Savvy shoppers know one of the best ways to determine whether something is a deal is to look at the unit price. That is, look at how much an item costs per ounce or sheet or pill.
The best unit prices often come from buying in bulk. You don’t need to belong to a warehouse club to buy in bulk either. Look for family sizes in your supermarket or stock up when you see a great sale.
It doesn’t make sense to buy everything in bulk, but the following items can — and should — be purchased in large quantities for maximum savings and convenience.
1. Nonperishable foods
Refrigerated foods have a short shelf life, but some nonperishable foods can last for years or even decades. These include canned foods, certain grains and dried beans, among others we detail in “11 Foods That Can Keep for Years.”
However, while items like rice and flour have a long shelf life, they must be stored properly to avoid having bugs or other pests infiltrate their packaging. If you have space in a large freezer, putting uncooked grains there will do the trick.
2. Cleaning products
Cleaning products will expire — eventually. But for most types of cleaners, you have about one to two years before they start losing their effectiveness. That means buying them in bulk should be no problem so long as you clean regularly.
One exception is bleach. You should not buy bleach in bulk because its shelf life is only about six months, as we note in “10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach.”
3. Ice melt
Those living in northern climates can safely stock up on ice melt or rock salt for the winter months. Just be sure to store it in a way that ensures moisture and sunlight can’t get into the packaging.
Buying ice melt in bulk comes with the bonus of never having to go to the store after a storm and finding it sold out.
4. Prescription drugs
As they say, your mileage may vary here. Depending on your insurer, you may be able to get a 90-day supply of medication either at your local pharmacy or via a mail-order service. The copay for these refills may be lower than it would be for three 30-day refills.
Even if you don’t have insurance, or if you opt to pay the non-insurance price instead of your copay, you can get a 90-day supply of many generic drugs for less money than three 30-day supplies at certain pharmacies. For example, at Walmart, a 90-day supply of certain generic drugs costs $10 — regardless of whether you have insurance — while a 30-day supply costs $4.
Modern LED and fluorescent lightbulbs can last for years, and that gives you plenty of time to find a great deal on replacements. When you do, go ahead and buy extras.
6. Kitty litter
If you have cats, you know kitty litter can get costly. Buying the biggest size possible may help reduce your overall cost. It never goes bad, and you can store it indefinitely in a dry place.
7. Pet flea and tick medication
Speaking of pets, check the pricing on their flea and tick medication. The packages with protection for six or 12 months often are cheaper, per dose, than those for three months or one month.
Shampoo, conditioner, lotion and soap generally can be stored unopened for years without affecting the contents. Even after packages are opened, skin care products may be good for up to two years.
In other words, purchase the big bottle or stock up during a sale without fear of having your money go to waste.
9. Storage and trash bags
You can safely purchase storage and trash bags in large quantities. They won’t go bad, and the larger packages typically have a lower per-unit price.
10. Paper products
As we saw at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, having a stash of extra toilet paper isn’t a bad idea. Along with napkins and paper towels, toilet paper will never go bad, assuming you store it in a dry place.
So buy the jumbo pack the next time you’re at the store and avoid that feeling of panic the next time shelves are cleared of this essential product.