What To Buy {And What NOT To Buy} In Bulk!

buying in bulkI hope you will indulge me. I must be in some sort of investigative mood lately because it’s rare I will post two “informational only” posts in a row. You can take the girl out of reporting….but you can’t take the reporter out of the girl. :-) And for the person who commented on a recent post that I should tell less stories and just get to the point…this one’s for you. :-)

Here’s a statistic that might be a bit shocking…..as of April of this year (2012), according to the USDA, the average family of four spent anywhere from $694.30 to $1240.10 on food a month! That’s up from $530.30 to $1203.00 just one year ago. That’s a lot of MONEY! No wonder so many of us are looking for more ways to cut back!

One way MANY people attempt to save $$ in their monthly household budget is to shop at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. I personally have a membership…even though the closest one is a good 30 minute drive away. There are couple dozen items that we regularly buy there that make it worthwhile for us.

After looking at many articles on the subject, and keeping in mind that everyone’s “list” is going to be slightly different…I have come up with the top things *I* think should be purchased in bulk, if possible, to save money:


buying in bulk

Toilet Paper.

Buying TP in bulk can be up to 50 percent cheaper than buying a few rolls at a time. The challenging thing about this is finding a place to STORE those huge packages. Under the bed is always an option! :-)

buying in bulk

Pet Food.

If your pet sticks with one type of food, why not stock up on Fido’s favorite fare??

buying in bulk


This is a no-brainer if you have an extra freezer to store your surplus. Warehouse stores typically offer good quality meat. Just be careful to seal and freeze it properly, and don’t fool yourself into thinking that it will last in there forever.

buying in bulk

Storage products.

When you buy all that meat, you’ll need something to store it in. It’s good to buy storage products like foil, freezer bags and containers in bulk.

buying in bulk


You know you’re going to need one vitamin per day, for the rest of your life, so you might as well buy in bulk. However, a bottle of 500 pills is only a good value if you take them all, so keep expiration dates in mind. You may not be able to go through that large of a supply before the pills expire. In general, vitamin tablets last about four to five years.

buying in bulk

Diapers (if applicable).

Babycenter.com estimates that the average baby’s diapers cost about $1,100 in a single year! Once baby has reached a consistent diaper size (or has just graduated to a new size), buy as many as your car will hold! (and pray for early toilet-training!)

buying in bulk

Cooking Oil

Cooking oils sold at warehouse stores, especially large containers of olive oil, are a better bargain than those sold at grocery stores. You’ll find yourself saving a lot more money by buying a gallon vs. a liter at the supermarket, which often can cost as much as the bulk version. Of course use common sense. If you RARELY cook ANYTHING with oil…or anything at ALL…maybe skip this one.

buying in bulk

Nonperishable foods.

Including cereal and canned goods with distant expiration dates. Products like canned tuna or soup are around 30 percent cheaper in bulk at the warehouse clubs than at standard grocery stores.

buying in bulk


Jump at the chance to save on light bulbs and batteries. People often forget to buy these until the lights go out.

buying in bulk

Dental care.

Dentists recommend that you start using a new toothbrush after three months, but the average American waits nine months to make the switch. So keeping a bulk supply can help improve your dental hygiene. You can also offer your extra toothbrushes as spares for forgetful house guests.

buying in bulk


Cleaning products.

Purchase your favorite brands (or the ingredients to MAKE YOUR OWN cleaning products) in bulk. You use them on a daily basis and they keep your home clean and healthy.

buying in bulk

Dried Beans and Pasta.

Because they last so long and take up relatively little space, dried beans and pasta are great pantry fillers. Dried pasta will last up to two years in a sealed container. Dried beans, will last about a year.

buying in bulk

Soap and Shampoo.

Buying these items in bulk saves a few cents an ounce on shampoo or per bar of soap, and over time it definitely adds up. Don’t forget razors and deodorant too!

And as long as we’re on the subject….here are a few additional tips on……

What NOT To Buy In Bulk

Soda and Chips.

These are big promotional items for supermarkets, especially around big events like the Superbowl, and national holidays. Major manufacturers help retailers deeply discount products on a rotating basis.


Supermarkets will always feature one in-season item at doorbuster prices. No need to eat them at once, either. Grapes freeze well!  :-)

Candy and unhealthy snacks.

Although you may save money buying candy and unhealthy snacks in bulk, having a lot of these items around may cause you to overeat, which will be a detriment to your health. Saving money is not worth the cost to your health.

Frozen food.

Although frozen food will last longer than regular food, it may take up too much space in your freezer and you may not be able to finish it before its expiration date. Frozen products also have a shorter shelf life than canned foods.


They may be more affordable in bulk the high fat content in nuts (particularly in peanuts, pecans, and walnuts) causes them to go rancid rather quickly.

Mayo (and other Condiments). 

These tend to only last six months to a year and take much longer to get through than you’d expect.


Unless you cook ALL THE TIME it might be best to buy spices in smaller quantities. Spices lose their potency in six months to a year.


Hopefully you’ve found some helpful information here. As always….I hope you will chime in with your thoughts and ideas on the subject as well!  Knowledge is power…..frugal buying power! :-)


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  1. Sherry Burgess says

    I really enjoy your posts on Pinterest and I love your sense of humor. I tried the Dove wash recipe and I am amazed!!! Now,I just need to find a way not to make such a big mess when putting it in bottles..sigh!!


    • itismedia says

      One of the BEST purchases I ever made for the kitchen was a set of funnels. They were not expensive and they range in size from a small one with a small funnel spout to a larger one that can be used for the wider mouth jars. They stack together and take up very little room. Mine have a silicone bottom half (where the down spout is) and plastic at the top where you would be pouring whatever in. Hope that helps. ~ Diane

    • Debbra W says

      You can also make a funnel using clean cardboard, or wax paper, parchment paper, or even paper towels or plates.

      • Mary says

        The top 3rd of a plastic bottle works well as a funnel if it fits the bottle you are pouring something into.

  2. says

    Another good source for vitamins is the mail order company, Puritan’s Pride, when they have buy 1 get 2 free.

    I drive about 40 minutes to Sam’s Club but find that it’s worth it for their store brand EVOO, TP and meats.

  3. Lynn says

    I buy pecans in bulk whenever I catch them on sale. They are my nut of choice for baking, and I use a lot, especially during the holidays. True, they can go rancid, BUT they freeze very nicely! I plan to keep at least a half dozen in the big freezer all the time “just in case” the mood to bake strikes. As for how long they last – I’ve used some that I know were in the freezer for more than 2 years, and they tasted absolutely perfect!

    • Donnella says

      A Food Saver jar sealer keeps nuts fresh for quite a while also without taking up freezer space. The attachment for your Food Saver is about $10 for either wide mouth or regular lids and they are reusable.

  4. malinda blevins says

    Toothbrushes and toothpaste may be cheaper at Costco then a regular grocery store- but I hate to spend over a dollar for a toothbrush- so I pick up extras when a drug store has a close out- and the Dollar Tree has tooth brushes and tooth paste for a dollar- we stock up on these- take a basket of toiletries when we tailgate at the military school where my son goes- the cadets can not always get out to pick up the “little things!”

    • Marion in Savannah says

      Every time I have my teeth cleaned at the dentist (2 or 3 times a year) I’m given a new set of toothbrush, floss and small sample tube of toothpaste. Most dentists do that now, don’t they?

      I keep the new and most recent brushes in the bathroom (older one for morning brushing, newer one for after dinner brushing) and then the older ones go to the kitchen for small scrubbing jobs like cleaning the microplaner and strainers. I have to buy toothpaste, but I get that at Sam’s Club in packs of 3 about twice a year.

  5. Juliet says

    Yes for the TP! What we save on the OTC Allergy Medicine more than covers our membership fee each year. Their yeast is also a good deal — 2 1lb. blocks for about $4. I just keep it in the fridge in a tupperware after opening. We get our garbage bags as well. You hate spending $24, but I think they last up 18-24 months.

    • Mary says

      I no longer buy garbage bags. For the kitchen I found a $4 rubbermaid trash can at wal-mart that holds the plastic grocery bags. The trash goes out every day (sometimes more than once) and it’s free. We have the small cans from the $ Tree around the house. I put 5-10 bags in those at a time and we just take out the top one when it’s full.

      We did have re-usable grocery bags, but they didn’t last and they get germy and we always seemed to forget them.

      • says

        I wash my re-usable grocery bags in the washing machine and dryer. They come out GREAT! Just FYI for those who wondered…

  6. Sandi K. says

    I love your stories! Please keep them in and let those who don’t want to read them scroll down to the “information.” :D

  7. says

    I always buy TP in bulk although last month I think I over did it. Its only me in my house and I currently have around 30 rolls!

    Oh well, they were on offer and its definitely saving me money in the long run! :D

  8. says

    I live 140 miles from the nearest Costco and it is still worth it to me to “stock” up on certain things especially with our higher cost of living. Not only for cost savings, but to ensure I am prepared for hurricane season. It is finally nice to see warehouses starting to carry more organic products. I too, do purchase nuts and store them in the freezer without any problems. (pecans are $16 a pound in our local grocer) I do like to stress the importance of buying local and supporting small business when you can. Sometimes I will buy something from my local health food store, knowing I am paying $3 or $4 more, but I like knowing I am helping the store stay open and they will be there when I need them.

  9. Eric Gregg says

    Spices can last a few years if you buy them whole, rather than already ground (e.g. whole nutmeg). My experience is that they are more powerful when freshly ground anyway. I keep a cheap-o coffee grinder tucked away just for spices.

  10. Emily says

    I love shopping in bulk, but after frustration with diaper prices, we’ve let our membership at our local warehouse expire. Diapers are much more expensive there than deals you can get at stores, especially since you can use coupons! I prefer to buy the huge pack on amazon.com. But I will miss the meat. We’ll probably still make an annual trip and just pay the 10% fee (if I’m spending anything less than $350 on my bulk toiletries, it’s till a better deal). Great post, just want to point out that warehouse prices aren’t always better!


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