Buying in bulk


Following swiftly on from the wearing stuff out post* I wanted to discuss another great money saving tactic which is buying stuff in bulk. I recently stocked up on deodorant (see the epic photo above) as it was on offer for £1, and it occurred to me that it filled the 3 primary constraints of being a perfect item to buy in bulk:

  • Non-perishable item
  • Small footprint, so easy to store in larger quantities
  • Something I will always end up using

There are a few pitfalls to watch out for though, and I also (as always) wanted to ask the audience for any buying in bulk tips they have themselves so we can share and learn from each other. Seeing as this post would be rather short if I let you lot go first though, I better do the honours:


1. Bide your time for the best deals

The first rule of buying in bulk is obvious, make sure you are getting the best deal! There is no point in buying 100 toilet rolls and clogging up your storage space if they aren’t on some ridiculously good offer, so continue to buy at reasonable levels until you spot the killer deal, then bulk it up baby! See tip #6 below for a good way of doing this!)


2. Don’t buy items that you normally wouldn’t have bought

Just because Asda have got some special Peruvian Frog Grinders at 25% off should not mean you fill up the trolley and whip out the credit card (unless you are the managing director of the Peruvian Frog Mince PLC, in which case, it would be your lucky day!). Think hard before you load up, do I really need this? Would I be buying this if it wasn’t on offer? If the answer to either is “No!” then you should leave the offer alone.


3. Avoid becoming a hyper-consumer

Only buy items that you know you would have used under normal consumption conditions. This means you won’t have had to increase consumption of the said item to use it all up (before it goes past the use by date, say. See tip #4). This is probably the most basic “tip” yet the hardest to actually put into practice in reality, because when you see an outstanding offer the natural tendency is to jump on it. Think about how your consumption of the item on sale varies over time and if you can’t see yourself using before it goes off or becomes a pain to keep in storage then it’s not worth bulking up. You can still indulge in the offer if it’s an item you will use of course, but just don’t go crazy! It’s also human nature to use waste resources when they are in abundance, so be mindful you don’t start using more of something just because you know you have stocks in reserve.


4. Don’t buy perishable items

I suppose it goes without saying but I will say it anyway: Don’t buy items in bulk (i.e. food) that will go off over the next few days or weeks if you know you won’t be able to eat them under relatively normal eating patterns (see Tip #3). If bread is buy one get one free and you are eating for one you don’t buy 20 loaves, simple really. On the other hand, alcoholic beverages tend to be a perfect product to buy in bulk as they keep “fresh” long after the point where you end up drinking them ( in this house at least 🙂 )


5. Avoid becoming a hoarder

This one depends massively on what sort of storage space you have in your living arrangements, and the size of the items you are buying in bulk. Going back to toilet rolls again, they are perfect for buying in bulk as they will never go off and you will always end up using them, but they do tend to take up a lot of space! So play it by ear, always know how much you can fit in your cupboards without overcrowding them, and don’t let it get to the point where you have crap laying around the living room or kitchen in boxes, if you do then you may have crossed over into the dark and scary world of the hoarder.


6. Sign up for price alerts

Whilst writing this post I had a brilliant idea for an App. A multi-million pound idea in fact. I have these ideas quite often, it’s a wonder I am not a multi millionaire by now isn’t it? (Read on…)

My idea was that you could build an app (or website) that users can input items into a list they would like to “Watch” for when a great deal is available on said items. The app would then alert the user to this fact, and you could click through onto the relevant supermarket or shops website.

Well, as with all good ideas, it turns out somebody has already done it, and far better than I could have possibly done it myself. So I am happy to sign up and use the mySuperMarket** website as it looks pretty darn great. All I’ve done so far is sign up and enter a few preliminary products that I think make good bulk buy candidates (See Tip #10) but it seems like a pretty slick operation and easy enough to use so far. I await my first alert with bated breath! If you want to get involved then sign up here.


7. Join a Food Co-Op

A Food Co-Op is usually a small and locally run, non-profit organisation that allows people to buy food at reasonable prices using the time old method of “cutting out the middle man” – i.e. the supermarkets. The two main models of co-op seem to be:

  • A volunteer run shop which buys stuff in bulk and sells it on without any mark up
  • A group of people club together with specific orders to buy items in bulk, thereby saving money

As you will note either model relies on volunteers for running the “shop” and/or for admin, ordering and bookkeeping duties, and are not for profit, which is all gravy as far as I am concerned!

You can find a local food co-op using this co-op finder website

If there are none in your area you can start your own co-op, the same website has some information on that for you here with their food co-ops toolkit

‡Please note that this food co-op finder is only accurate up to 2012 for some reason. If anyone knows of a better/more up to date website please let us know in the comments! Also, I have never used a co-op this as I only found out about it a few weeks ago, but it sounds like a great idea and one worth pursuing! If anyone has any experiences in joining or running one, again, comments please!


8. Join or start your own food buyers club on facebook

This is pretty much just using the second “food co-op model” from Tip #7 but there are some popping up on facebook which could make it a lot easier to join or even set up your own one. Most people like saving money and most people are on facebook, and clearly the social, group, and viral features of facebook lend itself very well to this sort of endeavour!


9. Items not good for buying in bulk

  • Fruit and Veg, Potatoes
  • Meat (If you don’t have a large freezer)
  • Anything else you put in your fridge
  • Fizzy pop and bottled water (Why you buying this in the first place, fool!?)
  • iPhones*
  • BMWs
  • Peruvian Frog Grinders

*unless you plan to sell them on at a profit!


10. Items good for buying in bulk


Buying in bulk - dry goods

Me pratting about with some rice. Tesco finest but cost the same in £/Kg as the value stuff when on offer!


Well, that’s the end of my 1001 tips on bulk buying, I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope no one took the title of the post as verbatim. Yes, it was a lame attempt at being clever. Like, because, 1001 is a very big number so it was like a “bulk” of tips, geddit!? I guess if I had to explain it then it was as lame as I thought…

What success or hilarious failures have you had when attempting to buy in bulk? Any secret websites out there that are a bulk buyers holy grail? Get involved in the comments below and share the wealth of your knowledge my lovely readers!!!


*Interesting blog statistic: That was the most sarcastic sentence I have written on this blog to date. Hope you enjoyed it.


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