When most people hear "buying in bulk" they picture the madhouse of Costco warehouses. People knocking each other over with massive carts, buying 5 gallon drums of mayo, and stabbing each other over free samples of chicken tenders. True, that is the Costco experience I had when we lived in Los Angeles, but not all "bulk" buying money needs to be spent at Costco. We are Costco members, but do a fair share of bulk purchasing locally.
We purchase 90% of our meat from a local butcher. They raise the animals on their farm that is about 5 miles from the store (and maybe 6.5 miles from my house). Prices are very reasonable and competitive with grocery stores. The farm is not certified organic, but they don't use growth hormones or antibiotics. Most of the animals are grainfed, but you can pay $.40 a lb extra for grass fed.
I love purchasing my meat from them because I'm able to keep my dollars in my community and support a local business. Additionally, I'm not paying huge mark ups to cover the cost of shipping and GMO feed. I can also drive by the farm and see the animals in the field. They're out grazing and relaxing in the sunshine...ok lets be honest I'm near Seattle. The animals are chilling in the rain much of the time. BUT, they're not confined to tiny pens and mistreated. Before shopping at their store, I had pretty much stopped buying beef because of all the horrendous conditions that cows in CAFO are subjected to.
At the very heart of the matter is the fact that their meat simply tastes better. Their bacon is the bacon that dreams are made of. Their beef, pork, and chicken taste ridiculously fresh, and have greatly improved the tastes of my dishes. They make their own jerky, sausage, and pepperoni that is to die for.
They offer shares of cows and pigs (you pay a flat fee for a whole, half, or quarter of an animal. They butcher and package it for you), or freezer packages. We purchase the 25 pound freezer package of beef and couldn't be happier. A regular 25 lb package is $119.90. I pay $129.90 ($5.196 per pound) for grass fed cuts. There are multiple cuts of steaks, roasts, and some ground beef. If you can go to the supermarket purchase grass fed local steaks for $5.196 a pound, I'm moving to your city!
We treat meat as an accompaniment to a meal, but rarely the main attraction (exceptions are pot roast, burgers, me eating an entire pound of bacon for shits and giggles, etc). Incorporating meat in to our dishes such as lentil soup, or spicy tofu bowls allows us to get the protein and taste from the meat without spending a ton of cash on big "chunks". It stretches the grocery budget, and let's be honest, it's much healthier.
Eggs & milk are purchased through our milkman. They offer certified organic milk, but we actually purchase their regular milk as the cows are not treated with rBST or other chemicals. The milk and eggs are from sources within 60 miles of my house. Delivery is free, and they guarantee that all products that are sent to your house have been produced within the last 72 hours. Their prices are also comparable to the grocery store. And my milkman gave us a Christmas card. When is the last time your supermarket milk came with holiday wishes?
I stress bake (thankfully I don't stress eat, or I would be enormous), and 2010 has been the most stressful year of my adult life. There have been times that I've gone through 20 lbs of flour in a weekend. I purchase my flour through Central Market (a Towne & Country market). If you do a bulk purchase through them you receive 10% off your total purchase. I also purchase my favorite organic hand sanitizer through them for bulk discounts.
Honey is purchased at our local butcher's and is produced about 2 miles from my house. It's $10 for a quart sized jar (think mayo sized jar). For comparison, the little bear full of honey at the supermarket that isn't actually legally required to be pure honey is about $4 for 6 oz. My beekeeper (yep, she is mine) is the cutest woman ever. She recently told me if I need to get more honey and the butcher is closed, to just stop by her house and help myself. There is a jar to put the money in. Oh and she is like 80 and has an British accent. I mean, really. Adorable.
Other items that are always kept in large supply at our house:
-Toilet paper (Costco)
-Organic canned tomatoes (depends)
-Diced chilies for my tortilla soup (will post that recipe later) (Fred Meyer)
-Recycled paper towels (I can't get Troy to break the habit, but constantly nagging has proved successful in lowering consumption) (Costco)
-Organic black beans (depends, but always purchased in bulk and stored in mason jars)
-Organic Whole Wheat spaghetti (whomever has the sale!)
-Spaghetti sauce (ingredients purchased at Costco, made by me in the crockpot, and stored in small containers in our garage freezer)
-Mozzarella cheese (have yet to find a good source of organic mozzarella cheese that doesn't require me to sell a kidney to afford it) (Costco)
-Jars of applesauce, apple butter, pears, and peaches (canned by yours truly. Produce purchased via a local broker)
-5 lb bags of organic potatoes and onions (Fred Meyer)
-4 gallons of distilled water. I hate bottled water, but it's imperative that you have some stored for emergencies.
In keeping a lot of non perishable/slow to perish staples in our house, we're rarely at a loss for meals. If the zombies attacked tomorrow (oh, the day is coming my friends), I feel comfortable that we would survive thanks to my food storage and our research.