I only go to a big box store or Walmart a few times a year, and when I do I stock up in bulk on some items. I also have found I can order some things on Amazon Prime cheaper in bulk, then buying from my local market. And I don’t even spend money on gas to go get it!
Items sold as bulk, or in large quantities, are almost always cheaper than buying a small amount. And it means buying less often, as well as a better price.
So what do I buy in large quantities? Things that are shelf stable, and things I can freeze or process to keep. My pantry expands from the shelves in the kitchen to the refrigerator, freezer, and also to a storage area for bulk goods.
Nuts are so much cheaper purchased in bulk vs. the little bags in the market. I routinely buy walnuts and almonds this way. They will keep best in the refrigerator or freezer, as this slows the aging that can cause nuts to go rancid.
Vegetables I use frequently
I use a lot of carrots, so I buy a large 5lb bag of fresh carrots, not the 3 lb bag. And if they are really cheap, I might buy 2 bags. Celery keeps quite well when wrapped in aluminum foil. Don’t ask me why, it just works. So I will wash, cut off the bottom (keep it to start another plant ), wrap up tightly and store in the crisper drawer.
Onions will keep a few weeks in a cool place. I never want to run out of these staples. My farmers market recently had 10 lbs for less than $3.00.
Fruits like Cherries and peaches
I love summer when fresh fruit comes into season. I especially love cherries. When ever I can get them cheaply in early summer I buy a whole bunch, and freeze or can those I don’t eat right away. I also have found that the big 5 lb frozen bags sometimes go on sale at the big box store, and if I don’t have any of my own, then I grab bags of frozen fruit and vegetables. it keeps in the freezer for months, and I can just cup out whatever I need for a recipe. If I don’t have any canned peaches and pears, I look for those during a can-can sale.
I’ve found great buys on bulk bags of dried cherries and dates as well.
I use kosher salt in almost everything, as well as a lot of cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg. the little jars at the store can be as much a $5-6, but in bulk from a spice store or Amazon, I can get a big bag for half that.
I once bought a 20 ox jar of Santa Fe Chili powder – I love it, but it’s a lot of chili powder! Almost a pound and a half compared to the little half ounce jar in the market display.
I like Penzey’s online store, and even once visited one of their local stores (and went crazy looking and buying in person).
Jarred goods on sale
Canned tomatoes, tomato paste fruit, & marinara sauce are all items I keep on hand. If I run out of my own put up goods, I make sure to have some store bought on hand.
Note: Grocery store usually put items on sale on a cycle of every 6 weeks, so when there is a good deal on something you like, buy a bunch to hold you over until the next sale comes around.
With 4 cats and 2 dogs, I always see the bottom of the barrel faster than I thought…so I have gotten in the habit of keeping ahead one bag, or even signing up for regular deliveries from Amazon Prime. Not only is it less expensive to buy the huge bag, or the canned food by the case, but Amazon Prime also gives a slight discount for repeat orders with an automatic delivery plan.
Because I’m a bird watcher, I buy oil sunflower seeds – not the 2 lb bag in some stores but the 40 lb bag at Tractor Supply.
Staples like flour and sugar
Needless to say, what can you bake without flour (mostly whole grains, and I buy spelt flour in 25 pound bags from Amazon at about $2.50 /pound rather than $4-5 /pound) and cane / organic sugar , where 10 pounds is a lot cheaper than the small bags. I buy cheap white sugar all summer to feed the hummingbirds, the no name brand at the local market.
Meat when on sale
I have in the past order meat in bulk from a butcher. Buying a quarter of a beef is less per pound than individual packages at the store.
My local grocery marks meat down $1-2 or more on the final date of sale. I almost never pay full price, but buy as many packages of beef, chicken and pork as I can when marked down, then bring home and wrap up and freeze or use for dinner.
paper goods – paper towels, toilet paper, napkins
No one wants to run out of toilet paper…and while I don’t condone the use of plastic utensils and paper plates, I do use some paper towels and paper napkins. I can throw them in the compost pile.
Since I like to bake, I always have eggs on hand. We also eat them frequently for breakfast – growing up on the farm my parents ate eggs, bacon and toast every single morning. I make hard and soft boiled eggs for snacks and salads, and my husband loves pickled beet eggs. So I buy 5 dozen at a time from the box store, or several dozen at once from my local neighbors who put fresh eggs out for sale. Clearly these are the best to eat, and use the store ones for baking.
Cheese is always better in blocks, but I will buy the super sized bags of cheddar and mozzarella at the big stores,and freeze just for the convenience of having grated cheese on hand. I prefer to make fresh mozzarella at home but don’t always have time. Freezing works for other dairy products like milk as well.
Or buy the big blocks (cheaper by the pound) and grate your own to bag and freeze. The grater feature of your mixer attachment or food processor will make short work of it, or get a work out by doing it on a box shredder.
Bread freezes well, so if your family like store bought bread, buy it when it’s on sale, or from the day old store, and freeze the whole loaf. It defrosts quickly by individual slices. I frequently buy many small loaves when on sale for 5 for $2.00, and freeze them wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil. Unwrap, remove the plastic, re-wrap in the foil, and put in a warm oven to heat through. Perfect for a quick meal of pasta.
Yep, garlic. I put it in almost everything. It’s so good for you. My local farmers market sells it peeled in pint containers. It is such a time saver to not have to peel – just grate, chop, mince or drop in whole.
Not everything is worth buying in bulk, and not everything sold as a bulk item will save money. Like any other item, when you see something in bulk, compute out the costs per pound or item (divide the total price by the pound/ounce/number of items for a price per unit) and compare to a smaller quantity for a comparison. The difference may really surprise you.
What have I forgotten? And what are your favorite things to buy in bulk so as to save money and/or never run out?