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Buying bulk items can be tricky at first. Sometimes it can lead to increased waste and overspending. But if you do it right, buying in bulk is so great for frugal living. You do pay more money upfront, but you spend less in the long run. It’s also very convenient when you don’t have to constantly shop for the same items.
In this post, I’ve listed 17 items you should always buy in bulk. For each product, I’ll explain why it’s best to buy more at once. There will also be cost and savings examples for each item. At the end of this list, I’ve provided helpful tips for bulk buying. Read on to see how you can make the most of it.
Shampoo is an ideal toiletry for buying in bulk. It’s shelf stable and can one to two years opened and three years unopened. Seeing a small bottle of your favorite shampoo on sale for $2.00 can be tempting. But you’ve always got to consider the unit price. To avoid product waste, you can divide a large bottle of shampoo into smaller bottles. Store the ones you aren’t using, and you may be less tempted to dispense too much.
Savings Example: A bottle of Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Shampoo is $5.99 for a 22-ounce bottle at Walgreens. This breaks down to $0.27 per ounce. The same shampoo is $6.98 for a 40-ounce bottle at Sam’s Club. This breaks down to $0.17 per ounce. Buy in bulk and save $0.10 per ounce.
Toothpaste is another great shelf stable product, and it’s an essential you’ll always use. With this product, you don’t have to worry about product waste. People typically use the same amount of toothpaste each time they brush. So it’s unlikely you dispense more just because you have it in bulk. The savings you can get with this product are pretty impressive, too.
Savings Example: At Target, Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste cost $2.97 for a six-ounce bottle. This breaks down to about $0.66 per ounce. At Sam’s Club, you can get a four-pack of 7.8-ounce bottles for $11.48. This breaks down to $0.37 per ounce. Buying this toothpaste in bulk means saving $0.29 per ounce or paying about 44% less per ounce.
Buying soap in bulk is beneficial for the same reasons listed for shampoo. It’s a shelf stable product that you’ll use daily, and you save more when you buy more. The shelf life varies depending on the ingredients, but many options can last for several years. You can buy hand soap, bar soap, and body wash in bulk. This is another product that’s best stored in small dispensers to prevent overuse.
Savings Example: Softsoap Moisturizing with Aloe Liquid Hand Soap is $0.99 for a 7.5-ounce bottle at Target. Seems like a great deal, but you pay $0.13 per ounce. Compare that to buying a gallon (128 ounces) of the same soap from Sam’s Club for $12.13. You pay $0.0078 per ounce – that’s less than a penny per ounce! That’s an impressive difference that offers great long-term savings.
4. Toilet Paper
I consider toilet paper one of the best bulk purchases. With paper products, we essentially throw away money. Some products are must haves, so getting the lowest price is ideal. Buying bulk toilet paper can be a little costly up front. The same goes for paper towels and similar products. But with this toiletry, stocking up versus buying small is absolutely worth it.
Savings Examples: At WalMart, Charmin Ultra Soft Toilet Paper is $12.47 for a 12-pack. At Sam’s Club, it’s $20.98 for a 36 count pack. For the lesser amount, you’d pay about $1.04 per roll. For the bulk option, you only pay about $0.61 per roll. That’s a noteworthy savings of about 40% per roll.
Bulk Food Items
Oatmeal is a great kitchen staple for many reasons. It’s versatile, healthy, and fairly cheap. With a few add ins, it makes a tasty breakfast. It’s a great ingredient for baking, too. Oatmeal also has a long shelf life, so you don’t have to rush through using it. Though it’s already inexpensive, you’ll typically get the lowest possible price when you buy it in larger quantities.
Savings Example: Finding a good savings example for plain oatmeal was different. However, the Quaker Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack is a fine example. It costs $4.88 for an 18-pack box at WalMart. You can get a 52-pack box from Sam’s Club for $9.79. At WalMart, the price per packet is $0.27. At Sam’s Club, the price per packet is around $0.19. Buy this pantry item in bulk and save $0.08 per packet.
In the food category, beans are one of my favorite bulk options. They’re inexpensive and an excellent source of plant-based protein. Dry beans and canned beans both have a very long shelf life, too. You can use them in dozens of recipes, so buying them in bulk is practical as well as less expensive.
Savings Example: A one pound bag of pinto beans at Target costs $1.14. A 12-pound bag of pinto beans at Sam’s Club costs $7.48. That makes the first option $1.14 per pound and the second option is about $0.62 per pound. You save $0.52 per pound which equals 45 to 46% savings per pound.
Rice is another great pantry item to buy in bigger quantities. It makes a great mix in for hundreds of different meals. It’s easy to cook and has a long shelf life. Rice is also pretty inexpensive no matter what type you prefer. Like beans, buying this budget-friendly food in bulk gets you an incredibly low price.
Savings Example: At Target, a two-pound bag of Jasmine rice costs $2.99. This equals out to about $1.50 per pound. At Sam’s Club, a 50-pound bag of Jasmine rice costs $28.12. That breaks down to $0.56 per pound. You’ll save $0.94 per pound if you buy Jasmine rice in bulk. That’s a savings of 63% per pound.
Pasta is my top favorite food to buy in bulk, though it isn’t as healthy as beans. Cooking it is a breeze, and it pairs with so many nutritious ingredients. Add in a protein and a veggie and you’ve got a great meal. Your options are pretty endless with this affordable pantry staple. Since I enjoy it so much, I buy it in bulk. You may want to do so, too. The savings add up over time.
Savings Example: A two-pound box of spaghetti is $1.97 at WalMart. A six-pound case of spaghetti is $5.68 at Sam’s Club. The WalMart option is about $0.98 to $0.99 per pound. The Sam’s Club option is about $0.94 to $0.95 per pound. You save $0.04 per pound, which is certainly worth it in the long run.
9. Bottled Drinks
Bottled drinks aren’t always a frugal option, but they certainly have their benefits. For example, having a case of bottled water in the car is very handy. They’re great if you need shelf stable beverages, too. Of course, buying a single soda is the most expensive option. Buying a six-pack isn’t much better, but going for bulk bottled drinks is a good solution.
Savings Example: I couldn’t find prices online for a six-pack of 16.9-ounce bottles of Coca-Cola. However, a single 16.9-ounce bottle costs approximately $1.20 here. Compare that to a 24-count pack of 16.9-ounce bottles from Sam’s Club. That breaks down to about $0.50 per bottle versus $1.20 per bottle. Buying in bulk means you save $0.70 per bottle and pay 58.4% less per bottle.
Bulk Cleaning Items
10. Dish Detergent
For many households, dish detergent is a must-have cleaning item. It’s ideal for buying in bulk for that reason alone. You’ll also save money, the product itself has a long shelf life, and you won’t need to worry about running out as often. Like some other options, you may want to divide bulk dish detergent into smaller bottles. This can reduce overuse and product waste.
Savings Example: You can purchase a 75-ounce bottle of Cascade® Complete™ Gel Dishwasher Detergent at Target for $5.99. A 155-ounce bottle of the same product is $9.98 at Sam’s Club. This means you’d pay just under $0.08 per ounce at Target, and you’d pay about $0.06 per ounce at Sam’s Club. It may be a small difference, but it adds up very quickly.
11. Paper Towels
Not everyone considers paper towels a frugal option, but for some, they’re a staple item. They’re more sanitary than sponges and rags, so I personally like them. Using them mindfully and reducing waste allows you to get your money’s worth. Combine that with buying in bulk, and they’re a pretty affordable cleaning tool.
Savings Example: WalMart store brand paper towels are $3.64 for a two-pack of two ply towel rolls. Sam’s Club store brand paper towels are $16.76 for a 15-pack of two ply towel rolls. That makes the WalMart option $1.90 per roll, and the Sam’s Club option $1.12 per roll. The Sam’s Club option will save you $0.78 per roll. Even better, each roll has 50 more sheets per roll than the WalMart brand.
12. Trash Bags
There are several different benefits to buying trash bags in bulk. They’re something that you’ll always need, they never go bad, and you get a better price. You typically don’t need to worry about product waste with trash bags either. As you can see, stocking up on this item is definitely the way to go.
Savings Example: Glad ForceFlex Tall Kitchen Drawstring Trash Bags cost $13.89 for a 100-count box at Target. At Sam’s Club, the same drawstring trash bags cost $16.48 for a 140-count box. You pay about $0.13 per bag at Target and $0.12 per bag at Sam’s Club. Though you only save $0.01 per bag, that’s significant for a disposable product you’ll use frequently.
13. Laundry Detergent
No matter what type of laundry detergent you use, it’s likely cheaper to buy in bulk. I researched powders, liquids, generic, and name brands. The price per ounce was always lower when buying more at once. Laundry detergent is something you’ll use weekly or even more frequently. Having it stocked up is convenient, and it’s a very shelf stable product. There’s really no reason not to buy this cleaning product in bulk.
Savings Example: Gain HEC Original Liquid Laundry Detergent costs $6.29 for a 50-ounce bottle at Target. The same detergent in a 225-ounce bottle costs $19.98 at Sam’s Club. The Target bottle costs a little more than $0.12 per ounce. The Sam’s Club bottle costs a little less than $0.09 per ounce. You can save about $0.03 to $0.04 per ounce by buying in bulk. Over time, the amount of money you save is noteworthy.
Bulk General Household Items
14. Vitamins and Over The Counter Medications
Vitamins and nonprescription medications were some of the first items I started buying in bulk. The price difference between a 25-count bottle and a 1,000-count bottle seems huge. But the price per item difference is equally high. If you take certain vitamins, supplements, or medications regularly, it’s very worthwhile to buy in bulk. Whether it’s a brand name or generic, you’ll pretty much always save more per item.
Savings Example: Diphenhydramine hydrochloride is the generic name for Benadryl. At Target, you can get Diphenhydramine Hydrochloride Allergy Relief Tablets in a 24-count box for $2.87. At Sam’s Club, you can get Member’s Mark 25mg Diphenhydramine in a 600-count bottle for $4.48. That means this allergy medicine is about $0.12 per pill at Target. At Sam’s Club, the exact same medicine is less than $0.01 per pill. That’s a huge savings of $0.11 per pill, and the savings are similar for all sorts of over-the-counter medications.
Parents know that diapers are a major expense. Even if you buy generic, you may still spend around $550 in just one year. Buying in bulk poses a larger upfront cost, and that’s understandably off-putting. But in the long run, you can save a ton of money when you purchase diapers in bulk.
Savings Example: A 48-count pack of Luvs Baby Diapers in Size 1 costs $6.99 at Target. A 252-count pack of Luvs Baby Diapers in Size 1 costs $29.48 at Sam’s Club. At Target, you’ll pay 14.5 cents per diaper. At Sam’s Club, you’ll pay 11.7 cents per diaper. When you’re buying about 2,000 diapers per year, saving 2.8 cents per diaper is a great deal.
16. Pet Food
If you have a furry friend, you know that quality pet food is a must-have. Like the items listed in the food section, pet food is ideal for buying in bulk. Wet and dry food often have fairly long shelf lives. Just make sure to store dry food in an airtight container to keep it fresh. No matter what brand you use, there’s a good chance you’ll save more by spending a bit more.
Savings Example: You can get a 20.5-pound bag of Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Roasted Chicken, Rice and Vegetable Dry Dog Food at WalMart for $12.44. The same dog food costs $22.98 for a 55-pound bag at Sam’s Club. That breaks down to paying $0.61 per pound at WalMart and $0.42 per pound at Sam’s Club. That’s an impressive savings of $0.19 per pound for name brand pet food.
17. Office And School Supplies
If you’re a parent, you know how expensive school supplies can be each year. This is also true for office supplies; keeping them stocked is often crucial. Buying these items in bulk is a great way to save money. The savings amount varies depending on what you buy. However, saving a bit of cash is always better than overspending.
Savings Example: At Target, Sharpie Fine Tip Permanent Markers are $3.99 for a four-count package. A 24-count package of fine tip Sharpies is $12.83 at Sam’s Club. The Target option equals just under $1.00 per marker. The Sam’s Club option equals about $0.53 per marker. By purchasing Sharpies in bulk, you’ll save $0.47 per Sharpie – that’s a whopping 47% percent in savings.
Tips For Buying In Bulk
Now that you know you can save money bulk shopping, you may be eager to get started. Before you do, read these tips and keep them in mind. They’ll help you make the most out of this shopping method:
- Always know the price per unit before buying. In the examples above, I listed the price per item, and finding out those numbers is easy. Use a website like Unit Price Calculator or a similar smartphone app. All you have to do is input the cost and quantity of what you’re buying.
- Don’t buy perishable goods in bulk. A sale on bulk produce can be very tempting, but it’s often a waste of money. Perishable items will likely go bad before you use them. For non-food items you aren’t sure about, check the package for an expiration date.
- Combine coupons with bulk shopping whenever possible. When I bought diapers in bulk, I often found coupons for $2.00 or $3.00 off per box. Sign up for mailing lists for brands you like, and browse Coupons.com before you shop.
- If you’re trying a new product, don’t buy it in bulk first. For example, you may see a great deal on shampoo you’ve never used. There’s a chance you may not like it, so buying in bulk would waste money.
- Split large purchases with family members and friends. This works great for many bulk items. Everyone contributes money and splits the product evenly. You’ll get the low price per item without stuffing your closets!
When you break down the cost, buying in bulk is clearly a great choice. The price per item is lower, you stock up on household essentials, and it’s convenient overall. Use this list and the tips above to get started. Pretty soon you’ll be a bulk buying expert!
Frugal For Less has tons of money saving resources like this article. Some recent posts include 9 Frugal Habits That Can Save You Thousands of Dollars and 30 Baking Soda Uses That Will Save You Money. Check out these articles and more to save money while living comfortably.