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The do's and don'ts of buying in bulk, according to an expert

The practice can help you save money in the long run.
Female customer in supermarket
kool99 / Getty Images

Amid continuing inflation concerns and recession fears, people are looking for any way to cut costs and save money — especially ahead of the holiday season. And when it comes to shopping for those household essentials that you can't live without, one way to do it is to start buying in bulk.

While it may seem counterintuitive at first to spend more money upfront on certain items, by buying the things you use every day in large quantities, more often than not, you'll be saving money in the long run.

"If you were to purchase from a wholesale supplier in bulk, nine times out of 10, the unit price is going to be much lower than if you were to purchase just one of the things you need from the grocery store or a big box store," said Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst for "It comes down to basically getting a quantity discount, you're buying enough of the things that [the company] can afford to give you a cheaper price overall."

And contrary to popular belief, you don't even have to have a big family or multiple roommates to do it, she added. "I think anybody can benefit from buying in bulk," Ramhold said. She added that she buys a variety of items in bulk and, "it's just me and my husband and we have two cats." Even those who live in small spaces can do it — Ramhold said that those who are low on storage space can buy in bulk and split the products and costs among friends and family members in other households who are shopping for the same items. It's important to note that one exception where buying in bulk might not be beneficial is for those who can only afford to buy exactly what they need at any given time, she said.

But for those who have it in their budgets and are looking to save money, we asked Ramhold to walk us through the basics of buying in bulk, including what to shop for, where to shop and more.

What products should you not buy in bulk?

While you can find a variety of everyday items, from pantry staples to beauty items, in bulk quantities, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should be placing mass orders for everything you need. You want to stick to things that are non-perishable, Ramhold said, and pay attention to expiration dates on both perishable and non-perishable items, so you don't end up with a ton of expired products on your hands.

The best products to buy in bulk

Keeping that in mind, here are some items that she said could be good to buy in bulk.

  • Pantry staples: "Pantry staples like dried pasta, canned goods, even breakfast cereal and things like that are good to buy in bulk," Ramhold said. Coffee is another one. Though, with things like coffee and cereal, when they come in large containers, you want to make sure you have a good airtight container to store them in after they're opened to prevent the rest from going stale.
  • Cleaning supplies: Laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaners, disinfectant wipes and the like all tend to be good options as well.
  • Paper goods: Consider stocking up on paper items that you go through quickly at home, like toilet paper, paper towels, napkins and paper plates.
  • Beauty products: While select beauty items, like shampoo and conditioner, are typically pretty safe to buy in bulk, Ramhold said one product that you likely don't want to purchase too much of at once is sunscreen. "If you're only using it every so often, or even if you're only using a little bit every day, there's a really good chance that the sunscreen may hit its expiration date before you can use it," she said.
  • Baby products: As a new parent, you go through a lot of baby essentials quickly, and you don't always have the time to head to the store and restock. That's why buying things like diapers and baby wipes can be helpful. Though if you're purchasing from a brand that you've never tried before, you might want to do a little research before hitting "add to cart." "If you have a baby with sensitive skin, then you may find that they can't wear the diapers or you can't use the wipes," Ramhold said. "And in those cases, I would just be really careful about checking the return policy."

Where to shop for items in bulk

When thinking about buying the above essentials in bulk, warehouse stores like Sam's Club, Costco and BJ's Wholesale are typically the places that come to mind, Ramhold said. But if you don't have a membership, you can also find great bulk deals online at places like Target, Walmart and Amazon.

No matter where you're shopping, the biggest thing to keep in mind is the unit price, Ramhold said. Retailers will typically have this listed, and you can compare the price per unit (whether that be ounces, items, sheets, etc.) to the single product price to make sure you're actually getting a good deal.

With all that in mind, we rounded up some popular products that you can buy in bulk and have delivered straight to your doorstep.

Amazon Elements Baby Wipes, Sensitive, 80 Count, Pack of 9

These unscented baby wipes have an impressive average 4.7-star rating from more than 24,000 ratings. Parents say that they're great for babies with sensitive skin, though shoppers also note that they can be used to wipe dirty hands or to clean countertops.

Pacific Blue Select Paper Towels, 30 Rolls

According to the brand, these paper towel rolls are long-lasting and great for everyday use. One reviewer said that these are the "best paper towel(s)," adding that they're "strong," an "amazing value" and "jumbo."

Amazon Basics Laundry Detergent Pacs, 120 Count

Skip the messy process of measuring out liquid detergent and grab these Detergent Pacs. These hypoallergenic packs are said to be gentle on the skin and deliver a great clean. Because the brand says each pack is good for one medium load and there are 120 packs total, you'll be set for plenty of washes.

Scott Bulk Toilet Paper, 2-Ply, 80 Standard Rolls

There's nothing worse than realizing that you're completely out of toilet paper right when you need it the most. Thankfully, with this 80-pack, you'll be well-stocked for the foreseeable future — one reviewer said the pack lasted their household six months!

Dove Body Wash Variety Pack

Sometimes you don't realize you're out of body wash until you go to use it. With this pack of six, you won't have to worry about whether you've run out or not — and you'll have a variety to choose from.

TRESemmé Conditioner for Dry Hair, 28 Oz, 3 Count

If you're the kind of person who runs out of conditioner long before shampoo, this set will help you create a stockpile, so you'll never be without a bottle. The formula is designed with vitamin E and biotin, which the brand says helps soften hair without weighing it down.

Pampers Diapers Newborn/Size 1 (8-14 lb), 252 Count

Available in a variety of sizes for your growing baby, these diapers feature a wetness indicator, stretchy sides and are said to provide up to 12 hours of dryness. Currently, you can get a 252-pack for just over $50 on Amazon, which works out to be about 20 cents per diaper.

Lysol Disinfectant Wipes, 80 Count, Pack of 4

With this pack of disinfecting wipes, you'll get four tubs, so you can keep one in the kitchen, one in your car and another at work — or wherever else you may need it. The wipes are said to kill 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria, and the brand says that they are three times stronger than a paper towel.

Method All-Purpose Cleaner Spray, Pack of 8

Considering that one bottle of this cleaning spray from Method costs more than $13, the fact that you can get an eight-pack for less than $40 is quite a steal! It's designed to be used on most surfaces, from countertops to wood and glass and is made with plant-based ingredients.

Kellogg's Cereal Variety Pack (48 Boxes)

Cereal makes for an easy breakfast or on-the-go snack. This pack contains 48 individually sized boxes of Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies, Corn Pops, Apple Jacks, Froot Loops, Frosted Mini-Wheats and Frosted Flakes, so you'll have plenty to choose from whenever a craving kicks in.

Barilla Tri-Color Rotini Pasta (Pack of 16)

In a pinch for weeknight dinners? This pack of pasta will give you a few different options to choose from. Since it comes in a pack of 16, each box will cost you less than $2.

Bush's Best Canned Pinto Beans, Pack of 12

You'll always have a hearty protein option in your cabinet thanks to this 12-pack of pinto beans. While it might seem like a lot, if you're someone who regularly eats the legume, you'll be paying less per ounce when you purchase this multi-pack as compared to buying a single can from the same retailer.

Folgers Breakfast Blend Mild Roast Ground Coffee, 22.6 Ounces, Pack of 6

Each canister of Folger's Breakfast Blends makes up to 210 cups of coffee, according to the brand, and there are six tubs in the pack. So we imagine that this pack will be great for caffeine addicts or large families of coffee drinkers.