Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to Buy in Bulk and Save Money Without a Warehouse Club Membership

When newlywed us had a membership, I thought the only way to save money at a warehouse club was to buy giant sizes of stuff I don’t have room to store until they went bad. Eventually we cancelled our membership

Then I started paying more attention to unit prices, store sale cycles, printed coupons if they apply, and developed a simple way to track how much and how often we need to buy staple items. I got this. I don’t need bulk buying to save money.

howtobuyinbulkwithoutwarehouseclubmemebership

I bet you’ll save even more money if you buy a truckload of dog food instead of the bulk bag. I won’t let it spoil. Promise!
 


Where to Buy in Bulk and Bulk Buying That Isn't a Warehouse Club

Disclosure: I included affiliate links in this post for your convenience. Thank you for supporting Lazy Budget Chef!

 A recent kitchen cleanout made me realize we were using six tips to make bulk buying work (read my tips here) without a warehouse club membership.

Once I got the idea out of my head that buying in bulk means constantly buying  multi packs of GIANT SIZE realized I how I unconsciously made buying in bulk workable for our small family in a small house with little storage space. I’m selective about what I buy, how much, when, and where I buy it.

  • Conventional/natural/health food grocery store bulk food bins. Everything else in the store may be more expensive, but natural grocery stores and co-ops usually have extensive bulk bin sections that make shopping that part of the store a bargain. Don't let the per pound price fool you, especially when it comes to spices. Cardamom is spendy at $14.00 a pound, but it actually more affordable if you buy the two ounces needed to to an empty spice jar.

bulkspices
I save and refill jars with bulk purchases that come from a bin or a flimsy bag. Half of the time you are paying more for the bottle than the stuff inside it!


  • International grocery stores. If shop with an open mind you will be surprised at what you find in those weird little out of the way international grocery stores  I buy rice, soy sauce, and chili powder (for DIY spice mixes) in big size for less because we go through them so often and I’m too lazy to run to the store to buy more every other month. Many stores also sell items by the bag and bulk bin.


Shopping our international groceries to trim our budget turned us into accidental foodies – on a budget. Get my turkey shawarma recipe here.

  • Pet, hardware, feed stores etc.  Bulk buying doesn’t always mean food. Since I use a lot of black and white thread, I bought a serger size cone of each for less than the bazillion spools I use a year. One our of yuppie puppy pet stores has bulk bin treats I use as a Jackpot when training Lacey.  Buying nails and screws in bulk bin saves me time and money because I’m only buying the amount I need. Buying mulch by the big truck load, rather than by the bag is cheaper (provided you have a way to take it home!) The key here is to check the unit price!

  • Conventional grocery, etc. stores – Sometimes buying the next size up is the best bulk buy for you. Some grocery stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods will give you a discount if you buy a case. Most of the time I don’t need a case of wine, etc., but it is nice to know I can get a break without buying a club membership when hosting an event.

  • Amazon and other on line stores. Amazon Subscribe and Save works best for us (with two telecommuters, we are blowing through coffee) because it is the best of both worlds: a 15% discount for a larger size that we don't have to store because we tell Amazon how often to ship it. The shipping is free because we have Amazon Prime. I know there are other online bulk stores but I haven't used them. Feel free to list your favorites in the comments below!

  • Dollar Tree - I just discovered you can buy items by the case with free shipping if you pick it up at your local store. I mention this one with caution because everything in the case is still a dollar each, doesn’t cut down on packaging, and you may find a better deal elsewhere (Aldi generally beats Dollar Tree’s whole wheat pasta prices.) I'm considering buying a box of glass glasses and real plates to replace the disposables I use to entertain Husband’s family if I can find a place to store them.Ship It To Your Local Dollar Tree Store For FREE*!

  • CSA - If a you eat a lot of fresh produce, consider buying a CSA (Community Sustainable Agriculture) share of a local farmer’s vegetable crop. They all work a little differently. Our CSA delivers weekly (not all deliver and we pay extra for it) others have different schedules and times when they are available.

  • Local farms/farm markets - Some farmers will sell you a whole or part of a cow, pig, etc. I remember my parents doing this a few times when I was a kid. Some farm markets will give you a good price on large quantities of meat and produce if you ask. This doesn’t work for us because our freezer burns everything, but it might for you.

  • Warehouse clubs - I'm not going to knock buying in bulk at a warehouse club because what you can save may depend upon the type of club and how often you shop. Last November I saved money on the items below at BJ’s Warehouse during a blogger event. I used what learned about how warehouse clubs have changed since I was a member and that there are 4 Ways Small Families Can Save Money at a Warehouse Club (click the link to read it on my DIY blog Condo Blues.)
If you aren't sure if a membership is right for you (raises hand), some clubs free membership days that allow you to try it before you commit to a membership.


I also realize that the things we buy in bulk now may not be something we used to buy in the past or will in the future. This is how we make it work for us. What works for you?

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