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31 Days to a Better Grocery Budget: Buy in Bulk

One way we save at least $100 or so per year on our grocery bill is by buying select items in bulk [1]. While I think that buying in bulk can definitely save you money, you need to be mindful of three things:

1. Bigger is Not Always Cheaper

It’s easy to get suckered into thinking that purchasing in bulk is always going to be cheaper. Oftentimes, the larger size is the same price — or even more than a smaller size. Always analyze the cost per ounce of items you are considering purchasing in bulk to determine whether or not it truly is a good deal to buy in bulk.

2. It’s Not a Good Deal If You Won’t Use It

I’m sure this is a no-brainer, but it’s not a good deal to buy 25-pound bag of coconut which expires in a year if you routinely only use four cups of coconut per year. Yes, I’m sure you could get creative and dig up a hundred new recipes which use coconut, but unless you got that 25-pound bag for a few dollars, it’s like better to save your money and buy items in bulk which you use on a very frequent basis.

3. Just Because You Buy Something in Bulk Doesn’t Mean You Should Use More

The biggest pitfall I’ve found to buying in bulk is that it’s easier to use more when you have more of something. For instance, I once bought a five-pound bag of chocolate chips at Sam’s Club. Usually, we go through around five pounds of chocolate chips in an entire year because we only buy a small bag or two at a time as needed. Instead, we’d used up that entire five-pound bag of chocolate chips in four months or less!

Now granted, we’re talking chocolate chips here, but I do think it’s important to make sure you aren’t consuming more of something because you’re buying it in bulk. If this is the case, you might consider portioning out the bulk package or else possibly just not buying that particular item in bulk.

How To Get Started Buying in Bulk

::Set Aside a Small Amount of Grocery Money for Bulk Purchases

The simplest way to slowly integrate bulk purchases into your grocery budget [2] is to squeeze a little extra money out of your grocery budget each week and set it aside for bulk purchases. If you’re on a really tight budget, this might not seem feasible, but even $2 to $3 set aside over the course of two months can give you a large enough amount to make one bulk purchase.

And I’ve found that the more bulk purchases I make, the more it frees up wiggle room in my grocery budget to be able to set aside more money for more bulk purchases. It’s a domino effect — in a good direction.

::Prioritize Your List of Possible Bulk Purchases

I’d suggest writing down a short list of possible bulk purchases you’d like to make and then researching out the best places to purchase in bulk and how much the savings would be. Prioritize the list based upon the savings you’ll reap and the money you are able to set aside each month.

If it helps, you might even set goals. For instance, within two months, set a goal to have purchased two pounds of yeast. In four months, aim to have purchased a 50-pound bag of wheat. And so on. Start with the item(s) which you can afford with the money you’ve set aside.

Prioritizing your list and breaking it down into bite-sized goals will not only help to keep you organized, but it will also enable you to stick with your budget. Sure it might be nice to go plunk down $500 and have a completely stocked bulk pantry, but that’s just not really doable for most people.

Where To Buy in Bulk

There are many different options for buying in bulk. I’d suggest you start with perusing what’s available in your local area as well as online. Ask your friends, check the phone book, search on Craiglist, look for local co-ops and Amish Food Stores and contact local farms which sell to the public [3].

Getting a membership to Sam’s Club or Costco might be worth it for your family [4], but I’d encourage you to explore other possibilities before just settling on either of those stores as your only bulk purchasing option.

I’d also suggest you talk to your local grocery store or health food store or couple who run the farmer’s market stand you purchase from and ask what discounts they would give you if you’d purchase items in bulk. They might not give bulk discounts, but you never know until you ask!

If you’re really ambitious, you might even consider starting your own co-op [5].

What are your best tips for buying in bulk? I’d love to hear!

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