The Beginner's Guide to Buying in Bulk

The Beginner's Guide to Buying in Bulk


Buying in bulk can help you save time and money. Here's our guide on how to buy in bulk and what items are the best to stock up on.

If you’ve ever had the experience of opening your kitchen cabinets, storage pantry, or home supply closet and discovering that the household product you were expecting to find is perilously depleted or missing, you understand the frustration and inconvenience that arises.

When this happens, you’re likely to find yourself faced with one of three options, none of which are particularly desirable: making a last-minute trip to the grocery store, devising a spur-of-the-moment substitution, or simply going without.

For many consumers, such dilemmas are easily avoided thanks to one solution: buying in bulk and stocking up on large quantities of your most frequently used products. Whether it’s a cleaning product, your favorite breakfast food, or an everyday necessity like light bulbs, keeping your reserves well-stocked by knowing how to buy in bulk is a simple way to sidestep the hassle altogether.

Understanding Bulk Buying

Bulk buying (also known as wholesale buying) refers to the practice of buying several individual units of an item at one time. This is a common practice between various actors in the world of retail sales, with applications for nearly all types of product transactions, including:

  • Clothing and apparel
  • Sporting goods
  • Electronics
  • Groceries
  • Home goods

To fully grasp the process of buying bulk toilet paper, it’s useful to have an understanding of how paper products move along the product chain. Although there can be variations depending on a range of factors—from specific product types to individual brands and more—this chain generally involves four entities:1

  • The manufacturer – Any given product is likely to begin its journey to your home from the manufacturer. This is the company that’s responsible for producing the goods that appear on grocery store shelves. For example, the tech company Dell manufactures a range of electronic devices and other goods, like computers, software, and printers.2
  • The distributor –Once a product has been created by a manufacturer, the company works with an entity known as a distributor. This party is responsible for coordinating the sale of manufactured goods between the manufacturer and the wholesaler. One prominent example is the food service giant Gordon Food Service—a company that arranges the sale of an array of food goods.3 (In some cases, a manufacturer may do double duty as its own distributor.)
  • The wholesaler – Wholesalers work with distributors to make bulk purchases of goods from the manufacturing company. Then, a wholesaler may sell off smaller quantities of those goods to retailers or, as with the retail chain Costco, they may operate stores where individual customers can make bulk purchases.
  • The retailer –Retail stores serve as the last stop a product makes before individual customers buy it for use. Commonly, retail sales are made per unit, although some retailers, like Target and Walmart, sell bulk quantities, as well as single units, directly to the consumer.

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    Why Customers Decide to Buy in Bulk

    Although a majority of customers make purchases of individual product units, there are a range of benefits associated with buying larger quantities, especially if you know how to buy in bulk. Some of the perks of buying in bulk are immediately apparent. For example, bulk goods are generally less expensive per unit than the price you pay when you purchase them individually.

    On the other hand, some of the benefits of buying in bulk aren’t as immediately observable. Instead, some perks are more cumulative and easier to recognize in the long term.

    For the customer, the benefits of bulk buying run the gamut from ones that are reflected in your personal finances to those that are more wide-ranging. In general, however, learning how to buy in bulk comes with the following advantages:4

  • It’s easier on your wallet – So, why is buying in bulk cheaper? It’s no secret that purchases are almost always less expensive per unit than buying individual units one or two at a time.
  • However, those financial gains are likely to impact your finances in ways that aren’t as directly related to pricing. For example, you may reduce transportation-related costs as a result of using less gas or reducing vehicle wear and tear.

  • It’s easier on your schedule – Similarly, knowing how to buy in bulk can unlock protracted benefits that are expressed in your schedule. For example, if you make a bulk purchase of an item that you use every day, like toilet paper, you’ll spend less time making trips to the store to refill your supply.
  • It’s easier on the planet – Did you know that bulk buying is one of the ways to reduce plastic waste? Buying in bulk is generally more sustainable than purchasing solo units for a few reasons. First, bulk sales require less packaging—for example, buying toothbrushes in bulk eliminates the need for each toothbrush to be packaged separately. This, in turn, reduces waste associated with materials and package production. Likewise, fewer trips to the store in your vehicle can reduce your individual environmental impact.
  • bulk buying grains

    Bulk Buying Pro Tips: What To Buy and When To Buy It

    Bulk buying isn’t always the most intuitive process, in large part because the extent of the various benefits may be affected by several factors, from fluctuating price points to the frequency with which you use specific products. But a thorough understanding of how to buy in bulk can prepare you to make purchasing decisions that enable you to harness the power of bulk buying and use it to your advantage.

    The first step is understanding what kinds of items are best to buy in bulk. For example, avoiding bulk quantities of perishable food items, like dairy products or fresh produce, prevents you from ending up with goods that spoil before you’re able to use them.

    On the other hand, products with longer shelf lives make for an excellent bulk purchase. These include the following items, among others:5

    • Paper goods like bamboo toilet paper, recycled paper towels, and tissues
    • Bathroom products like shampoo, conditioner, and soap
    • Cleaning products like glass and surface cleaners, sponges, and antibacterial wipes
    • Kitchen staples like garbage bags, aluminum foil, dish soap, and coffee filters
    • General use items like light bulbs, laundry detergent, batteries, and more
    • School and office supplies like pens, pencils, printer toner, notebooks, and binders

    Aside from knowing what to buy in bulk, it’s also important to know when bulk buying is a wise decision. Purchasing large quantities isn’t the right move for every shopper, but keeping the following points in mind can help you make the right decision when it comes to bulk shopping.

    In general, bulk buying is the way to go when:6

  • You have a large family – It goes without saying that larger households go through products at a much faster rate than smaller ones. While it might not make sense for singles or childless couples to make bulk purchases, if you have a lot of children or multiple generations living under one roof, you may be more likely to reap the benefits.
  • You have enough storage space –Bulk buying increases the number of products you bring home, which means you’ll need a place to store them. Keeping your bulk purchases in line with your storage real estate makes you less likely to crowd your living space with surplus products.
  • You have room in your budget –Although bulk purchasing can save you money, it can take time for those savings to show up in your bank account. For that reason, keeping your bulk spending in line with your budget can prevent short-term financial dilemmas and ensure that those future gains are worth it.
  • You spot a good deal –On a similar note, bulk buying may be an even wiser option when doing so presents a deal you just can’t pass up. Fortunately, buying in bulk doesn’t preclude temporary promotions and price drops, so keep your eye out for things like in-store sales and coupons.
  • You’re low on a certain item –Optimizing space and preventing needless packaging waste is easily accomplished when your bulk buying reflects your needs. In other words, think of bulk purchasing as a way to keep your home well stocked, not overstocked, and resist the temptation to purchase impulsively. Always keep an eye on your at-home inventory and make your purchases accordingly.
  • Bulk aisle

    Reel Paper: Changing the World One Household At a Time

    Bulk buying can positively impact your budget, family, and the world at large, especially when you make thoughtful purchasing decisions in concert with other small changes that reduce your personal footprint.

    At Reel Paper, we believe that everyday sustainability is no one’s obligation; it’s everyone’s opportunity. That’s why we’re helping you help the planet by making eco-friendly household paper products—like tissues, paper towels, and toilet paper—that are 100% tree-free, absent of harmful plastics, and available on a subscription basis so that you’re never without the supplies you need. (That means no more surprise empty cabinets, pantries, or supply closets.)

    Join us today to stock your household with the products you rely on and help ensure a better world for generations to come.


    1. Lightspeed HQ. Everything You Need to Know About How to Buy Wholesale.
    2. Yahoo. Top 15 Manufacturing Companies in the US.
    3. ThomasNet. Top Food Distributors and Suppliers in the USA.
    4. Attitude Living. 5 Eco-Friendly Reasons to Start Bulk Buying.
    5. Money Done Right. 31 Common Household Items You Should Buy in Bulk and Save Money.
    6. Updater. How to Buy in Bulk: Ultimate Guide.
    7. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Bulk Definition & Meaning.


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