Everything You Need to Know About Buying in Bulk
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Learn everything you need to know about buying in bulk and grab some free printables to help you get started buying in bulk to feed your family.
Everything You Need To Know About Buying In Bulk
I have been buying in bulk for several years now. We began after I was diagnosed with food allergies. I knew I needed to go completely organic and as natural as possible but we still had a limited food budget. So I began researching bulk foods and co-ops and it has completely transformed the way I buy groceries.
I never imagined I’d have a closet full of 5-gallon buckets full of food, but here we are!
I found that I could purchase the items I needed in bulk and stay in budget. For example, I could purchase 25lbs of organic rice for $25. To purchase just a 1 pound and a half of the same rice from the store cost me $3. That’s a savings of over half!! If we weren’t purchasing foods in bulk we couldn’t afford to eat the way we do. Buying in bulk allows us to stay all-natural and almost all organic.
Below is a video I made a few years ago about buying in bulk and why you should and shouldn’t. Hopefully, I will get around to making a new, updated video soon but for now, this will give you some ideas!
Why (and Why Not) to Buy in Bulk
Now that we know why I love buying in bulk, let’s look at some of the other great reasons to get started with it:
- Saves Money
For me, the savings is the biggest reason to shop in bulk. You can save on natural products by purchasing a certain quantity. It also cuts down on my trips to the store which saves gas money and prevents impulse buys.
- Saves Time
I usually buy in bulk online and get things shipped right to the house. This saves me from having to make a trip to town and prevents me from having to shop as often.
- Creates Food Security
I love knowing my pantry is full. No matter what happens, we always have everything we need in the pantry. This is especially helpful during winter weather, natural disasters or other periods of panic when people are rushing to the stores and buying up everything. (More tips on a simple Prepper List here)
- Lessens Food Waste and Trash
Shopping in bulk creates less waste and trash since it saves on individual packaging. You also tend to plan your meals better so you cut back on food waste.
I love to buy in bulk. It saves me time and money all the time. Quite honestly, I almost always buy in bulk. I didn’t even realize how much I do it until the other day when the FedEx truck delivered a case of facial tissue….
Even though I’m a bulk buyer, there are some things and some reasons that I won’t buy in bulk that you should consider:
- When it Doesn’t Save Money
Sometimes the individual items are cheaper or just as cheap as the price per item in bulk. If that’s the case then I will stick with buying the individual package. The only exception to this rule is if it’s the same price in bulk and it’s something I will use a lot of. Also, If I can save a significant amount of money by waiting for a sale on a product in town I will wait for that sale instead of ordering the product in bulk.
- If the Product Expires Soon
Just like when you stockpile, you don’t want to stock up on more products than you can use before it will expire. Make sure you check on expiration dates before you buy in bulk. If you order online and checking expirations isn’t possible, only buy in bulk the products that you can.
- When it Creates Waste
Even if it’s a good deal, foods and products that your family doesn’t enjoy or won’t use will go to waste. Stick to what you know you can and will want to use before the expiration date.
- No Room for Storage
If you don’t have anywhere to store it, you shouldn’t buy it in bulk. Wait until your bulk pantry has a little more room before adding in more items.
What to Buy in Bulk
Ever wondered what you should and shouldn’t be buying in bulk? And not only that but also wondered how long the good things to store will last?
As mentioned above, there are definitely some foods that you should (and shouldn’t) buy in bulk! I’ve put together some printables for you on the best foods to buy in bulk and a few things that you should avoid. I’ve also included how long the foods should last when they are properly stored.
Just grab the printables below to print the lists for the Best Foods to Buy in Bulk and Foods to Avoid Buying in Bulk. Post-it next to your grocery list or keep it in your home management binder.
For more detailed info, you can also check out this blog post on What to Buy from a Bulk Foods Coop.
When To Buy In Bulk
Items often go on sale seasonally, when you know the months that the products will go on sale, you can use that information to help you know when you should stock up and buy products in bulk to get the best deal.
How do you know when the best time to stock up is and when the next sale will be available? Well, I’m hoping this printable will help!
Be sure and print out the attached “Best Time to Buy” printable and stick it in your home management binder so that you can check it out whenever you need it. Use it as a reference whenever you are wondering about stocking up on a certain product.
Where to Buy In Bulk
- Azure Standard. I order from them monthly. The majority of my groceries come from here. I order all my bulk grains from Azure as well, which I store in food grade buckets or in glass jars.
- Amazon. Amazon has some great deals on bulk foods and paper goods and pretty much anything, especially when you can get the free Subscribe and Save discount.
You can also purchase bulk foods from a Bulk food store such as Sam’s or Costco. You may even find some local bulk food items in your local grocery store or big-box retailer. The important thing to remember, no matter where you buy your foods is to only purchase items in bulk if they are a good price, which you can learn more about below.
Sometimes I buy in bulk from a Discount Grocery Store as well. I love when I can find great deals there!
How to Budget for Bulk Shopping
Now that we know the what, when and where of bulk shopping, let’s talk about the how. How do you afford to shop in bulk? Even though shopping in bulk is saving you money in the long run, it often involves a larger initial investment to get started. The easiest way to begin is to reconstruct your existing budget to allow for bulk items. For example, if your monthly grocery budget is $300, start by allocating $50 to purchase items in bulk. If your household budget is flexible, you may prefer to add $50 to it for the first few months to begin buying in bulk.
Below you will find another video about buying in bulk and planning your budget around buying bulk foods. Again, it’s an older video that I will replace when I can, but you might be able to glean some information from it.
Another way to budget for bulk foods is to build your stockpile on just $5 a week.
Before making any bulk purchases, you will need to know how much of each food to buy per person. Start with a goal of how long you would like your food to last. Are you purchasing your foods in bulk to feed your family for the month or are you wanting to create a stockpile to feed them for longer? I do have some food stockpiled, but most of my bulk shopping is just to feed my family for the month.
Once you have your timeline decided, you should try to determine how much you go through in a week so that you will know how much you will need to buy for that amount of time. The easiest way to do this is to look back at your meal plans and see what your family eats on a regular basis.
—New to meal planning? Check out my Meal Planning Made Simple Ebook to get started!
Now that you know how much you need to buy per person, you can decide what items you should buy in bulk and how many. For example, if you always buy cream cheese, add up the cream cheese that you will need for the next month. Now compare the bulk price to the everyday price and determine if that would be a good item to purchase in bulk. Knowing what items you are purchasing in bulk will help you determine how much of your budget you should allocate to bulk shopping.
Even though I’d love to create a price guideline for bulk items, it’s much too difficult to do since our regional prices can vary so much. Your best bet is to know what the baseline price is in your area so that you will know what products to buy when you see the prices.
The printable Price Book Sheet in the packet below will help you do just that. Shop around and figure out the baseline prices for items that you buy. Then keep this list with you when you go shopping or next to your grocery list so when you are purchasing you know that you are paying a good price for bulk items in your area!
Bulk Foods Storage
Before shopping in bulk, always make sure you have the storage space to store your items. Depending on what items you purchase, this could mean you may need an additional refrigerator, freezer, or pantry space. I store a lot of bulk grains and things in food grade buckets. For larger bulk items like those, you may want to set aside an additional closet or room as extra pantry space.
Learn How to Keep Food Storage Protected from Pests here.
Remember that shopping in bulk saves you time with monthly trips but it will take a little while to put your items away on shopping or pickup days. Make sure you set apart at least an hour if not more to be able to put your bulk foods away. A lot of times you need to sort them out into individual containers or put them into large storage bins.
Think you don’t have room for bulk food storage? Here are some frugal DIY Cold Storage ideas!
Buying Fresh Fruits and Vegetables in Bulk
One of my favorite things to buy in bulk is produce! But buying pounds upon pounds of strawberries in mid-December wouldn’t really save us any money. To save money and get the freshest fruits and vegetables, you should only buy produce in bulk when it is in season. That way you can guarantee you will get the freshest products, picked at their peak, at the best price. Most produce is at its peak in the summer months so make sure to plan your grocery budget accordingly.
—New to Budgeting? Check out this post on Budgeting for Beginners to get started!
In the printable packet you can grab below, I’ve put a chart together with the best months of the year to buy produce so that you can purchase it in season!
During these months you can plan on seeing good deals on those produce items that are in season so you can stock up! Can, freeze, dehydrate, or put in cold storage depending on the time of the year so that you can use them all year long and get the most out of your investment.
–Want to find the best deals on produce year-round? Here are the top Frugal Vegetables to buy!
I know that bulk shopping can be very overwhelming, especially when you first get started. I hope this post helped answer all your questions so that you can get started shopping in bulk confidently.
Want to grab all of the printables I mentioned above? They are FREE for newsletter subscribers! Just enter your email below and I will send the printable packet right to your inbox. (Even if you are an existing subscriber!)
Do you shop in bulk? What are your favorite items to buy in bulk?
This series on Buying in Bulk was originally published on Little House Living in February 2014 it has been updated as of March 2020.
I shop at my local grocery stores, but I buy my pasta, rice, flour, and cornbread mix from the bulk bins and store them in food grade buckets. It does NOT save me money — if I wait for a sale, I can get my pasta for $.20 / pound less than what I pay for bulk — BUT, it saves on packaging. To me, that’s important, and it’s worth the extra price.
What kind of items do you get from Amazon in bulk for paper products?
I just started with a Azure co-op group here where I live and am excited to get my products. Except i have to pay shipping as Azure does not do free shipping to AK. 🙁 But it’s around $.40 a pound for shipping which is still cheaper for lots of items then getting them from the store!
Azure doesn’t ship free here either, we pay a percentage per $$ ordered but I know it goes to pay our truck driver so that’s ok with me because if it weren’t for him we wouldn’t be able to get our food! 🙂 I buy facial tissue from Amazon at the moment. I probably would buy TP too but we are stocked up for a while. The reason being it’s easy to get it delivered and we can get a natural brand.
Thanks so much!! Yes I believe I was told our charge was for gas and some was for shipping but it’s not horrible. Awesome! I will look into Amazon for those items and watch costs! I never thought about Amazon for buying my bulk items.
Fun. My sisters-in-law and I were just talking about this last night. We all wanted to do more with fermented and sprouted foods.
I am so excited that you are doing the buying in bulk series. For some time now I have been thinking about buying our food in bulk but just didn’t know where to start or where to shop or what to buy. So your series is going to be a big help for me.
Thank you !
Great!! Looking forward to learning some of your sources & tips!
Have a great day!
Looking forward to this series! I would love to buy in bulk , but here in Ontario I haven’t been able to find any co-ops, bulk buying clubs etc. in my area. I wish we had something like azure standard!
If any readers know of any Ontario, Canada resources, I love to hear about them!
What are Mylar bags and where can I find them?
You can find mylar bags and oxygen packs on Amazon. They are for very long term storage that you know you won’t be needing to open any time soon. http://amzn.to/SR9Cd3
Such great information! Thank you!
I just love your blog and all of the wonderful information I get from it. Keep up the great work. Hugs, Bobbi Jo
Thank you so very much for taking the time to do this and to teach us!! I am learning! You are very wise for one so young!! At 47, I am sitting taking notes and trying hard to rethink and change my shopping habits!!!!
I love all this great advice. The baking day info is awesome and I am so excited with this new series buying in bulk. My one question is What is a food co-op? We have a Farmers Co-op to buy feed, farm tools, etc and a homeschooling co-op where are homeschool kids take enrichment classes once a week. But I have never heard of a food Co-op. I googled Food Co-op Blount County Tn and got zilch. Could it be called something else here?
I have a huge list of coops I’ll be posting tomorrow. Basically it’s a bulk buying club and there are various kinds. Some are Amish/Mennonite stores that carry bulk items that the store gets at a discount for buying in large quantities, or like the one I order from, Azure Standard, where you can buy regular amounts of items or you can buy them in larger quantities to get a discount, they come once a month by semi truck and I order with other families.
I pray the Azure Standard comes to Ohio. I have read so many posts about them from you and others.
Thank you for all you do.
I have always had a good size pantry and it is so nice to be able to go down and get whatever I need. My husband lost his job a few years ago and it was so nice to not have to worry about food and personnal items.
I am getting into canning now and am interested in any good recipes that way to stock my pantry. I want away from any processed foods.
Hey Lisa, search for Azure on Facebook and let them know you are interested in them coming to your area. They are always looking to expand!
Depending where you are, there is also UNFI coop. This is what is available to us, although I would love to switch to Azure, since they have produce.
I keep a running price list in my phone every time I shop at Costco, Walmart, health food stores (and now Azure- got my first order this month!)…it’s amazing how much Costco’s prices vary month to month with certain items (dairy, meat). We bulk shop all the time, having 6 kids- Costco sizes are normal to us. Our daughter thought it was so cute that her friend had a tiny (normal sized) mustard bottle. 😉 Thanks for all the great info!
You sure are organized! The farthest we’ve gotten is a grocery list posted on the fridge that is in order of the store we shop at, and when you run out of things you are supposed to circle that the item is needed. You are years ahead of us!! 🙂
We are the 47%. The thing is, we never thought of ourselves as takers. My husband’s company quit on our town when he was a little more than 3 years away from retirement. Supporting an adult son who turned his life around and got clean wiped us out financially. We would not change what we did even if he had failed. YHVH is our ever-present help…… but how does that keep food on the table? Changing my passion for vegetable gardening into a suburban farm and bulk buying have been keys to staying off of government money. That is not 100% true, there is unemployment and help with tuition for a little over a year while we get our feet back under us. We have scrambled to “put-up”, christmas gifts will be baskets of jellies, home-grown herbal tea, dilly beans and the like (I am not crafty even if there was time for it), Bulk buying has been important. Your post reminds me of how thankful I am for something so simple.
It seems to me that January has historically been the time for white sales (bedding/towels, etc.). And then there’s the post-holiday clearances, like wrapping paper after Christmas, candy after Halloween and Easter, and so forth.
Thanks for the great, printable list! And Anne is right, January is great for Christmas clearance/replacement shopping. I often buy gifts then also, as we shop all year long for people if we see things suited for them. Thanks again!
Actually, in December, hams are on sale, as well as baking supplies.
Some people have difficulties starting buying in bulk, because they do not have enough money available, even as they are not in the low income group, Try it this way: every time you buy at reduced or on sale prices put the money you saved in a real savingsbox! After a few weeks you will have enough to buy one item in bulk, put the money you saved in a savingsbox etc. It might take a year, but then you will be able to buy in bulk whenever there is a superduper pricereduction. It really works.
I live in Illinois…about 30 minutes southwest of Chicago. Does anyone know of a good place to buy in bulk? I wouldn’t mind driving farther if it is worth the price.
I live in Creve Coeur, Illinois. Try Costco, Sams stores, they sell in bulk.
I also shop in bulk, but we have a family of 8, so we go thru food rather quickly. I’ve ordered from Walton Feeds in the past, but have never used Azure Standard. I had a hard time (or lack of time) figuring out if it was worth it. Other than that, we shop the same way! I have enjoyed reading your blog as we think alike!
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Where I’m at our baking sales seem to start in Oct., mid-way. Ham’s & Turkey’s start going on sale in Nov. & Ham’s more towards end of Dec. But there are case lot sales, seasonal sales as well.
Buying in Bulk isn’t that expensive in most places. Buying in Bulk doesn’t mean buying boxes or can’s, it can also mean that your store can have a section where you buy stuff per pound.
Sometimes its not cheaper to go this route, but most times it is. But setting aside the “savings” is another great way to show what you’ve saved & therefore you can take that savings & put it towards a bill or buying more cases when the case lot sales go on.
Im not sure why you list lentils as a grain.. they definitely are NOT! They are a legume and are a type of pea.
My mistake, however I still think they are an important item to stockpile.
I always stock up on cereal in August/September for the following year, I might buy some later on also but I then store it in my garage, only once has my husband complained about something tasting stale and I think it was gluten free Rice Krispies. Flour sits at my house forever because I generally don’t use regular flour but my gluten free flours are all in my freezer. Interesting on how long some things do last, I need to see about getting some of these big buckets and those bags for those things that last 3 years or so. Need to learn to can more also and figure out how I am going to store those.
My family is grown and gone, with the exception of on adult child. How would I buy in bulk. I would like to have in put please.
buying in bulkiest just for small families. we are a small family of 3, and one of them is a teen half out of the house; and we still buy in bulk. We make a list and do main shopping once a month. we stock up on things we know will stay for a month or more and we will use, like rice, pasta, cereal, and canned goods. just because your a little family you can still buy in bulk and save time spent shopping and put it into time with the family.
thanks Merissa, I have been enjoying your blog more and more now that we are buying our own home and really looking into ways to save money. revisiting some old ideas we have let slide and getting new ones.
What are Mylar bags? I have never heard of them.
Mylar bags are a special bag that can help preserve food for longer periods of time, especially if you use oxygen packs to remove the oxygen from inside them.
We have purchased pinto beans and wheat in bulk for years–started about 30 years ago. With those 2 items and few other things you can make breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts. We have been thinking about purchasing rice and dry milk in bulk, but don’t know about other items. I can and we have a small garden–we live in town and don’t have a lot of room, but we grow quite a bit of our own produce. I love your site.
How do you make breakfasts and desserts with pinto beans?
I used to buy in bulk. When our teens got older, I stopped. We were getting too busy. I might look into buying in bulk again. I have to make room first and get more organized. I think rotating food becomes important when buying in bulk.. I don’t have a generator. Buying bulk meat concerns me because of not having a generator. Looking forward to you upcoming ideas.
I buy in bulk most every month. We live 85 miles away from Costco and while all their food is not GMO and such if you are smart, you can get some good deals on bulk items. Buying in bulk is pretty easy. Dry goods are so easy to put away and store and use as needed. Meat, frozen and fresh can be tricky. I have two freezers and a my regular fridge plus a small fridge for over flow items. Fresh produce can be hard to use up fast enough if you are not careful. I love shopping this way and having my own grocery store in my pantry to shop from.
I buy quite a few items in bulk such as flour, egg noodles, macaroni, etc that tend to get weevils in them. To prevent weevils (those pesky little bugs) I just buy spearmint gum and put a stick of gum in each container and also in the cabinet where things are stored. The spearmint keeps the bugs out. You could use fresh grown spearmint but it has to be renewed much more often. I renew the gum sticks about once a year, is all.
Grate article, I was found your stuff from FB, I like your site and past me mission. Thanks for your share.
Great printable! My husband and I are just getting into buying in bulk as a means of saving some extra money. I will have to keep the printable handy!
Hello, I’m a newbie to your site. I must say I am really enjoying all your articles. I do have a question though. In your article on bulk buying you mentioned Amazon and said ” free Subscribe and Save discount.” I don’t know what that is but it sounds like something I need. Can you explain please and tell me how I can get it.
Subscribe and Save is a program that Amazon offers for many different products (such as household, health and beauty, foods, and more). Usually the discount is 5% unless you order 5 or more products in a month and then it goes up to 15%. You can read more here.
I too order from Azure Standard each month also from Amazon. A couple of other places that I have ordered in bulk are Frontier. I belong to a buying club and we get the wholesale prices. I am always buying the herbs I know I’ll use up in bulk. I’ve found the best prices for the virgin coconut oil to be at Vitacost.com . The last place I got my hard white wheat berries was at honeyville.com . They have a better price than Azure where I usually order. They have a flat rate shipping price of $4.95 but they frequently have free shipping specials. I’ve been pleased with them.
We love your blog, how did you find Azure? We’re in Maine and they don’t deliver here unfortunately but I’m wondering if we can find anything else like it. If you have any ideas I really appreciate it! 🙂
We heard about Azure through someone else in our area that was ordering with them. They are constantly adding routes though so I would watch, or even give them a call and see if they have plans to come to your area soon.
I definitely interested in Frugal Tips!
I’ve been planning my move to a rural area but have some big things to deal with before I get there (selling my business, etc). Now we are in the midst of the pandemic. I, as well as so many people, was not prepared. I am really looking so forward to being more self sustainable and self sufficient. I enjoy reading your articles and have found really good advice. Thank you for sharing your experience.
I do not know if this will be helpful as this is an older article, however, I will share anyway. 🙂 There are many many restaurant supply stores that sell to the public, and The Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) warehouses from which they sell bulk items at cost to anyone even non church members. It is worth checking with local butchers and farmers about buying meat, poultry, fruits, and veggies in bulk for reasonable prices, the best way I have found to do this is by visiting your local Farmers Market, Natural Food store, or even your local Farm Store and ask if they know any local farmers/ranchers who sell meat, poultry, milk, eggs, veggies, etc.
Thank you for sharing that info! I’ve seen others talk about that as an option before but since I’ve never lived close to a warehouse I wasn’t sure of the details. It sounds like a good option though!
please send me the printable packet
Hi, I had looked over Azure Standard to try to find wheat berries. Looks like they are crazy expensive. What Azure Standard flour are you buying?
Also, I’d love to get the pintables if you don’t mind sending.
Azure has definitely started increasing their prices since more people are ordering now. My husband and I started a bulk foods coop in our local area last year so I get almost all our bulk goods through there now. I’ll send you those printables!
Please send me the printable information for buying in bulk. Thank you.
Please send me the buying in bulk info. Thank you
i like the info you share with us