Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Simple Savings: Buying in Bulk - Is It Worth It?

In my mind, there are two different ways of buying in bulk. First, is buying from the bulk food section of some grocery stores. The second is buying a huge amount (package) of something, usually at a store like Costco. Is it a good idea to buy in bulk? The answer is yes and no.

If you buy in the bulk food section of the store, you can buy just the amount that you need for a recipe and not be stuck with a larger amount of something. For example, I use certain spices only one time a year. I only use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of them at a time. It is cheaper for me to go and buy the amount I need rather than buy a container of it because it will lose its freshness before the container is used up. It is best to use most spices within 6 months to a year so they retain their freshness. Buying things in the bulk food section can be more expensive per pound than buying them in packages. You should do the math and decide what to do depending on how much you use and the difference in the price. However, if you need only small amounts, I think this is the way to go. If you buy a prepackaged item and it spoils, it is a waste of money. Bring a calculator and figure it out before buying. There are also a lot more organic items offered in the bulk food section of the store in our town. Many times things in the bulk food section are fresher than the regular packaged items on the shelf.

Packaged items also come in different sizes. Many times it is cheaper to buy the larger size, but sometimes things are cheaper in smaller sizes. Do the math, and once you figure the best price, you can regularly buy the best deal for you.

Costco usually has better prices than the average price at the grocery store. If you buy things when they go on sale at the regular grocery store, you can get a better price than Costco. Warehouse retailers like Costco have large packages of stuff. There is no way we can eat through fruits and veggies before they spoil unless they are something we can freeze. If they are canned items, then it isn't as big of a deal. Costco saves you time by selling things at a middle price. You also have to buy a membership. The only things I buy at Costco are yeast, organic lettuce, pepperoni, and occasionally a few other things. For me, the cost of the membership isn't worth it, but one of the other Spendwisemoms goes there more frequently and she thinks it is worth the price. It all depends on your shopping habits and if you eat the same basic things regularly.

Studies have been done to show that if you buy more, you eat more. So, maybe you aren't saving as much as you thought you were because you eat more when you have more.

I personally like to have more variety in the foods I eat than what Costco offers. $50 doesn't go too far each week at Costco. I could do once a month bulk shopping, but I don't think I would get the variety and choices that the regular store offers me. I like to make shopping as simple as possible. I can't find cilantro and other things at Costco. I also like to buy small amounts of things, especially when trying a new recipe that I don't know if I will like. A small bottle of sun dried tomatoes cost over 4 dollars at a regular store. I can't imagine how much a large bottle would cost at Costco, and it isn't worth the trip for me. We have friends that swear by Costco and don't go any where else. I like to make different ethnic foods that call for unusual ingredients at times, so my best bet is to go to a regular store.

What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of buying in bulk? ? Is it worth it to buy things at a warehouse store? Do you think it is worth it to buy things in the bulk food section?


  1. I agree with you. Buying in bulk is only useful if you are going to use the larger amount. I tend to like variety in my house as well and agree that bulk stores do not always offer the variety I need. There are only a few items I buy in bulk and lately I have been buying them on Amazon for the same price or even cheaper price at times so I let my membership expire. One big disadvantage I have is storage. We just moved across the country and are in a small apartment so I have limited closets and no room for a deep freezer anymore. I personally do not get much benefit from it, but I know many people do and can save tons of money doing it.

  2. I think it all depends on how your family eats... I do buy meat in bulk when I can, but that's about it really... I'm only at Costco maybe 2x year, so it's just the "regular" grocery store for me!

  3. I have plenty of storage space and buy many things at Costco that are shelf or freezer stable. We break up large packages and freeze portion sizes for our family. Some of the items we buy: canned goods, meat and poultry, coffee, paper products, personal care products, baking supplies (nuts, choc. chips, etc) unflavored yogurt (we eat daily) eggs, cheese, deli meat, fresh berries in season, household products (soaps, etc) soy milk, frozen foods, and sometimes gifts. We buy almost everything else at Aldi's at a big savings over other grocery stores. Our household spending is very low compared to averages we have seen. As stated earlier, every family has to figure out their own needs and budget.

  4. I have enjoyed the comments above and appreciate you sharing how your family does it. It is good for people to see other ways and ideas. I would be curious to know how much Connie, Carla and Erika spend each week and how many people in their family, if you feel comfortable to share. That might help others to find a similar situation to their own.