Buying in bulk is cheaper on most things, but you can save even more if you follow these tips about what to do – and not do.
Three things are working against you while you push that ginormous cart…
1. You assume everything is a good deal because it’s bulk pricing.
2. You really believe you won’t let it go to waste.
3. You greatly overestimate your love for one type of food.
Fall prey to those pitfalls and you might end up wasting money. Shop smarter and you’ll not only stop wasting money – you’ll start saving a lot of it. Here are some tips for bulk shopping that will really help you…
1. Start on one membership...
Having multiple bulk-store memberships ensures you get deals on different products – since they all carry slightly different stuff – but you could end up paying more than $100 each year just to get inside the store. As of December, club memberships varied from $40 to $55 annually.
Bulk stores generally let a member bring in one guest. If you don’t plan on going more than a few times a year, why not piggyback on someone else’s paid membership? If you do plan on going regularly, you can split the cost of membership with a friend or family member.
3. Compare per unit price
Bulk stores have cheaper prices on most items. A study conducted a few years ago by the United States Department of Agriculture showed that 86 percent of the food items it compared cost less at a bulk store.
But that means 14 percent didn’t cost less. When you factor in sale prices or store card discounts, it may be cheaper to buy certain foods at the grocery store. To be sure, calculate the unit price for the things you buy at the bulk food store, and the unit price for the same items at the grocery store. Then compare the two.
4. Buy the brand on store
Many of the bulk stores carry their own brands of cleaning products, laundry detergent, pet food, and some nonperishable foods. And the store brand usually costs less.
5. Share perishable items with a friend
Bulk stores have good deals on fruits and vegetables, but you know you’ll never eat 5 pounds of apples, and you don’t want to freeze them. Instead, you split bulk packages of perishable food with a friend. You each pay for half, and you get the bulk price without wasting food.
6. Freeze food before it goes bad
After years of wasting countless perishable items because you just didn’t get to them in time, you finally learned to start checking expiration dates and freezing whatever was left before it could go bad.
Check out When Does Food Really Expire for a cheat sheet on freeze times.
7. Don't plan ahead too far
You have 14 cans of peaches in your pantry. These have been there six months. Why? Because six months ago, you ate a lot of peaches. You thought you’d love them forever. But you didn’t.
If you don’t have a large household, it can take weeks or even months to use up a bulk size. And if you get sick of it – or no longer need it – you’ve wasted money. You’re better off sticking to staples like flour, sugar, or rice and avoiding the giant-sized frozen barbecue shrimp altogether.
8. Take advantage of shop and discount deals
Bulk stores come with extras – a gas station, a tire and car-care center, a cafeteria – to make the most of your membership. So use all of the perks the store offers. And most extras have a discount, so you’ll save even more.