Over the past year or so, I have started to dip my toes into the pool of bulk shopping. (Pretty sweet analogy, no?) I've set out on a mission to compare prices between Costco, the Bulk Barn and grocery stores to figure out where I can get the most bang for my buck. Yes, I am that girl, who shows up at the Bulk Barn with a pad of paper, calculator and pen and begins writing down the cost/kilo of every single item in the store and then wanders across the street to the grocery store to start comparing. I'm not ashamed. What I've figured out is this - it doesn't always pay to buy in bulk. Sometimes they want to trick you. I've started to compile a list of things that I use that are and are not worth purchasing in bulk.
I have also learned a few tricks about buying in bulk. My first trick is that I do not pay for a Costco membership. I just mooch off my mom, sister, cousin, friends, whoever I can possibly find that will take me to Costco. This way, I have better control over how often I go and everyone else has to pay for the membership will I can simply enjoy the rewards (read: free samples). Costco friends, please don't stop taking me!
Second, I discovered that the Bulk Barn offers a 10% discount to students and seniors on Wednesday. Apparently I fit into one of those categories. 10% isn't a huge amount, but it's still something. I have a "Bulk Barn" list on my fridge where I write down things I need from there. Once I get a good number of items on the list, I plan a Wednesday trip to the barn and load up.
So, here's the list I have compiled so far. Some I have very specific pricing details, some I don't.
Good Bulk Buys
Chocolate chips - $2-3 (depending on the brand) for a 300g bag at the grocery store vs 6.99 for a 1Kg bag at Walmart vs 10.99 for a 2kg bag of Chipits at Costco
Yeast - 4.99 for 113 g at the grocery store vs 4.00 for ~250 g at Bulk Barn
Flax Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Poppy Seeds - I buy a lot of this stuff for baking bread and I don't have exact cost comparisons, but it's definitely cheaper at BB with my 10% discount.
Spices - once I have a container for each of my main spices, I buy my refills at Bulk Barn. It's dirt cheap. For example, I bought enough cinnamon to refill my container for 32 cents.
Dog food - 28.99 for a 15 kg bag at the grocery store vs 31.99 for 20.7 kg bag at Costco
Powdered milk - $9-12 at the grocery store vs $7-8 dollars for more at the bulk barn (I'm not sure exactly how much is in the bag at the grocery store but I know the amount I buy at BB is more - but only do a large bulk purchase if you go through powdered milk quickly because it will go rancid)
Dog Treats - I can get a whole big bag of them at Bulk Barn for less than $2.00 and they are WAY more expensive than that in other stores
Ciabatta Buns (or triangle bread as my sister so eloquently calls it) - It's something like $3-4 for a bag with 20 in it I think. She buys them and puts them in the freezer and they last a long time. And they are good.
Bad Bulk Buys
Flour - I guess I kind of buy this in bulk, just not at a bulk store. I buy 10kg bags from the grocery store for $7.99. I calculated how much it would cost to buy this amount at the Bulk Barn and it was over $15. Also, I think it would be kind of awkward to scoop 10kg of flour into the little bags there. Also, whole wheat flour is more expensive at bulk barn, whereas at my grocery store, whole wheat, all purpose and unbleached white are all the same price. I haven't compared the cost of flour at Costco but will on my next trip. Again, this one is really only useful if you use a lot of flour. However, I do purchase speciality flour (gluten free, rye etc) at bulk barn so I can get just as much as I need.
Sugar - $2-2.50 for a 2 kg bag at the grocery store vs $3-3.50 for a 4 kg bag at Costco.
Gluten Free Pasta - Gluten free pasta is becoming more and more available in grocery stores now. I used to only be able to get it at the Bulk Barn but now I can get it for cheaper in the health food section of the Superstore.
Snack Mix - buying these in bulk is just a plain rip off.
**These prices are based on Canadian products and prices and may not be accurate for all locations.
I am sure I'll be adding to this list as I find more products that are and are not worth purchasing in bulk.
Are there any products that you find useful or not useful to purchase in bulk? Any other bulk buying tips or suggestions?