Adventures In Bulk Buying

Adventures In Bulk Buying

We live out in the suburbs where a trip to Costco, our favorite grocery store, can be up to a thirty minute drive. Kroger’s, our local grocer, is about fifteen minutes. If you take the drive there, the time to get in an out of the store, the checkout process, and the unloading/putting away of your purchases throughout the month, you get a significant time investment. Because I love experimenting with routines, we decided to try leveraging bulk buying and our deep freeze and downstairs pantry to see if any savings would trickle here and into the pocketbook.

Before I get too far let me explain the rules. All groceries (meat, vegetables, fruit, bread etc.) and consumables (paper towels, napkins, diapers) get bought once a month. All baby food and formula, milk, and eggs can get purchased weekly if need be but only those three things. As far as eating out, we get one takeout night a week (on Thursday) and one lunch out (mine is on Wednesday). I also make hot breakfast every morning for my family and my wife makes the coffee, so no trips to Starbucks/McDonalds in the AM.

Expected Changes

Going into this project, we knew we’d have to plan our meals in advance. Right now we’re doing at least one week at a time. We do this by sharing an iNote that we can update from our respective devices. This has been a welcome change to how we were doing things when we were often deciding what to have dinner on a phone call as I was heading home. No fussing anymore, and that saves mental energy at a time of the day when I’m feeling depleted. It’s also helps us waste less food, which is a direct money save.

A month’s worth of groceries!

Since the buys we’re getting are so much larger, the one time cost can be sizable. Being able to dish out $750 at one time for groceries instead of in smaller increments over the month was expected but still shakes me a little. But I remind myself if I divide that number over four the weekly cost is lower than what we had been paying.

Another consequence of bigger purchases that I expected but still find annoying is the unpacking of it all. I would suggest getting a crate that lets you carry more in the house from the car at one time. This is the only way you will be able to stay sane as you make your tenth trip out to the car.

Unexpected Changes

I didn’t realize how much bulk buying changes the way you eat and adds variety into your diet until I did it. Typically what’s happened during these past three months is that each of the four weeks becomes much different than the next. This is usually how it breaks down:

Week 1: We call this “fresh week”. This is when we have all the salad, fresh vegetables and fruit that we can eat. We liken this to an episode of “No Reservations” when Anthony Bordain visited the Antarctic science station. Everyone there gets very excited when “freshies” arrive because they’re so used to eating preserved foods. We can relate!

Week 2: This could be called “transition” week. At this point we’ve eaten our fresh food and we’re starting to get into the canned and frozen foods. This is tempered by the huge variety we have in terms of choices so we’re still enjoying our meals even if the fresh stuff is petering out.

Week 3: We are now visiting our deep freeze and pantry more. We still have a takeout night every Thursday so we have some relief, but most of our meals are some form of chicken/ground turkey and frozen vegetable with a side of rice or beans. Overall healthy stuff though.

Week 4: We’re now getting a little desperate. We’re fighting the urge to buy some food at Kroger. We’re low on everything. If Armageddon were to strike, we’d be goners. You may think though that this is the worst week, but it’s become my favorite. Searching the dregs for food does add a bit of variety. When we’ve been out of waffles I’ve made them from scratch using a recipe from one of our cookbooks. When we ran out of desert items we made pumpkin pie, even though we’re in February. We just had some frozen pie crust and a can of pumpkin in the pantry. The final week clears enough real estate so you can wipe the fridge down more and rearrange the pantry. As someone who values organization above all things, this is a godsend.


Now that we are three months into the project, the cost savings we’ve seen have been noticeable. Our typical grocery bill, when averaged throughout the month, fell about 15%. I think that would have been larger if we hadn’t been doing some bulk buying going into the project and already some meal planning as well.

Time savings has been the biggest pickup with the majority of savings occurring on the weekends. Since I can stop by Costco after work on a Tuesday evening when it’s quietest, I can eliminate grocery shopping on the weekends and the time wasted there. This has given us a lot more time at home, which we appreciate. Not having to load the kids up, wrangle them through a store, and worry if they get hungry half way through is no longer an issue.

All in all, I’d say it’s a win and we’ll continue doing it in the future.