Buying From the Bulk Bin: Why It’s Not Always the Cheaper Option

published Apr 17, 2012
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The Bulk Is Green Council, a bulk industry trade group, claimed their independent research showed buying foods in bulk can save customers an average of 89 percent. That whopping number sounds great in theory, but it is really true? Is buying from the bulk bin always the more affordable option? Well, as NPR discovered, it depends what you’re buying.

After NPR crunched the numbers, they determined that buying in bulk is likely to provide a savings of around 56 percent compared to buying the same food in a package. (Not 89 percent, but still pretty good!) But the biggest discovery was that it’s highly dependent on what you’re purchasing:

While buying foods like coffee and spices in bulk can bring savings as high as 77 percent, some products, like nuts and seeds, were actually more expensive in the bulk aisle. Almonds were the worst offender at more than double the packaged price… So to get the most bulk for your buck, you’ll need to do your own legwork. That means comparing per-pound or per-ounce prices, which are often listed on the shelf tags accompanying packaged items.

Clearly there are other reasons for buying bulk than just the price, though—less waste and high turnover rate come to mind. (Buy smaller amounts of spices, for example, and use them while they’re still fresh.)

How much does price affect whether or not you’ll buy something from the bulk bin?

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