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By the author of the FREE online course Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture
With my shopping dollar facing a SQUEEZE in almost every direction, I continue to look for ways to save. The other day, as I was hand-grinding my organic spelt kernels to make bread, I had a *light bulb* moment! I could share my best tips in bulk buying with you in this article. So, that is what I did.
With pounds and pounds of root vegetables and potatoes still preserved in my improvised root cellars from last year’s harvest, I am a thrifty homesteader. I don’t need to buy much each week at the grocery store. When I do buy, I like to buy BIG. I got out my calculator (OK…um…well, it’s now actually an app on my laptop!) and did some calculations to share my savings with you.
Organic Spelt Kernels
As I don’t have the land on my Half-Acre Homestead to grow enough grain for my needs, one of the first things I did when I moved to the area was located an organic grain farm nearby. I have known them now for years. They grow organic spelt and also sell organic vegetables and produce their own organic beef. I liked my main contact there immediately, as we were clearly on the same wavelength when it came to eating and health. It is a pleasure to go there to buy each time I do.
However, here’s the thing: I don’t need to go there too often because I buy 44 pounds of organic spelt kernels at a time! I started doing this when I lived in my off-grid tiny house, where I had even less space, and I still do it now. I certainly make my way through them before they ever go bad. I immediately move them from the heavy-duty paper bags she sells them in to my stainless steel buckets with locking lids. When I need the floor space of the utility room to store root veggies on the concrete floor where it’s cool, the buckets get moved up to the attic. (Yes, I know it’s not ideal, but it’s only for part of the year!)
Around half a pound of kernels will almost fill the hopper of my hand grinder, and I can generally make two or three cups of flour with that, so that gives me, say, two weeks of bread. (I use a 50 – 50 mix of my hand-ground organic spelt kernels and all-purpose flour to make my traditional Irish soda bread.)
So, I need half a pound of kernels every 2.5 weeks for bread. I now make my own crackers, too, so I will need another half a pound of kernels every 2.5 weeks for crackers. I don’t use them generally for anything else.
So, doing the math – for a year, I need a pound every 2.5 weeks or 21 pounds in total. So, my 44-pound bag should last me around two years. Back (so many years ago!) when I last bought my kernels, they cost only $30. I just called my farmer friend today, and the price has gone up to $42. Still, that’s a LOT of mileage for very little money. My cost per pound is around $1.
Want to compare with Amazon? Sure! I found a 2.2 pound bag of organic spelt kernels for around $6. Yup! Six TIMES the cost. Think you can save on Amazon by buying in bulk. Think again! I found a 22 pound bag for around $73. That’s right…more than seven TIMES my cost…not a great deal. I guess they add a bit in so that they can offer you free shipping, right? At the same time, if you don’t have access locally, the bulk prices on Amazon are still better than small bags at the grocery store.
To make my Irish soda bread and crackers, it’s much better to mix my heavier hand-ground spelt flour with some all-purpose flour. In fact, I just bought my “annual” bag of flour today. It weighs 22 pounds and cost me less than nine dollars. My price per pound is around 41 cents. Yes, it was on sale, and yes, I waited several weeks to find this price.
Are there bigger bags of flour out there? Yup. But, unlike spelt kernels, flour does go bad. I find that I can use this amount easily between eight months to a year. What do I save compared to buying those smaller bags? Quite a bit! Even our local sale price for a 5-pound bag is $4.37, meaning you are paying a whopping 87 cents per pound. That is more than double. Yikes!
Wiper Washer Fluid
I only ever buy this when it is on sale and in a CASE of four. Yes, I often have a few hanging around in the spring, so I just stick them in my shed. This reduces the price of a large gallon jug by more than half.
When my good friend brought my Christmas gift by this year, I had to laugh! He had bought a case of four and gave me one as a gift. I was delighted to add to my collection! What a thoughtful and frugal gift!
Nuts, Seeds, Etc.
Twice a year, I make my annual trip to our local bulk buy store. Everything I like to eat for snacks and lunches (chia seeds, hemp hearts, organic raisins, sunflower seeds, whole flax seeds) is purchased in massive quantities intended to last at least six months.
What do I save?
By buying everything in 2-pound sizes or larger, I can save HUGE compared to the half-pound bags in the local grocery store (half the total cost.) As well, many of the items are organic, whereas the regular grocery store ones aren’t. Big savings and better quality, and I only shop twice a year!
Heavy Duty Detergent
Virtually everything I wash in my eco-cabin gets washed in organic soap. However, I do occasionally work on my vehicle or clean really nasty stuff. I like to have some heavy-duty liquid soap on hand at all times. On our hardware website, this is described as “heavy-duty bio-degradable car cleaner and disinfectant.” It’s strong stuff!
I waited months for a good sale. My big jug was getting low….finally the sale came! At first, I thought it was a typo. I think this was the best price I will EVER get on a big jug of this stuff: I got almost a gallon of it for less than $12.50. When I saw the sale price in the flyer, I ran into the store and grabbed the last one on the shelf. Whew! Good for another few years! A quick check today on a nearby hardware store website found a half-gallon jug of the same stuff for $13.40. That’s a jug HALF the size!!!
Thing BIG to Save BIG!
Over the years, I’ve figured out which items to buy in bulk so that I can save my hard-earned cash.
Could you see yourself making any of the high-volume purchases offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? Please tell us in the comments section.
Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient. Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture.” Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!
18 thoughts on “Buy BIG, Save BIG: Things I Buy in Bulk”
Would you share your recipe for spelt/flour bread? I have had foul luck with my own yeast bread and need a soda bread recipe.
Oil changes here are around $60 to $70. I found a man who would let me bring my Walmart oil to him and he charges me $10 for the labor. Annual savings around a hundred bucks.
I can get a huge bucket of squirrel and bird food for less than $4 if I go to the local mill of which we have 2.
Hi Marie, Ooooooooh! I love the Frugalite savings you have shared! Great tips for everyone. In your honour, I am going to draft a How To Guide for my website on “How to Make Spelt-Based Irish Soda Bread.” To be honest, it’s one of those things that I make so often and for so long that I don’t really have a recipe. I just ate my last “farl” at breakfast (farl means “quarter” in Irish!), so I will be frying some up tomorrow morning. I will be sure to take a few photos and then write up the How to Guide. I’ll post a link here when it is done, or you can check in on the How To Guide section on my website. I’ll aim for this week, but it might be early next week.
Thanks for this idea. I love requests from readers!!!
Hi Marie, I have finally had a chance to complete this How To Guide. It is up on my website and located here. Just scroll down to the last guide to find it: https://halfacrehomestead.ca/how-to-guides/ I hope you enjoy it. I had half a farl for breakfast just this morning!
Thank you for this informative article.
I am really interested in some information about your “improvised root cellar” . I really need one and am looking for ideas especially if it really works.
Thank you for any help.
Hi Karen, I appreciate your interest in my improvised root cellars. I actually have TWO!!! I discuss them in a bit of detail in my online course, the fourth module, which is Food Preservation and Storage. If you go to my website, you can register for the course, which is free. I consider this course a gift to everyone who wants to be more self-sufficient.
The modules come out one per week, so you’re a month out from that module. In the meantime, I am planning a how to guide on my “hole-in-ground” root cellar, which is still going strong! I based this on old off-grid farm methods. I dug a hole below our local frost line and lined it with clay pipe. That root cellar is still at 2 degrees Celsius and 90 % humidity in our early spring! I am figuring that a couple more of those would allow me to store all root crop harvest below ground and preserve it to spring. WITH NO ELECTRICITY!!! When I have that How to Guide completed, I will come back and post a link. If you enroll on my website for the course, you will automatically get a notice when each How To Guide is published. Thanks for your interest. I am very proud of my food storage innovations. Off-grid preparedness using the old farm methods of my ancestors is my passion!
Thank you thank you!!! I will definitely check out the course!! Congratulations on your success!!
Looking forward to learning all I can and appreciate you and Daisy so much!!
So glad to hear this, Karen. Enjoy the course and I will get working on the root cellar How to Guide (right after the Irish Soda bread one!!!). Kind regards, Colette
Some random thoughts
In the US if there’s a Winco near you … it’s a great place to look for quantity deals on many things.
The hand-grinding-into flour observation about spelt grain also applies to just about any other kind of grain (or combination of them) as well. So you can store such grains for years but only grind into flour as much as your immediate needs call for. An ancestor of mine back in the pre-electric horse and buggy era told of grains turned into flour at a local mill that would then only last for about a week in his local climate. So the ability to grind grains (and more) into flour at home in only as-needed quantities is as good as it gets.
In my case my Country Living grain mill (hand crankable or motorizable) with its optional bean augur can also turn just about any kind of dried beans into flour (once such beans have been cleaned and then given the time to dry first. That savings in cooking time and energy expended is monumental. As Rita Bingham explains in her book “Country Beans” bean flour in hot water become edible after only three minutes of cooking time. In a long term power outage the ability to hand crank the grain mill and conserve enormously on stored fuels is monumental.
That bean augur can do even more. It can turn just about any kind of nut (including peanuts, eg) into nut butter … as long as you don’t mind cleaning up the mess inside your grinding mill afterwards.
Hi Lewis, I hope this finds you well! Thank you for your insightful comments. The story from your ancestor regarding flour spoilage definitely does underline the importance of having a hand-cranking grain mill. Each year, I am expanding the area in my garden where I grow Pinto beans. They are relatively small and grow well here. In the case of extended power outage, I will be growing more and more of them as a protein source. Your idea to grind them is sheer genius. I hope people will run to get a copy of “Country Beans!” Much appreciated. Wishing you the best!
Buying large quantities in bulk usually doesn’t work for me as a Single Person because the food usually goes bad before I can eat it all.
Hi Mustang, Yes, you raise an important point about being single. I am also single, and I have to pick carefully what I buy in bulk, or it will also go bad. That is why I select items like spelt kernels (basically never go bad) and hemp hearts, chia seeds, which (I just checked a bag in my pantry) will go bad in 2024, November 14th. One bag of these (two pounds) lasts me a month, so I know I will eat these a good year and seven months before they go bad. With expiry dates really only “best before” dates, I often eat some of these things a year past the expiry date as long as they don’t smell “off.” I recently gave a friend of mine a 2 lb bag of steel cut oatmeal I didn’t want that had expired a year ago. You gotta know he was also a Frugalite, as he was delighted!
So, I agree that this approach only works for some items, and I have shifted 99% of my food purchasing to long-lasting items like these. The only “spoilable” food I buy each week is around a gallon of milk. With that, I culture it into kefir, which lasts much longer than milk, and make my own cheese, too. I buy some frozen beef from a local abbatoir in patties and eat one a week. So, I hope this gives you some ideas on how to shop when single. Wishing you the best!
The comments about not buying some foods in quantity because they ‘go bad” so quickly suggests a need for an article to enhance the benefit of buying in quantity by learning which foods respond well to sun drying, salting, canning, dehydrating, freeze-drying, etc. Most (but not all) do well by dehydrating which preserves about 90% of the original nutrition value in contrast to canning which preserves typically a little under 50%. There is a learning curve for each of such methods as well as differing costs of equipment. The cost of a freeze dryer is often out of reach for many people, eg. A favorite resource for me for ordinary dehydrating has been dehydrate2store.com but there are plenty more.
The point is that the more you learn about what foods respond well to which preservation methods (including the equipment costs and learning curve efforts for each different method), the far greater types of foods you can reliably buy or grow in quantity with your personal confidence that you can preserve them (how and for how long).
I put bags of whole wheat flour and brown rice into a second plastic bag (I actually re-use bread bags that I get from my daughter who packs 2 lunches a day.) into my freezer during times when I have excess space in the freezer. When my fruits and vegetables are being used down, the flour and rice help keep from wasting electricity. I buy pinto beans in 5 pound bags and vacuum seal them in pint jars (the right amount to cook for beans and rice or refried bean.). I cook a pound of rice at a time and eat it with the pinto beans, as breakfast cereal, and eat it with zucchini and onions that I have cooked with tomato sauce. I use whole wheat flour to make a whole wheat-oatmeal bread and to make pancakes.
Hi Mary, MMMMmmmmmmmm! Your breakfast cereal sounds delicious and right up my alley. You have highlighted some great ways to use extra space in your freezer to preserve thrifty bulk purchases. Good for you! Thanks so much for sharing these tips that can open peoples’ eye to the value to eating healthy simple foods. Wishing you the best!
If you vacuum pack grains like barley, nuts and other dried foods that tend to not store as long you’ll be able to store them much longer. I have vacuum packed lots of nuts and by keeping them in a cooler dark ( can be put in a cardboard box to keep the light out) place they have lasted a much longer time.
Hi Sis, This is fantastic. I hadn’t thought of vacuum packing and you raise an excellent point that you can then store them much longer. Much appreciated! Enjoy your barley and nuts. Very healthy, too! Wishing you the best!
I love reading your articles. We are making progress on our suburban homestead. It was more of a fixer upper than we had anticipated. But we are getting things in order even if it is slower than I had hoped for.
Thanks for another great article with words of wisdom.
Hi Trish, I’m delighted to hear from you. Keep making progress! My wise mother often told me that things often take longer than you think. I have found that to be a comforting thought when I get in the middle of projects. You are in a fortunate position and this is a good time to get things in order. I look forward to keeping in touch. All the best!