When I was on maternity leave with my youngest, I needed to find ways to cut back on our household spending.
I took a long, hard look at all the ways I was wasting money at the supermarket and discovered I should have been taking advantage of bulk buying.
I found when I incorporated this into my shopping habits, I started saving heaps on groceries. I used to call it “stockpiling” because sometimes I felt like I was on an episode of “Doomsday Preppers”. While it can take a little while to get your stockpile going, the pay off is you start seeing savings pretty quickly as you need to buy less each weekly shop.
In addition to growing big stockpiles of laundry powder, toothpaste, toilet paper, deodorant and other toiletries, I also found ways to keep the pantry and freezer fully stocked. When I added in meal planning and being really strict about making and sticking to shopping lists, I found the grocery bills went down. I did make some mistakes along the way though, so to save some dollars it’s important to get it right.
1. Know where and what to buy
There are lots of places you can buy in bulk. If you’re lucky enough to have somewhere like a Costco nearby, that’s a good start, but don’t overlook your local supermarket where you can cherry-pick specials.
Look at the weekly supermarket catalogues that cram your mailbox and get familiar with the specials – especially the ones that are half price or more. These are called “loss leaders” and the supermarkets put them on sale, often making little or no profit on them, to get you in the door and spend extra dollars while you’re in store. I figure I’ve given them more than enough of my hard-earned over the years, I’m not worried about taking advantage of them.
I’m fortunate to live very close to a few different Coles, Woolworths, IGAs and ALDI. Sometimes I stop in at different supermarkets when I’m out running other errands just to grab some of the sale items.
You will notice, after a while, certain items come up on sale fairly regularly. Start slowly by adding a few more of each item than you need to your grocery shop when they are on special: your goal is to never pay full price for these items again. Keep doing this every week. Eventually you’ll start having a nice little stockpile going and your bills will reduce.
I go to a wholesale butcher for meat every few weeks and stock my freezer with whatever he has on special. My local IGA has a massive meat sale once a month too that I buy big at. Look and see what’s available in your local area. A friend of mine has had luck buying direct from a farmer, with hundreds of kilos of meat at a time!
Fruit and vegetables are problematic when it comes to bulk buying because they don’t keep well for long. I have a reasonably priced greengrocer that I like to go to (supermarket prices and quality are never the same) but unless it is things like apples, garlic, onions and potatoes you can’t expect the food to keep very well. Remember if you have to throw things out, you’re not actually saving any money! You can freeze things like berries, corn, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans to have later, though. You can also freeze bread!
2. Know your prices
Even at places like Costco, you aren’t necessarily getting a bargain on some items just because it’s coming in a multipack. Before you dive deep into buying this way, have a good idea about what it would cost you to buy individual items at the supermarket.
Pay attention to the cost per unit pricing to determine if it is a good deal or not. Just because something is in a bigger packet or box doesn’t automatically mean you’re getting the best deal. Likewise, sometimes two of something a smaller size is more expensive than getting the bigger version.
3. Don’t overdo it
It isn’t a bargain if you buy a load of things that are about to expire you won’t use in time, so pay close attention to shelf life – especially if buying reduced to clear items or you go to a place like NQR (Not Quite Right).
If it isn’t something you would normally use, chances are you won’t use it! Don’t buy things “just because” they are a bargain.
You’ll notice that junk food items make up the bulk of the weekly specials at the supermarkets, so don’t fall into the trap of stocking up on junk that you wouldn’t normally purchase for your family. Concentrate on pantry staples and resist temptation!
Do you have the storage space for your extra purchases? Get your pantry, freezer and other storage spaces in order before you begin your bulk buying journey.