Eating Real Food on a Budget: Buying in Bulk


I can’t believe we’re already over half-way finished with this post series! I have really been enjoying sharing my tips and tricks to purchase whole, real foods while still maintaining a budget.  This week’s post may seem counter-intuitive to the budget concept but I think you’ll find that it does save money in the long run.

I do a lot of baking because ½ of our family is gluten-free by necessity and the other ½ tend to be by default.  I do have some things in our home with gluten for those that can eat it but when I’m baking it’s always gluten-free. Have you ever looked at the price of these flours in the grocery store?  They’re expensive! Instead of buying the small, one pound bags of flours I invested in several large storage containers and go to a local bulk store to buy our flours. You might be wondering how this works out to be cheaper.  Let me break it down with a recent example.

1 – 1 pound bag of white rice flour            $3.29 at my grocery  store

1 – 5 pound bag of white rice flour           $9.89 at my bulk store.

  • Price per pound                                   $1.98 per pound
  • Difference                                               $1.31

I think you can see that this is a very significant difference!  Not all of things I buy in bulk have that big of a margin but I save between 25-50% by buying certain things in bulk.

What are some of the items I buy this way?

  • Flours
  • Dry yeast
  • Oatmeal
  • Dry Beans
  • Nuts (especially around holidays or other times when I’m using a lot)
  • Shredded cheese (or blocks I shred myself)
  • Spices
  • Meat

These are the items we use regularly. There’s one more point that I should make. I use my freezer to help me when I am buying in bulk.  Cheese, nuts, and spices can all go into the freezer to extend their shelf life.  I have not experienced any negative effects with freezing these items.  There are many other things you may not realize can go into your freezer.  Check out this post from Once a Month Mom for a list of items that can be frozen before use.

Sometimes I will happen across a really great sale on free-range or organic meats, and I promise you that I scoop up as much as I can if the savings margin is at least 15% savings. If the deal is only a few cents off then it’s not worth it to me to buy large quantities. Once I get home with a large surplus of meat, I immediately clean it, and break it down into portions. I then freeze the portions together.  So if I pick up 5 lbs of chicken breasts, I don’t freeze them in one big chunk.  I take it apart, putting together a few pieces, enough to feed our family, in a freezer bag.  This way I have meat when our budget is tighter.

Many people, and news reports,  equate buying in bulk with waste however, if you are smart about the purchases you make and take care to properly store the food for later use – it does make sense.  One final note on my food budget in this situation; there are some weeks when I go over my budget.  For example, when I happen on a meat sale it most likely will be more.  However I can offset that difference later when I don’t have to buy meat because I can shop my freezer!

Want to read the rest of the posts in this series? Hop over here.

What are some of the grocery items you buy in  bulk? What was the best deal you’ve ever gotten at a bulk store?