Buying groceries and other household items in bulk has always offered the chance to save money. Today, particularly for seniors, it also offers the ability to make fewer shopping trips, avoid crowds, and expose yourself to the risk of infection less often.
In addition to warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, supermarkets, big-box stores, online e-tailers, and even some manufacturers sell family packs and bulk quantities of just about everything.
But when you buy in bulk, you could end up either saving money or wasting it. It all comes down to three things: What you like to eat or need to use often, how long it can keep, and whether you have someplace to store it.
What saves money:
Canned goods (including pet foods) – They don’t spoil. Ever. (Well, hardly ever; check expiration dates.) And they cost about 30% less in bulk.
Coffee beans, if you’re a big coffee drinker – While ground coffee goes stale in a few weeks, coffee beans in unopened packaging are good for as long as nine moths. And fresh, whole-bean coffee tastes better, too. (Instant coffee, by the way, can last as long as two decades.)
Dried beans and pasta – They’re compact, and they last – dried beans about a year in a sealed container, dried pasta up to two years.
Home-office and home-school supplies – Buy printer paper by the case instead of the ream. And big packs of pencils, pens, pads, markers, staples, packing tape, etc.
Household cleaning products – All-purpose cleaners, dish soap, laundry detergent, and disinfecting wipes last until you use them up. If you’re buying liquid cleaners by the gallon, buy a funnel along with them, for pouring into smaller, more manageable containers. Dishwasher or laundry pods are meant to dissolve in water, so if you buy them in bulk, store them where it’s dry. There’s one cleaner you should never buy in bulk (see below).
Lightbulbs and batteries – Over time, lightbulbs burn out, but they don’t spoil when you’re putting them aside for future use. Batteries can last for years, so long as you keep them in a cool, dry place.
Over-the-counter medicine and vitamins – They don’t spoil, but over time they can lose efficacy, so be sure to check the expiration dates of any pain relievers, allergy meds, eye-care solutions and vitamins. Also, be aware that gel caplets are more likely than pills to break down over time.
Paper, plastic, etc. – Toilet tissue, paper towels, facial tissue, plastic bags and trash bags, and aluminum foil are usable until you use them up. If you still can’t find paper products locally, manufacturers such as Georgia Pacific sell directly to consumers. Toilet tissue and paper towel rolls in bulk can slash prices in half. But they’re bulky, so make sure you have space to store them; if all else fails, under the bed. And don’t forget to also stock up on airtight plastic containers of different sizes for dry edibles once you’ve opened the packaging.
Personal care supplies – Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, soap or body wash, shampoo and razors don’t spoil.
White rice – It’s the epitome of pantry staples.
If you have a large enough freezer, you can also save by buying frozen vegetables, entrees, side dishes, etc. in bulk. As long as they stay frozen, they have very, very long lifespans. You can also save by buying large packs of meat, breaking them down into one-meal portions, and repackaging them in freezer bags and aluminum foil.
What wastes money:
Bleach – After six months, it starts degrading and losing its germ-killing power.
Brown rice – Because of its high oil content, it’ll go bad in about six months.
Deli meats – Once you open a pack, it goes bad quickly, so don’t buy more than a week’s supply at a time. Soda – It goes flat after three to six months, and its flavor changes. With diet sodas, the flavor changes even sooner, when the artificial sweetener starts going bad. Spices (except salt) – They lose their potency and flavor over time.
Senior care is another thing that can either save or waste money. Paying for care you don’t need, or for a higher level of care than is needed, wastes your money. Our detailed three-part needs assessment, on the other hand, can save you money. In it, we interview the elder and his or her family to assess physical, psychosocial and mental status and determine what type and level of care are really needed. We can then recommend a coordinated program of holistic senior care that avoids the higher cost of higher levels of service than needed while at the same time closing up holes in the safety net.
To see what a difference holistic senior care can make, please call or contact us to arrange a comprehensive consultation.