How to Take the Bulk Out of Warehouse Club Purchases

warehouse shopping

If you have a lot of storage space, warehouse clubs, such as BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club, can help you save some money on products you use frequently. The one we visit does not offer the best deals on every product, but we depend on it for consistently low prices (usually about 30% less than other stores) for paper products, certain types of food, phone cards, and more.

Some people avoid warehouse clubs simply because of the typical size of the things they sell. If distaste for buying in bulk is the only thing keeping you away, keep track of how much of your favorite products you use — it’s possible that you would use a wholesale package much more quickly than you’d expect. You might also be surprised to learn that warehouse club packages are not always significantly larger than those in grocery stores. Plus, much of the standard warehouse club merchandise — clothes, books, tires, etc. — is sold as individual items.

Even if the things you want are the ones sold in big packages, there are some things you can do to make them seem less bulky and easier to manage. For one, you can actually make them less bulky — at least for your household — by splitting a purchase with a friend. You can share the benefits of the low prices and divide the merchandise so that it doesn’t take so long to use. Splitting a warehouse club bill, however, causes some challenges — for starters, finding a friend who uses the same products and needs them at the same time as you.

Barring the opportunity to split the bill with a friend, you can make some bulk purchase a bit smaller by removing them from outer packaging before storing them. Some boxes contain a lot of wasted space, and even when packaging is fairly compact, removing multiple items from a package allows you to split them up and store them individually in smaller spaces.

The products that are simply difficult to wield or too big to store in one place can often be moved into smaller containers. We buy dish detergent at BJ’s but put it into an empty hand soap pump before using it to wash dishes. (Of course, we still have to find a place to store the big bottle.) When buying replacements for products you haven’t completely exhausted, you may be able to fit the remainder of the old product into the container of the new one. For example, you can take the cotton stuffing out of vitamins or over-the-counter medicine and fill that space with the last few pills of the old bottle. Be aware of expiration dates, however — if you can’t use it all by the earlier date, don’t combine the two.

Once you have made containers as compact as possible, search your house for non-conventional storage places. A favorite of ours is the basement steps. Soft drinks and other things that don’t require refrigeration, but benefit from being kept cool are perfect for storage on basement steps. We put things down one side of the staircase so that they stay out of the way as we walk down steps that are now just a bit narrower.

Look high and low, both in and around your house. Breakfast cereals usually fit well on top of the refrigerator. If you haven’t filled up the space under your bed, you have another storage spot there. Outside, trunk space in your vehicle can double as storage for bulk products. Plus, in the winter, heavy products unaffected by temperature extremes can weigh down the back wheels and help prevent you from slipping on ice.

Also consider how you might hide your products in (or just out of) plain sight as part of your decor. Narrow products can be stored behind books on a bookshelf. Peek under floor-length tablecloths on tables you don’t use for meals to see if you can fit in a box or two. You can even take the bulkiest, sturdiest box, fill it with products you need to store, and cover it with an attractive piece of fabric to make a temporary end table or coffee table. (Don’t forget what is under the fabric, however, or you may risk putting too much weight on the packaging)

Once bulk products are stashed all over your house, be sure you keep track of what you have where so that you don’t buy more than you need. And of course, if you don’t find many good deals at your local warehouse club, you can still use these ideas for other things you need to store, enabling you to stock up on some of your favorite products when you find a good price at other stores.

Image courtesy of nrtphotos

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4 Responses to How to Take the Bulk Out of Warehouse Club Purchases

  1. Traciatim says:

    Keep in mind that carrying extra weight in your vehicle will decrease your fuel efficiency. A quick google found this quote:

    “An extra 100 pounds in the trunk will reduce your fuel economy by 1 to 2 percent in the typical vehicle.”

    The only thing I would recommend putting in your trunk to help is either sand, salt, or kitty litter or some combination. That way at least it’s useful when you get in a bind stuck somewhere. Though I’m sure your six 5 gallon jugs of pickles were a great deal, they won’t get you out of one.

  2. dorry says:

    I have to agree that storing stuff in your car is not a good idea as it wastes gas and puts more strain on the car’s engine. If the only area you have left is your car, then you’re buying too much stuff.

  3. Karen says:

    I’m always a little amazed at people who say they “don’t have enough room” to store any large packages. I used to live in a 350 square foot apartment, and I found room. It just means being creative. But if you have limited space, it’s also important to prioritize. I only bought items in bulk if they really saved me significant money over buying smaller packages. Buying a big bucket of laundry detergent at the warehouse club might save me $4 or $5 over the smaller packages – worth the storage space. Buying a huge bottle of ketchup might save me 30 cents – not worth it.

    (As far as where to store things – I think the space overhead is often forgotten. I mounted sturdy shelves above the door frames in my kitchen and bathroom, and it more than doubled the space I had for storage. I also used the tops of bookcases, cabinets, etc. Most people never look up anyway, and in a small apartment, you have to use every inch! For long term storage, it wasn’t a big deal to get out a step stool to reach them.)

  4. k brady says:

    storing on top of a refrigerator, i believe, makes the unit run less efficiently. you’re supposed to leave the space for airflow from behind the fridge so that the motor can run efficiently.

    my parents always told me not to put stuff on top of the fridge, and i think i read this in a magazine about saving energy.

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