Bulk Purchases Gone Awry

I am a loyal Costco member. All bulk purchasers are loyal to their store, whether it be Costco (which is far superior, of course), Sam’s Club, B.J.’s Wholesale, or any other bulk retailer.

One could argue the efficacy of shopping at such stores—and it’s an argument I’ve heard many times before, along with notes on the hilarious consequences of over-buying. You don’t need a 2 pound bag of dried cranberries. Who’s going to finish ALL THAT YOGURT? Flour is a push item!

Going overboard is something I’ve had to learn the hard way is a bad idea, and I’ve learned it the hard way in nearly all aspects of my life.

Shopping at Costco is no exception.

Before I started dating Michael (and yes, when we started dating, trips to Costco counted as dates, and so my love grew for him as did my piles of bulk oatmeal), I had no one to go with.

The first time I went to Costco alone, I bought a two-pack of syrup. Maple syrup, for pancakes, which I ate often. But living alone, you don’t really use up two 2-quart bottles of syrup. So the syrup was eventually thrown out, as there was just too much. But still, I got such a deal on it, that even throwing some away, it was cheaper than the grocery store…or so I convinced myself.

It’s easy when you’re in the Costco to be duped into “I NEED that!”

My roommate in graduate school thought I like to use legal pads for taking notes in class. It wasn’t so much that, but that I’d bought enough legal pads to last me two out of the three years of my graduate degrees.

But perhaps my most embarrassing instance of over-buying occurred shortly before Christmas one year.

My roommate and I hosted a Christmas party the last week of class that was known as THE party of the year. We decided on a dress code, so cocktail attire was essential, and in addition to tons of food, we made the spiced German Christmas wine in the crockpot. Add to this a grand piano in the kitchen, friends who brought guitars, and, the entire school of music, and you can guess what a great bash this turned out to be.

This was year two, and I wasn’t about to disappoint guests who had started asking about the party in August.

There wasn’t a Costco in Waco, where Baylor is, so I planned my trips around trips home for breaks or performances/auditions in the cities with Costcos. I stepped off of my flight from Pennsylvania to DFW, and drove straight to the Costco.

No need for lunch, there were samples!

I found some ready-made appetizers and ingredients for my Great-grandmother’s fudge, a special dish served at the Christmas party.

While in the baking aisle, I saw that the 10 pound bags of brown sugar were all gone. I needed brown sugar, and the next size up was 25 pounds.

It didn’t look like that much, considering there was a 50 pounder on the other side. And I figured, hey, it’ll last awhile, but I’ll use it up.

I didn’t notice until I got home, and started to put the brown sugar in the plastic containers that I had bought too much brown sugar.

All of my containers were full.

My roommate and her boyfriend, as well as Michael, laughed hysterically at me. For days. The party was coming up soon, and I was a little freaked out that I had nowhere to put this brown sugar.

I mean, I’d already put the canned tomatoes and beans under my bed since we were out of cabinet space.

So I went to the grocery store and bought plastic sandwich baggies.

And that year, at the Christmas party, everyone left with a plastic baggie (or two) of brown sugar.

Those of you looking for the next birthday party favor, look no further than Costco.

I may not have gotten my money’s worth out of the brown sugar, considering I gave most of it away, but boy, my bowls of oatmeal for the next three months were sweet.

And Michael wonders why I don’t eat oatmeal anymore.

My parents and in-laws are also Costco shoppers, so this sort of thing happens a lot. What we’ve learned over the years is to:

1. Never go to Costco alone.

2. only two impulse buys per store visit

These rules work for a few reasons. I never need to go to Costco more than 4 or 5 times per year, which means I can take a friend or my husband with me. These limited visits, where I buy enough oatmeal and coffee to last till the next visit always end with a few impulse buys.

It’s those damn samples.

And these are usually items we use or forgot to put on the list. But by limiting the impulse buys to two, it keeps us from going way overboard.

Of course, the danger is always there.

This past Christmas, my mother-in-law, who is a fabulous cook, went to Costco by herself. Now, she bakes unbelievable amounts of food over the holidays—between family, students, and church, her kitchen is a storm of delicious smells and goodies.

But even with the extreme amount of baking, she still overbought.

In addition to our Christmas presents this year, we were sent home with gallon sized bags full of flour and sugar.

It’s now late March, and it’s about time for our quarterly visit to Costco, since we’re almost out of all of these things.

But next week, flour will be a push item.