Ask The Readers: Do You Buy In Bulk?

By Ashley Jacobs on 10 May 2011 110 comments
Photo: Anna

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Donna D, @oshkoshbgosh123, and Raina Deichert for winning this week's contest!

Buying items in bulk is oftentimes a great way to save money. Many people will invest in memberships to warehouses just to have the option of saving money by buying in bulk. However, there are people out there who don't think buying in bulk saves money.

Do you buy in bulk? Why or why not? Or, are there certain items you will buy in bulk and other's you won't?

Tell us whether or not you buy in bulk and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

Win 1 of 3 $20 Amazon Gift Cards

We're doing three giveaways — one for random comments, one for random Facebook "Likes", and another one for random tweets.

Enter 1 of 3 Ways:

  • Post your answer in the comments below, or
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  • Tweet your answer. You have to be a follower of our @wisebread account. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, May 16th at 11:59 pm Pacific. Winners will be announced after May 16th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email, Facebook, and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter all three drawings — once by leaving a comment, once by liking our Facebook update, and once by tweeting.
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Guest's picture
Carson M.

Including myself, there are only two people (and a cat) living in my household, so buying in bulk sometimes turns out to be wasteful in the long run. We can't consume some bulk items fast enough to really benefit from the savings that perhaps a couple with multiple children in the house can benefit from. So we don't buy in bulk at all.

Guest's picture
Lauren

Yes, I buy in bulk as often as I can. Bulk items are one of the few deals to be found at natural foods stores.

Guest's picture
Matt

We buy flour in bulk (50lb bags from a distributor) because we bake all our own bread for meals. Something I'm unfairly lucky to have due to a particularly culinary fiancee. 2-3 bags will last us about 6 months for fresh made bread every day.

Guest's picture
Michelle

I would love to buy more things in bulk, but I share a one bedroom, city apartment and I don't have the storage space for it.

Guest's picture
SAHM

Nope, we don't buy in bulk! We use coupons instead. :) We have also saved lots of money on quality organic products by joining a local co-op group. This keeps our budget at $400 a month, and includes toiletries and househood goods :)

Guest's picture
Steven

Yes I buy in bulk. Usually items that I use alot.

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Christie

I do buy in bulk for the things that I can use before they go bad. Bulk loose tea, salt, coffee beans, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. Anything with a "best by" date not too far in the future gets a pass. I hate throwing things out and wasting money!

Guest's picture
DocArd

I only buy in bulk the non perishables. And eggs. Love eggs.

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Amanda

I buy rice, flour, pancake mix, chicken, lunch meats, and bread in bulk. Anything I think I can save money on and have it not spoil, I try to buy in large quantities.

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Tracy Stone

Sure I buy in bulk! It's cheaper, less wasteful and usually healthier! What's not to like?

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Oliver

Sure, buying in bulks is a good choice to save some money. We live in Venezuela, and our inflation rate grows too quickly, so it's a good idea to buy non-perishable items, such as soap, toothpaste, canned foods and so on.

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Maggie

I only buy things in bulk that I have room to store, and that I know won't go bad before I use them (as a household of one). Examples - toilet paper and toothpaste.

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Guest

I buy paper goods (toilet paper, printer paper), companion animal food, farm animal food, whole grains (for grinding and sprouting), baking yeast, frequently used spices, seeds for planting, and reusable canning equipment in bulk. These items save me money when purchased in bulk and stored in my own containers. With proper storage, they will last a reasonably long time. I grow most of my food and can, dehydrate, or freeze it, so I guess I could be said to put up food in bulk, too, although it is not directly purchased. (I use mostly heirloom seeds, so I also save seeds from my food plants and reuse those, so they are actually a one-time purchase of new varieties only.)

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Lauren

I definitely buy in bulk. I buy several papers on Sundays so that I can stock up on good deals that I have coupons for. Especially for stuff that doesn't expire, this works great!

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Anne M.

I do, but only if its something I am going to definitely use like paper towels...etc

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Michael

Always.

Well, almost always. We buy beans, rice, flour, sugar and oatmeal in 25 pound bags and we usually buy in bulk at Sam's Club each month for other supplies.

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Olivia

I buy loss leaders in quantity to stock my "pantry". That way I always get the best prices on items we commonly use.

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Sarah

I buy non perishables in bulk at Costco like paper towels, toliet paper, cleaning supplies

I buy diapers in bulk from Amazon.

Guest's picture
Guest

I buy toilet paper, wipes & diapers in bulk always. It saves a significant amount of money when you buy larger quantities, not to mention the time and gas money you save not running back and forth to the store

@luckystars54

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Kristy K

I buy in bulk when it's a better deal, and once I know I like the product and will use it. I think you have to be careful of falling into the "bigger is always better" price trap.

Currently, we're thinking about buying part of a cow - not sure how it compares, pricewise, but I'm going to do some research and find out.

Guest's picture
Sweta

Yes I buy in bulk when the price is right and I know I will use all of the product before it expires. Also having enough space for storage is another think to consider.

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Emily

I only buy in bulk if it's actually more cost effective (sometimes it's cheaper to buy smaller containers of things if they're on sale) and so long as it isn't something perishable or perishables that can't be frozen (like lettuce or apples). I don't have a Costco/BJs/Sams membership either, so that cuts down on the opportunities to buy in bulk too.

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maryp539

I am a one-person household with minimal storage space so buying in bulk doesn't work for me.

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Nechama

Yes, non-perishable items that we use a lot of.

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shannonmarye

I don't unless I am doing once a month cooking and then I use the whole bulk product in once anyway.

Guest's picture

I don't often buy in bulk because of the shopping limitations of where I live. I will, however, stock up if a product we use regularly is at a great price.

On the other hand, some items I've started buying in more expensive smaller sizes because we waste it if we buy large containers. (Sour cream and applesauce come immediately to mind - both get moldy before we finish them.)

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judyyy

I would buy in bulk if possible but live in a small town and a large bulk store is about 2 hours away.

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Laura

I actually don't with the exception of toilet paper. I think at least in the case of just my husband & I it's just waste.

Thanks for the giveaway!

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Guest

No. Not offered close enough to me.

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Guest

We buy toilet paper in bulk, mainly because we don't have to run to the store every other week to pick it up! I also tend to buy single-serving snacks because they are easy to grab and put into our lunchbags. I don't buy fruits or other perishables unless they can be frozen, because as a couple, we can't consume it fast enough before the go bad. (Although we did pick 8 pounds of strawberries one day!)

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Jean Pierre

with a budget of 100 a month for 2 we have to buy in bulk, from toilet paper to meat

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cindy

I love it

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Alex

I tend to buy non-perishable or perishable items with far off expiration dates in bulk. If you end up losing some to spoilage, what was the point of buying in bulk?

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Marisa

Just bought some bulk oatmeal and almonds last week, and picked up some snack mix yesterday. Works great for non-perishable items.

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Miss Mary

I only buy a few things in bulk: sushi rice, basmati rice, and olive oil.

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Norman

I hardly ever buy in bulk mostly because there are two of us and we don't use enough product to make it worth our while. But ever so often, if there is a really good deal then I will. For example I found a great deal on razors, someone gave me a Sam's gift card for Christmas, so I now have enough razors to last me for two years!

Guest's picture

Hi, Ashley - great question and a lot of really interesting responses! The problem is that, for most people, buying in bulk = buying a lot of surplus stuff you never need (and, if it's food, stuff that goes to waste). But the price difference when it comes to buying in bulk is really tempting - so how can we make this work so that you only get what you need but at the bulk-buy discount price?

We figured the solution was to club together with other shoppers who want the same things and leverage the same bulk-buying discounts that the big stores get from manufacturers, or warehouse outlets can offer. We're about to unveil the fruits of our thinking really soon but, in the meantime, you can read more about it on our Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/buyapowaborn

I'd love to know what you think - do drop us a comment or a 'Like' if it sounds like a good idea to you.

Huge best and keep up the great work (both here and on your Facebook page, which is where we came across this post),

Robin @BuyaPowa

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Kristin

I buy in bulk from the Natural Foods Coop. It's a good way to get affordable organic foods.

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Guest

Even though we think of "bulk" as a large quantity, I find that buying in bulk is good for buying small quantities as well as large. Since I live alone, if I want to make soup or beans I can buy just enough for what I want. I find it especially useful for spices. I can buy a tablespoon instead of a full jar. And, I can buy just enough ingredients to make my own muesli or just enough flour and sugar for a one time recipe.

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Peggy

With a household of two, I only buy non-perishables in bulk and when the price point makes sense. For example, I won't buy canned vegetables in bulk simply because they are generally cheaper on sale at the grocery with coupons. However, I do buy tomato sauce in bulk because we prepare large batches of homemade sauce (8 qts worth) at one time.

Guest's picture

I buy meat in bulk and canned goods in bulk. They both seem to be cheaper that way.

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Megan

Yes, I buy in bulk. I buy non perishables that are deeply discounted and foods that can be frozen or have a long shelf life. At this point, however, I buy in bulk at the grocery store, not at a warehouse club.

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MM Brown

I buy in bulk, definitely, although I try to be extremely careful with flour because of weevils. My latest experiment has been to mix up my own batch of gluten-free all-purpose flour, rather than shell out the $6.99 it costs for a measly bag of the packaged stuff. There's a terrific bulk store a block away from me, but I'm hoping to find a place where I can buy even more household items in bulk.

Guest's picture
Paula

I live with 7 other people on a shared grocery budget so buying in bulk is how we buy everything. I'm able to save by buying produce in bulk as well, which I don't have to worry about going bad with so many mouths to feed.

Guest's picture
Raina

You could say I buy "in bulk" for toilet paper and paper towels since I grab the bigger packages. I stock up a lot on Veggie Slice pepperjack cheese and keep the extra packages in my freezer until I'm ready to use them, but there's no cost savings in doing so, and the packages are the same size regardless, so I don't consider that "buying in bulk"; I just use the cheese a lot.

Guest's picture
Anna M.

We buy pasta, baking chips (peanut butter, chocolate, butterscotch, white chocolate), rice and a few other items in bulk.

Guest's picture
NJJ

I only buy limited things in bulk that I know will get used either daily or weekly like toilet paper, laundry detergent or ketchup-since I make BBQ sauce w/ it then freeze it in a couple containers Other than that I don't buy much bulk items :)

Guest's picture
Mandy

yep - toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, wipes, baking supplies, and things that freeze well. We maintain a Sam's membership, and the discount on gas (usually 5-10 cents cheaper) certainly doesn't hurt either. It is literally right around the corner from us, so we don't even have to make a special trip to fill up there.

Guest's picture
Kristy OT

Sometimes. We buy rice milk by the case at Whole Foods, for example, for the 10% discount. But we also live in a rather small apartment, so there's no place to put mounds and mounds of reserves. I think the rent we save makes up for it.

Guest's picture
Jesse

I only buy in bulk to the point of say 12 rolls of toilet paper or 8 bars of soap. Beyond that, in a one bedroom apartment, there's no room for stockpiling goods..

Guest's picture
Michelle

2 adults, 2 cats, 1 dog. We do buy many bulk items, but only stuff that has a long shelf life. I get toilet paper & paper towels from COSTCO ( on mom's membership). We purchase staples from the LDS ( they will sell bulk items to anyone - flour, oatmeal, beans, dried milk etc.

The other thing I buy in bulk is anthig that has a very good sale price and won't go bad, like canned beans and tomatoes etc.

Guest's picture
Rachel

We will only buy certain things in bulk - like Kitty Litter, paper towels, toilet paper, dog food and cat food. The rest we buy at the local grocery store. It's just not economical otherwise.

Guest's picture
Ashley

We buy in bulk, but as "bulk" is pictured above in self service bins at a local coop or whole foods. I think there are two ways to look at bulk: from a bulk bin or in a large quantity, and it seems like the readers that commented below mostly are interpreting the question to mean bulk=large quantity. We choose to buy from bulk bins specifically so we can get a good price WITHOUT buying in a large quantity. We can save by not paying for packaging and only buying the measured quantities we know we'll use.

Guest's picture
Joy

Yes we buy things like kitty litter, Gatorade and frozen items in bulk

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Tina

We buy in bulk from Costco for things we use a lot of (fruits, crackers, etc....)

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Keith

I try to buy all my staple foods in bulk. If I use it multiple times a week, I'm looking to buy it in bulk.

Guest's picture
Lorena

I buy items in bulk from our natural food store, but not from a warehouse store like Costco. There's a big difference between the two -- at the natural food store, I only buy as much as I want and it's usually "real" food, while at a warehouse store, I'd buy more than my small family uses and having to find a place to store it all. Not only that, but many items at the Costo aren't things I normally use or are in too-large amounts, like canned pasta sauce or vats of condiments.

Guest's picture
Carmen

I mostly buy non-perishables in bulk. Or things like rice, dried pasta and dry beans that won't go bad.

We're fortunate to have a local "wholesale" foods store. They buy foods wholesale, repackage in smaller containers and pass the savings on to us. So I can still get a better deal on some things (yeast, specialty flours, etc) than I would in a grocery store.

Guest's picture
Debbie

We buy certain produce in bulk that we love and last a while (carrots, potatoes). We also buy small cases of organic canned/dried food. Most of what we get is 8 cans at a time that we can store even in our little condo. The other thing we buy bulk is part of a cow. Our slow foods chapter does 1/8 cow shares. Works perfect for our small household and we get to eat grass-fed beef for cheaper than industrial beef from the market.

Guest's picture
Ann

My definition of bulk is serve-yourself-open-bins, not the full-case-huge-quantities of warehouse stores. I buy many things in bulk. Some of the best buys at my local co-op are spices. If I only need a tablespoon and won't use that spice again for months, I only have to buy a tablespoon, usually for just pennies. I also buy nuts, rice, etc. in bulk.

Guest's picture
Betty

I don't really have room to buy in bulk. However, when there is a great deal with sales and coupons, I'll buy multiples of the items.

Guest's picture
Esta

I do look for sale items every week at local grocery stores, and buy several of a particular item when they're at a very good price. I try to keep the pantry and freezer stocked with basic, healthy ingredients for home cooking. Shopping at Costco doesn't seem to work for me--the sizes of many items are too large, and the prices don't seem to be better than Trader Joe's or chain grocer's sale prices.

Guest's picture
SarahB

I buy popcorn and paper products in bulk. When the option is available I buy meat in bulk at the grocery store when they offer a 10% off all meat purchases, including bulk meat bundles. Saved hundreds of dollars on meat the last few years by doing that.

Guest's picture
Lynda

depends on what it is. certain things are worth buying in bulk, some are not.

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Kandace

We buy in bulk when the deal is good and not so much that we can't live in our house the way we want. Mostly paper towels, toilet paper, and diapers.

Guest's picture
lisa

We do not buy in bulk. If something is at a fantastic sale, I may buy a few of them, but I don't think that is considered bulk. We have drastically reduced consumption, so there isn't a need to stock up.

Guest's picture
Janice

yes for non-perishables that we use a lot of (toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste), especially since we have a big household. Good to stock up on toilet paper anyways. ;) No for perishables (milk, bread, etc) since they have a short shelf life.

Guest's picture
Carol

I buy rice, oats, and flour bulk at Whole Foods. As far as packaged goods, only 7th generation toilet paper!

Guest's picture
Heather

I dont buy in bulk because I don't have room for oversized boxes and bottles, and I get better prices on smaller products.

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sheila

I buy spices, oatmeal and nuts in bulk for the two of us.

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Lauren

Yes, I most definitely buy in bulk. Chocolate chips at costco for all my chocolaty baking needs.

Guest's picture
Eric

I don't have a car, so it's difficult for me to shop at Costco and such. That said, there are certain items that are cheaper to buy on Amazon if you get three or more of them, such as almond butter, so yes, I do buy in bulk online.

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kristina wittchen

I buy bulk food much of the time.

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Lisa

I would if I was near a store that offered bulk items. However, the nearest store is too far away to shop on a regular basis.

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hminnesota

there are things I buy in bulk but most of the time, I use coupons on smaller items and ultimately end up saving more. I never buy produce in bulk.

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Guest

We always buy in bulk when it seems most cost-effective, though sometimes it gives hubby an excuse to "eat up" all our savings b/c "it's addicting."

But we've found stocking up on paper goods is best.

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Summer

We only buy certain things in bulk such as toilet paper and paper towels. I just try to get the best deals I can from local grocery store using coupons.

Guest's picture
Laura

We belong to Costco, and do buy some things in bulk- mainly because it does save us money on the things we use a lot. We eat a lot of tortilla chips and salsa and both items are cheaper by ounce at Costco than the grocery store. As always though, unless you use everything you buy in bulk before it expires, it probably won't save you much, if at all.

Guest's picture
Elisabeth

I don't buy in bulk, mostly because I try to buy fresh food and produce. I try to stock up on household items though!

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Grant Parish

I buy non-perishable items in bulk when I can get items at a discount. This is a better return that taking the same money to buy higher priced goods in small quanities as needed. It is also nice to never have to worry about running out of toliet paper

Guest's picture
Nicholas

There is nothing that I buy in Bulk... I live alone and if I bought items in bulk, it would all be going to waste.

Guest's picture
gt0163c

I buy things in bulk if I can get a good deal, know I will use them before they go bad and have some place to store them.
Things like toilet paper and other paper products I buy in bulk when I can get the best prices. I know they're not going to go bad and I have a set amount of storage space in my house, so no worries there.

I bake a lot, so I buy baking supplies in bulk when they are on sale.

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Maria S

I buy in bulk if it is something that won't go bad by the time I get to using it.

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Wardo

Bulk nuts all the way!

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Elgin

No I don't buy in bulk. Not for lack of want-to, it's a matter of cash flow. I know I would save money in the long run, but I have to live pay check to pay check so I can't have large expenditures in any one area.

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Jen

no, because I'm only a 1 person household. sometimes it's more cost effective just eating out instead of buying all this food and having it spoil.

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Sam

I buy several things in bulk at my local health food stores, including steel-cut oats, wild rice, dried beans, peppercorns, sea salt, and all kinds of dried nuts and fruits. One thing I would love to buy in bulk is baking soda as I use it to clean absolutely everything, but I haven't been able to find it yet...

Guest's picture
Guest

I buy in bulk all the time. It saves me time since I have 3 kids under the age of 6 and my husband travels a lot. I buy frozen perdue or kirkland chicken breast, rolled oats, eggs, fresh spinach, organic ground beef, cereal, peanut butter, butter, flour, sugar. I have a freezer in the garage which lets me stock up and not have to go to the store and impulse buy items I don't need. We also have a delivery service drop off milk/dairy products just so I don't end up in the store buying stuff the kids want when we really need certain items. I would love to start buying in bulk from a bulk food store. The prices are so much less.

Guest's picture
Guest

I buy in bulk via amazon for items that we use frequently that doesn't risk going bad. Examples are toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, deodorants, and frozen fruits, vegetables. Other things that have early expiration dates I don't purchase because I may or may not use all of the produce in time.

Guest's picture
Trish

I don't have much storage space or a big freezer so what I can buy in bulk is limited. I buy spices from bulk bins, as they seem to be cheaper that way.

Guest's picture

I definitely buy in bulk when it's reasonable for just the two of us.

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Guest

We buy in bulk for a few items, like beans, and some flours. I would really like to buy more items in bulk because I feel that it is often cheaper, fresher, and you lose so much of the packaging that you get when buying traditionally.

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May

For a while I bought in bulk but discovered that I ended up with more of several food items than we could use before they got stale. I spent too much time being vigilant about what was in the pantry that needed to be used ASAP and we tired of items and craved variety we used to enjoy that got shelved (no pun intended) until the bulk items were used up.

Guest's picture
KelR1

I don't buy in bulk. It's just my husband and me, and we don't really have the money or the space for bulk.

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't buy in bulk

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Mega Mom

I will always try to buy things in bulk whenever possible, especially on items that are not perishable and used frequently. Bulk items combined with coupons with usually yield significant savings. I will buy perishable items such as meat, cheease & bread and freeze them to extend their shelf life. If the item is not already vacuum-packed in a meal size, I will put it in a zip-top bag and label it. Recently, I've found that some supermarket sales combined with coupons provide better deals. It's often easier to store and manage smaller packages.

Guest's picture
Matt

I buy in bulk when I need almonds or if I need various types of flour to bake with especially Bread Flour or Pastry Flour. Some items are just cheaper in bulk. I also go the bulk route with spices as I can get as little or as much as I need.

Guest's picture
Donna D

Whenever I can purchase in bulk at the Healthfood store. I also stock up on loss leaders and great deals if I have multiple coupons.

Guest's picture
Francesca

We buy non-perishable items like rice, beans or household items like soap or toilet paper in bulk because the price per unit is lower, and we know we'll actually be able to use them up before they expire.

Guest's picture
Alissa A

I don't buy in bulk because it's just me, and I don't need anything in that large of an amount! captainliss40(at)gmail(dot)com