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Who doesn't like a bargain? Warehouse clubs offer great deals on many items, but especially food. Before you load up your cart with more great buys, however, take a look at these 10 suggestions for saving money on food without buying a larger wardrobe.

For just $50 a year (or maybe $35 a year if you have been a member for 10 years or more), if you live in the USA, you can become an "exclusive" member of a warehouse club store like Sam's, Costco, Pace, or BJ's. If you live in Canada, you might join one of the American discount clubs or maybe the Real Canadian Discount Club. In Australia, it's Costco Wholesale and its competitors, and even in the UK and the rest of the European Union, and in unlikely places such as India, China, and Japan, "big box" warehouse stores that offer great buys on large amounts of food are becoming commonplace.

And obesity is becoming commonplace in all those countries, too. If you're like me, the main problem at the warehouse club is the tendency to overspend, as in "I don't know what this is, but I think I'll buy four of them." And when you carry those 5-pound (or even 5-kilo) boxes of crackers and those $200 boxes of frozen shrimp home, well, you do have to eat them all for the purchase to have been a bargain, don't you?

Buying too much food is the first curse of the warehouse store. But that isn't the only problem with shopping for bulk food items on the cheap.

  • When we buy huge containers of food, we tend to eat too much of them for about a week, and then to put the container someplace where we won't notice it. Then we hide the box of cookies somewhere in the cabinet where we won't notice it or we shove the crate of frozen food to the back or the bottom of the freezer. Buying 50 pounds of frozen shrimp at $3 a pound doesn't do you a lot of good if six months from now you wind up throwing 30 pounds away.
  • Multiple packages of food--a giant shrink wrapped container of 48 smaller packages of potato chips, for example--tend to cause clutter. You see them everywhere. You can't open the cupboard without a snack pack falling out. As a result, you wind up eating snacks much more often than you usually would because they are so convenient to eat.
  • Stockpiled foods tend to go fast, for about a week. But by the end of about a week, we burn out on stockpiled noodle bowls, microwave popcorn, candy, crackers, or fruit bars, and then get so sick of them we let the rest of the purchase go stale.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Chandon P, Wansink B. When Are Stockpiled Products Consumed Faster? A Convenience Salience Frameworkof Post-Purchase Consumption Incidence and Quantity. Journal of Marketing Research 39:3 (August 2002): 321-35.
  • Wanskin B, Brasel SA, Amjad S. The Mystery of the Cabinet Castaway: Why We Buy Products We Never Use. Jounral of Family and Consumer Science 92:1 (2001): 104-8.
  • Photo courtesy of Anthony Albright by Flickr :
  • Photo courtesy of kozumel by Flickr :