Buying In Bulk Part 2: Using What You Buy
Monday, October 20, 2014
As we’ve previously discussed; buying in bulk can save you money.
We covered what you should and should not buy in bulk to save money. However, to actually make bulk buying work for your household budget, you’ll need to make sure you’re not just buying the right things in bulk – but actually using what you’re buying. Otherwise, you’re not saving money; you’re just paying to fill your home up with useless groceries. How do you avoid that? Well, there’s a couple of approaches you should try and nail down.
Storage: Freezers Are Your Friend
Obviously, one of the key parts of making sure you use your bulk buy purchases is making sure they stay usable. One of the best ways to do this is to look at appropriate storage. and here are a few tricks for freezing food that will make it last longer and taste better.
With frozen meat, ensure it’s always kept in absolutely airtight containers. If you’re going to bag it, try wrapping it in foil beforehand. If you buy it from a supermarket and it’s on a tray, you should re-bag it yourself in freezer bags. Why? Because keeping things airtight prevents things like freezer burn and odd flavours from your freezer getting into your meat and ruining it.
[Editor’s note: I can’t stress this step enough. I once had frozen paint brushes in my freezer to save on cleaning them in between painting kitchen doors, and all of the open packages of food ended up tasting and smelling of enamel paint].
If you’re freezing fruit or vegetables, ensure your freezer is set to a very cold temperature. Freezing a fruit or vegetable turns that fruit or vegetable’s moisture to ice crystals, and when you defrost the items, those thawed ice crystals can turn your groceries to mush (http://allrecipes.com/HowTo/How-to-Freeze-Fruits-and-Vegetables/Detail.aspx). A colder freezer will freeze your groceries quicker and create smaller ice crystals – and less defrosting mush.
In general, you should always remember to label each package with what it is and when you froze it, and try to refrain from overcrowding your freezer. With too much in there, items will freeze more slowly or may not fully freeze at all, which can ruin your food or even cause health risks.
Shelf life is critical when deciding what and what not to buy in bulk for freezing. A fresh steak will last two to three days in your refrigerator. It will last six to twelve months in your freezer (if frozen correctly). Even if you think you know how long things will last, it’s best to check. You could be throwing money away on food that can last much longer with a bit of preparation.
With all frozen food, make sure you remove as much air as possible. If you plan on frequently buying in bulk in the future, you may even want to invest in a vacuum sealer – which will help you pack and freeze food in airtight bags quickly and easily.)
Cooking: Creativity Is Your Friend
If you’re not creative, your bulk buying will result in eating the same thing for three months. After three months of eating the same thing, you’re more likely to spring for fast food and other impulse purchases – even if you’re determined not to do so. You can avoid this with some clever cooking and some solid meal-planning.
For example, something like pasta is a bulk buying grocery staple. It lasts for a long time and it’s generally quite inexpensive. While eating the same pasta dish for weeks on end could have you reaching for fast food, you can actually cook it in a myriad of ways that will stop you getting bored. If you plan a bit, you can do the same with similar bulk buying staples like rice or frozen meat.
[Editor’s note: Make sure that you are still eating a balanced diet. A friend of mine took bulk buying to the extreme and did a 30-day pasta challenge to save money. Every meal was a different pasta dish, and every meal had to contain pasta.]
How do you do this? Well, you can actually kill both meal-planning and recipe creativity birds with one stone. Apps like Pepper Plate and Cook Smarts provide meal plans, recipes and other helpful cooking tools at little to no cost to you. Even if you don’t have a smartphone, they’re available as web-based computer platforms as well.
If you use what’s available to be purchased in bulk as the basis for your ingredients list in an app like Pepper Plate, you’ll be able to build some meal plans that keep your food interesting and stop you from springing for impulse purchases and fast food options, all while saving money.
Shopping: Planning Is Your Friend
Even if you’re predominantly buying your groceries in bulk, you’ll still have to visit a supermarket from time to time for the things you can’t or shouldn’t bulk buy.
If you’re buying your food in bulk and worried about actually using it, you’ll want to make sure you’re not falling for any of the standard supermarket tricks to get you to impulse buy and spend more money on groceries you don’t need. Fortunately, it only takes a handful of easy strategies to sidestep such tricks. Generally, all it takes is a bit of planning and forethought before your shopping trips and just being a bit more mindful while you’re grocery shopping.
For example, you should prepare a budget and write a shopping list for every shopping trip. A good idea is to only take the amount of money you intend to spend. By sticking to your shopping list and budget, you’ll avoid impulse purchasing on the basis of bargains or availability. While you’re shopping, you should try and use a basket over a trolley. The modern shopping trolley was designed to encourage larger purchases.
You should also shop clockwise. Or counter-clockwise, depending on your supermarket. Basically, supermarkets are set up to have you follow a path to maximise impulse purchases. It generally starts with the fresh food and produce sections and ends in the dairy/frozen food sections. When shopping, you should go in the opposite direction. A German university study found going against the grain forces you to concentrate more and spend less.
(Another way to avoid getting stuck on the conveyor belt is to see if your local supermarket has a map or aisle guide for where each item is in the store.)
With a budget, a list and a careful plan of attack, you’ll sidestep impulse purchases and avoid overstocking on your bulk buying options – and, as such, be more likely to actually make good use of what you’ve been buying in bulk.
Of course, you don’t need to implement absolutely all of these tricks to benefit from bulk buying. If you’re buying in bulk and having trouble actually using it, those are just some strategies you might consider to get over the hurdle; a budget when you shop, a couple of clever recipes to keep life interesting, and judicious use of freezer space and your bank balance will thank you.