Ask the Readers: What Do You Buy in Bulk?

By Ashley Jacobs on 7 May 2013 (Updated 14 May 2013) 86 comments

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Kristina, Maria, and Jillian for winning this week's contest!

Buying in bulk can be a great way to save money if you have a large household, but even small families and singletons can make it work by sharing the cost and goods with other families or friends. But beware! If the cost per unit doesn't check out, or you don't have the space to store it, or you won't actually use up all the goods before they go bad, bulk buying can be a deadly budgeting — or hoarding — trap.

What do you buy in bulk? What common bulk product do you NOT buy in bulk? Do you split bulk purchases with others? What strategies do you use to save even more when you buy in bulk?

Tell us about your bulk purchases and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture
Penny

I usually buy grains - quinoa, farro, and steel cut oats in bulk. I've found them to be way cheaper this way!

Guest's picture
Varun

Milk, eggs, paper towels, liquid soap.

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Mary Happymommy

I buy paper towels in bulk.

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Andrea C

Spices! Both in Costco-sized portions, and teeny portions from the bulk bins at the store; both are ways to save over traditional jars.

Guest's picture
Christie

Things that I only want a small amount of or that are more expensive in a box. We buy local honey in bulk and couscous as well. Loose leaf tea and whole bean coffee are other bulk purchases we make often. But my most important bulk purchases are my herbs and spices. I only buy a little bit at a time and keep them fresh -- they taste so much better that way!

Guest's picture
Jae

We are a family of three - me, my wife, and our 3 year old son. My wife stays at home with my son and has been taking care of him since he was born. We live off of one income and we try our best to cut costs where ever we can. We believe bulk buying does help lower costs but we don't do a lot of heavy spending on the things that might go bad quickly. What we do buy in bulk are paper towels (need this especially when you have a toddler), cleaning products such as swiffer and dishwasher detergent, napkins, toilet paper, toothbrushes, floss, toothpaste, and soap. We also purchase oranges (we squeeze fresh orange juice every morning), apples, potatoes, onion, garlic, eggs, and carrots in bulk. We noticed these foods have a longer shelf life and are used in a lot of our meals which is why we purchase them in bulk. What we don't purchase in bulk are premade salads, fresh herbs, meats, milk, cheese, bread, tomatoes, and other food products that have a very short shelf life.

We use to be very bad when it came to throwing away rotten food that we bought in bulk. Now, we don't just buy anything in bulk, we only buy the things that we use up quickly or have a longer shelf life. This definitely helps to cut down on waste and makes you a much smarter buyer.

Guest's picture
Toco

I bake regularly. So I buy yeast in the bulk size. 1lb of yeast is a lot of amount to use.
I keep it in plastic container in freezer.
I buy gallon size white vinegar,too. For cooking, cleaning.

Guest's picture

Toilet paper and paper towels I buy in traditional bulk quantities. And RICE! Most other things that I have large quantities of really are bought individually at a steep discount.

Guest's picture

dry goods mostly.

Guest's picture
Betty D.

I buy household staples in bulk when they're on sale. I recently stocked up on coffee and cereal. I'll buy multiple frozen items when on sale, but not a huge supply, for fear of power outages. Peanut butter rules!

Guest's picture
Steph

I always buy toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. I am always going to need them, so I may as well stock up! I also buy diapers in bulk to save some money.

Guest's picture
Tiffany S.

The only time I buy anything in bulk is when there is some type of coupon/sale/promotional situation in which I can get items for dirt cheap or free. Items like toothpaste, shampoo, shower gel, razors...things I can stash in a closet that won't go bad.

Guest's picture
Guest

I buy in bulk:
tp
paper towels
detergent
dishwasher detergent
diapers and wipes
cheese
yeast
flour
sugar
butter
meat (by the 1/4 cow)
applesauce

Guest's picture
KK

Is 3 months considered bulk?

I always have 3 months supply of drinks that I purchase from Amazon. Tea, creamer, sweeteners, drink mixes. Most of my medical supplies come from them also.

My coffee comes 3 months at a time also but from the Community Coffee Company where there is a buy one give one to the troops program. Love their coffee. Love our boys protecting our country!

Guest's picture
Margaret Davis

Although it is just DH and I, we tend to buy our cheese, flour, sugar, tea and meats at the warehouse club in bulk. We break it down into more manageable portions and freeze the meat and cheese. We've found that at the bulk prices we can generally afford higher quality meat which we use in smaller portions (i.e. instead of a pound of ground meat in a recipe we use 3/4 pound). We bake our own bread and make our own pastas - so bulk flour is a necessity. DH only drinks sweet tea so using the gallon bags and bulk sugar makes it much more economical.

Guest's picture
wendy

I buy toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and our pet food in bulk. The cost per item is much cheaper this way. Occasionally, I will split the cost of the paper products with my parents, but they don't use the amounts that we do, so they don't restock as often as I do.

Guest's picture
Elena

I buy rice, beans and flour in bulk

Guest's picture
meg

I buy yeast, flour and meat in bulk. I do not buy cereal or condiments in bulk. Sometimes I split the meat with my parents but I have a large family so we usually use it all ourselves.

Guest's picture

We are a family of two, so the only things that we buy in bulk are non-perishables. We buy beans, rice and seeds in bulk. It doesn't make sense to buy cosmetics or toothpaste in bulk so we don't.

I sometimes make fun of my husband for buying a whole gallon of milk. I'm from Europe and we would consider that to be bulk (milk only comes in cartons of 1 liter there).

Guest's picture
Nancy

We a small household of three adults, with extended family, including children, who dine with us weekly. I always buy the following food items in bulk:
Rice, Pinto beans, Sugar, Oatmeal, Coffee, Popcorn. I also buy cases of canned tomatoes, coconut milk, evaporated milk, peaches, chicken broth, and tuna. I buy multiples of butter in 4-lb packages at Costco and freeze them. I grind my own ground beef, so I buy quantities of meat and poultry on sale and divide into smaller packages for freezing. For example, I grind my own ground beef, so I buy chuck roasts and cut them up for smaller packages to freeze for grinding later. I also buy whole pork loin roasts on sale and slice for pork chops or smaller roasts and freeze. I also buy frequently used non-perishables in bulk from Costco: toilet paper, facial tissues, bath soap, and toothpaste.

Guest's picture
s.even

Spices bought in bulk from the 'natural foods' store are usually much less expensive than buying bottled spices. As a bonus, you can buy a smaller amount than in bottles so it is easier to try new recipes.

Guest's picture

I buy packaged items that don't spoil in large quantities. Toilet paper for fifty cents a roll, shampoo for eighty cents a bottle, beans for sixty cents a can.

But the "bulk" section of my local coop is where I get very small quantities of things I only need a little of before it spoils: spices, tea, pasta.

Guest's picture
msblackson

I don't buy much is bulk anymore. I shared a warehouse membership with a friend for a year and found that I ended up spending more on the paper goods I purchased in bulk. Since I am not loyal to many specific brands, I find that shopping at drug stores, Target, and Walmart, using stacked coupons and store discounts, saves me more money on these same items.

Guest's picture
Kelsey

Toilet paper! Gotta love Costco!

Guest's picture

I most commonly buy my art/wood products in bulk for my shop. I wish I could afford even more, because it would certainly increase my profits! For our household, I try to buy the largest boxes of diapers, wipes, toilet paper, etc, that we can afford (and have space for).

We don't buy huge containers of mayo, though -- my whole life, my mom told a story of my grandma dropping one of those on the floor (back when the containers were glass), and it was everywhere. Guess it has just stuck with me. :)

Guest's picture
Nancy B from Many LA

I buy toilet paper. It's so convenient to have a lot on hand

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Jillian

I mostly bulk buy things that don't expire or go bad. Garbage bags, dishwasher tabs, batteries, boxed mac and cheese, canned soup, etc.
Buying fresh or perishable foods in bulk is just way too much for a 2 person household!

Guest's picture
Rachael

I always buy coffee and tea in bulk! We go through it so fast, we have to.

Guest's picture
Julee Smucker

Spices I can not grow, that I use a lot of. Toilet Paper.

Guest's picture
L. A. R. Koslow

My family (me + hub) have a small space and feel transient until the regional job search is complete, so we do not purchase large bulk packages as the question prompt seems to be referring. However, we buy lots of bulk (in the traditional sense of by-the-pound) in the way of grains, produce, nuts/seeds, tea, et cetera. We keep our dry goods in canisters.

Guest's picture

I buy large containers of NUTS from Costco and put them in cute jars on my counter for snacking. I store the large containers in my pantry.

Guest's picture
Nancy

I, too, buy nuts in large quantities, but they can go rancid, so I freeze them.

Guest's picture
Kate

I use the bulk section at our food co-op to buy spices in bulk. That way I can buy the teaspoon of tumeric I need instead of the $5.00 jar. We buy 25 lb bags of whole wheat flour and bake our own bread. I buy the tea we like on amazon.com in a larger package size than I can get at the grocery store and cut the cost per teabag down by 40 percent. I use an annual case-lot sale in our community to buy canned tomatoes, chickpeas, peanut butter and Cheerios for the year. I also buy baking soda, cider vinegar and coconut oil in bulk because I use those things to make household cleaner and diy beauty products.

Guest's picture
Cyndi Miller

We buy dried beans & grains, chia seeds, salsa, canned tomatoes, and tea in bulk regularly. We buy other items we use regularly if they are on sale and the price is good. Our Co-op offers a 10% case discount so that makes sales even better. We also shop at Amazon for harder to find items. We have lots of pantry space and a chest freezer, so room for bulk items.

We don't buy things that need to be refrigerated in bulk. Also no cat food because they are too finicky.

Guest's picture
Guest: Darryl L. Coleman

I make my bread from scratch... I grind the wheat berries... SO I but wheat in bulk>>>

Guest's picture
Jen

We buy household prouducts like toilet paper & paper towels. The only food items we buy in bulk are dry goods and some canned goods. Produce definitely not in bulk!

Guest's picture
Maria S

I love buying condiments & pasta in bulk-- they last forever and if you get them on sale it's a great deal!!

Guest's picture
C.j.

The only things I buy in bulk are things that I'll use every week like laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet paper. I'll sometimes buy meat in bulk if I can freeze it. That way I'm not left with a lot of bulk items going bad quickly

Guest's picture
Amanda

I buy all my grains, sugars, spices and dried beans in bulk. I used to buy bulk granola until I found the perfect recipe to make my own. I also try to buy dried fruit in bulk but my local selection is small. When possible though, I always prefer bulk for less packaging and advertising.

Guest's picture
vickie m

I just recently went south were they have great pinto beans in cans that we don't have here and I bought 24 cans- we do this once a year.
We also stopped at the local Menonite bulk food store there and stocked up on oats and their great soft pretzel mix. We make sure though it is something we would eat.

Guest's picture
Zee

I buy coffee, tea, shower gel and contact solution in bulk when I can. Working up to getting a 25lb bag of rice.

Guest's picture
Cheryl

I buy toilet paper & paper towels in bulk (not terribly original I know!!)

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Lori P

We usually buy TP, paper towels and grains in bulk.

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KF

I usually go halfsies with my sister when shopping at bulk stores. We buy the normal items like TP and papertowels.

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Catherine

I buy dried herbs and spices (garlic powder, peppercorns, things I use a LOT of) in bulk.

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Nicole Crawford

I buy toilet paper , paper towels , cereal, milk , bread , chicken , laundry soap , shampoo , body soap, books !

Guest's picture
Lisa B.

I buy rice, oats(old fashioned and steel cut), flour and couscous. I order spices in bulk from an online company.

Guest's picture
monique

Grains, beans, spices, and other baking ingredients. I get the amounts I need, and it's less expensive too.

Guest's picture
Amy Parker

Seeing as how it's just the two of us, just about everything I buy is inadvertently in bulk. Toilet paper and paper towels are the first things that come to mind. We also usually buy enough cat food for at least two weeks if not longer when we go shopping. One time I was able to get such a good deal on Angel Soft (I think it ended up being a 24 pack for like $3 or something) that we didn't buy TP for almost a year.

Guest's picture
Angie W.

I buy fruits in bulk from farmers in our area when they are in season. It allows me to freeze them and make jam that will last us the rest of the year when the fruit isn't as awesome. I can't buy much in the bulk bins at grocery stores simply because I have Celiac disease and can't risk the cross contamination between bins in case gluten has gotten into it. People use one scoop in multiple bins all the time, and it is too risky for me to use.

Guest's picture
KelR1

Honestly, nothing. There's only two of us (my husband and me), we don't have a huge house with a lot of space to store bulk items, and I tend to like a lot of variety in things like groceries, so I only plan a week or two ahead with food and try not to eat the same things too often, so not buying in bulk allows me to go on a whim with meals and such. We also live VERY close to several grocery and discount department stores, so getting there is never a problem. I just like to buy only what I need at the time.

Guest's picture

I only buy things in bulk that I can get a great deal and never go bad.

Guest's picture
Jenn

We buy stuff in bulk that we know we're going to use--toiletries, mainly, vitamins, and over-the counter meds. Costco is amazing and we stack coupons to take advantage of store specials and CVS deals. Definitely not a hoarder, but I like to have what we need and for the best price.

Guest's picture
Chris

We buy toilet paper, paper towels and kleenex.

Also eggs.

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Guest

We buy as much in bulk as we can of nonperishable items, mostly paper products and other household stuff that can last a long time on the shelf without refrigeration or any other special care. These items include paper towels, toilet paper, tissue paper, dry dog food.

Guest's picture
Carolyn

I buy chicken feed in bulk, and I guess you could say our venison comes in bulk!

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Shannon S.

I always buy toilet paper in bulk. The price is much cheaper and this is one thing I can not run out of. I can afford to do it because I have the space and I shop at BJ's.

Guest's picture
Ben

Candy and soda.

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Bethany

TP, olive oil, chocolate chips, apple juice concentrate

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Kristine R.

We buy paper products like toilet paper and paper towels in bulk. It ends up being way cheaper.

Guest's picture
Guest

I buy popcorn kernels in bulk. They are usually better than what you can buy in small packages at the grocery store, anyway.

Guest's picture
Lynda

we buy in bulk what we know we will use for sure ie dog food, toilet paper, paper towels

Guest's picture
Sweta

Toilet paper, paper towels, eggs, nuts (I put them in the freezer so they don't go bad)

Guest's picture
Molly

I buy flour, toilet paper, meat (on clearance), rice, oatmeal and anything else I find for a bargain that we can use!

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Rebecca B. A. R.

Toilet Paper!!!! It never goes bad, and you will definitely, eventually use it!

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DeeDee

Loose green tea, coffee, toliet paper and soap.

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Guest

I watch the sale fliers from the various stores and buy whatever is on a great sale in bulk. Recently I have bought hamburger (70%) lean for 99 cents a pound, Cheese for 2.28 a pound, Cheerios for a dollar a box, and oranges for 14 cents a pound.

The key is to know what a good deal is so that you can stock up when you see one and have somewhere to store it.

Guest's picture

Another vote for toilet paper and kitchen rolls. We have a really good spice market nearby so we also buy our favorite spices in bulk.

Guest's picture
Phil

To me, bulk buying means getting more then I can use in 6months. Truly, I buy almost everything in bulk. Dry shelf stable goods tend to come from Sams. Giant (5-50lbs bags) of sugar, flour, grits, oatmeal, black beans, dry split peas, cornmeal, coffee, rice, TP, laundry detergent, dish soap, even popcorn. These often represent annual purchases. I also buy bulk frozen or dairy goods there, like cheese, meats, butter and even eggs because they freeze well. Canned goods most often come from the local upper-mid range grocery store. You know, the one that wants to seem high-brow, and budget minded at the same time.I buy their loss leader advertised specials whenever they are something I use. When it happens, I will buy the limit, or up to my 6month max level. These tend to be shelf stable goods. Canned vegetables, canned fruits, and even meats from time to time. About the only things I don't buy in bulk are milk, fresh produce, some meats, and bread. These I get from a local grocery store every few days, and can get everything I need for the period off their markdown racks!

Guest's picture
kristina

I buy grains and beans in bulk.

Guest's picture
Kay

The only thing other than toilet paper that we buy in bulk is wine. Many stores offer small discounts for purchasing 6 or more bottles at a time.

Guest's picture
Stefanie

I buy honey, quinoa, kalamata olives, and frequently cheese in bulk at Costco. I buy other grains in bulk at a different store b/c they have a better price. I also buy shampoo and conditioner in bulk by the gallon because the prices are way cheaper than by the bottle - especially for the fragrance-free kind we use!

Guest's picture
Debra K

I buy food for my 2-year-old in bulk. I also buy diapers in bulk. And I also buy paper towels, toilet paper, body soap, toothbrushes, chocolate chips and meats in bulk. We just started canning chicken for our convenience and in case of power outages, and we have loved having it available for use at a moment's notice. I don't tend to buy perishables in bulk, unless it's something I know we are going to use before it goes bad.

Guest's picture
MELISSA HANSSON

We don't buy much in bulk - some rice, nuts, legumes is all.

Guest's picture
Karen L.

I buy many things in bulk as I live close to a warehouse store. Usually it's non perishable items like soap, toilet paper, tissues, paper towels. But I buy perishables that we use frequently as well, like cereal.

Guest's picture
Judy

toilet paper, papertowels, bar soap, toothpaste, bottled water, pet food, kitty litter, shaving cream, liquid soap, meat, batteries, clorox wipes, can soup. I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting.

Guest's picture
Tabathia B

I buy noodles, chef boyardee, poptarts, cereal, paper products and frozen pizzas/pancakes in bulk

Guest's picture
Happy Love

We buy diapers, frozen blueberries, and spices in bulk.

Guest's picture
Cathy

Grains and coffee

Guest's picture
KHaney

We are a family of three living on a single budget in a 304 square foot home. We don't have much space to store bulk foods. We do have a few things we use often that we keep in 5 gallon buckets or gallon containers. Oatmeal, whole wheat flour, brown rice, quinoa, brown sugar, pasta noodles, honey and peanuts are our main stock. We buy fresh produce, meat and dairy once a week or every other week. It is also very important to us to keep processed foods out of our home. Laundry detergent, soaps and cleaners are just a few of the things I make. Vinegar, washing soda, borax and baking soda we buy in medium quantity for cleaning products. Castile soap, olive oil, essential oils, shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax we keep for healthcare products.

Guest's picture
Carmen

As much as I can! Meat, nuts, and cereal (we go through a lot)

Guest's picture
Raina

I don't buy anything in bulk. I live alone and don't go through a lot of anything, so it doesn't make sense for me at this stage of my life.

Guest's picture
Tyler

I buy paper towels and cleaning products in bulk. As far as food, I buy flour, sugar, and pancake mix in bulk (along with a few random things like pork rinds). I do not buy things like milk or eggs in bulk (I don't consume them enough).

Guest's picture
Guest

We buy meat from Costco, portion it out and freeze it. Same thing with cheese. And toilet paper (minus the freezing).

Guest's picture
MsSwagger00

I love shopping at bulk stores, but I am very selective with my purchases. Most items that go on sale in the bulk store's monthly coupon book are generally a good buy. I will compare prices and sales with the local grocery or drug store. Items that go on sale regularly at the grocery store are generally less expensive and you are not required to purchase in bulk. (For example: shampoos, toothpaste, pasta & pasta sauce, ice cream & paper products) I generally don't purchase produce or perishables in bulk, but I do buy their meat & portion-size it. Their milk, cheese, avocados, romaine lettuce & roast chicken is always a good buy. Bulk stores have seasonal items that are generally much lower than general retail. For example, during the summer, they carry a whole line of furniture including sectionals, dining sets, dressers, desks, TV hutches at discount prices. I believe the quality is mostly solid wood. They also have plants, trees, bushes for a fraction of the local nurseries. They also have generous warranties & return policies. I also purchase items that are rarely discounted in retail stores like spices, dog food, vitamins, sunscreen, & beauty products.

Guest's picture
Kasey Politano

I buy chickpeas and green tea in bulk.