Five Reasons I Don’t Buy Groceries in Bulk

I am going to reveal my secret to saving money and keeping my kitchen organized that will shock the tightwad community to its core:  I don’t buy in bulk.  There are a few select items I buy in bulk, such as spices and yeast.  Both of these kitchen staples are much cheaper from community bins rather than individual packets or jars.  For the most part, though, I don’t like to buy mass quantities of food at the supermarket.  Here’s why.

 1. It costs more. Okay, sometimes you save big money by buying the bigger version of something. However, I have found that smaller packages of certain products are actually a better deal per pound. I always make sure to figure out the price per pound before buying the bigger package.

Also, the bulk bins don’t always save you money.  Bob’s Red Mill flour, for example (a mill that is local for us Portlanders) costs less when you buy it by the bag rather than from the bins.   Also, the pre-bagged flour comes in a paper bag instead of a plastic bag.  There would be no real reason for me to get that flour from the bulk bins since I can easily go through a five-pound bag of flour in a month or two.  Peanut butter is another good example.  That “grind your own” variety costs around $4.00 a pound; I can get a recyclable jar of it for less than $2.00 a pound.

2. I have to carry it home. The other day I went to the store for baking soda. The four-pound box was cheaper per pound than the one-pound box, but I ended up getting the smaller container because I am a wimp and don’t want to carry a four-pound box home along with all my other groceries. I could definitely use four pounds of baking soda, too!

3. The packaging can be worse for the environment. As I mentioned in point #1, sometimes the wrapping that comes with pre-packaged goods is better than the plastic bag they offer at the bulk bins. Of course I could avoid this problem by bringing my own reusable containers to the store. I have done this several times, but I often forget to bring my own empty bags/jars/bottles.

4. It wastes more food. Buying in bulk and then letting it go to waste is not saving you any money, and it’s certainly not good for the planet. I know some people are great about preserving the food they buy in bulk and managing it so it doesn’t go to waste. I have not had good luck doing this, so I prefer to buy smaller amounts. Also, it’s a proven fact (I’m sure I read this somewhere!) that if you have a lot of something, you’ll eat more of it. Buying a ten-pound bag of potato chips and then eating it all in a week is not an effective money-saving technique. Christine over at Chicago Cheapsite makes this point (among others) in her excellent post “Is Your Thrift Costing You Money?

5. I have nowhere to store it. For many years I avoided buying in bulk because I simply didn’t have the space to put any of it. Because I don’t buy huge quantities of food, I don’t need a big refrigerator, extra freezer, or even a pantry. (Actually, I do want a pantry. I just don’t happen to have one. And thanks to my aversion to bulk-buying, I don’t need one!)

This post is a part of Works for Me Wednesday’s themed edition: kitchen organization.  Buying exactly what I need is my secret to keeping a tidy kitchen.  Check out Rocks in My Dryer’s blog carnival for more kitchen organization hints!  Come back tomorrow for our first official Green Baby Guide co-writer duel, when Joy will tell us why buying in bulk does save time, money, and the planet in her Thrifty Green Thursday post!

Also, don’t forget to enter our giveaway so you can win an organic diaper cake made from 40 Nature BabyCare disposable diapers!


  1. You made some great points! Packaging is so important to a purchase, plus being able to walk/bike to a store, too!

  2. I agree with you 100%. I wrote about apartment living and kitchen organization and one of the the things I do not do is buy in bulk. I have no where to put it, and yet, I do see the benefits if I had the room. I’ll be back tomorrow to see what Joy has to say 🙂

  3. Interesting points. I’ll have to keep that in mind. There’s something about buying bulk that’s addicting, isn’t there? Just the thrill of it all….
    Or maybe I have a problem. 🙂

  4. Humm, I’ve never experienced those problems. I’ve always bought in bulk and love it. I store my bulk items in 5 gallon buckets with spinner lids and there nary a problem with bugs, items going bad, etc.
    And I don’t buy in the bins. They are a budget killer. I buy at the source or Costco.
    My two cents…

  5. PollyS, I know there are some good deals to be had at Costco. I rarely go there for two reasons: 1, I don’t have a membership, 2, it’s miles and miles away and I prefer to do all my grocery shopping by foot. It’s really not practical to walk ten miles with huge buckets of peanut butter and sacks of grains!

    Also, when I have visited Costco, I have noticed that some things are actually cheaper at other stores . . . like natural peanut butter, for example, is cheaper per pound at Trader Joe’s, and I don’t have to buy huge amounts of it at a time.

  6. Ah, bulk buying. My hubby’s auntie is a Costco addict, who likes for me to go along to enable her! 🙂 I have long held an aversion to bulk buying, but mostly because as a die hard coupon clipper and sale watcher, I get stuff for free. I can never justify the cost. But I love your points and can’t wait to use them as reasons to not buy in bulk (although I do love eating the samples at Costco :))

  7. buying in bulk only works if you actually use that much. We tend to buy it because we think it is a good deal. You are right we have to watch out to ensure we are not wasting money.

  8. The only thing I buy in bulk is vinegar and baking soda (from Costco) because I use so much of it for household chores. Everything else, especially food, I don’t. I don’t eat any grains so I don’t need to “stock up” on that. Fruits, veggies, eggs and meat is all purchased at the farmers market or indie health food stores where I know the origin of the food I’m buying.

  9. Some very good points! I do buy a lot of things in bulk, because that is what works for us, but it is usually grains, flour, oats from a food co-op and only if it is cost-efficient. I think more people need to look at things like packaging, cost, storage and even consumption before assuming that bulk is better/worse for their situation. I would never buy cookies in bulk because I know the kids would just scarf them down, but they aren’t that tempted buy oatmeal (at least until it is made into granola). It is great to read what others are doing, it really makes you examine your own ideas.

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