Will You Ever Use 20 Rolls Of Paper Towels? What To Buy And Not Buy In Bulk

Buying in bulk might seem like a great idea, if you have the time and storage needed to deal such large quantities. But with more retailers offering coupons, in-store promotions and customer loyalty programs is buying in bulk really a good deal? And what items are even good in bulk?

Parade recently listed the top five items to buy in bulk. While the author makes some good points, we just don’t agree on some.

First of all, meat. Buying meat in bulk can be a huge saver, although a bit gross. I always cringed when my mom would bring home a huge tube of ground chuck. She would spend close to an hour dismembering the package and scooping out portions to be frozen.

That’s an hour of time she will never get back. Sure she saved 30 cents a pound, but she lost three shelves in the freezer that could have been used to hold popsicles. Not to mention you pretty much have to invest in a food saver or you’re going to have freezer burn all over that raw meat.

Moving on to paper products.

A 20-roll package of paper towels seems like a fabulous deal when you figure each roll costs about 70 cents. But where are you going to put them in your tiny one bedroom apartment? Do you stuff them under the bed with your reams of bulk printer paper that was such a good deal two years ago? How about strategically placing them throughout the kitchen cabinets? The paper might not expire but it’s taking up a lot of your living space and you’ll eventually start giving them out to your friends as party gifts.

Now something like toilet paper, I can get behind buying that in bulk. It’s always in demand. However, Forbes says that’s just not a good deal in bulk. Why? Because grocery stores or your local CVS probably have a better deal than what you’re paying for the 30 pack at Costco.

So while bulk buying seems like a great idea, especially if you have the space and time to make sure your actually getting a good deal, sometimes it’s just not worth it. Oh and don’t even get us started on the fuzzy math some companies use to promote bulk items.

Here are the top 5 things to buy in bulk, as described by Parade: paper towels, meat, diapers, coffee and bottled water.

Here are a few things you shouldn’t buy in bulk: nuts, toilet paper, pop (or soda – whichever you prefer), brown rice, chips and cooking oil.

Do you have a favorite item to buy in bulk or an item you bought in bulk that was totally not worth it? Let us know at tips@consumerist.com. Be sure to use “BULK BUYING” in the subject line.

The 5 Best Items to Buy in Bulk [Parade]

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  1. CharlesWinthrop says:

    We buy both paper towels and toilet paper in bulk. And Forbes is wrong. A 4-pack of toilet paper is $3.00 roughly (I don’t use cheap crap when I…crap). That works out to 75 cents a roll. A 72-pack of bulk toilet paper is $14.00 roughly. That works out to just a hair under 20 cents a roll. Tell me again how I’m not saving money?

    • MarthaGaill says:

      Right? Buying in bulk just to buy in bulk doesn’t always save you. You have to look at the cost per unit and wait for good sales. It doesn’t go bad, so stock up. Also, I live in a one bedroom apartment and I still manage to store my TP and paper towels just fine.

  2. DaveP says:

    I always buy paper products like toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, etc in bulk when the price is good. Part of the reason is the inevitable shrink ray. a “triple’ roll of TP is smaller than a single roll was several years ago. And most rolls went from 4.5″ wide to 4″. Costco still has 4.5″ TP which is great.

  3. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

    not only do i buy toilet paper in bulk, but if i get it at bj’s club, i can usually use both a bj’s coupon (about twice a year they run something like $3.50 off charmin) AND a manufacturer’s coupon.
    i have the luxury of a house with 8 closets (yes, i have more closets than rooms) so i have plenty of places to put giant packs of tp and paper towels. and sometimes i split a package with a friend who doesn’t have a club membership.
    i don’t do major couponing or store up 30 tubes of toothpaste, but not only does buying bulk save me money, but it saves me extra trips to the store where i might make ill advised impulse purchases
    sometimes i buy meat in bulk, but i find i can also often get a better deal at my local grocery since they tend to have meat sales every couple of months. i really love the “25% off meat that fits in the specially marked paper bag” sales.

  4. C0Y0TY says:

    Milk is no good in bulk. I’m lucky to finish a half gallon before it spoils. Definitely don’t buy spices in bulk.

  5. Raekwon says:

    I’m not seeing why not to buy meat in bulk. I always do and it rarely has freezer burn. Toilet paper is almost always cheaper in bulk for me as well. In the rare case it goes on sale for a better price somewhere else I’ll get it there. The one thing couponers and other sale hunters forget to mention are the opportunity costs driving store to store, clipping coupons, buying and searching sale adds, and planning crazy shopping trips with multiple people. Often saving a couple cents isn’t worth it to go to another store because that one item is a little less than the bulk store I’m already at.

  6. Seli says:

    I buy my toilet paper in bulk at BJ’s mostly because their house brand is my favorite toilet paper. I like it better than the “equivalent” Charmin. And it’s cheap. We’ll also buy Purdue chicken breasts in bulk (when they get to a good price) because even though it’s just the two of us at home, the Purdue ones come in vacuum packs of 2 breasts each, so we can just dump the 10-pound lot in the freezer and not be spending the time breaking them up and repackaging, etc.

  7. SingleMaltGeek says:

    This is why I have a lot of shelving in the basement!

    Well, primarily for booze, but also for cheap bulk items like paper products! :D

  8. crazydelirium says:

    I only buy a few items in bulk but after doing the math I found that buying both TP and paper towels saves me money and more than offsets the cost of my membership. I also buy cleaning products such as laundry detergent, dishwasher tablets, cleaning wipes and a few others. Peanut butter is a great deal if you have room to store it, which I do, as well as vanilla extract. I have also found my expensive deodorant and razor blades on such good deals that I end up saving over 50% a year! I also enjoy only having to buy these items a few times a year. You have to plan and be smart about it but if you are you can come out ahead.

  9. Cara says:

    I also recommend buying medicines in bulk. One bottle of naproxen or allergy pills contain around a full year supply (or way more in the case of ‘take as needed’ medicines). I spend about $15 for each bottle – generic Claritin (or Zyrtec) works just as well as the name brand, yet I have 365 pills for $15 rather than 10 pills for $20.