Buy food in bulk, save money, time and fuel costs! It seems like an absolutely foolproof strategy. Yet, there are a few significant potential drawbacks to buying food in bulk quantities:
• It can become an addictive and a costly habit over time. Save $2.25 by purchasing 5 quarts of rocky road ice cream! Who can turn down getting a larger quantity of their favorite food and save an extra $2.25 in the process? The underlying premise of consumer psychology is never more apparent than in the marketing and merchandising of food sold in warehouse clubs and large discount outlets. For many consumers, the lure of bulk buying, of being able to ferret out “true money-saving bargains” and the joy of discovering new products at “low, low prices” can turn shopping into an emotionally laden social activity, akin to a sporting event. If left unchecked, such a shopping habit can quickly result in a trail of costly, unnecessary impulse food expenditures.
• The tendency to over-consume with regard to food. Simply put, the more food we have around, the more we tend to consume without any serious thought to our waistline or budget. Self-discipline becomes virtually impossible. Buying cookies, pretzels and other popular snack foods in vast quantities at “below discount prices” just makes it all the more difficult to resist the urge to overeat. Likewise, it can actually prevent us from exercising “healthy” choices when it comes to buying food. Understanding our individual eating habits is a critical step towards making more prudent and economical decisions with regard to grocery shopping and it can also help us avoid getting trapped on the merry-go-round of excessive food consumption.
• Conversely, not adequately estimating the frequency of use of specific products when calculating “savings.” Various condiments and spices bought in bulk in order to save an additional $0.35 may not be utilized on a regular basis. Such items are not necessarily a bargain if they are just going to take up storage space. Our personal attitudes towards cooking and food in general can easily fluctuate daily or weekly due to a whole gamut of reasons or change in circumstance. It is possible to tire of even our favorite snack foods (e.g., granola bars) if one is inundated with them on a daily basis. Too much of anything can become a bore.
• Turning your home into a mini-warehouse or supermarket. Storage is not just a problem for those who live in small apartments or houses. Sometimes, more space can be a drawback as it may be accompanied by a greater individual willingness to overspend and gradually build up large inventories of food, thereby turning the home into a mini-warehouse. This in turn means more work. It can lead to increases in other unforeseen expenditures (e.g., higher electricity bills because you have just bought an extra freezer or refrigerator to store excess food. Then, there will be additional costs for repair and maintenance of the freezer or refrigerator.) You may also have to purchase storage bins, jars, boxes and other supplies. The inventory has to be organized. The food has to be put in freezer bags, labeled and dated. The various foods have to be rotated and utilized in accordance to the expiration date and to avoid wastage. The food inventory also has to be checked regularly for spoilage. Some frozen food items may end up monopolizing a large section of available freezer space.
• More work in terms of creating, tracking and maintaining the food inventory. That means you have less time for yourself to pursue your hobbies and interests. Organizing and maintaining a large food inventory can be an exhausting part-time job in itself.
• Not thoroughly calculating the savings from unit pricing and failure to do comparative analysis of similar products. In some cases, substituting a generic product for a brand product may result in greater savings when purchased in bulk and in combination with other sales promotions.
Buying food in bulk quantities is a strategy that can produce superficial, short-term savings even for infrequent shoppers who may limit their purchases to only a few relevant items. For those consumers who are highly diligent and methodical in their approach, bulk buying can yield measurable long-term savings. Obviously, the actual extent of the viability of this type of shopping approach is largely subject to the psychology and personal priorities of the individual consumer.