There are probably some people out there who don’t wonder and think about cutting costs and saving money. Most people who read my writings, though, aren’t in that category! Most of us spend far more time than we’d like worrying about how to make ends meet.
Most people know that buying in bulk saves money. Right? After all, when you buy large amounts, you’ll always get the better price … maybe?
Okay, okay, there’s a reason that Costco is sometimes called the $400 store. It’s really hard to walk out without spending at least $400 in there.
It’s really easy to overspend and end up with a basement full of stuff you’ll never use. Of course I’m talking from experience here. My most memorable example was a case of Romaine lettuce that was SO much less expensive than buying it by the individual head. It was a great deal!
Romaine lettuce goes bad quickly, especially when you buy ten heads of it. (But you know, it really was a great deal.) Most of my readers know that I’m pretty insistent on eating seasonal, local food. I am. I really am. But when it causes us to take home a twenty pound back of cucumbers and no one in the house likes pickles, maybe we need to rethink our plan.
You’re laughing at me because you’ve probably done the same thing. Not everything is worth buying in bulk.
Let’s look at some of the areas where buying in bulk will help you save a lot, though.
Don’t pay full price for these if you can possibly help it.
Bath soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, mouthwash – it’s usually possible (even if you don’t go to Costco) to find bulk prices on these. Do the math and make sure that it really costs less to buy a dozen bars of soap instead of three, but if it does, stock up.
Hey, and when I say ‘bulk’, I also mean that crazy, crazy sale that the pharmacy is running, where you can get tubes of your favourite kind of toothpaste for just fifty cents. That’s bulk buying. You’d be silly to buy just one.
But don’t get a hundred unless you’re donating them to a shelter.
Perhaps you don’t use many of these. I don’t! But if you do use toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, or scrubbing agents, these products literally last forever.
Natural cleaners, too, last a long time. If you’re more inclined toward using vinegar, Castille soap and other pure, natural cleaners, stock up when the price is good.
Not essential oils, though. They don’t keep forever.
When there’s a hot sale on canned tuna or a wholesale discount for buying a case, it makes sense to pick up a large amount of whatever canned foods you usually use. Not only will you save money, but you’ll have a nice stockpile on hand. But that’s the key to it – only buy ones that you normally use.
“Wow, that’s an amazing deal on canned water chestnuts!”
“What do we use water chestnuts for, again? I don’t think we’ve ever bought them before.”
“Oh, at that price, I’ll figure something out!”
No, you won’t.
Don’t do it.
Note, however, that sometimes even the best bulk bargains, even when it’s entirely food that you use regularly and won’t waste, can lead to overspending. After all, you only have so much storage space.
If there is food under your bed and food stuffed into the bedroom closets, and you’re climbing on boxes to get at that stockpile of toilet paper up on the top shelf, you need to slow down on your spending.
“I TOLD you we had bottles of Vitamin C! Look what I found down in the basement pantry! Didn’t I tell you that we have plenty?”
“Sweetheart, those expired three years ago.”
“Oh. They were hiding behind the canned water chestnuts and I didn’t see them.”
(Definitely not a real conversation. Unless you substitute six cases of canned tuna for the water chestnuts.)
Splitting these purchases with a friend, though, might be your solution. You could still get a great deal on the groceries you keep and they’ll fit into your storage space.
Not So Smart Bulk Buys
Perishables with a close expiration date
One rule to always remember is that grocery stores only put perishables on special when they’re close to expiring!
Smoked salmon and other things that usually have a hefty price tag are only cheaper when they’re running out of useful life, so avoid buying them in bulk unless you’re planning to use them right now or have the ability to freeze them.
One issue I’ve run into when freezing foods is that the thawing process, if it takes too long, sometimes affects the spoilage rate. Make sure you package your almost-expired food so that it can thaw and be used immediately, or so that it be cooked directly from frozen.
In general, it’s safe to say that you should have a plan for any perishable foods that you buy. Sticking them into the freezer helps for only a short time. It’s nice to think that food will last forever in the freezer, but it just won’t.
Foods you don’t eat
I mentioned this already, but it really bears repeating.
A great bargain doesn’t always means you need to buy it. IN FACT, if you’re only buying it because it’s a bargain, it’s not a bargain at all. If you spent $100 to save $125 but then you never end up making use of that $225 worth of stuff, you’ve not saved anything. You’ve only wasted $100.
“Look at all the money I’m saving, just sitting here and not shopping.”
It would get really embarrassing to list all of the times I’ve bought something simply because it was a great bargain. I’m an adult woman with ADD – impulsiveness comes easily to me, and I need to remind myself how much better it is to just not buy anything.
It might be different where you live, but around here, Walmart is kind of the king of that. You can fill your shopping cart to overflowing with all sorts of … well, junk, to be honest … and walk out with a very low amount spent. And technically it’s all food.
But it really IS junk, and you’re going to pay for it in the long run with health problems.
It’s so very easy to get carried away when buying in bulk if you’re not careful. Know your prices, know what you can use, and know your storage space. Done right, it can save a lot of money. Done without thought, and you’re just in the poorhouse ten times faster.