Early on when we started to live together we had a difference in strategy – to buy in bulk or to implement a “Just In Time” (JIT) inventory system.
We were a bit stumped. Ketchup was a good example; should we buy large quantities such as three 44oz bottles of ketchup for $7.99 ($.06 an ounce!) or one bottle of 14 oz of ketchup for $1.99 ($.14 an ounce)? What was better?
We landed on the side of JIT with some bulk buying. Think of it this way; all the food and stuff in the fridge and pantry are dollars. However, they’re dollars just sitting there waiting to be consumed or thrown away instead of earning you money.
JIT means buying enough to get your household through until the next weekly shopping trip. A 5lb bag of clementines is not a good deal if you’re going to throw out 3 lbs of them before they spoil! Be honest with how much you’ll actually need and buy just that amount. It’ll be hard at first to estimate but you’ll get better at it. If you, your partner and 2 kids are likely to eat 4 clementines a day for a week, you only need about 20 of them. If you are more likely to eat 3lbs of clementines (about 20) per week, don’t buy the 5lbs bag even if it’s a “better deal.” It’s a bad deal if you end up throwing half of them out.
Sure, items like clementines stay good for a while, but also figure variety is probably better; you’ll tend to get sick of eating the same things every. single. week. after. week. The beauty of JIT (besides keeping money in your wallet) is you can bring new items into the rotation. Clementines losing their shine? Switch to grapes the following week.
This method encourages you to eat what you have and not waste. The typical American household wastes about 32% of their food every week! What a huge money waster! You want your dollars to stay in your wallet rather than on a shelf (or in the trash).
These are the things we buy using our Just in Time method vs. Buying in Bulk.
- Fresh Fruits
- Fresh Vegetables & Salads
- Eggs (the older they are the less yummy they are)
- Dessert items like cookies, chocolate (we tend to get bored of the same items, plus if its not in the house you can’t eat it.)
- “Fancy” cheeses like brie, parmesan blocks, aged cheddar
- Condiments like mustard, ketchup, relishes (no one wants 3 month old mayo)
- Pickled items like olives, pickles and a Chicago favorite, giardiniera
- Spices and Herbs (if you don’t use them up they go stale)
- Paper products like toilet paper and paper towels
- Dried foods
- Grains like wheat bulgar or quinoa
- Aluminum foil/Wax Paper/Parchment Paper
- Canned products like beans, coconut milk that come in bulk but in regular size cans
- Meat – Chicken, ground beef (we break up the packages and freeze what we won’t use in a single week)
- Shredded cheese/grated parmesan
Utilize JIT especially for items that need to be refrigerated or frozen so you don’t fall into the trap of having a second freezer or fridge. Running a second average sized freezer or fridge can cost $50 to $80 a year.
The items we tend to buy in bulk have expiration dates weeks or years into the future or not one at all. Don’t get us wrong though–we still limit the amount we buy and when we buy it. For example, we don’t re-up on paper towels until we’re down to a roll or two. We re-up in bulk Just in Time.
By using the JIT method and smart bulk buying, your hard-earned dollars can sit pretty in your account instead of rotting away on a shelf in the fridge or collecting dust in the pantry.