One question I’ve been asked more times than I can count over the years is how I shop for groceries. People are especially curious about how I shop for a large family on a budget. I’m sorry to say, but there’s no easy way to go about this task. One place that is great to shop for a large family is Sam’s Club. If you have one in your area or a similar membership club, it’s worth your time to look into it.

This is part of a series on grocery shopping. I also wrote about Walmart and Aldi. All these are places I shop every month, some on a weekly basis.

We have been members of Sam’s Club for many years. The annual fee is around $40 but between groceries and gas we make up that cost quickly. It is great for stocking up on items my family uses every month. I usually only make one trip to Sam’s Club a month for the same things we need.

The Advantages of Bulk Buying

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have a food storage system that I’ve developed over the years. Buying in bulk is the best way to maintain this system and make sure I have what we need on hand. Most of the items I buy at Sam’s Club fall into this category. I’m not buying them to use immediately, they are replacing the item I bought last month and what I’m currently using. For many things I try to keep at least one unopened package in my pantry.

For example, I have one unopened container of maple syrup on my shelf at the moment. Last week I opened a container to make a batch of my Maple Granola. On my next trip to Sam’s Club I’ll buy another container, write the date on it and store it behind my current unopened one. When I need to open a new container, I’ll be using the oldest one first. This rotation makes sure I don’t miss using products before they expire.

The Risks of Bulk Buying

One potential risk with bulk shopping is impulse buying something new that you may not like. If you end up with a huge package of cereal or sauce that your family won’t eat, then you have a problem. With a new product I will try to find a smaller option first to see if we like it and if it’s worth the money.

Another risk is that bulk packages cost more money up front. I’ve done the research to know that per ounce what I’m buying in bulk is the cheapest I can find it. Sometimes the bulk package is not cheaper than a comparable small packages. This is very often the case with name brand items as opposed to generic brands. Not only that, the generic brands are typically made in the same factories as the name brands. You don’t need to waste money unless you truly prefer the name brand of a particular product.

My Bulk Shopping Goals

First, I’m looking to save the most money in the long run when I’m shopping. If the unit price or price per ounce is low enough I’ll buy the bulk item. You will pay more money at the time of purchase than buying smaller amounts but overall you are saving money.

Butter is a good example of this. I buy 4 pound packages at Sam’s Club and it was $3.18 a pound last month. This saves me about 50 cents a pound compared to the other places I shop. Every month we use about 8 pounds of butter so I’m saving $4 a month when I buy at Sam’s Club. This alone makes the annual membership fee worth the price.

Secondly, shopping for the week isn’t what I’m looking at generally. I’m looking to maintain my food storage of 2 to 3 months of food on hand. I know how much of each food we go through in a month and I work to maintain several months in our food storage. The majority of our food is bought in bulk for this reason.

Third, by buying in bulk I can invest in higher quality food as it meets our family’s goals. We pay more for milk from a nearby dairy but I can save money on other items to make that work. I buy a specific type of rice from an regenerative farm in California and it’s a lower price per pound because I buy 25 pounds at a time. It’s not the cheapest rice but it’s a better quality and supports other things that are important to us.

Shopping Series

This is the first post in a series about how I do my grocery shopping on a budget for a large family. These concepts will help you save money even if you aren’t shopping for a large family. Sam’s Club is one of 5 places I shop at during a typical month. While it’s not as easy as some shopping methods, it helps me stay on budget and meets our family’s needs.