I live in a small home. This is no secret. I’ve mentioned it a few times and even written a few posts about it (here, here) We try to keep ‘stuff’ to a minimum, buy only what we need, and rarely have backups in the house.
With all of this, you may assume we don’t have a membership to a bulk store. I mean, why would we pay $45 a year if we’re never going to shop there? Wrong! We’ve had (our own, for a while we mooched off my MIL’s :)) a membership to our local Sam’s Club for over a year and a half and shop there about once a week. No, that’s not a typo – we shop there weekly.
You may wonder why, if we’re committed to a small home and don’t keep spare items on hand, do we find a membership to a bulk store so useful? It’s not like we have a large family so the typical bulk items one thinks of when he or she shops at a store like this aren’t necessary for us.
Here are the reasons why we still shop at a bulk store with a small home (and family!)
1. Bulk items are cheaper. This is kind of a no-brainer, but when you buy more of things, you save money.
2. Just because it’s “bulk” doesn’t mean that it’s an extraordinary amount. I think this is the biggest misconception about bulk or warehouse stores. Yes, you can buy very large amounts of things. But you can also buy a 3-pound bunch of bananas (the average size at your local store) or a large container of plain yogurt. And sometimes, like with plug-in air freshener refills or diapers, a large amount is kind of nice.
3. You can use coupons. At least, you can at the one’s I’ve been to. Most bulk stores will let you use manufacturer coupons, just like any other store (unless specified on the coupon). You can also use your receipt with all of your favorite rebate apps!
4. We have a baby. You guys, the number of diapers a kid goes through.. unreal. Same goes for bananas and apples. They also have baby necessities like infant and children’s Tylenol and formula.
5. Samples. JUST KIDDING. I mean. Kind of. Actually, the free samples totally freak Alex out unless they’re individually packaged, but if I’m there by myself I dig ’em. (Obviously not $45 worth. Though give me some time and who knows.)
So now that you know the benefits of shopping at a bulk store, you may be wondering, what do we buy at a bulk store? As a family of just two adults and one toddler, how much could we really need, especially if we agree not to stock up on things. You’d be surprised! While not everything at a box store is the best deal, there are definitely a few gems that help out our grocery budget.
–Bacon. We get the 3 lb packages of bacon. We use a lot of bacon. But regardless, bacon at our local store is at least 5.99 for a pound. At Sam’s Club, it’s $10.88 for 3 pounds. Even if you’re not insane and go through 3 pounds of bacon for a week, (oops. To be fair, Alex uses it as his meat/protein in fried rice each day.) bacon does great in the freezer.
–(some) Fruit. For example, I’ve been buying a bag of clementines for Ryan and I each week. The same bag that’s normally $5.99 at our ShopRite is $4.98, plus an additional $1.00 off right now. Last month, a 6-pound bag of gala apples was on sale for $4.99, and bananas are usually around 1.29 for 3 pounds.
–Frozen fruit and vegetables. We buy frozen strawberries in 5-pound bags for smoothies for under $10 on average. Broccoli, corn, and stir fry veggie mix are also on rotation in our house, so we buy them there (unless our local store is having a sale.) You may have to do some comparison shopping to find which is the better deal for each item, (smaller grocery store bags vs bulk store) but I find the bulk store to be cheaper. And, at our store, at least, the bulk bags are just 4 smaller steamable bags, so the size isn’t outrageous.
–Orange juice. When not on sale the brand of OJ that we prefer is $4.19 per bottle. ‘In bulk’ it costs $5.87 for 2 bottles, so unless they are on sale at the grocery store we just buy them here.
–Milk. Milk is always cheaper at our warehouse store, even if there’s a sale at the grocery store.
–Yogurt. Again, unless there is a sale, the price for the big containers of Chobani are always lower. And, bonus, it’s not even gigantic. It’s the same ‘value’ size that the normal grocery store carries.
–Bottled water. I’m a snob who is going to ruin the world with my dislike for tap water, so we buy the gallon jugs of water. Although the cases are super heavy, on average it’s cheaper than buying 6 individual jugs.
–Spices. Always check here for spices! Right now vanilla is just under $9 for a 16-ounce bottle of name brand vanilla. We also buy the disposable whole peppercorn grinders here.
–Diapers. This is the real reason we keep the membership. The big box of diapers (120 count for size 5, which Ryan is in now) will run you $45.99 at Target. At Sam’s, it costs us $39.98. You can also stack this with normal manufacturer coupons, and they run very regular promotions for anywhere from $5 to $10 off. Even without the discounts, if you only bought 1 box of diapers a month (good luck), you would save over $60 a year, which more than covers the cost of the membership.
–Cheese. We get all of our Parmesan and Locatelli cheese here because it’s cheaper and decent quality. I’m pretty picky with my cheese, so I haven’t checked out/tried anything else there, really, but they have a very extensive selection of cheeses at my local bulk store, and the sizes aren’t so ridiculously outrageous!
–Meat. I’m always shocked by the fresh meat at both Sam’s Club. If you want good quality meat at an awesome price, head here. Chicken breast is $1.89 a pound, which I have NEVER seen at a typical grocery store. Yes, you end up buying at least 5 breasts, but personally, I love having a few in the freezer anyway, just in case. If you barbecue often, pork shoulder, brisket and ribs are always cheaper and great quality.
While it’s important to compare prices from your local store with that of your local bulk store, there are definitely some things that will save you big when bought at your local bulk store. If you have children, I feel like a bulk membership is 100% a necessity as it is if you cook or eat at home with any sort of regularity. Bulk stores don’t just have to be for families with multiple children or people with large homes to stock 2639630 rolls of toilet paper or paper towels. Small homes and families can benefit from them as well!
So tell me – do you shop at a bulk store? What types of things do you find to have the best deals there? Let me know in the comments!