The coronavirus pandemic has put consumers on a wild ride.

At first it was a shortage of toilet paper. Then meat prices soared, followed by holiday gifts that were as hard to find as they were expensive.

“The pandemic has turned us all into hoarders,” says shopping expert Lisa Lee Freeman. Now, she says, we are prompted to “fill up on what you shouldn’t be doing.”

For all goods, inflation jumped to 6.8% year-on-year in November, according to the latest government figures. Home food costs climbed 6.4%, mostly fueled by prices for meat, poultry, fish and eggs, which climbed nearly 13%.

To manage these rising costs, Freeman is a big proponent of bulk buying. But only if you buy items that you really need and have the space.

“What makes sense is stocking up when things are on sale,” she says.

Here are 10 items that are worth buying in bulk if you find them at the right price.

Me at

Inflation has had a disproportionate impact on meat prices, with buyers seeing double-digit price increases on some cuts. If you see a good sale, you might be tempted to fill it up. But make sure you buy the right kind of meat and have enough freezer space to store it.

Freeman says to avoid hot dogs, bacon, sausages, and breakfast meats because these items don’t store well. Frozen burgers and fried chicken are good for about four months, while whole chickens, steaks and roasts last the longest, between six and 12 months.

Nuts

Supermarkets usually lower the price of nuts after the holidays, so the start of the year is a good time to buy them in bulk.

Be forewarned, though: Nuts can seemingly last forever in the pantry, but they can actually go rancid after a few months.

“You have to freeze them,” says Freemans. “As long as they’re in an airtight container in the freezer, they can last up to two years.”

Layers

Ask any new parent and they’ll tell you: diapers are expensive. Throughout the pandemic, they have become increasingly expensive – and harder to find.

If you see a good deal on diapers, buying them wholesale is a no-brainer. There is no expiration date you need to worry about, so the only concern is storage space.

Here’s another alternative: you could try cloth diapers and, over the course of a few years, save thousands of dollars.

Canned products

Canned foods are one of the best things to buy in bulk, and as an added bonus, they have largely avoided inflation-linked price hikes.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), most canned foods can last indefinitely as long as they are stored in a cool, dry place (not under the sink, over the stove, or in a sub. -soil or wet garage). like tomatoes and fruits don’t keep as long, but they can still last up to 18 months, according to the USDA.

Fresh fruits and vegetables

Buying fruits and vegetables in bulk might seem like an odd strategy, but you can actually store them for a while after they are frozen. Still, it’s not as simple as throwing a banana in the corner of your freezer and calling it a day.

“Unlike meat, with vegetables and fruit you have to know how to freeze them,” says Freeman. “If you bought [fresh] blueberries to freeze and you just put them in a big bag, you’re going to have a big blue ball.

Likewise, “if you don’t blanch things like asparagus before putting them in the freezer,” she says, “they won’t taste very good when you take them out.”

(Tip: The University of Georgia has some great guides to help you prepare your fruits and vegetables for the freezer.)

Herbs and spices

Dried herbs, like rosemary, oregano, and basil can last for years.

But the biggest “evidences”, says Freeman, are vanilla extract and salt, which “last almost forever.” (Table salt has a shelf life of about five years, but natural salt can, indeed, last forever.)

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White rice

White rice is another great wholesale buy. When stored properly, it can last for decades. Brown rice, on the other hand, will only last about six months.

What is the difference, exactly? White rice is refined (i.e. processed), so you only buy the white grain. Brown rice still has the bran and germ attached to it, as well as oils that will eventually make it rancid, even if stored in an airtight container.

Toilet paper and paper towels

Now that the panic buying has subsided, you can buy a mountain of guilt-free TP.

If you are willing to give up some valuable real estate, buying paper products on sale can pay off. They don’t expire, after all, and you’ll need them sooner or later.

White sugar

The USDA classifies sugar as a “shelf stable” food, which means it is completely non-perishable. Buying it in bulk is another “no-brainer,” says Freeman, but be sure to store it in a moisture-proof container for the long haul.

Toiletries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), prices for personal care products have actually deflated.

Some of these products may have an expiration date, but they are usually related to the effectiveness of the item. Translation: A tube of toothpaste that’s past its expiration date by a few months may not make your breath smell as fresh as new, but it won’t poison you.

How to buy in bulk

Buying wholesale is not a de facto cost reduction strategy – there is certainly a “right” way to do it. Here are some of Freeman’s top tips for saving the most money when buying wholesale.

  • Always do the math: When shopping, look at the unit price. If it’s meat, it’s per pound. Toilet paper? Per sheet. That way you can still make an apples to apples comparison. And just because you’re shopping at Costco or Sam’s Club doesn’t mean it’s a guaranteed offer. Be sure to compare the unit costs to those at your local supermarket.
  • Ignore certain elements: If you see a great deal, it doesn’t automatically mean you need to stock up. When it comes to wholesale purchases, Freeman says you should avoid coffee, condiments, over-the-counter drugs, dairy, and olive oil. Due to their relatively short shelf life, they just don’t make sense in large quantities.
  • Know where to buy: Large warehouse retailers like BJs, Costco, and Sam’s Club are a no-brainer. But you can also find plenty of great deals online at Amazon and Boxed.com. More and more supermarkets are starting to sell items in bulk these days, Freeman says. So don’t count them.

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