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Eating Right

Top 5 Tips for Buying in Bulk

By Gail Belsky

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Nothing screams “BARGAIN!” like a giant cart packed with giant products selling at warehouse prices. But does shopping at membership clubs really save you money vs. stocking up on supermarket sale items or ordering large quantities online? The answer is yes … and no.

Warehouse clubs offer great prices on certain items, including meat, prepared meals, dairy, wine, beer and liquor. Other products, such as paper goods, can actually be more expensive. Here’s how to find the best deals in bulk buying.

1. De-bulk it.
The warehouse price for a multi-pack of a certain item may seem low, but in order to compare it to supermarket prices, you need to figure out the unit price for a single item. For instance, if the 8-pack of imported pasta costs $14 at the warehouse club, the unit price of a single box is $1.75. If that same pasta goes on sale for $1.59 at the supermarket, you’d save more buying in bulk there.

2. Scope out the circulars.
Before heading to the club, go online and check all the weekly specials at your local supermarkets. Even if you have to hit up more than one store, you may end up saving time -- and cash.

3. Check for coupons.
Most warehouse clubs don’t take manufacturer’s coupons (BJ’s is the exception), so look at some of the online coupon sites such as RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com. Those savings may make your supermarket or chain drugstore the best place to bulk up on certain things.

4. Click and compare.
As part of your comparison-shopping routine, look into websites like Alice.com and Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program, which offer brand-name products in bulk. They even throw in free shipping. The selection may be limited, but the prices are often lower than what you’ll find in stores.

5. Know your limits.
Before you head to the warehouse club, consider whether bigger really is better -- particularly for items that you can’t freeze or store for very long. How much can your family realistically eat? It doesn’t matter how low the price is; buying a 5-pound block of cheese isn’t a bargain when you can only get through half of it before it starts growing mold. (One way around it is to shop with a friend and split both the items and the cost.)

If you do your homework, buying in bulk can save you a lot of money. You just need to know where to go.

Gail Belsky has worked on a variety of women’s publications, including Parents, Working Mother and All You, and she recently wrote a book for women entitled The List: 100 Ways to Shake Up Your Life. She is the managing editor of Ideas That Spark.

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