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The Best Ways to Buy in Bulk

AJ Smith

FILE - This Dec. 7, 2011, file photo, shows customers shopping at a Costco, in Portland, Ore. The Commerce Department will release its wholesale trade inventories report, Friday, Oct. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

For some people going to the grocery store is torture. For me, it’s just expensive. No matter how short my list or determined I am to stick to that list, I always overspend. Sure I enjoy the gourmet cheese or suddenly necessary bag of clementines, but these extras don’t last very long and I am soon back at the grocery store. One way to avoid this cycle is to buy in bulk. Buying in bulk can mean fewer trips to the grocery store and also more cost-effective shopping … if done correctly.

1. Don’t Assume

My husband introduced me to buying in bulk (not coincidentally, he hates grocery shopping). But the first lesson he shared was not to go into a Costco, Sam’s Club or BJs Wholesale assuming everything is a deal.  Yes, some items are cheaper per unit when you buy 100 of them, but not everything. So you still need to do some research. Check the prices at a few of the warehouse stores and even your local grocery chain. Use an app to price-check before you load up.

But once you’ve found the things that are consistently cheaper at a particular place, buy them there. Most of these stores require membership, but it can be worth it if you find a significant savings on things you frequently buy. For us, that’s chicken, green beans and bottled water at the warehouse stores. We end up paying the equivalent of the sale price at other stores without having to wait for the sale.

2. Saving, Space and Saving Space

Buying in bulk is certainly more appealing if you have an extra bedroom, a basement or an extra freezer in the garage to store things. But even in a small apartment, you can get creative. We store boxes of cans (yes, that’s right) of green beans under our dining room table. It is pleasantly out of sight, thanks to a long tablecloth.

The key is to be organized so you don’t forget what you have and go out to buy more. While my husband would love to have more frozen chicken stored, we don’t have the space for an extra freezer. Instead we re-stock every three to five weeks.

3. The Usuals

Just as when you are using coupons, it’s not a bargain if you don’t need it. Sometimes I will see a great deal while walking through a warehouse store and have to remind myself that we don’t need another set of dishes. The savings comes in buying things you would buy anyway.

Also, know your appetite for the item. If it is a perishable good with a short shelf life that your family only eats occasionally, you may end up wasting food — and money. Sometimes buying the bigger size isn’t a bargain. So consider your family’s eating patterns before you start getting larger quantities.

Buying in bulk as part of your grocery plan can save you money, allowing you to eat for less.

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