The cost of food is soaring and it's hitting Americans hard at the checkout aisle. To elude inflation, consumers are shopping around more, taking advantage of coupons like never before and, in some cases, bribing the store butcher with baked treats for intel on upcoming deals, as described in a recent New York Times article.
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Provided you're not letting the food spoil or go to waste, the cost savings benefit of buying in bulk is inarguable. It all really comes down to one thing: the packaging and the labor involved with it.
"Basically, all food bought in bulk saves not only money because so much is spent on packaging (the popularity of places like Costco and BJ's support this theory)," said Jon Roesser, the general manager of Weavers Way Co-op, a cooperative grocery store in Philadelphia. "After deducting the cost of packaging and labor involved for said package, you're looking at a difference that could range from 2-5% depending on the item."
In theory, you should be buying all food in bulk, but we all know that's not realistic given the size of our pantries and refrigerators, nor is it appropriate for every single item (let no one advise you to buy fresh dairy, for instance, in bulk). What are the best bulk buys, specifically around this time of year?
"Blueberries are in season so they cost the least at this time of the year," said Justine Chan, MHSc, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian (she/her) and the founder of Your Diabetes Dietitian. "Since they are at their peak freshness, you are maximizing vitamin and nutrition potential. They also freeze well so you don't have to worry about spoilage. Blueberries make for great additions to oatmeal, baked goods and salads all year around."
Chan finds that buying from your local farmer is the best way to stock up on this delectable fruit.
Strawberries are another lovely summer berry to buy in bulk and store in your freezer.
"For [these] bigger berries, you can cut them in half," said Jen Cardenas, food blogger at Hassle Free Vegan. "Once frozen, put them in a ziploc bag to store. Berries last for several months in the freezer."
"Nuts offer a whole host of health benefits but are often disregarded due to price," said Aysegul Sanford, who runs the food blog Foolproof Living. "Many stores will charge high prices for them in low quantities which often puts the average consumer off purchasing. Buying nuts in bulk not only saves you money in the long run but it does so without taking up the precious freezer space that bulk buying usually requires."
Sanford recommends storing nuts in jars for four months or buying them in their shells to extend their life an extra two months.
Ice Cream Cones
"You can get ice cream in bulk and keep it in the freezer," said Alec Pow, CEO at The Pricer. "To [save space], instead of getting a big container of ice cream, go for tiny cones wrapped separately, sold in bigger boxes of 24, 48, or even more. As long as they are properly kept in a freezer, they will easily outlive the summer season. Whenever you feel like eating ice cream just get a cone out of the freezer and enjoy."
"Boneless skinless chicken thighs are perfect for marinating and grilling, plus they yield an 87% savings rate if purchased in bulk," said Kelsey Sackmann, MS, RD, a registered dietitian. "With chicken prices expected to rise 6-7% over the next few months, you can stock up now and save money all summer long."
"I have three kiddos under the age of eight and we zoom through snacks in our house," said Carolyn Truett, recipe developer at Caramel and Cashews. "Typically snacks are much cheaper per ounce when bought in large quantities or in bulk. You can find them at warehouse clubs like Sam's and Costco or online through Amazon."
Truett adds to always check the per ounce price and compare to other sizes and brands before buying. "It only takes a second and it will help you get the best bang for your buck."
"Dried pasta is shelf stable and versatile. [Plus,] picnics and barbecues need summertime side dishes like pasta salad," said Johna Burdeos, RD, a registered dietitian. "Choose whole grain pastas or ones made with plant protein for a healthier take -- they're higher in fiber and other nutrients. Do make-ahead pasta salad dishes for home and add a protein to the mix. You'll have leftovers and a balanced meal to reach for minus the cooking and spending on eating out."
"I recommend buying protein powder in bulk now in order to save big this summer," said Dave Shelton, founder and trainer at My Fitness System. "The ingredients, shipping and overall production costs related to creating whey protein powder have increased significantly and will continue to do so for the rest of this year. Buying in bulk now can help you save big. Online retailers like Amazon or Tigerfitness.com are great places to get your whey protein powder. If you prefer shopping in person, check out your local Costco to buy in bulk."
"Oatmeal is a low-calorie and slowly absorbed carbohydrate that contains healthy fat, fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals," said Karen Zerbini, owner of Supper Sanity. "Plus, it is effortless to add different toppings for various flavors throughout the week. The fiber keeps you feeling full, so you may not eat as much."
Buying oatmeal in bulk is a no-brainer when it comes to savings.
"At 9¢ - 13¢ per serving, versus ready-made cereal starting at 23¢ per serving, eating this filling breakfast will considerably cut food costs," Zerbini said. "Almost all grocery stores sell rolled oats (also called old-fashioned) in a quick and regular cooking variety. Many grocers also sell a bulk version through their online store to be shipped to your home."
Dried Beans and Grains
"These whole ingredients last a long time, are very cheap to buy and can be used in tons of summer recipes," said Carrie Williams Howe, founder of Homestead How-To. "Make homemade veggie burgers out of dried black beans or chickpeas; make summer salads or gain bowls by combining fresh veggies with grains like quinoa, farro, or wheat berry. All of these recipes make for a very inexpensive vegetarian summer dinner, while still providing a ton of nutritious value. Most of these dried beans and grains can be cooked very easily in an instant pot, which is helpful for keeping heat out of your kitchen. As a bonus, these grains and legumes look great stored in jars on your shelf."
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