I’m working through a series on buying whole foods in bulk!
If you haven’t read them yet, you may be interested in :
Why I Buy in Bulk, Buying in Bulk: Do You Have the Space? and
Buying in Bulk: A Year’s Supply. And now: How To Afford Buying in Bulk:
Guess what? Last Thursday was Maple Syrup Day! We now have five gallons of maple syrup to last us the year:
The total price tag wasn’t small, and yet, we got an excellent price per ounce on high quality maple syrup for our family. This means that even though we had to pay quite a bit upfront, we just saved quite a bit of money!
I’m sure many of you are wondering how we afford to purchase our year’s supply of maple syrup all at once, or three months worth of meat at one time, etc. Hopefully you took the time to read the following posts: How I Grocery Shop and Our 2011 Grocery Budget which will answer some of your questions.
But overall, I would say that we can’t afford NOT to buy in bulk. We are a family of six big eaters, plus we feed a lot of extra people each month. Buying large quantities of many different foods saves us hundreds (maybe thousands?) of dollars each year. I can pay $1.60 for a small 21 ounce bag of organic rolled oats – or I can pay almost half that amount per ounce and buy 50 pounds of organic rolled oats for $35.55. It may feel like I’m spending less if I only pay $1.60 for a bag of oats, but since I’d have to buy so many bags of it, overall, I’d actually be spending more.
If it’s food that will keep well without spoiling and I know it’s food that we’ll eat – buying in bulk is usually the better option for our family.
And now, a little bit more about our budget and how bulk purchasing is possible for us:
We have $550 in our monthly grocery budget, which equals $6600 for the year. Some months I only spend $200, some months I spend $800. It all balances out. I don’t need a bulk quantity of every single food, every single month. Some months I buy a huge amount of wheat and a few months worth of organic brown rice. Some months I buy a case of butter and order several big bags of organic nuts. Some months I hardly buy anything at all, except for milk, eggs and produce. And by the end of the year, all the purchases have averaged out to $550/month.
If you’re just getting started with bulk purchasing, it may feel like your budget is taking a big hit. Here are some suggestions for buying in bulk while staying within your budget:
- Try to hold back part of your grocery budget from one month in order to apply it to bulk purchasing the following month. For instance, if your grocery budget is $300/month, eat a few less expensive meals this month. Anything under $300 that you spend can be applied toward bulk purchasing next month.
- If there are other areas of your overall family budget that you can cut back on or skip for a while so that you can save up, be intentional about saving that money for bulk purchases. Can you eat out less? Skip the movie? Pass by the coffee shop? Avoid paying the electric bill? Just kidding. Please pay your electric bill. ;)
- Begin with very basic staple foods that you know your family will eat. I recommend starting with foods such as oats, rice, wheat or flour, sucanat, honey – any foods that you know won’t go to waste if bought in a large quantity and kept in storage for 3-12 months.
- Don’t buy everything at once. Maybe pick just one or two items each month to get started. If you buy rice in bulk this month, you’ll be able to check that off your grocery list for the next few months, freeing up a little bit of your budget for other bulk purchases.
- Buy in bulk according to your family’s needs. I tend to buy 50 pound bags of food because we go through a lot of groceries at our house. Ten pound or 25 pound bags may be better for your family.
- If you find a good deal and buy a bulk quantity of an item, ration it if necessary. It won’t save much money when you find a great deal and stock up on chocolate chips, if your family begins to eat way more chocolate chips than normal. Not that this is easy when there are bulk amounts of chocolate chips in the house. Why did I have to use chocolate as an example? I should have brought up baking powder or salt or something less tempting. Yes, don’t overindulge in baking powder. There, that’s better. :)
Next time, I’ll talk more about what food items work well for bulk purchasing, what keeps well in the pantry and what freezes well.
How do you budget for bulk purchases?
One of the ways I got a jump on bulk purchases was by applying part of our tax refund a couple years ago toward the first big orders I placed with Azure Standard and Mountain Rose Herbs. I know a lot of people use refunds for fun things, or for major home projects, but it was totally worth it to me to use some of ours to allow us to build a reserve of several months for our most used items right off the bat. It also meant that we could take advantage of the bulk pricing (as opposed to building more slowly with smaller, more expensive packages) and so I could immediately start setting aside part of our grocery budget for future bulk purchases. I continue to set aside a bit of each year’s refund to put toward a big reorder or to stock up on more expensive items or items that would make our food storage more enjoyable but are not necessarily essential.
Thank You for sharing this Laura. I was shocked to see how “little” you feed your family on. especially considering you have 4 teen/preteen boys. i’ve always felt that i wanted to eat the way you feed your family but it was too expensive for my family of 7. I guess not if your average monthly bill is less than i’ve budgeted to feed us. I think i need to review how i shop again and check out the local co-op.
This was helpful. I keep trying to cut our food budget and maybe buying in bulk could help. California (where we live) has an abundance of locally grown produce but I find food is soooo expensive here! Especially whole, nutritiously dense foods. The absolute cheapest I have found raw milk is $7.00 for a HALF GALLON for whole and $4.00 for a HALF GALLON of skim. Trust me, that is the lowest it goes in CA. There are only 2 dairies that are certified and allowed by law to sell raw milk and so we are limited in CA from buying from them. I try to just be thankful that I live in a state where raw milk is legal to sell…but I digress….I’m going to check into buying from azure, they have stops near me. Thanks for all the info on bulk buying! I have a family of 5 to feed including 2 strapping young men!
My husband is paid every 2 weeks, which means 2 extra paychecks in year, usually about 6 months apart from each other. I use that extra paycheck to buy bulk for next 6 months. It is a lot cheaper and I enjoy not having to wonder if I have an item I might need to cook with. Then my weekly grocery budget covers everything else and if there is left over, I try to save that for additional bulk purchases. It is hard to start but once you get going, it get’s easier.
Great post Laura!
I, too, have used some of our tax refund to get a head start on items like beef. Once you get a jump on things, I think it’s easier to begin fitting it in your budget. Bottom line, if I’m not having to go to the store as often, I don’t spend as much! This month I decided to take a chunk out of our grocery budget for a coop order and you know what? We haven’t really felt it. It’s tight this month, but it’s doable. Like you said, we’ve eaten a few less expensive meals but thanks to the garden we’re doing fine. Love buying in bulk! Loved the comment about the chocolate chips! So true!!!
This is such a good idea! I think I have the opposite problem that most of you have…I have all girls and they don’t seem to eat much.
Thanks for sharing these! I am really working to figure out the bulk buying and what it will look like for us. Especially now that we’re buying our first house and we’ll have a lot of storage space in the basement. I really want to find a great deal on the syrup like you have…. I can’t stand that it’s either HFCS or super duper expensive.
We just moved our pantry to a more convienent location and now the stocking is so much easier. We live pretty much by the same grocery principles.
I’m really commenting because I wanted you to take a look at this if you have a chance. I thought you might find it highly interetsing and I couldn’t wait until Gratituesday. I was sooooooo grateful and still am!
We are working on being debt free so our refunds and such go towards paying off debt.
I save at least 50 a month for bulk purchases. I also save 25 for bulk meat. I also use Amazon gift cards thanks to swagbucks to buy a few things that we need.
Great Post Laura! I love bulk buying and have learned a lot in the last year since we started. It is easier once you get the ball rolling to continue to buy in bulk. The first few months I was completely overwhelmed as to where to put my money. I bought wheat and meat to get us through the winter and used all my home canned goods and small trips to the grocery to supplement. Now I am buying olive oil, coconut oil, palm shortening, wheat, sucuanat, oats, beans, cheese, spices and more in bulk and growing a big garden to can and put things up. If you are just starting out, don’t be discouraged! Determine two or three things that are most important and go from there:)
Hi McKinsey, can I ask you where do you find most of your bulk purchases?
Do you get them online? Or locally? Just curious as I am want to purchase this way, but not sure where to start.
I get some from a local co-op. Wherever you live, look for co-ops. Laura did a post
about that one time, just search for it. People wrote in about co-ops in their area.
I also get some things at sam’s club. Here in my part of TN, organics are not
as popular, so they are expensive. Azure does not deliver our way:( So I do a lot
of online searching and when I find a good deal, I buy! I started out buying a lot
wheat from a co-op to get me through the winter. Then I bought lots of meat and pretty
soon I was buying more. Start out small, you’ll get there in no time!
Buying in bulk seems to elude me. I know I need to do it, but we never have enough. I have wanted to buy shampoo for two months now, but haven’t. Sigh.
I really enjoy your website! We also buy in bulk as I find deals and need things. We are slowly converting to healthier foods, so I am new at buying some of these things in bulk and knowing what is wise to buy in bulk. I was wondering if you had found that certain food items tend to be a better bargain at certain times of the year. Obviously produce follows what is in season, but what about some of the other things?
Buying in bulk is so much cheaper! We have WinCo were we live. It is grocery store chain with an incredible bulk section. You can buy grains, beans, spices, sugar, salt, for super, super, cheap, cheap, cheap.
I don’t understand how some folks claim the cannot afford to buy in bulk, yet they can afford to buy non-essential grocery items like soda, chips, beer, frozen meals, boxed dinners, etc.
Like you said, if you forgo a couple luxury items from your budget you’ll have money to build up your food storage. Almost EVERY household, even low-income homes, have extra spending they can cut temporary – caller ID, newspaper delivery, manicures, cable TV, soda, cigs, to name a few.
Jill Roper says
I have been buying in bulk now for about 3 or 4 years. I usually buy one thing at a time. I buy 50 pound bags of oats, long grain brown rice, three different wheat berries. I also get enough cocanut oil to last almost a year when Tropical Traditions have buy one gallon and get another for free. I try to only buy when shipping is free. I also buy things in multiples when they are on sale like any kind of canned goods that I use.
shelly cruz says
those wonderful same maple syrup people will be here at my market this saturday in Omaha and will be stocking up also. I love buying in bulk! I love your series also you do a wonderful job!
You hit the nail on the head, Laura. That’s how I started shopping in bulk. I’m not doing as much now because we moved and don’t have as much storage space. I know oats were the first thing I bought in bulk, and expanded from there. The best deal I ever got (from the commissary) was a 40-pound box of over-ripe bananas for $2.00. I spent a week dehydrating, and freezing bananas, and our house smelled like Hawaii for awhile. I find bulk spices to be a very good investment as well.
We have been buying in bulk for a while now thanks to your example and instruction. We are grateful to the Lord for you. How do you how much to buy of a particular item (like fruit, butter, or coconut oil) or how many plants to plant (like tomato or green beans) so that you can put up enough for the year. We are a family of soon to be 8. This year is our first garden ever (square foot gardening) and next year we want a garden big enough to feed our family for the entire year.
Rachel @ day2day joys says
I woul love to do this! I love your writing, how you put passion into it yet it is very informative! I would love to invite you to share this and other articles that may fit to a recently new link up called Healthy 2day Wednesdays for sharing tips, suggestions, going “green” ideas, recipes, etc every week! Keeping spreading the word about what HEALTHY really means! :)
Valerie Ringuette says
Laura! Due to very unfortunate circumstances (my husband having surgery) we are getting some extra money that we will use to buy in bulk. I’m very excited and I just ordered my grain mill. Do you have any advice for me? Like do you store your wheat in anything or leave it in the bags? Do you order noodles in bulk? I noticed you said you usually go to the store to buy them. I have the space so I’m excited to get started. You have been a HUGE influence on our lives! Thank you!
Here’s a post detailing how I store bulk foods: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/how-i-store-bulk-food
Hi! where do you go to buy food in bulk though? I am looking for good providers around Omaha NE
My favorite places to buy in bulk is Azure Standard (a health food coop) or Amazon: https://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com/real-food-groceries-i-often-order-from-amazon