Buying food in bulk has a lot of advantages, but it can be an overwhelming way to shop if you're used to buying "normal" amounts of food every week. It can also be frustrating to start buying bulk foods since you do have to shell out more money up front in order to do so. The truth is, I have shopped both ways and bulk shopping is really the way to go for a couple of reasons. I'd like to share a bit about my experience as well as some tips you might find handy if this is something you would like to undertake!
Benefits of Buying Food in Bulk
The only benefit I considered when I first started buying our food staples in bulk was cost, but I've found that there are a few more, too:
- Save money in the long run. For example, regular (non-organic) whole wheat flout is 78 cents per pound at my local grocery store. That is the best price I have been able to find in my area. But when I buy organic whole wheat flout from in bulk from Azure Standard, I only pay 50 cents per pound for a higher quality, healthier product.
- Shop less. I actually enjoy grocery shopping, but since adding another member to our family it is much more of a chore than it used to be. Buying bulk foods allows me to shop much less often.
- Feed impromptu company. Having a lot of food on hand at home means you're always ready to whip something up if family or friends stop by.
- Be ready for emergencies. A good supply of food at home comes in handy when you face a financial or other type of emergency. It's good to be prepared!
How to Afford Bulk Food
Affording bulk food can be a problem at first. In our case, we saved up to be able to start making a few bulk purchases and kept doing so as things evened out. I've thought up a couple of other ways that families can afford bulk purchases on a limited starting budget.
- Eat really cheap food for a few weeks. It's not a very fun plan of action, but eating frugal meals while you save up the money to start buying bulk foods is one option. You don't really have to save either, you can just jump in and make your first bulk purchases with your normal grocery budget and then eat a lot of whatever you buy until you have more money to spend on other foods.
- Split the cost with other families. You won't have as much food on hand, but you'll all be paying a much lower unit price for the food you buy!
- Don't spend "leftover" money. When you get rolling with buying food in bulk, you'll find that your monthly food budget fluctuates. The first couple of months, you'll likely spend more than usual if you don't use either of the other tips above. But there will also be months where you spend much less than usual. In those cases, don't go out and spend all the "extra" money (I love calling money "extra" - hahaha!) on treats and snacks! Just put it aside for when it's time to restock your staple foods. It can be helpful to look at the big picture and try to set a yearly food budget rather than a monthly one.
What to Buy in Bulk
Any food that you use a lot of, that keeps well, and that is significantly cheaper in bulk is a good buy. Here are a few examples of what I like to buy in bulk.
- Baking supplies - vanilla, yeast, cocoa, sugar
- Almonds or other nuts
- Other household items like toilet paper, feminine stuff, razors, diapers, etc.
I'd love to hear what you guys would add to this list!
Where to Buy Bulk Food
I shop for bulk items in a few different places. I have favorite places to shop for specific items depending on where I find the best price. It sounds kind of odd, but there are even a few places to buy food in bulk online that are well worth it!
- Azure Standard - I like to buy organic flour and some baking stuff like cocoa and arrowroot powder from Azure, and I usually get a couple of produce items with my order as well. If you live near a drop point I highly recommend checking them out! I also buy olive oil through Azure.
- Sam's Club - They have awesome deals on baking stuff like yeast and vanilla.
- Costco - We don't have a Costco in our area (yet) but I hear they have really good prices on a lot of healthy foods and even some organic options.
- Local farmers and gardeners - We buy our meat in bulk locally and I also sometimes find deals on produce which I then preserve.
- Starwest Botanicals - Can't recommend them enough for bulk spices, teas, and supplies to make personal care items. The quality of everything I've gotten from Starwest Botanicals is unmatched.
- Amazon - They have just about everything you could think of, including storage options, all in one place. Be sure to look for "free super saver shipping" items to score free shipping when you spend over $25! (Easy to do when you're buying bulk food.)
Storing Bulk Food
It's so important to think about how you're going to store your food when you buy in bulk. If you're buying meat and produce in bulk, you'll need to have plenty of freezer space. If you're buying grains and baking supplies, you'll want some large, airtight containers to keep everything in. I really love glass jars, but you can also buy large plastic food storage containers as well. If you do use plastic containers, be sure that they are specifically made to store food because some types of plastic will break down and leech nasty chemicals into your food over time. I do recycle all of our old whey protein containers and use them for bulk dry storage. If your family eats pickles, you can also score some pretty sweet jars if you buy the big ones. 🙂
I would love to hear your thoughts on buying food in bulk. What do you like to buy? How do you store things? Is there anything you'd never buy in bulk again? Have you ever tried buying food in bulk online? Please share your stories in the comments!
Great post! I love stocking up on things I know my family will use!
When I lived in Georgia, I was able to purchase a share in a cow and had beef in our deep freezer for MONTHS! Saved SO much money!
Yes, we do that too! It is nice to not have to worry about meat at the grocery store, it used to take me so much time to find the best deal but now I only buy meat 4 times a year or so. 🙂
Love it! I really need to start doing this again. I never thought to buy in bulk at local farms, thanks for the tips!
We definitely need to buy more in bulk. We get a lot at costcfo, but I have yet to make the jump for rice and beans, just the thought of storing that much food in our tiny pantry gives me anxiety! But with the way we go through it all I think it's time!
Love Letters 7.10
I know how you feel, Megan! We have pretty limited space as well. I have to be really on top of clearing out clutter.
I love this post. I buy a lot of this in bulk already, but never thought of berries. Thanks! julieann r
Thanks for stopping by! I love freezing berries to have on hand for smoothies and baking! You can also dehydrate them, too, but I find that my older kid eats them up too fast that way. 🙂
Awesome suggestions! We but a lot of the foods you listed in bulk. We also just bought ownership in our local organic foods co-op. Which gets us a 10% discount on our groceries, and we get deals on caseloads and special member deals. I would highly recommend looking into local co-ops as a way to save money on both bulk and regular goods:)
Thanks for your comment, Jessie! Local co-ops are indeed another great place to look into buying some foods in bulk.
Great article, there is nothing worse than running out of something and having to pay (gasp) FULL PRICE cause you have to have it. Stocking up solves problem.
Very true! It's great to always have the staples on hand.
What kind of rice do you buy in bulk? What brand? Rice is something I prefer to buy in small amounts due to bugs. I like to see the buggers, because that tells me that the rice wasn't irradiated or poisoned in some way. But...I don't want to eat them!
I also absolutely adore Mountain Rose Herbs. I won't even think about substituting another company for them.
Hi Xaka! I buy rice in bulk from Azure, as well. I hear ya on the bugs - what I do is place the bag in the freezer for a day or so before transferring the rice to my storage containers. Freezing kills any eggs that might be present and I've never had a problem by doing this! I hope that helps. 🙂
I guess it depends on how much rice you eat:) I buy it from the Asian stores and buy the 10 pound bag. It lasts me 5-6 months sometimes. We don't eat that much but it's at least once a week around here. I like to buy it in the burlap bag with the zipper. The Basmati comes this way. You can buy Jasmine and other short grain rice in 5lbs as well.
Ramona from Sam's Club
Kylie, these are great tips! Your idea to re-use old containers for storage is a great money-saving method. Thanks for being a member. – Ramona from Sam’s Club
Great post. I love to buy in bulk & have transitioned to buying all baking ingredients & spices this way. TIP: store bulk bay leaves in the freezer to retain maximum flavor. And lemon juice, stock etc... can be frozen in ice cube trays for easy additions to cooking. Thanks for sharing.
Great tip, Tiffany! Thanks for sharing. I never thought to freeze stock and juice like that.
Great tips! I have a Meyers Lemon tree and I freeze 1 pint jars of juice for lemonade in the summer, and ice cube tray trick works great!
We buy most of our dry goods in bulk. I wish I could shop at Whole foods for it all, but it's not possible. There is a similar store called Sprouts and we buy our dry goods such as nuts, beans, sugar, oats, dried fruit, etc. I buy my spices in bulk from the Asian/Indian grocery stores. I do wish I could buy my meats and eggs this way that are organic. I'd like to buy my milk in the glass jars, but that's also tough to do all the time.
We bought a deep freezer for the purpose of storing extra produce from the garden, and for things like homemade stock and jams/sauces. It's been wonderful.
I save any and all glass jars for storing dry good, and for left overs. It's also a great way to share food like sauces and soups that you don't need the container back.
Thanks for sharing your tips! I love glass jars for bulk storage, too. Those big pickle jars are as good as gold!
With hundreds of items to choose from, our bulk department gives you the chance to buy pantry staples and try new foods while saving money and reducing wasteful packaging.
The Family Survival Course
Buying food in bulk online is a great way to be prepared as a family! Thanks for the tips!
Nice Post..Bulk buying contributes to your pocketbook. By not paying for all that individual packaging, labeling and advertising, you’re getting more product for your money.
Just buying more than you need at the time of sales helps a lot. Like when Big Lots has their 20% off, I stock up on toilet paper & paper towels, then continue throughout the year every time they have a sale to keep reserves up.
I'm just one but things that will never go bad, like honey, beans, rice. I use coupons and sales for shampoo, dog & cat food, razors etc. Keep a supply of bottled water gl. size. $1.00 at Big Lots & Dollar Tree.