We buy in bulk to save money, but which items won’t go bad over time? Here’s a great list of 20+ healthy foods that will last at least a year in storage. Check out my other articles on how to afford organic food and my 20 ways to save money on real food in the kitchen.
Buying in bulk is one of the fail-proof grocery tips that works consistently, time and time again.
However, the biggest counter to the theory of buying in bulk is not being able to use it all up before it goes bad.
But what are the best healthy foods to bulk buy? What items (other than household supplies, paper towels, and trash bags) can I buy in bulk to save money that will last longer than a month or two?
As it turns out, there are quite a few. Some of these ideas require a freezer, but the majority of them will last just fine stored unopened in a pantry or basement. You can also divide out some of your bulk items to create a stockpile for emergency use that can be rotated and replaced for as little as $5 a week.
The next time you build your shopping list, consider buying some of these items in bulk. Knowing that they won’t go bad, the only question that remains is do you have enough space to store them?
The Best Healthy Food to Buy in Bulk
What are the best groceries for bulk buying?
- Whole Grains. Think wheat, spelt, einkorn, etc. You’ll need a grain mill, but you’ll be amazed at how delicious freshly milled bulk flour is!
- Rice (brown or white)
- Beans & Lentils
- Oats (all varieties)
- Meat. Store meat in sealed dinner-sized portions in the freezer, rather than in glass jars.
- Maple Syrup. Maple syrup will keep indefinitely if left unopened, so aim to buy a case of smaller glass jars, rather than one big jar.
- Honey. Unopened, honey will keep indefinitely. Once opened, its expected shelf life is about two years so long as it is kept in a sealed container.
- Coconut Oil.
- Butter. Store butter in the freezer.
- Canned Fish. Similar to maple syrup, it would be easier and more practical to buy a case of smaller cans than one large can.
- Canned tomatoes
- Whole Peppercorns
- Frozen Vegetables. Like meat, store sealed in dinner-sized portions in the freezer.
- Dried Fruits
- Nuts in a Shell. Don’t forget the nutcracker if you don’t have one!
A Few Quick Tips for Long(er) Term Food Storage When Buying in Bulk
- Always use airtight containers. Think lids with seals, not chip clips or rubber bands, or paper clips. Keeping moisture and air out is vital to keeping your food fresh and pest-free while in storage.
- What type of containers should you use? Glass is always best since chemicals won’t leak into your food, and it’s your most frugal option if you already have it on hand.
- Mason jars or reclaimed glass jars (that once held spaghetti sauce or peanut butter) are perfect for storing smaller amounts of food. Even if you have to use several jars for the same item, they are still your most frugal option.
- If you use one particular item fairly often in the kitchen, want to have plenty on hand, and don’t have space for tons of jars, you can invest in a few half-gallon glass jars.
- For items that you REALLY use a lot of, like whole grains if you mill flour on a weekly basis, a gallon glass jar would be a worthwhile investment. A good example of this for my family would be oats.
- When you buy larger quantities of food, like 10+ pounds, you’ll want to invest in food-grade storage containers. These 5-gallon buckets and lids are BPA-free and have a really tight seal. So much so, that a lid opener is recommended.
Note: Just to give you an idea, a 5-gallon bucket will hold about 37 pounds of whole wheat.
There are many stores but my favorite supplier for when I buy bulk items is Costco. But are Costco membership fees worth the cost? Here are my guides on shopping at Costco.
1. A frugal real food guide to healthy food at Costco
2. Real, affordable, gluten-free food at Costco
3. Which is cheaper, Costco or Aldi?
Some things that shouldn’t be bought in bulk at the grocery store are bread, fresh produce, cleaning products that will not be used within a year, and anything you won’t be able to freeze or eat before it goes bad.
The pros: save money with low prices, less packaging, and stock up on things you need. The cons: making sure the bulk price is a better deal, could result in wasting food.
How to Save Money on Storage Containers When You Buy in Bulk
The cost of containers themselves can add up, so one way you can trim that is by purchasing food already in a suitable storage container.
- For glass jars, half-gallon and gallon jars of pickles are available at Walmart and you re-use that jar. To get the pickle taste out of the jar, fill it with a couple of drops of dish soap and hot water. Tighten the lid and turn it upside down. Let it sit on the counter for 2-3 days and wash out.
- For 5+ gallon buckets, make an initial bulk purchase that includes the storage container and simply refill from there. If the price is better WITH the storage container, continue to buy that one and repurpose the old bucket for items that don’t ordinarily come with storage-friendly packaging.
Make Bulk Storage Space Functional
I wouldn’t store a bunch of 5-gallon buckets in the pantry. Instead, keep them in the basement or even in a closet. Keep a smaller container in the pantry for daily use and refill as needed.
Write Instructions on the Jars
Write the basic preparation recipe on the glass jar before you throw the package away. You can use cute chalkboard labels, super basic white mailing labels, or a permanent marker.
Use this method for removing the label from a glass jar if needed.
More Ways to Save on Healthy Food
- Creating a Price Book
- How to Stick to Your Grocery Budget
- 12 Simple Ways to Avoid Food Waste
- How to Eat the Whole30 on a Budget