the butter until I am ready to use it and the rice will stay good for a long time as long as it’s stored in a cool somewhat dark place. I don’t remember the exact cost of each item, but I know they are both considerably cheaper there than any other place.

  25. says

    What do you all (Crystal & Commenters) use wheat bran and wheat germ for? Do you use it in place of some of the flour in breads?

  26. says

    Thanks to everyone who posted links to sites for bulk purchases. That are so helpful to me! This is a great post!

  27. says

    If you’re in the NW, there is also Bob’s Red Mill in Clackamas. (Their prices are not as good as Azure, but better than a grocery store in small packages)

    I use my Vita Mix to grind my grain… even though I don’t have the ‘dry’ container. My old Vita Mix lasted 30 years without the dry container, I’m just careful to grind in batches that won’t overheat the motor. ( 3 cups or so.. and then start over. Definitely enough to make a big batch of bread)

    I also buy these items in bulk that I haven’t seen listed above:
    molasses
    baking powder
    vanilla
    oils
    vinegar
    salt
    baking soda
    oatmeal
    rice
    millet

  28. says

    I actually found a bulk section in a WalMart up in ShowLow, AZ!!! 40 lb buckets of wheat for $20!! And lots of other bulk items for really good prices. I am trying to find out if this is going to be a new trend, or just a unique thing. The cashier said that it was brand new, so I am hopeful. I haven’t found this to exist in Mesa, AZ though, even though it is largely LDS area, too. You might just want to check with your WalMart anyway just in case.

  29. Tasha Allen says

    I get my wheat through our church. You can visit providentliving.org to see if there is a local cannery near you. You could just go there to purchase it. OR you could order it online. The current price here(TN) is 5.90 for a 25 lb bag of white wheat. I know that red wheat is usually cheaper!! There are also many other things that you can purchase there in bulk.

  30. Cindy W. says

    Definitely looking into finding an LDS cannery near you…it is probably the least expensive wheat you’ll find!

  31. Stacy says

    My Husband used to grind our hard red wheat with a stationery bike! He hooked up a large rubber belt around the grinding wheel and the other end around the front tire. He got a good work out in, too!

  32. says

    I’m lucky enough to live somewhat near an old flour mill – actually one of the only original flour mills in Canada. I buy all my flour and wheat products there in bulk, and it’s very cheap.

  33. says

    I help facilitate bulk buying in the Cincinnati area. We enjoy bulk buying because it allows us to pantry shop instead of grocery shop all the time. I love it!

  34. Carla in MT says

    So excited to see the Wheat Montana bag!! I live just 2 hours from the farms where it is grown!! Didn’t realize the wheat was so widely distributed. MT wheat is the best!! (just wait til you get to eat pasta made fm MT semolina – Pasta Montana plant right here in Great Falls!)

  35. Kristina says

    We have split our food budget to account for large purchases like CSA memberships or bulk beef purchases. We have a weekly food budget to spend on regular shopping, and also a monthly extra amount for large purchases that can accumulate over several months until we are ready to use it. This works well for us because I always have money ready for bulk purchases without having to wait several weeks to save it up.

  36. GME says

    For PP, Melissa – several friends of mine use their Kitchenaid Mixer attachment to grind their wheat into flour. They love it.

    Our co-op buys from http://www.clnf.org/ a couple of times per month (which is when one of their drivers comes to our area). Several of the ladies buy 50lb bags of wheat and grind their own flour. My children *love* their fruit leather (and I love that it’s FRUIT and not HFCS).

  37. sharon says

    I have never bought anything in bulk yet, so pardon this question. Can you get granola in bulk? My husband loves granola and we have made our own a couple of times with oats, but since you need several other things like wheatgerm honey etc. we thought it just might be cheaper if we could get bags of granola. If they have it is that something Id have to get at a healthfood store? Cause I figured that wouldnt be very cheap.

  38. says

    I also use azurestandard.com – the brand Oregon Spices they sell has the best prices I can find on bulk spices and some baking supplies.