Buying groceries in bulk – worth the try?

I’ve been lately sorting out my expenses to groceries. Oh boy how I was impressed. Because it seems that I waste a lot and there are some really big opportunities to cut back my food budget.

Please remind that these conclusions are solely based on my experience and may not be applicable to you.

Two habits I follow when shopping 

Mostly I live alone, which means I don’t need too much food. Buying in bulk just doesn’t have the impact on my budget, even I would conclude that it will make me spend more than I would otherwise.

 There are two habits of mine that I try to follow:

1)      Don’t go shopping every day

2)      Buy as much as it’s needed to survive 3-4 days, but spend as little as possible

The first one is not that obvious that we might think it is. There are too many temptations in Estonia for that. For example our grocery stores are usually opened from 8 AM to 10 PM. This is 14 hour time span! Couple months ago I bought almost every day something. One snack from here, other from there. It was too much and therefore I promised myself to have more days in a month where I don’t spend anything. It has had a great impact to my wallet. Costs to food have significantly gone down.

Buying in bulk is justified only if you have big family or when buying longkeeping stuff. But even then you should bear in mind that shops don’t just disappear and they will be there also tomorrow and day after that. There is no need to put your money into piles of sugar or wheat today.

Competition between grocery stores in Estonia is fierce (especially in towns). There are several discounts available every day and we don’t need to worry if sugar will be same cheap ever again. It probably will. But do we need 25kg sack of sugar just standing in my pantry for years because my yearly consumption is 3kg?

Couple years ago I was allergic to yogurt. At least I though I was, because it made me puke every time I ate it. Magically my allergic reactions passed by and now I enjoy yogurt again. Even that much that when I go shopping, I tend to buy several cups at once. Especially if there are discounts available (I prefer Saaremaa Jogurtikreem series which usual price is 1 euro, with discounts it goes down to 0,69 euro). If I buy 4-6 yogurts at a time then it is sure that I will eat them ASAP. That means I don’t cook warm meal to myself and overall it’s more expensive to get the same amount energy out of it. Which again leads to more consumption of yogurt. You see where I’m going with it?

If you set yourself daily or weekly budget for food then try to take best out of it when shopping. For example if I plan to limit my weekly food budget to 35 euros, then I go to store twice a week and try not to spend over 15 euro per visit. This helps me to take maximum out of my money and in the end it also saves money. Literally. Buy the things you need!

Coupon wars

I’ve watched couple episodes of some kind of coupon wars in America (check it out from youtube with keywords ‘extreme couponing’). Mothers cut and slice catalogues to get as many coupons as possible. And they save a lot of money from it.

Unfortunately such widespread couponing is not possible in Estonia. Or should I say fortunately, because this hobby takes a lot of space in house and I’m not sure if they can really consume all of the bought items. Unlikely not.

Which is cheaper, to buy 1 item and pay 1 unit of money for it or buy 10 items, pay 5 units of money and throw 6 items away because we actually don’t need it?

If companies are turning their operations more efficient day by day (especially after last financial crisis) then why people should be less efficient? We should seek less waste in our everyday doings.

Time for conclusions

Today my thoughts are based on small family behaviour (1-2 persons). I find it rather pointless to buy bulk, because it’s unlikely to get big savings from the scale. Therefore I go shopping twice (sometimes three times) a week and have strick budget for each visit. To me it has turned out great and my overall budget has been decreased for the past couple of months.

Are there any specific habits of yours when shopping groceries? Give us a comment!

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4 thoughts on “Buying groceries in bulk – worth the try?

  1. Kristi

    I think a lot of people have a bit of an exaggerated perspective on what buying in bulk means.
    For me personally – this means things like buying macarony in a 1kg pack instead of the smaller ones because I won’t go crazy and eat it all at once :p Or buying catfood for my cat in a 1,5kg pack because my cat also won’t go crazy and eat it all at once.
    Though with snacks never buy in bulk – chocolate or ice cream in bulk are terrible ideas because you just eat x times more of them.
    Question though – how low did you get your food budget?

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    • Tauri

      Two breads or 1kg pack of macaroni is not buying bulk for me. Bulk is when I buy at least 2-4 weeks of supply at once. 🙂

      I have reduced my food budget some 30% from top, but still I’m far away from my university times. 🙂

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  2. Taavi Pertman

    The best working solution seems to be creating a list beforehand or at least thinking through what you need and keep to it.

    Although I do buy “bulk” when I buy something that has no best before date or it’s in months and I would buy it anyway. Not necessarily foods, but such things like toilet paper or soap etc, I’ll have to buy them anyway and if it’s on a high discount the day I buy it, why not buy 2-3x more than planned.

    Plus, occasionally the supermarkets have some campaigns that’ll give you bigger discount if you spend more money at once. Meaning that it’s cheaper to buy 2-3 day’s things at once than on two separate days (e.g. Rimi had their -3% and -5% coupon thing sometime ago).

    For me I’ve noticed that the main unnecessary expense when shopping is buying some sort of snacks or sweets. Although I can limit this quite a lot by having a list ready beforehand, it might be worth a try to leave any fruits and vegetables as the last thing you put into your cart.

    There has been some research on this that having the fruit and vegetable stands right near the entrance, increases the amount of money people spend at the supermarket (you might have noticed that a bunch of supermarkets in Estonia that didn’t follow this rule, have also renovated and moved the fruits near the entrance).

    The reason for this is that once you have bought some vegetables and fruits (which are generally considered as healthy foods), you will more likely feel that you are allowed to buy some unhealthy snacks too.

    If you leave the healthy things as last, perhaps this will help reduce your spending on the sweets also? Haven’t seen any research specifically done on this, but worth a try? 🙂

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