In my never-ending quest to drive down our grocery costs, my husband and I delved into buying dry staples in bulk. Many staples (rice, beans, barley, flour, and other grains) can be purchased in large quantities for prices that are fractional compared to grocery store prices.
Use the Top 8 Frugal Cooking Ingredients to identify some frugal staples you can add to your diet. Overlapping these ingredients in many of your meals will allow you to purchase a few ingredients in large quantities that can be frequently used in your menu. The fewer ingredients you have to purchase, maintain and store, the better for your bottom line.
Rice was our first bulk purchase because we use a lot of it in our cooking. Versatility makes rice a very frugal cooking ingredient. Use it as a side or mix it into main dishes for extra filling. It cooks well in the crockpot, in a steam cooker, on the stove top, and even bakes well in the oven. At our grocery store, the largest bag of rice costs $1.03 per pound. At Sam’s Club, my husband was able to get a 50 pound bag of rice for only $15! That means for the same rice, we paid 30 cents per pound instead of $1.03! For the same amount of rice we would have purchased (over time) from our grocer, we saved $36.50.
Investing in proper storage containers also needs to be a consideration. Keep in mind, though, that the money you invest in these containers will only be spent once. Buying in bulk will save you much more money than the initial investment in the containers. (Don’t commit the same frugal blunder we did! Learn about storing bulk foods before you make any purchases!)
This great guide to food storage from North Dakota State University Agriculture provides storage charts for almost every food imaginable and timelines for how long each food will keep.
What other dry foods can be purchased in bulk to drive down the cost of stocking your pantry?
Grains: barley, wheat berries, quinoa, white rice, brown rice, oats
Pasta: spaghetti, macaroni, egg noodles
Beans: lentils, pinto, black, great northern, small white, red, kidney
Miscellaneous: coffee (you may be able to buy directly from a local roaster at significantly reduced prices), flour, sugar, popcorn, baking powder, baking soda, grits, dry milk, artificial sweeteners (Splenda)
Frugal Challenge: Add one new bulk food and corresponding storage containers to your pantry each time you grocery shop. One at a time helps keep the cost of buying the containers manageable. Watch your pantry level increase and your grocery bill decrease, since you’ll now be able to buy more food for less!