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.