Buying in Bulk, What We Have Learned – Part 2, by JSP

A couple of years ago I wrote the initial offering on this subject of buying in bulk for Survival Blog readers, without thinking there would be a second part. However, since then we have learned some new ways to leverage our buying power, I will share that below.

Update on Part 1

First, I will give an update on the strategies in the original article. We continue to buy in bulk, as described in the article. Currently, we access wheat for $200 per ton and whole, clean, food grade, non GMO corn for $300 per ton. Much has been written on this blog about prepping on a budget, and I would continue to argue that based on cost per pound or cost per calorie, it doesn’t get any cheaper than this. Granted, it’s not easy, as you will have to “shop” in ways you’re not used to, but let’s do a quick comparison.

I recently checked; a large, national brand, online retailer of survival type foods sells 40 lbs of wheat in five-gallon pails for $56 each and 50lb bags of wheat for $38. In the pails, that is $2,800 per ton, and in bags that is $1500 per ton. This does not include shipping. Granted, that’s an easy way to buy your grains. You just go online, swipe your card, and it shows up at your door; however, it’s also an expensive way to buy.

I have mentioned that I am sure bulk grains, as I have described, are not available in all parts of the country, but with a little planning that too can be worked around. I had a friend who lived in Missouri and wanted to buy in bulk but couldn’t find any. He and his family were traveling by SUV to Phoenix to visit family. We made arrangements for their return trip home for them to route through Salt Lake City and rent a trailer, pick up grains, and return them home to Missouri. The one way trailer rental was well under $200.

I get asked about storage from time to time. We simply put the grains in the food-grade barrels, as described in the first article, and place the lids and bands on them. We have not used any of the more elaborate storage methods described on this blog, such as using food-grade diotemaceous earth, dry ice, Mylar bags, and so on. Yet, to date, we have not lost any grains or legumes to infestations. We have some products that have been at our location for over seven years.

The Non Essentials

Part 2 of buying in bulk is about laying in supplies of the non-essential items. For example, consider toilet paper; we can all live without TP. However, as good a “sport” as my wife is and as supportive of our prepping as she is, I know that if she has to start wiping her “behind” with leaves she is not going to be a “happy camper”.

This also requires shopping in ways you may not be accustomed to. So, it begs the question, why bother? Well, three reasons come to mind:

  1. Price. This is the obvious first. If you’re using toilet paper, paper towels, and shampoo now, then the more economically you are able to obtain them the more money you can spend on “beans, bullets, and band aids” now.
  2. Quantity. We like buying in bulk, by the case or by the gallon, at places where that’s all they sell. For example, we recently purchased five cases of TP from a janitorial supply house. With 80 rolls per case, that is 400 rolls of TP; nobody bats an eye. They really don’t care why you’re wanting 400 rolls of TP. Think about the questions and looks you would get rolling through your local grocery store, or even Costco (though I have nothing against Costco; we love them), with 400 rolls of TP?
  3. Storage and “conceal ability”. Most of the items I will describe below come in sturdy cardboard boxes, which stack really well. As you know, when you buy paper towels and TP in the flimsy plastic bags, they don’t stack well, and it’s obvious to every eye exactly what it is. Also, none of us likes those snide remarks often handed to us. For example, I recall when my mother-in-law opened a cabinet in the laundry room and said, “Wow! I know where to go if I ever need any Scotch pads!” I once watched a Youtube video of a gentleman who does prepping topics. It showed some of his stored TP. He had a lot of it, which was good for him. However, because of the stacking problem, he had it all in plastic totes. That’s fine, but you don’t need to spend money on totes.

    In terms of “conceal ability”, what I like about buying these items in card board boxes is that (statistically) nobody has these items at a residence. These are commercial products that you typically see at businesses or schools. That allows you to hide them in plain sight! You get your cases of whatever and stack them up in the garage in plain view. Then, take a large marker and write “Christmas lights”, “Camping Supplies”, “Baby Clothes”, or something else on each box. After all, nobody in their right mind would have 400 rolls of TP in the garage, would they?

Shortly, I am going to give some specific examples of items to leverage your stocking up purchasing power. Some of the items are availfood-grade barrelable on Amazon and at main stream retailers, like Home Depot. The problem with buying them from Amazon (we love Amazon) is that these products tend to be bulky, so the shipping often kills the deal. However, for many of the items, I want to suggest that you identify a local janitorial supply house or a local “paper company”. They are in most communities. The “city” that is closest to us is 30,000 people, and it has two such places. Yes, these are designed for selling wholesale products to school districts and hotel chains, but don’t be shy; walk right in and tell them what you’re looking for. No, you’re not going to get the same price as a school district or a hotel chain, but they are not going to turn you away. You may drive by such places on a regular basis, but if not I would turn to the Internet and search for “Spokane Janitorial Supply” or “Missoula Paper Company”, for example.

Now, here are a few examples. The first one I will share is a recent find for us that we are very excited about. I was looking for hydrogen peroxide by the gallon, which our farm supply stores usually carry. They were out and suggest that I try our local beauty supply chain outlet (Sally). I was a bit surprised but then they reminded me that beauty salons and barbers need to sanitize their scissors, combs, and so forth. While at the store, I thought to check on purchasing shampoo in bulk. (I know; get your food preps done first, but when the balloon goes up, I for one would like a shampoo every now and again, and today we use it daily.)

We purchased one-gallon jugs of “Salon Care” brand White Tea Ginger (actually smells very good) salon-grade shampoo for $11.39! Not impressed? Okay, how about if it’s concentrated and makes eight gallons of salon quality shampoo? Yep, we got eight gallons of shampoo for under 12 bucks! (It’s Sally Beauty Supply product number 120294.)

Let’s stay with liquids for a minute. In the cleaning supplies section of your local Home Depot, they sell one-gallon jugs of Maintex brand Antibacterial Hand Soap for nine dollars and change. Compare that to the little bottles at the grocery store!

What do you do to dispense those liquids? Ball– the canning people– make what they call the Ball Pump Insert Kit that fits on any pint or quart regular mouth mason jar and can be found on Amazon. However, we actually did better buying them at our local Jo Ann craft store for $3.74 each with no shipping.

Let’s get back to TP. Our local janitorial supply store sells us cases of Supplyways TP for just under $50. That’s a two-ply, 550-sheet roll with 80 rolls to the case. That’s 62 cents per roll and is pretty good quality. It’s not “quilted”, but it’s not see-through either. To us, it compares favorably to the Georgia Pacific “Marathon” product that Costco sells but again it’s way easier to stack and conceal.

We, like most people, use paper towels constantly. For survival purposes, we view them as “captured energy”. By this we mean that we have cloth rags that we can revert to, but we will have to use water, maybe hot water, to clean them, and the paper towels can just be tossed. There are two ways to go here, also at the paper company or janitorial supply house. First, is the traditional roll paper towels. Georgia Pacific makes one called “Preference”– Georgia Pacific product #27385. They are decent quality and run about a buck a roll, so a 30-roll case sells for $30. The price isn’t a screaming deal, but again you can stack those cases eight high, if you’re so inclined. The second way is more intriguing to us, and in fact we just pulled the trigger on a good-sized order and took delivery yesterday. These are referred to, in the industry, typically as “Multi Fold Towels”. Most of us have used them. No, they don’t even come close to as good as a Bounty-type paper towel. However, they will work, are inexpensive, and they stack really well. Amazon sells them, but again due to shipping costs, our local supplier was much more economical. You don’t have to have a dispenser for them, but we wanted a couple. Amazon has several available. We purchased these from our local supplier, as they are steel with an enamel coating that should last for many years.

There are different qualities of the towels available. What we purchased was the Scott brand multi fold towels (01807-10). A case of 4,000 towels was about $25. So, we purchased five cases of towels and two dispensers for well under $200. That is 20,000 hand towels!

Here is one more example. Our local paper company also sells cases of “J cup” 16oz hot or cold insulated cups. (These are the typical white foam type cup.) There are 1,000 cups to a case, and I don’t remember what I paid for them exactly, but it seems like about $35. In a survival scenario, think about the uses for them– soups, stews, chili, beans, coffee, tea, deserts, on and on. We think it would save a lot of water by us not having to wash dishes. They could be one time use, or you could even re-use them.

This can be done with myriad of products, including “paper” plates and bowls, plastic silverware, napkins, table cloths, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and butcher paper. We even purchased a box of 2000 sheets of parchment paper!

I hope it has been helpful to the Survival Blog community to hear of ways that we have learned to buy in bulk and stretch our prepping dollars.

Blessings, JSP