Food Money Saving Tips

The Ultimate Guide to Buying in Bulk

The Ultimate Guide to Buying in Bulk
Written by Irina Vasilescu

The theory is very simple: buy in bulk, and pay less per item – but in practice it’s a little more complex than that. Bulk purchases can even end up being nothing but an enormous waste! We look at the best bulk buying strategies, the items you absolutely should buy in bulk, and the ones you certainly shouldn’t.

If you can get your bulk-buying strategy right, you could save $1,000 or more every year. That’s not to be sneezed at!

Strategies to Help You Save Through Bulk Purchasing

#1 Always check the price per unit first!

Buying in bulk only represents a saving when the per unit cost is lower than you’d ordinarily expect to pay. That means being very alert to what things usually cost so that you can make a fair comparison.

#2 Involve friends, family, and colleagues

Although we can save with bulk purchasing, paying for a bulk purchase can quickly use up your spending money. You can’t live on toilet paper or dishwashing liquid, so you can’t overspend. There’s also the problem of storage space, and perishable items are trickiest of all.

One of the best ways to get around this is to start a circle in which you pass on good deals to others. That way, you still get the products cheaply, but you get some of your money back.

#3 Get items on sale and use a coupon at the same time

Keeping coupons for items you regularly use is always a good idea, but when you get a sale price plus a coupon discount, you’re onto a winning streak. There are times when stores won’t be keen to honor your coupon on cut-priced goods, but most of them will.

#4 Keep an inventory

With bulk buying, you get so used to having a stock of items whenever you need them, that you could run out unexpectedly. Do a monthly inventory to see which items you should be on the lookout for this month.

#5 Stagger your purchases

If you’re just starting out with bulk buying, you can’t just pile in hammer and tongs right away. Your budget probably won’t stand it. Get enough of a few items to last you several months, and then get different ones next month. Once you get the rhythm going, you’ll fall into a natural pattern of staggered purchasing.

How to Avoid Making Common Bulk Buying Mistakes

Have you got enough storage space?

If you want to get into bulk buying in a big way, you are going to need lots of cupboard and freezer space. Check how much room you have to spare, and don’t exceed that.

Can you process it or pass it on fast enough?

Getting perishables in bulk can turn into a huge waste if you can’t get items such as food processed fast enough. If you have several bulk-buy partners, will they be interested in the goods, and when will they collect them?

Do you know the brand?

Scenario: you see body-care products like soap or shampoo going for a song in bulk. But what if you don’t like them? There are non-foaming soaps out there that you will really hate, or you could be allergic to the perfume or turn your hair into a mop of dry, straw-like strands. If you know the brand and like it, fine, but beware of obscure brands you have no experience with.

Watch out for expiration dates

Did you know that household bleach only lasts about six to nine months? The most unexpected products have use-by dates, so do your homework about how long they can be stored and still be effective.

Watch out for expiration dates

Don’t buy stuff you don’t need just because it’s cheap

That sounds simple enough, but remember that you can have too much of a good thing too. For example, if you don’t usually eat a lot of sweets, having them in bulk will encourage you to use more of them, developing a bad habit.

What Should You Be Cautious About Buying in Bulk?

  • Nuts: They go rancid if stored for too long!
  • More than a few months’ supply of flour: All-purpose flour lasts about a year. Whole grain versions last only a few months.
  • Spices: They lose their flavor if stored too long.
  • Cooking oil: This can also go off in around 6 months, even in unopened containers.
  • Bulk containers of perishables like sauces or tinned veg. Chances are, you won’t get through your enormous can or bottle before it starts going off.
  • Any perishable items you can’t process and store or share.

What Should You Consider Buying in Bulk?

Remember, the cost per unit is the deciding factor. Subject to your purchase working out as a big per unit saving, and supposing you have storage space, you can consider snapping up deals on:

Non-food items

  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrushes
  • Trash bags
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Washing powder
  • Toilet paper
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Diapers
  • Lightbulbs
  • Gift cards
  • Office supplies

Food items

  • Rice (but not brown rice)
  • Dry beans
  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Tinned food in regular size tins
  • Cereal
  • Vitamins (check expiration date)
  • Butter (freeze it)

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The Ultimate Guide to Buying in Bulk

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About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our money-saving and DIY expert and also the editor-in-chief as she's always on the lookout for the latest online deals.

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