Where Bulk Buying Goes Wrong

Have you ever considered how the thought of buying in bulk might just be causing you to use more? I love buying in bulk and do highly recommend it for saving money on groceries. I buy grains, beans, oils, meat, etc. in bulk and save money regularly. I highly recommend finding a friend to split things with if you don’t have the room for it all…it works well…but do proceed with caution!

Studies have shown that large packages encourage consumers to increase the amount of a product they use. This has been true of me lately. I look at my 5 pounds of cheese and it looks like a ton. So I just think I have a lot to use, and use in excess without thinking that this needs to last 2 months. Hmm…

Realizing this truth came about by reading an article on the topic in The Tightwad Gazette.

Here is what she says:

“A Harvard Business Review article reports that consumers who purchased large containers of Creamette spaghetti, M&M’s, Diet Pepsi, Crisco Oil, or Mr Clean ate more, drank more, and poured more than people who bought smaller containers of the same products. Wharton School marketing professor Brian Wansink said that’s because consumers know they got the product for a lower unit cost and thus fee justified in using more. “

The solution: She goes on to say the solution is not to avoid bulk buying, or purchase smaller containers, but to be aware of this human tendency to overuse bulk-purchased items and modify your actions accordingly! Use less…This has really helped open my eyes lately!

Also be aware that buying in bulk may not always be the cheapest option. I have realized this lately while evaluating bulk purchases from Azure Standard versus single purchases from my local Trader Joe’s, and come to realize that not all things are cheaper in bulk!

That’s my frugal tip of the day!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

10 Responses to Where Bulk Buying Goes Wrong

  1. Sweetpeas April 12, 2008 at 8:20 pm #

    Definitely watch unit cost, I haven’t checked recently, but I know awhile back I was stunned to realize that the 10lb bag of sugar at Sam’s was actually CHEAPER per lb than the 25lb bag. Same brand, exact same product, both packaged the same . . . but the unit cost for the 10lb bag was less.

    • Kate July 8, 2009 at 3:09 am #

      This just happened to me this week! I normally buy the powdered Tide detergent, in the 80 wash loads, for around $16. Not bad, considering the liquid for 20 ish washes is almost $10! So I was looking at the 40 wash loads (in powder) and it’s only $6 and change! So I went ahead and bought 2 40 wash load boxes, for $4 less! With the 80 wash load box you get a few more ounces, maybe 2! Definitely not worth it.

  2. Jill April 12, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    I like to buy in bulk and split it into smaller portions. This seems to help with this problem. Good tip!

  3. jeneflower April 12, 2008 at 4:04 am #

    I am so glad I read this. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Marliss Bombardier April 11, 2008 at 5:52 pm #

    I don’t know how the Tightwad Gazette is packaged now, but I have a tip in what is, or used to be book three. (It was to cut 2-liter soda bottles in such a way as to keep liquid from spilling on the floor from large water coolers with a spigot near the bottom). Back when Amy Dacyzyn was doing the newsletter, this earned me a year’s subscription. There is great satisfaction in being a good steward of what God has provided. Must appeal to my Scots blood. :)

  5. Amy Brigham April 11, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

    Good tips! Along with overusing, I also find myself underusing certain items, and winding up with spoiled food since I didn’t factor in if we could really use so much of an item before taking advantage of the “great deal.” ;)

  6. Jerilyn April 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    I do the same thing with cheese. I like to break down into weekly portions and stick what I don’t need in the freezer. It freezes well :)

  7. [email protected]&Me April 11, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    That’s why I finally dropped out of our food co-op. I have a friend who will let me buy wheat and oatmeal in bulk on her orders (just a couple times a year).

    I know my daughter still belongs to a food co-op but she has four kids and has to cook everything from scratch. Lots of mouths to feed. :)

  8. Candace April 11, 2008 at 10:11 am #

    I can confirm the M&M part:)

  9. julie April 11, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    I’ve had that happen before! Esp. on treat items…. Thay can be gone before they’ve been in the house!