Grocery Budget Tips: Tip 1 – Shopping & Buying in Bulk

Welcome to the grocery budget tips series!  I am excited to share with you how my large family of 9 can buy groceries without breaking the bank.  I am often asked how we keep our grocery budget so low, and thought I would share the things I can think of off the top of my head that we do.  To learn more, you can read the introduction.

So, here we go…  Tip #1

We shop where it makes sense and buy in bulk. We eat a lot of food – a lot of simple food – so we buy in bulk at places like Gordon’s Food Service and Sam’s Club when it makes sense.  I do calculate the cost per unit and have found that not everything bought in bulk makes the best financial sense so you’ll have to do some of your own research when you shop there  We stop at two bulk stores and a Sav-A-Lot each month, then a couple times per year we shop at Meijer’s (general grocery store) for the more oddball things you don’t find in the other stores (sesame oil, rye flour, things like that).

I don’t like to store multiple small packs of something, so purchasing bulk bags of all purpose flour, sugar, rice, make it easier for me to keep track of what we have on hand and makes it easier to store.  I store my most commonly used ingredients in five gallon buckets or in large plastic containers that used to hold pretzels or other bulk snacks from the bulk food store.  For smaller families, bulk purchases may still be a wise purchase as many items will store very well for a very long time.

In the past, we have purchased our chicken whole and by the case at the bulk food stores.  I think this was about 12 chickens in a box.  We have also purchased ground beef by the case. It made the most sense because the discount for buying in bulk lowered the price per unit quite a bit and for the size of our family, it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that we would buy that much in a month or two, and spend more buying the meat individually.  Pork loins were also another affordable cut of meat we would purchase by the case.  I would freeze some for roasts, and can a lot for tacos, burritos or pulled pork sandwiches.

If you look into purchasing meat in bulk, consider how long the food will last you.  If you have enough room in your budget to buy a case of meat, it freezes or cans well.  Maybe you can go in with another family and split the cost of a case of meat, and both of you get the money savings.

Some months I would purchase a couple cases of chicken, other months it would be ground beef.  One month we even splurged on a case of bacon right before we knew a big price increase was coming (maybe that’s another tip on it’s own – pay attention to the farming news and big weather events…  Droughts, fires, floods, etc. all can contribute to substantial animal/grain loss which can lead to less available which can raise prices… supply and demand), and I canned it all.  The idea was to buy some sort of meat in bulk each month – enough to eat in a months time plus have some extra – after doing that a few months at a time we began to have that “extra” meat that would mean we could buy cases of meat a little less often and just eat on the meat we had in the freezer.

Near our home we also have a discount bread outlet, so if I haven’t had time to bake our bread I can still buy the healthier versions of whole wheat breads for the kids and cheap white bread for my husband (his preference), bagels, buns, English muffins, etc.  for a fraction of what it would cost in the store.

There is also a discount food place near us that sells expired nonperishables.  We don’t often go there because we don’t usually buy what they sell or it makes more sense for us to buy and store bulk amounts, but it is a great option for others who can use smaller portions.

In the past we have lived near other various outlet stores – do some searching and see if discount stores are around your location.  It seems that most major brands do have some stores set up where food that is near sell-by date or the sell by date has passed and is sold at a discount.  Most of those sell by dates found on nonperishables don’t mean food is unsafe to eat by any means, and we have no problem purchasing them when we need to.

I have also found large farmers markets that sold produce very affordably near our last residence – many people shop there to buy produce in bulk for canning or freezing.  Another store near my old house had sales a time or two a month with a few incredibly discounted produce that we could stock up on.  Neither of these places would I know about, had I not asked around!  But finding these two places allowed me to be able to can and freeze a lot of food when we didn’t have the space to grow it.

Where do you tend to shop?  How many stores do you usually shop at?  I challenge you to thoroughly research your area, ask your friends and learn of new places that either have great sales, normally low prices, or discounted groceries.  If you live in an area where grocery stores are extremely limited, would you consider traveling once a month to a further store to take advantage of better prices?

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