Home Healthy Eating Save Money On Groceries: Buy It In Bulk

Save Money On Groceries: Buy It In Bulk

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Yesterday, I was told that a certain monolith-sized coffee shop chain sells oatmeal, now. At minimum, two dollars a serving.

At my regular trip to the grocery store, I just paid two dollars for a pound and a half worth of oats to make my own oatmeal. That’s gonna last me… about three weeks. I can make oatmeal, granola, cereal, cookies and cupcakes. All with two dollars worth of oatmeal.

If I decide to venture down a grocery store aisle, I’ll find a bag with little packages of raisins inside for about two dollars. If I decide to buy them in bulk, I can get a pound of raisins for $3. A POUND? That’ll last me almost all summer.

When I buy my garlic powder – the actual garlic powder, not the stuff that has trans fat in it and not garlic salt – it’s something like two dollars for a two ounce container. If I buy it in bulk, I’m paying $0.39 per ounce.

In my grocery store of choice, the quinoa is $1.39/lb. In the same store, the packaged quinoa? $2.29 for one pound. No, grocery store, you cannot have my $0.90. It’s mine. It might be couch change, but it’s my couch change.

Why is buying in bulk so cheap?

When you pay for a name brand product, you’re paying for the following:

  1. Gas to get it from the factory to its location
  2. Packaging – Yes, dear consumer, you’re paying your hard earned money for that box and that plastic, that Styrofoam and that foil wrapper. Eat up!
  3. Branding – Oh, you’re going to pay a premium for that brand name. This is America. We’ll pay for a brand name.
  4. Marketing and advertisement – brands need to be hyped up. So it becomes your responsibility, dear consumer, to pay for it.

As you can see, if the branding and marketing of a product hits on all the right notes at the same time, it strikes the perfect chord: it tells the consumer that you’re paying this high of a price because you are paying for quality. I can name about five brands off the top of my head that would quickly highlight how this is not always the case.

When you buy your product in bulk, you’re not buying marketing. There’s no brand for which you have to pay a premium. There’s also no additional pollution in the form of pretty boxes, cans or wrapping to deal with. It saves the planet – a big point in clean eating – and saves your pennies. Sure, $0.90 might seem like a little, but if I buy my beans, lentils, quinoa, raisins, cashews, pretzels, brown rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, pastry flour, sunflower seeds, carob chips, pretzels, oatmeal, garlic powder, onion chips, bay leaves, basil, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, cinnamon, spearmint and peanut butter in bulk? I’m easily saving $30 by the end of my trip.

So, how do you find grocery stores with a “bulk shopping” setup?

A few grocery store chains may have a bulk shopping aisle – might be used mainly for candy, but don’t be afraid to regularly call and harass your grocer about adding healthier stuff to the bulk section. It’s cheaper not only for you, but for them, too. Once they see there’s a demand for it and that they could make money off of it, they’re sure to expand. The healthier grocery stores will more than likely have ’em, so don’t be afraid to drop in and stop by. I’m almost certain that the bulk shopping section is a staple of Whole Foods.

You also have the option of shopping online! If you are already familiar with what spices you desire, you can check out Penzey’s. For beans, grains and nuts? You might be better off trying to find a local store, and only visiting once a month. The online joints – though you can find good bulk deals there – often don’t allow you the same kind of options to choose the weight of your purchase, and can give you a little bit of a sticker shock. Good luck!

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Ashley D May 21, 2010 - 7:57 AM

Hey Erika,

You are right on point with this post. Sometimes it takes for someone to point something out before you actually see what you doing has a better way of being done. At first when I started attempting to eat right I became so overwhelmed and even now I get overwhelmed. However, at the end of the day eating better is so much better for you (aint that right Erika :). For example, the best part of my day is at night when yet another day goes by and I have ate properly ALL day. There was once a time when I would lay down at night so upset with myself for my poor eating throughout the day. Now I just take it one day (and one post) at a time. I am slowly getting into clean eating and I don’t feel so pressured! Keep em’ coming Erika.

SN: These posts are like those chips? Remember you couldn’t eat just one….was it chips I don’t know…but ya’ll get my point…Can’t read just one! LOL

Oh yea SN2: Have you ever been the Fresh Market?…I think there is one in the grove and one in Aventura? If you have…. do you think they have better prices than Whole Foods?

Erika May 21, 2010 - 8:55 AM

Thanks, Ashley! 🙂

Prices… it depends on the individual item to which you refer. Whole Foods is a larger chain than Fresh Market, so obviously, they’d be afforded a little more in the way of better prices. However, Fresh Market is more than likely going to have better sales prices. Certain items might just be better for you to purchase at another store.. I know it’s definitely that way for me! LOL

Fa April 24, 2011 - 9:23 AM

This is sooo correct! When I’m home in Toronto I’m a Bulk Queen, but living in Barbados those options aren’t available. However, I think the similar rules apply to buying fruits and vegetables in a grocery store vs. a farmers market (which are plentiful on the island). Yesterday I convinced some friends here to come with me on my weekly visit to the market and they could not get over the price difference. They saved about $30 which is huge! I explained that we pay more @ grocery stores because the cost reflects presentation, importing, storage, etc. I also think people are wary of fruits and vegetables that have dirt on them, or don’t look like the “typical” grocery store stuff. But it’s worth it (to your body and wallet) to look for local, seasonal and grown close to home produce.

David A. Miller April 24, 2011 - 11:19 AM

Another great one Erika. I tell people all the time that even though Whole Foods can be more expensive they have a great bulk section that you can save big time on whole grains, nuts and dried fruit.

Glenda January 31, 2012 - 5:35 PM

Our favorite store on the west coast for Bulk Foods is WINCO. Boy they are the best and have the largest bulk food section I have ever seen. People are so suprised at what you can get there. And you save so much money.

They have everything from seasonings to dog food. We buy all our cereal in bulk. They even have honey and two machines that make fresh peanut butter and almond butter. The nuts go in and the unprocessed butter comes out. It is so exciting.

Sometimes I just like to walk through to see what I can put on my wish list for the next visit. There is so much to choose from. All types of flours, grains, oatmeal, farina, beans, different types of rice, all kinds of pastas, popcorn, tea, you name it they just might have it.

I notice that in the regular grocery stores around the holidays you cannot find the heck of expensive cans of sage, etc. But Winco always had it available in bulk. So we stock up, put it in our own containers and tell the big manufactures to go suck a lemon. lol

kami January 4, 2013 - 9:17 AM

Yes I been buying bulk foods now, It is so much cheaper because the organic rice in the box is so expensive. I been saving twenty dollars. It allows me to buy more fresh produce. Thanks for the advice.

Keesha March 19, 2013 - 1:36 PM

And dog shampoo. The best dog shampoo is made with oatmeal, baking soda and water.

Jazelle September 17, 2013 - 3:28 PM

I’d like to buy more foods in bulk, but I live in a small apartment so we don’t really have enough storage space in the kitchen (if you can even call it that lol). What do you suggest as “essential” bulk foods that I can keep on hand?

Erika Nicole Kendall September 19, 2013 - 10:22 AM

Well, it depends – do you have anything you particularly love to eat or eat frequently? Are you hampered by a tight budget? I mean, I keep beans, lentils, rices, flours and grains in jars in my cabinets. That’s a big start. I also buy lots of frozen veggies for last-minute supply (Just in case I can’t make it to the store, I at least have veggies and chickpeas and can make soup or something.)

Kim October 5, 2014 - 7:13 AM

Great post, Erik!! I do find that there are two downfalls of buying in bulk: When you buy in bulk, you tend do consume in bulk. If you’ve got a gallon-sized shampoo bottle sitting on your tub, you’re likely to use more than a pea-sized amount. Transferring to smaller containers right away can help that. Also, there is the danger of not being able to use it all before it gets stale or goes bad. That’s why it’s good to FREEZE, FREEZE, FREEZE when you can and share with neighbors/friends. Amazon.com is another great place to find groceries in bulk (cases of beans, for example).

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