Buying in bulk goes beyond just cruising by the bulk bins at your grocery store and joining a members-only warehouse chain. You can also fatten your wallet. Buy in bulk strategically so all that food doesn't spoil before you can eat it. Split quantities (and shopping runs) with a friend.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Frequent health-food stores, coops and grocery stores that stock bulk bins. Ensure that the food is fresh. Ask the store how often it refills bins or whether you can taste samples of items such as nuts or pretzels.
Bring a cup or teaspoon measures for bulk bins if you don't want to buy more than you need.
When shopping for bulk items with expiration dates, grab from the back of the shelf.
Store dry goods in airtight plastic containers or glass jars with screw-top lids in a cool, dry place.
Head to the perishables (milk, cheese, meats) for the best deals. For example, a 16-oz. log of goat cheese at Costco costs $4.89, while a 4-oz. package from a grocery store is about $4--three times as much for the quantity, yet the quality is comparable.
Shop in the midafternoon when the rotisserie meats are freshly cooked and wrapped for the evening rush.
Save big on luxury items. Sam's Club sells 4-oz. tins of caviar for $142, compared to 1.75-oz. tins for $250 at Dean & DeLuca.
Find great deals on gifts at Costco. You can buy a 40-oz. tin of chocolate-covered almonds for $12.87, a 32-oz. glass jar of mixed nuts for $14.26 or a pound of smoked salmon for $9.37.
Throwing a party? A keg of beer is more economical than a stack of 12-packs. Or, buy a case of wine through a winery and save 10 to 20 percent. Pick up a party platter of cold cuts or crudite's from the warehouse stores and save yourself time and money.
Order a whole or half pig from your butcher to roast over banana leaves in a coal-lined fire pit for luaus: Your guests will happily take any leftovers home.
Buy a whole chicken at the meat counter and cut it at home-- freeze the legs and thighs if you're only using the breasts.
Stop at a roadside produce stand for great deals on fresh fruits and vegetables, such as a whole flat of strawberries or cherries.
Tips and warnings
- See How to Buy Organic Produce to find out how to get boxes of seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered to your door.
- See How to Buy Natural Beef to find out how you can buy meat in bulk.
- Paper products, diapers, party supplies and cleaning agents are all prime for bulk buying because they're much costlier in small quantities and they never go sour.
- Dry foods from bulk bins can go stale faster than vacuumpacked foods. But they also tend to be healthier because they're not packed with preservatives.