16 Ways to Save Buying in Bulk

Posted by Madison on October 27, 2008

Now that we joined Costco and are having a blast with the Grocery Game we’re shopping in a whole new way. You have to set some rules for yourself, or bulk buying will end up turning into bulk spending! Here are some tips and tricks for successful bulk buying.

Water bottles

Get even more savings buying in bulk at Costco with the correct cash rewards credit card.

1. Take a calculator. If the unit price isn’t posted, figure it out with your calculator.

2. Set a limit each week. For example, only spend $20 on buying extras, or buy two extra items a week.

3. Calculate break even points. Determine exactly what the cost-benefit is for each membership level. The 2% rebate at Costco cost us an extra $40. That’s $166 a month spending to break even.

4. Use a recipe generator. Use Super Cook to find meals to make from the ingredients you have on hand. It’s great for using up items you bought on sale. I also like to use it when I have no idea what to make. Just enter the ingredients you have on hand, and it will generate a list of choices!

5. Find substitutions. Use The Cook’s Thesaurus to determine food substitutions. In case you bought a bunch of mustard seeds but don’t know what to do with them, you can find they substitute for wasabi powder or horseradish. This will open up the recipes searches.

6. Stock the pantry. Not sure where to start? Check out a pantry list and food storage guide for some inspiration.

7. Split it. Split the bulk buys with a friend if you won’t use it all.

8. Mark your calendar. For 6 months and 11 months to reevaluate if you are still saving money.

9. When in doubt, don’t buy. Can’t remember the price at another store or figure out if you are really getting a good buy? Skip it and wait until you are home to figure out if the price was really amazing.

10. Try samples. If you don’t know if you will like the chicken pesto pizza, don’t buy 20! Wait until you see a sample and try it first. Or buy one at the grocery store.

11. Separate donations. Keep a bag or box in your pantry for items to donate to a food pantry. If you get a free item that you know you won’t use, immediately separate it and put it directly in the box. Keep it full for food drives and you won’t have to donate your regularly purchased items.

12. Store food properly. It’s important to store the food correctly right when you get home. Freeze what you won’t use within a short time frame, or it might spoil… spoiling any of your savings.

13. Take the pantry challenge. The Pantry Challenge involves eating an entire meal just from food you have on hand. Do this regularly, and you’ll use up some of the food that has been sitting around in your pantry.

14. Remember one item. When you are trying to compare prices, just try to remember the price of one item each trip. That way the number will stick and you’ll be able to check the price next time you are at your regular store. Over time, you’ll be able to compare all of your typical items.

15. Keep your dispensers. Keep your last container for a smaller size. When buying in bulk, it will be much easier to transfer usable amounts to an easier container to dispense from.

16. Coordinate holidays. If possible, plan ahead to make the the same dish for holidays and gatherings. You can buy the ingredients in bulk saving money. I always bring green bean casserole to family holidays, so I bought a case of all the ingredients.

Photography: Water Bottles by LeeBrimelow

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Comments to 16 Ways to Save Buying in Bulk

  1. A quick note: pleeeease don’t buy water bottles in bulk. Buy a pitcher with a filter, and a refillable bottle.

    No Debt Plan

  2. I’m an advocate of buying food in bulk as a means for saving.

    Marc and Angel Hack Life

  3. I think these are great suggestions. I really like super cook – what a great site.


  4. Food in bulk MIGHT mean one is BOTH buying low quality food made to withstand storage for long periods and eating it after storing it even longer in our shelves.

    I have found great deals and then bought food in bulk, but I must admit that it hardly was healthy food.


  5. We make a trip to Sams’ Club once a month to buy specific items in bulk. Unfortunately, the items on our list last month are not always in stock this month (much like Walmart). So we try to stay somewhat flexible in our purchase of substitutes and multi-month purchases. We also constantly compare prices to see if prices of the same item are cheaper at other stores. For example, diapers may be cheaper at Sam’s one month, and then cheaper at Walmart the next.


  6. Any suggestions on how to prevent bugs (usually moths) from getting into bulk foods?

    A reoccurring problem for me. Thanks.


  7. It should be interesting to see how the downturn in the economy will make what percentage of people drop the health food in favour of the not-so-bad and not-as-healthy variety. Especially bulk canned items. For example, I find that I really notice a difference when eating a canned soup as opposed to a home made recipe for vegetable soup. However, I think many will easily throw out the organic items.

    Mr. R’s blog

  8. Ooops sorry. I think that last comment was a bit off topic. 🙂

    Mr. R’s blog

  9. Al: Moths… unfortunately, I don’t have any suggestions, maybe one of the readers will have a tip for you.


    • Keep everything in Large sealed glass containers.

      Kitty Kat

    • We live in the woods in northern Canada and bugs and moths are normal around here.

      We leave a florescent light on in the bathroom on the main floor and in the laundry room (in the basement). Bugs are attracted to the light. Our bathroom counter gets lots of bugs as does the basement floor. The counters in the kitchen, diningroom etc. are virtually bug free.

      We also keep a few spiders in the corners of the rooms- they help eat the bugs. (the really huge spiders we take outdoors- and no, we’re not talking trantulas or other dangerous ones!).

      Also cedar shavings in a jar (less toxic than mothballs) could be put in a corner of the cupboard/ storage area keeps away moths ( think grandma’s cedar chest for blankets).


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