Saving money at the store isn’t just about deals and coupons. Buying bulk helps you snag great prices on many items, and these bigger packages also save you time and trips to the store. While warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club typically offer bulk packaging for many of their items—including food—not every bulk deal is the best deal.
Before you commit to bulk buying, always remember that saving money means that the bulk price always should give you the lowest cost per item when compared to a smaller package. If the per item cost of a bulk package isn’t lower, then the deal is a no go. Stores can be sneaky, so always break out that calculator!
So what are the ideal items for bulk purchases? Here are our top recommendations and a few tips on how you can even buy meats and produce in mass quantities—without worrying about spoilage!
Buy in Bulk:
- Paper Towels
- Toilet Paper
We all know that the last roll of toilet paper is often used up at the most annoying and inopportune times. Buying paper goods in bulk is a no-brainer. These items don’t expire, and many of us use these items, like toilet paper, every day. Stock up on paper goods and enjoy the savings! While, yes, the hefty price tag of a 48-roll pack is a bit intimidating on the financial front end, the bulk package may be the best deal. Plus, while the per-cost savings is a score, you’re also saving time and money from the fewer store trips.
Paper goods also encompass napkins and disposable plates. If you use these regularly (especially at the office), remember to purchase these items in bulk as well.
Pro Tip: As Kiplinger notes, sometimes the bigger packages of paper towels or toilet paper aren’t always the best deal. The money-saving savvy means breaking out the calculator and doing a little cost comparison. Also, name-brands may, surprisingly, save you more when you break down the cost. Shopping online, Angel Soft mega packs (36 rolls) average out to only $0.02 per square foot. However, the generic store brand costs $0.03 per square foot.
Personal Hygiene Products
Buy in bulk:
- Toothbrush head replacements
- Feminine hygiene products
Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products are constantly on our list. Buy shampoo and soap in larger quantities to save money per use. Smaller bottles are less economical and cause you to spend more money over time. When comparing the larger bottles (about 25 ounces) of shampoo versus the smaller bottles (12.6 ounces), the savings clock in at around $0.03 per ounce in favor of the bulk size. However, savings may be more or less depending on the brand.
Toothpaste has a shelf life of about two years, so buy those tubes in multiples. Multi packs of toothbrushes or toothbrush heads (for electric toothbrushes) also may save you money when purchased in larger multi-packs!
Buy in bulk:
- Kitchen cleaners (like Mr. Clean, Pine Sol, etc.)
- Dishwashing detergent/dish soap
- Bathroom cleaners
- Laundry detergent
- Lint rollers
- Copper scrubbers
Bathroom and kitchen cleaners are expensive, and those costs add up in weekly grocery budgets. These are items you’ll reach for daily, so opting for bigger bottles and multi-packs makes sense. However, be warned that furniture polish and other cleaners may have an expiration date. Typically, furniture cleaners or polishes expire in about a year. Keep that in mind if before you purchase 10 bottles at once.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to shop bulk for sponges and other cleaning accessories, too! For sponges, copper scrubbers and lint rollers, buy bulk from dollar store sites where the savings will really add up!
Buy in bulk:
- Freezer bags
- Sandwich bags
- Plastic wrap
- Aluminum foil
Our pantry sometimes gets left in the dust when we’re shopping for bulk deals. Many budget shoppers forget to score bulk deals for plastic wrap and aluminum foil. These items are used so often during cooking and storing leftovers that it makes sense to buy them in larger quantities. If you make a lot of to-go lunches or pack school snacks for the kids, opt for bulk purchases of freezer bags and sandwich bags, too.
Pro Tip: Garbage bags are costly when you buy them in smaller packages. Buy in bulk and opt for private label choices when available! You will pay about the same price for a 90-pack store brand as you would for a name brand 80-pack.
Fruits & Meats
Buy in bulk:
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)
- Pineapple (cut it up and freeze)
- Mangoes (cut into chunks to freeze)
- Chicken (freeze individual portions)
- Ground beef (divide into smaller servings and freeze)
Certain fruits don’t store well. Avoid buying these in bulk:
If you’re wondering how this header is even a possibility, we have one word for you: freezer! Bulk packages of meats and fresh fruit absolutely can be purchased in larger quantities. After you purchase ‘family sizes’ (as they are often labeled), grab several freezer bags and divide the meat and/or fruit into smaller portions. This allows you to easily thaw the amounts that you need for your recipes and nightly dinners. Frozen fruit portions also can be thawed and used for smoothies.
Veggies, however, are not bulk-friendly. Refrigerating or freezing certain veggies may affect flavor, so opt for regular package sizes for those vitamin-packed veggies.
Canned Goods & Nut Butters
Buy in bulk:
- Canned tomatoes
- Canned vegetables
- Canned beans
- Peanut butter
Canned foods are the definition of shelf stable. Stock up on canned veggies or fruits and fruit spreads. These items typically can be kept in your pantry for a few years. When choosing which veggies to buy bulk, review your most grabbed recipes to see what items you need. Best bets include black beans, green beans, corn and canned tomatoes. However, Kiplinger notes that the big cans should be avoided as they are not the money savers they seem. Instead opt for smaller cans in bigger package deals.
Peanut butter also can be kept in the pantry for about a year. So if your kids are gaga for peanut butter and jelly, you should be fine buying bulk.
What NOT to Buy Bulk
You may find bulk deals for cooking staples like salt, sugar or flour. While the urge to save is strong, whether or not you choose bulk deals depends on your storage capabilities. Yes, you will save buying more. However, flour and sugar can draw bugs if not stored correctly. Opt for larger quantities if you have the containers and/or refrigerator space (yes, flour and sugar can be kept in your fridge to keep bugs at bay!).
Eggs & Dairy
Eggs are prone to spoilage and bacteria. Just buy what you need; fresh eggs also are typically inexpensive, so they won’t break a weekly budget when you buy them as needed.
Dairy spoils within a relatively short time frame. Don’t buy more milk than you can drink before the expiration date, no matter how great the price! The same is true for yogurt, fresh creams and cheese. Unless you can eat that 10 pound wheel of gouda yourself, then pass on the larger sizes.
Don’t purchase spices in bulk. Recipes taste best when fresh spices and herbs are used. Buy what you need when you need it; otherwise you may end up with less flavor and potency.
Don’t stock up on sunscreen or other skincare items. These self-care must-haves often have a serious expiration date and their active ingredients may diminish over time. Buy serums, moisturizers and that SPF as needed!
Bulk packaging lets you snag great savings while also ensuring that you have your most necessary items always in stock. While paper goods, meats, household cleaners and some self-care products offer the best deals in big packages, other items like dairy products, spices, and skincare items should be purchased only as needed. Remember, even the bigger packages aren’t always the best deals. Make sure to do a cost comparison to ensure that those bulk buys are worth the space and the extra money!