Buying in bulk

While panic buying is never recommended, the practice of bulk shopping can be both practical and economical for items like toilet paper.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, many people found themselves without stocked pantries. This led some shoppers to panic buy in large quantities. While panic buying is never recommended, the practice of bulk shopping can be both practical and economical. Consider these tips for whether to buy in bulk and how to calculate bulk deals.

When considering items to purchase in bulk, ask yourself five questions.

Is this a product your family likes?

When purchasing bulk items, always start with something your family loves. Make sure you have tried the particular brand and it suits your family’s tastes, likes or preferences. Bulk purchases aren’t the time to try a new product, flavor or brand because it could take months to consume the larger quantity.

Is this an item your family regularly needs?

If you frequently run out of an item or find yourself regularly adding the same items to your shopping list, they may be worth buying in bulk. Bulk purchases should be driven by need. This reduces waste and prevents items from going unused. By keeping your home stocked with the items your family uses most frequently, you will reduce trips to the store (which could also reduce impulse buys — another cost-saving tip).

Will this product go to waste before we use it all?

When buying in large quantities, always pay attention to expiration dates. Is the item shelf-stable or will you need to use it by a particular date?

If buying fresh meats or produce, can you portion and prep the items to freeze or preserve?

Remember to clearly write the expiration date on all perishables before storing. Bulk buying can cost you more money over time if items are wasted or expire before you use them.

Do I have room in my house to store the overflow of this item?

Bulk purchases require storage space. Consider where you will keep any overstocked items before you purchase them. Never buy more than your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, cabinets or shelving will reasonably accommodate. Also consider where in your home to store the overflow. For example, storing excess food in your garage may attract unwanted pests or could become easily contaminated.

Will buying in bulk save me money?

Buying items in bulk isn’t always cheaper. To determine whether a bulk purchase actually saves you money, it is important to calculate the cost per unit. To do this, divide the item’s price by its quantity. For example, if a bulk package of toilet paper is $20 and contains nine packs of nine rolls, divide $20 by 81, which roughly equals $.25 per roll. If the same toilet paper is $10 for a 24-pack at your local grocer, this is $.42 per roll. The bulk purchase is cheaper per unit in this case. For liquid items or items measured by weight, divide the purchase price by the total number of ounces.

Buying in bulk can be a useful shopping method to keep your household stocked with items your family uses on a regular basis. It is often cost-effective over time but can require a larger upfront expense. These may include surplus-store membership fees or more expensive initial purchase prices (like the $20 vs. $10 toilet paper example above). A small way to begin stocking up on needed household items is to purchase bigger quantities when an individual product you like goes on sale or when you have a cost- saving coupon. When deciding whether your family should buy in bulk, consider these tips to reduce waste, save money and begin to keep a consistently stocked pantry.

10 Minute Bean Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

2 (15.8 ounce) cans of great northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano

1 (14 ounce) can low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

4 cups kale, torn into small pieces

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and sauté garlic and onion for 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add beans, tomatoes and broth to saucepan. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add kale and cook until tender, for about 2 minutes. Mix in lemon juice and Parmesan cheese just before serving.

Optional: Garnish with finely chopped fresh basil or dried basil.

Notes: Cooked, dried beans may be substituted for canned beans. Using prepared dry beans in place of canned will reduce sodium in this dish. If you can’t find diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, use regular diced tomatoes and add dried versions of these seasonings.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutritional Analysis: 400 calories; 8g total fat; 2.5g saturated fat; 10mg cholesterol; 500mg sodium; 62g carbohydrate; 15g fiber; 4g sugar; 24g protein

Editor’s note: The source of this article is Nichole Huff, Ph.D., CFLE, assistant Extension professor for family finance and Resource Management. The source of the recipe is Caroline Durr, area nutrition agent for Kentucky Nutrition Education Program, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and downloaded from

Reach Cecelia Hostilo, Trigg County Extension agent for family and consumer sciences, at P. O. Box 271 (2657 Old Hopkinsville Road), Cadiz, KY 42211, by phone at 270-522-3269, fax at 270-522-9192 or email

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