What do toilet paper, canned beans, shampoo and rice have in common? They’re all excellent items to buy in bulk.
However, shopping in bulk can be tricky, especially when you’ve never done it before. Packages are larger, and deals can be harder to spot. On top of that, it’s easy to buy more than you need or spend more than you should. But if you plan ahead, bulk buying can be a great way to save money and make fewer trips to the store.
If you’re new to bulk shopping, these tips for buying in bulk will help you score useful deals and avoid rookie mistakes.
1. Look for the best per-unit cost
How much money you can save by bulk buying depends on what you buy and when and where you buy it. However, a 10% larger package nets a 5% decrease in the per-unit price on average, reports economist Mallick Hossain.
Try to look past the sale sticker and analyze the price by ounce (for ketchup, milk, butter, etc.) or square foot (for toilet paper, paper towels, etc.). The lower the per-unit price for a bulk package, the better overall deal you’re getting.
2. Know what to buy (and what to skip)
Not everything is a good deal in bigger quantities. The best items to buy in bulk are nonperishable, shelf-stable goods like paper products, diapers, garbage bags, dry beans or rice, and canned goods. If you have a fairly large freezer, meats are also excellent to buy in bulk.
Produce, on the other hand, is a risky choice for bulk buying. Unless you’re feeding a family and are certain you’ll go through three pounds of strawberries or four heads of lettuce before they go bad, you’re better off buying smaller quantities, ideally when they’re on sale. You should also start small for foods you’ve never tried before. If you buy a food in bulk and don’t like it, you’re stuck with a large quantity of something you won’t enjoy.
3. Check your storage space first
A 24-pack of toilet paper or two whole turkeys at 29 cents a pound may be a great deal, but only if you have space for them. If you live in a one-bedroom apartment, it may not make sense to buy larger packages of items that take up a lot of space unless you have friends to split them with.
That strategy can work well, especially if you buy a membership to a store like Sam’s Club or Costco and shop with friends. Purchase one large item, like a 20-pound bag of rice, and then evenly divide it into smaller sizes that you can all easily store and consume.
4. Eat what you buy
Food waste is a common downfall for first-time bulk shoppers. It’s easy to see a great deal and think you’ll be able to get through 4 pounds of lettuce in a week or that you’ll eat 20 chicken breasts before they go bad.
Buying too much of something leads to two problems: throwing away food or eating something you’re sick of because you don’t want to create waste. Fall back on tips two and three to avoid these pitfalls.
5. Leverage coupons to stock up
While bulk stores often don’t accept coupons, grocery stores do. And if you use coupons from our website on top of in-store deals, you can save a ton of money. While it requires extra planning, if you browse our coupons and combine them with deals at your local grocery store, you can actually save more than you would while bulk buying alone.
So, check out our coupon carousel regularly, and when you see a good deal, get to the store! If there are no limits on the number of pork shoulders, turkeys or paper towel rolls you can buy, you can stock up without a big-box club membership.
A final piece of advice for first time bulk shoppers
These tips for buying in bulk work best when you strategically follow all five. By mixing and matching the pointers mentioned here — club memberships, splitting purchases, checking out coupons — you can shop smart and save big.