Bulk Buying 101

I’m a shopper who looks for value: I don’t necessarily need everything to be cheap, but I do want to know that I’m getting a good price for the product I’m buying.  This is true whether I’m shopping for household necessities or the fun stuff.

So, it makes sense that I’m a loyal Costco shopper.  There’s a lot about the bulk retail chain that appeals to me, from their product offerings to the prices and even the way they treat their employees.  The CEO has famously remarked that it’s better for the economy to pay your workers fairly and give them health insurance.

At the same time, the quantities at places like Costco can be absolutely nutty.  Many times I’ve had something on my list, found it in the store, and refused to purchase just because the sheer amount of the product was so unrealistic for my life.

Bulk buying can keep you more organized: it reduces the number of trips you take to run errands, and ensures that you always have the things you need on hand.  But bulk buying can quickly become an organizing nightmare when it takes over your storage space and throws the rest of your household organization out of whack.

TP won't be going on the list for awhile!  (Also shown: guest bathroom essentials.)

Here’s how I keep my bulk buying under control.

1)   I keep a shopping list and stick to it.  This sounds so basic, but I’ve discovered that many of my clients don’t actually keep shopping lists and just buy things they know they like and use when they go on sale.  This leads to stuffed and disorganized shelves, and the problem persists since the quantities involved won’t be used for months.

2)   I know what’s worth it to buy in bulk.  This can mean anything from how good the deal is, to how much space the item will take up, to how heavy the things are and how difficult or time consuming it’ll be to haul the items into the house.

Backup kitchen items go here... because I'm not going to store something that makes me get on a stepladder multiple times a day!

3)   I have a place picked out to store everything before I buy it.  There are a couple of zones in my house that are more out of the way where I park my bulk buying hauls, such as a surprisingly large cupboard in our guest bathroom where the extra paper products live and the quite deep cabinet above our fridge that holds kitchen items.

4)   Know how to use the quantities you’re buying.  I like to keep the large quantities in more out of reach areas and then “decant” them into usable containers.  For example, I keep a bin under my bathroom sink for backup personal care items, and take out one package of, say, toothpaste at a time to store in a drawer and use.

And in case you were wondering, here’s my personal Costco shopping list!

  • Paper products (TP, Kleenex, paper towels)
  • Cleaning products (laundry detergent, Pledge, dishwasher detergent, etc.)
  • Smoothie ingredients (baby spinach, bananas, frozen berries, greek yogurt
  • Pantry ingredients (peppercorns, vanilla, coffee k-cups, chicken broth)
  • Household items (light bulbs, batteries)
  • Personal care items (toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner, vitamins)
  • And of course everyone’s favorite deal at Costco: booze!