We prefer to buy our meat, fresh produce and a few other things locally as much as possible. We have even found places to purchase some of those things in bulk at a discount.
However, I have been working to find a way to reduce our “shelf stable” food expense. I have looked at Whole Foods, Meijer, Amazon subscribe & save, Costco and a buying club. Costco had good prices on things, but the time my very sweet friend generously took time to give me a tour, they didn’t have a huge number of things that I buy. I thank you, my friend, for the great tour! I guess it is hit or miss what Costco might have in a given month, though. Plus, there might be the temptation to buy a bulk amount of processed food.
I have found a bulk buying club in our area, just a few minutes from my home in fact. Orders are placed with UNFI (which is where I believe Whole Foods orders from) every 4 weeks and delivered a week after being placed. Many of the prices on the list from UNFI are less than prices at Whole Foods and Amazon, plus the buying club will give an 8% discount on non-sale items. UNFI offers monthly sales also and it looks like a typical sale price is 15% off. Costs for the club besides the food are minimal — sales tax on non-food items, which you would have to pay anyway and there is a $2/order fuel charge. I’m sure I spend that much in gas driving to WF on the other side of town. While it would require purchasing by the case for packaged foods or 1-50# packages for bulk items, the orders can be split through the club or with someone you know. Because the delivery site doesn’t have facilities for splitting sacks of flour and such, only packaged items can be case split through the club and only if someone else wants some. However, if you have friends who also like what you do, you can split with them. Remember it is only cheaper if you will use your purchase before it goes bad. Splitting and/or proper long-term storage can help make it worthwhile. Another benefit: you can shop from home in your pjs, someone else collects it all in one place for you. There are so many reasons and tips to buying bulk. But rather than list them here myself, Frugally Sustainable has a great free downloadable Bulk Buying Guide for subscribing to their blog. Check it out. Their blog is full of other great ideas and encouragement as well.
I plan to begin purchasing from the club the foods I normally get from the WF bulk bins. Not all at once, but an item or a few each month. This includes (all organic) whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat flour, rolled oats, steel cut oats, raisins, dates, various nuts, dry beans, brown rice and so on. These usually come in a few sizes, and generally the larger the sack, the better the price per lb. Though these can’t be split through the club, if you are interested in splitting (and a local reader), let me know. We purchase very few packaged foods, but we will likely get Wild Planet tuna and sardines, canned tomatoes, canned beans, crackers and maybe a few other such things as well.
If you are interested in more information, I’d be happy to send you a list of which products/prices are available. I can also give you contact information for the buying club. I’ve not yet bought through the club, but will be placing an order near the end of February. If you just want to wait to find out how it works out for me before you give it a try, I’ll try to post an update after I get my order.
Maybe we will give delivered local, organic produce another try..? But that’s a story and a post for another day.