I was on the computer today checking emails and looking up an order I placed with Amazon a few days ago to check on the arrival date. In my order box, not yet shipped, was my next round of Subscribe and Save items just waiting to make their way to my house. I thought I had better check out what other items were going to be shipped over the next few months. Good thing I did! After changing the order dates for many items, I got to thinking, is it really better to buy in bulk?
One of the items on my list was Glutino Pretzels. They are a great deal on Amazon's Subscribe and Save. They are $2.75 a bag compared with $5.00 or more at the grocery store. I can save $27.00 by buying a pack of 12 online. Seems like a good deal. The Betty Crocker cake mix could save me $8.00 if I bought it online (a pack of 6) for $19.86. Each box is $3.31 compared with $4.79 at the store. Good for the budget, right! Everything I buy on Amazon is cheaper than I can get in the store!
So, what about other online stores. I have been debating buying flour in bulk online. I can buy rice flour in regular packaging at the store for $2.29 a pound or I can buy it in bulk for $1.19 a pound, but if I buy a 25 pound bag online, it costs me 72 cents a pound! The same with tapioca flour: $5.98 a pound, $1.49 a pound if purchased in bulk, or 89 cents a pound online for 25 pounds! Online seems like the way to go.
Of course there are other places besides online to buy in bulk. Costco provides massive packages of just about anything and Cash and Carry can be a savers dream for many items in bulk. Check out my latest find! First, let me say, I love my morning coffee. I love it with a splash of Silk Vanilla Creamer and a hint, okay maybe a heaping teaspoon, of chocolate. I use this Torani Chocolate Sauce.
I can get it at the grocery store for around $5.00 or I can buy it online through Amazon's Subscribe and Save for $4.12! You can imagine my excitement when I found a larger bottle for around $10.00 at Cash and Carry.
Did I mention it is more than twice the size! A lot more than twice the size! How about four times the size! Wow, I just saved half!
All of this sounds great. Absolutely fantastic! Right?
I took a look at the fifteen items on my subscribe and save account. Fifteen is not that many items really. They are all items I use, some more regularly than others, but all things I do buy. All of them are significant deals. So what is the problem then? The cost of those 15 items comes to $330.89. Not exactly budget friendly. Add that to the online flour I was thinking of purchasing, the cost rises to $387.70. That is almost my entire budget for a single month, which has been a real challenge to meet!
This budget challenge has really made me stop and think about those things I often take for granted. I have spent considerably more time evaluating individual grocery items than I ever have before. One thing I have discovered is that buying in bulk does not necessarily save you in the long run. Here's why. Have you ever noticed that when you have a large quantity of something, you use it up without thinking and evaluating how much, or if, you really need to use it? I have.
I discovered this a while back with olives. If I purchase a pack of eight cans of olives at Costco I often use them up before the end of the month. I discovered that if I purchased six cans at the grocery store, I was much more discerning and I also found I only needed to purchase that number of cans every six weeks instead of four. How does that translate into cash? Well, buying olives at Costco each month would cost me $85.44 a year compared to $46.28 at the grocery store and that does not take in to account sales or coupons. Two cans less and a slightly longer use period adds up to savings, just by discerning a bit more.
The same was true for microwave popcorn. If I buy the huge box at Costco, my kids get into it almost daily, but if I buy a small box, they are much more selective, especially when it comes to the last one in the box.
What about Amazon? Take the pretzels, for example. My history shows that when I had them on hand, we went through a box of twelve bags every four months. That adds up to about a hundred dollars a year. Last month I bought a six bags on sale for $2.99 a bag. That was more than the Amazon cost. I still have four bags! At this rate I would only spend $35.88 a year. Even if I did not buy it on sale, I would still save $40.00 a year.
If this is true for these items, where else is it true? After taking a look at my 15 items on Amazon and other bulk items I tend to buy, I found that staple items like flour or sugar are a good bulk buy. They are necessary items. Other items like my pretzels or granola bars aren't really a need, but more of a want. A want I can control. I think it might be better in the long run to buy a more expensive item at the store in a limited quantity and make it a special treat, than to buy it in bulk and make it a staple. That line in the sand is different for everyone. Some may find that granola bars for the kids are a necessity, for others it is the convenience of a gluten-free box of mac-n-cheese. As for me, I think I will spend some more time discerning how much I really need of any one thing. I will spend more time evaluating the difference between a want and a need when it comes to bulk buying. It is like the saying goes....sometimes less is more,
Except when it comes to chocolate!