[Today's guest post covers a difficulty that many of us have when shopping at Costco. You want the savings, but you don't want to waste food, right? So hopefully these tips will give you some good ideas. Some of them are just good ideas, no matter where you do your shopping. Daniela Baker is a mother of two who loves shopping at warehouse stores. She is a blogger at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison website.]
A recent Time article says that members of bulk grocery chains like Costco can expect to trim 25-35% off of their food bills, and bulk grocery buying isn’t just for huge families like the Duggars. Instead, even small families can learn to save a fortune on groceries by shopping at bulk locations and buying in bulk.
These six tips will help you buy in bulk without wasting a ton of food or eating the same thing every night for weeks:
1. Plan menus carefully
Perhaps the most important part of cooking with bulk groceries is to have a set meal plan before you even buy groceries. There are several different ways to make buying in bulk work for your menu. One is to head to Costco every week to buy what you need for that week. This will normally result in a week-long menu planned around the same meat, such as salmon or chicken breasts. If you have enough freezer space, though, you can shop in bulk once or twice a month and add variety to your menu. This way, you’ll just freeze the foods you aren’t going to use right away, but you’ll still have a plan in place to use them before they become freezer-burnt.
2. Repackage bulk foods
Repackaging the staples you buy in bulk is one of the best ways to ward off waste. Flour and sugar, for instance, come in flimsy paper bags, even when you buy them in bulk. Repackaging them into affordable glass or metal containers can help you in a couple of ways. For one thing, it makes it easier to organize your pantry so that you know what staples you have on hand to use. For another, repackaging into tightly-sealed containers makes it less likely that your staples will spoil, go stale, or become infested with bugs.
3. Keep staples on hand year-round
Staples such as flour, sugar, pasta, and other items you can use to bake or cook up a quick meal can be kept on hand all the time. Just refill them when necessary at your next Costco trip, and you’ll always have something on hand to make a meal with. Because staples like these – and also canned goods – have a long shelf life, you don’t have to worry so much about them going bad, which makes them a great option for bulk cooking.
4. Learn storage time frames
One of the keys of buying and cooking in bulk without wasting food is to know how long different items can be stored properly. White flour, for instance, can be stored for six to twelve months, but wheat flour is only guaranteed to be good for about three months. If you don’t bake with wheat flour often enough to use it up in three months, then this may be an item you don’t want to buy in bulk.
Remember, buying in bulk is only beneficial for your wallet as long as you’re actually using what you buy. Throwing away cheap food is still just as wasteful as throwing away expensive food!
5. Freezer items are key
One of the main keys to cooking well with bulk groceries – especially when you aren’t cooking for a huge family – is buying items that you can store in the freezer. If you have space, a chest freezer is a great investment because it will allow you to buy foods ahead of time and keep more food in your home. Frozen fruits and vegetables are a particularly good option, since they’re versatile for many different recipes and have more nutrients than canned fruits and veggies.
When you do freeze items, remember to package them properly and to eat them within a few months so that you don’t need to worry about freezer burn.
6. Buy what you can eat
The most crucial part of saving money by buying in bulk, especially when shopping for a smaller family, is ensuring that you can actually eat everything you buy. It may take some experimentation to figure out exactly which items you can and cannot buy. For instance, a huge jar of spaghetti sauce would be enough for several meals, but it probably won’t last long enough for once-a-week-spaghetti through an entire month. In this case, you’re better off either buying a box of smaller jars, which you can often find at places like Costco, or freezing the leftover spaghetti sauce until you can use it.
Savings at Costco happens automatically, but you can earn even more rewards with a good Costco credit card, which gives you cash back and other rewards. You can learn more about Costco credit cards. While a credit card isn’t the best option for everyone, it can be helpful for once a month bulk shoppers. Simply charge your entire month’s groceries and then pay off the card throughout the month so you can avoid interest and get cash back.
Buying in bulk isn’t an impossible option even for smaller families. But when you aren’t feeding eight or ten people, you do need to know how to store and cook bulk groceries so that you aren’t wasting any. These tips should help you do that.