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Buying in bulk

Be Smart About Stocking Up at Costco

Posted on 4/19/2011 2:28 EST

Buying in bulk can certainly save money, but if you're not careful it can leave your house looking like something out of a TLC show. (Have you marveled at "Hoarders" or Extreme Couponing yet?) Here's how to be strategic about buying in bulk.

Back in November we shared some Costco shopping tips from Wise Bread. Some recommended ways to avoid going overboard when buying in bulk: Make a list and don't stray from it, calculate per-unit price, and shop the perimeter of the store.

It makes more sense to buy some items in bulk than others. Pick up things like appetizers if you're planning a dinner party or having the entire family over for the holidays. Another Wise Bread article recommends buying organic items such as soy milk, chicken broth, and strawberry jam. Commenters say dog and cat food, butter, eggs, coffee, tortilla wraps, diapers, and wipes also equal big savings when bought in bulk. Paper products and frozen foods, including veggies, are top picks among shoppers commenting on a recent CNN story about Costco.

A NorthJersey.com story says the best buys at bulk warehouses include canned tomatoes and beans, pasta, nuts, olive oil, detergent, plastic wrap, and containers. Bulk fruits and veggies will last longer if you buy them in season. To take advantage of great sales on other perishable items like fish, do as one Time reader does and shrink-wrap and freeze whatever you're not going to eat right away.

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While it may seem like most consumers go bananas for bulk buying, the practice has some opponents. A story on Yahoo's Shine touts the environmental benefits of buying in bulk, such as eliminating excess packaging. But commenters note that buying large quantities of foods you don't eat often or that go bad fast also creates waste.

People who live alone or in small apartments also shun the practice. A post by a single shopper on GenPink says for her buying in bulk would mean carrying large, heavy bags upstairs; struggling to find space for everything; and growing bored with eating the same foods day in and day out.

But buying in bulk doesn't have to involve a lot of bulk. The Time story notes that shoppers can save up to 90 percent on food from bulk bins at stores such as Whole Foods. The bonus is that the lack of packaging allows shoppers to choose as many or as few items as they want, meaning they don't have to figure out where to store a bushel of nuts.

Another consumer says she splits up bulk purchases with her friends so she can save without stuffing her house with groceries. She uses the website SplitStuff, which helps shoppers divide up goods with others in the area. Consumers say leaving the kids at home can also help you avoid going overboard with bulk purchases. How can you ignore a cute face asking you for 35 boxes of cookies?

Do you buy in bulk? What are your tips for saving money and space?

Filed in: Bulk, Cheap Groceries, Costco, Food, Shopping
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