Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is Less Really More?

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?

Maybe not.

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!


  1. Hi Sheila,

    Sarah at Amongst Lovely Things told me about your blog. My doctor recently suggested that I avoid wheat and dairy ... I do not think it is long-term, but I do not know either. She is trying to link my diet to some other symptoms I am having.

    Anyway, it is a bit overwhelming to think of cutting these two things out of my diet completely, especially as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach! However, I am willing to do it, if it will help me feel better. (My dr. has ruled out celiac disease.)

    Do you happen to have any starter tips for me? You can even point me in the direction of something you've previously posted. I will check back for some recipes and such, too. I need all the help I can get at this point ;-)

    Thank you!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I will help you in any way I can. For starters, a lot of foods are naturally gluten free. All your fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten free. Where the frustration usually lies is in giving up or changing what we are so used to: breads, cakes, cheeses. Here are a couple of suggestions.

    One of the best gluten/dairy free butters is Earth Balance. You can use it in all your baked goods and to cook with also. It tastes just like butter too.

    The best flour to start off with is Gluten Free Mama's Almond Blend flour. It is a little pricey. You can get it on Amazon's subscribe and save for the best price. I tried a lot of different flours and this was the best one I found. As you get used to your new lifestyle, you can play around with more of the flours if you want. This one is just easier to start off with. She also has a cookbook. I have made her honey sandwich bread which is good and pretty easy. Any of her products are good. We have used the pancake mix and pizza crust mix. Both are good.

    Udi's Bread, in the freezer section, is both gluten free and dairy free. It is a bit spendy, but it is good in a pinch and tastes like more like regular bread. The Ener-G breads are strange. You have to toast them in order to eat them and they are not very good.

    In place of milk, I use soy milk. You can use almond, rice, or soy milk. I use soy for any recipe that calls for milk. Cheese is a different story. I just don't eat it. I tried some of the soy cheeses, but did not like them. The rest of my family can eat dairy, so I just make myself a separate portion without the cheese.

    One of the best resources to use is Gluten/Casein Free Grocery Shopping Guide. You can get it at It is a great resource for looking up foods that are gluten/dairy free. It has everything from barbecue sauces to pickles to chili. I used it a lot to learn which brands I could buy without always heading for the health food section which tends to be more expensive.

    I would be glad to answer any specific questions you may have. We have tried a lot of products, so ask away!

    I hope this helps a bit.


  3. Thanks, Sheila! I already feel deprived, and it has been less than a week since my doctor recommended doing this! (I am so weak, I've even cheated already! UGH!) It is nice to find others who are living this WELL!

    Three questions: 1) Do you cook/bake GF & DF for your entire family or just you? I can see it going both ways ... But it is expensive ...

    2) You are right about baked goods. I appreciate the tips about soy milk and different flours. Do you have a 2nd recommendation for a GF flour? I have a daughter who is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts! Unless I just use that flour for *mom* treats =)

    3) What do you do for holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas? Maybe you plan on posting something about that (Hint =)

    Thanks! I love your blog!! That donut maker is amazing. I've seen them in the stores, but I wasn't sure about them ... Now I can see how awesome they are. And even though they are still donuts, they probably are healthier in some small way! Right????

  4. Thanks for your questions Sarah,

    I cook mostly GF & DF for my entire family. My family has 3 that are GF and I am the only DF person. I use soy milk in place of dairy and Earth Balance for butter. family eats and I simply avoid.

    As far as the flour, Gluten Free Mama has two blends. The almond one and a coconut flour blend. So if you are avoiding nuts you might want to start with the coconut blend.

    I posted tonight about Thanksgiving and a few ideas. I will have more coming between now and Christmas to help with recipes and being new to the gf lifestyle. I hope it helps.


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