At the beginning of the pandemic, it was difficult to buy things like pasta, rice, flour and sugar. A lot of people were buying them up quickly and storing them assuming that the situation was going to get a lot worse than it did (in the UK at least).
On the one hand, hoarding food in times when it’s in short supply is pretty selfish. But, on the other hand, I see the survival instinct kicking in. I could never condemn people wanting to protect their family.
Yes, it is true that those who hoarded were very likely the cause of the food shortage problem in the first place.
The more empty the shelves became the more panicked people became, and so the shelves got more and more empty when actually there was probably never a supply issue in the first place.
Besides surviving a pandemic, it makes a lot of sense to buy your food in bulk. It is usually cheaper, and generally, it is the healthier foods that store well in bulk, plus there is much less packaging.
If you buy the right cheap foods in bulk then it is perfectly possible to sustain yourself for a considerable time and save money in the process.
Why buy foods in bulk?
Often, the more you buy the cheaper it becomes. Building up a store of cheap foods in your pantry means you can eat very cheaply and very healthily too because many of the foods that store well are also nutrient-rich, whole, and natural.
Having a lean month? Or perhaps your budget says you need to reduce grocery spending. Buying your food cheaply in bulk is a great way to bring down your weekly grocery bill. Plus having a store of these foods is a backup should money get very tight or another emergency comes along.
Most of the below-listed foods are great at keeping you full too.
You won’t find yourself snacking your way to the next meal like you could on a diet of processed foods.
A bowl of vegetarian chilli made with red kidney beans and served with rice from your pantry is not only very nutritious but is also guaranteed to give you energy and keep you satisfied until your next mealtime.
Don’t forget that spices are also perfect for storing too. I have a huge tub of dried red chillies that I have been cooking with for at least a year and they are still nice and hot!
Of course, you could buy up expensive food too and store those, like fancy seeds and nuts. But, today we are talking about the cheapest foods you can buy and which of those are best bought in bulk for the maximum savings.
Cheap Foods You Can Buy In Bulk
A rule of thumb is that anything that is dry and doesn’t degrade over time can be bought in bulk.
List of cheap foods to buy in bulk:
All kinds of pasta can be bought in bulk and stored, as long as it is dried of course.
2. Beans and lentils
The cheapest way to buy beans and lentils is in their dried rather than canned form. Dried beans and lentils take far less space to store than in cans.
3. Canned foods
For examples tomatoes, tuna fish, baked beans and soups can last a long time in a can and can usually be bought more cheaply when you buy them in trays rather than singularly.
Oats are very versatile and last for a long time. You can make cereals with oats, energy bars, cakes and biscuits. You will never go hungry if you have oats on hand.
Did you know you could also cook porridge in a pressure cooker? Check out my guide – How To Make Porridge In A Pressure Cooker (perfect every time!).
Another staple is rice. Any type of rice will keep for a long time including long grain, short grain, and brown rice.
6. Dried fruit
Keep the bulk of your dried fruit sealed to stop it from drying out further. If you are storing a lot of fruit, consider decanting to a smaller container for your kitchen to avoid opening the packet too often.
Flour can be bought in bulk. If you are going to keep it for a long time make sure you keep it in a cool environment to reduce the chance of weevils multiplying in your food.
Spices such as dried chillies will last forever. Ground spices don’t last as long. Spices in their whole dried form are best.
Where to buy cheap food in bulk
Depending on your country there will be websites where you can buy food in bulk. Some I looked at in the UK were obviously aimed at resellers, they had a minimum spend and you had to buy a lot of each item to make it worth it. That will probably not suit you as a domestic consumer, so watch out for that.
Some sites specialise in selling surplus food that is about to go out of date.
Here some online outlets:
Cash and carry
Cash and carry superstores are usually membership-based. There is a big one near us called CostCo. If you shop there it can be a bit mind-blowing with all the offers that seem to be available. There are big savings to be found on bulk purchases, but always make sure you do your research to be certain that what you are buying is cheaper than your local supermarket.
I like to buy cheap fruit and vegetables at the local market. The best bargains can be found at the end of the day. Some fruits and veg freeze well like berries and prepared apples for example. If you are buying in bulk make sure you have enough freezer space.
If you see a buy-one-get-one-free deal and it is genuinely cheaper than normal, the go for it.
How to store your bulk items
Dry items such as rice, beans and pasta should be stored in a cool dry place. Avoid humid or damp environments. Try to raise them up so they are less likely to get nibbled by animals.
- Keep dried fruit sealed otherwise it will dry out even further.
- Keep flour cool to prevent weevils from appearing.
- Fresh items can be stored in a freezer.
Cheap foods to buy in bulk and freeze
If your food was not already frozen when you purchased it, I find the best thing is to peel and slice before you freeze, that way it is easier to defrost and use quickly.
Here are some foods that freeze well:
- Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries
- Apples (peeled and sliced)
- Pineapple (peeled and sliced)
- Greens, such as cabbage and spinach
What are the worst foods to purchase in bulk?
Anything that has a short shelf-life or nearing the end of its shelf-life is best avoided.
Here are some foods to avoid:
- Dairy produce, e.g milk and cream
Some yoghurts freeze well, particularly the low-fat type. This post tells you all you need to know about freezing yoghurts – Is it OK to Freeze Yoghurt? – Three Yoghurts Compared.
Final thoughts on cheap foods you can buy in bulk
Don’t always assume that buying anything in bulk will be good for both your health AND your pocket.
Here are four important things to consider before you buy:
- Will you use it?
- Do you have space to store it?
- How long will it last in the pantry/freezer?
- Is it cheaper to buy in bulk rather than on an as-needed basis?