As part of my frugal and sustainable philosophy, I often buy items in bulk. Sugar. Flour. Rice. Beans. Wheat. Popcorn. Spices. I find it convenient to have these kinds of staples on hand and like knowing that I have saved money on the purchase. Let’s take a look at a recent purchase of rice.
I like to buy the Botan “Calrose Rice”. It’s a medium grain sticky rice popular in Asia (although apparently developed in California–hence the “Cal” in Calrose). I sometimes buy it at the Asian food store in town, but this time I happened to be at Walmart. As you can see in the photo above, the unit price per pound for the 5lb bag of rice is $1.06, and the unit price for the 25lb bag of rice is $.864.
So yes, the 25lb bag is cheaper per pound. But is that really worth it? I know a lot of folks who say “That’s such a small difference, why bother? “.
Sure, there are some situations where buying the larger size doesn’t make sense. If you have space or monetary limitations that prevent you from buying the bigger bag, I get that. If you won’t use the food up before it spoils, then it’s false economy to buy the larger size. Rice however just needs to be kept dry and it will last pretty much forever (Utah Cooperative Extension Service says it at least 10 years), so you don’t have to worry about it going bad.
So how much do you save? Well, the difference between the 5lb bag unit price and the 25 lb bag unit price is 19.6 cents. Let’s round up to 20 cents a pound. According to the fact sheet for the US Rice Producers, the average US consumption is 25lbs per person per year. They state that 4 lbs of that comes from beer–so let’s take that out and say 21lbs of rice per person per year in the US. Assuming the average family is 4, that’s 21lbs x 4 ppl for 84 lbs of rice a year. Using a price difference of $.20 a year that’s $16.80.
Yeah, I know, $16.80 doesn’t sound like much. But think about it–over the course of 10 years, that’s $168, over 20 years it’s $336. . . Those little savings do add up over time.
Your savings increase even more when you start doing the same thing with multiple purchases. What if you could save $15 a year (I’m pulling that number completely out of a hat) on your purchases of rice, flour, sugar, pasta and beans? That would be 5 items at a savings of $15 each a year for a total savings of $75. . .over 10 years THAT would save you $750, and over 20 $1500. Note: If you ran the real numbers on each of those items for your area and pricing you might realize a bigger or a smaller savings–it’s just an idea to get you thinking.
It’s all just to say that little savings add up over time–so to me, buying in bulk IS worth it as long as you buy items you actually use, can store properly (I’ve shared my bulk food storage in buckets previously) and will use up before they spoil.
What do you think? Is buying in bulk worth it? What items do you purchase in bulk?