We have a growing family of six, soon to be seven. I shake my head at the thought only because it seems like just yesterday our oldest was born… not almost 8 years ago. With a growing family comes growing expenses which means better planning in finances, meals, schedules, etc. One of the things we have started doing in the last year and a half has been buying in bulk. I used to hit all the coupon deals but now that we’re homeschooling and down to one car, it just isn’t feasible to hit all the deals.
Lack of deals meant an increase in spending and we saw our monthly food/misc expenses increase drastically. That’s when I started looking into buying bulk. I’m not just talking Costco bulk, but consistently buying 50 lbs of this and 25 lbs of that. We reorganized our laundry room to help accommodate the 5 gal. buckets for food storage and I started calling around to find out who had the best deals on things like flour, sugar and beans. It took a little time and effort but we finally found some resources in our area.
WinCo has been the main bulk source for us, not Costco. Surprised? If you live in the West Coast region, you might have a WinCo close to you and it’s worth looking up. WinCo has a vast bulk bin section but honestly, I don’t like buying out of the bulk bins unless I have to. The reason? You just don’t know how many people have had their hands in it. That might sound funny or weird but after talking to a few who have worked in bulk food sections, I just tried to avoid the lower bins if possible.
The great thing about WinCo though is you can actually order bulk items through them without having to use the bins. I can call the local store, let them know the items I need and pick them up within a couple days. All I have to do is head to the store and talk to someone in the bulk section where they probably already have the items loaded and waiting in a cart. I’ve ordered 50 lbs of flour, sugar, and beans and 25 lbs of raisins, oats and other things.
Go to your local WinCo, look at the bulk bin tags and somewhere on the tag (probably close to the bottom) you’ll see something like #25 or #50. That will tell you the size of the package that particular product comes in and you can order it.
Do your homework though. I found that WinCo is not always the cheapest place to order from. We have a local flour mill here and believe it or not, they are about $100 cheaper than WinCo on honey. It would cost me about $230-$250 for 60 lbs of honey but at our local flour mill, it costs us around $135. WinCo was also more expensive in honey than Costco was. At our Costco, 60 lbs of honey (they don’t sell it in 5 gal buckets so I’d have to buy a lot of smaller packages) would cost us around $180-$200.
Moore’s Flour Mill (our local mill) also sells things like wheat berries, whole wheat pastry flour, etc for cheaper than WinCo but not everything is cheaper at Moore’s.
Another “bulk” store I go to is Cash & Carry. They are geared for restaurants and don’t carry all of the more wholesome products that I like to get but there are some things there that we buy. I also purchase all our church supplies there… and you don’t have to have a membership like Costco. Recently, I was able to purchase 80 lbs of tomatoes there for $54.72 (or $13.68 per 20 lb box). They aren’t organic but I have been wanting to can tomatoes for a very long time and we needed them so I decided to go ahead and grab several boxes to tide us over until I can order them from somewhere else.
Bulk produce has been the hardest item for me to find at a decent price. Most of the local farmers here charge $3+ per lb at the Farmers Market and we just can’t afford that. I have been looking and looking and finally decided to look into Azure Standard. One blog I follow, Little House Living, always posts her monthly Azure Standard order and it made me start thinking about looking at Azure as yet another option for us. Azure carries produce, froze/refrigerated items, health items, etc.
Last month I got serious and did some comparisons between Azure, Moore’s and WinCo. I discovered that Azure carries wheat berries for almost $10 cheaper than WinCo and $9 cheaper than Moore’s. I also discovered that they had “juicing” apples at $12 for 20 lbs. Finally, some place that carries bulk produce for canning/preserving!
I called Azure and they were helpful. They gave me the name and number of the local drop person. I called her and discovered the time frame just wouldn’t work for our family. After digging and contacting Azure again, I found someone else and her setup will work wonderfully for us. In fact, I will be able to pick up our order this coming Monday and I can’t wait. I’m hoping they have everything available and were able to ship the 60 lbs of apples I purchased. If not, there will always be next year.
Buying in bulk might not always be the cheapest but sometimes that’s just what you have to do. Don’t buy from the first bulk place you find, though, without doing some comparisons. Call around. Maybe you’re in an area where the local farmers offer great deals on their product (I don’t seem to be in one of those areas lol) or you’re by an Amish/Mennonite community. I know many people are able to purchase produce and other bulk items from them at great prices. Shop around, make the phone calls, write things down and see what works for your family.