Out of Left Field: Buying in Bulk

Why Only a Five-Pound Tub of Peanut Butter Will Suffice

I don’t mean to flaunt my affluence, but I really enjoy my membership to one of the local private clubs in town. I’m not talking about golf courses and swimming pools. I mean bulk discount warehouse shopping. These are indeed exclusive clubs. You only qualify as a military veteran, small business owner, teacher, student, if you own a cat, know someone who owns a cat or can spell “cat.” Actually the only requirement for membership is to pay an annual fee. Then you have access to ... buy more stuff. And oh boy, do they have stuff!

There may be some readers who are unfamiliar with the bulk warehouse club lifestyle. I’ll enlighten you. Let’s say you’re out of pickles. You go to the store to restock. Typically, you replenish your pickle supply with a 16-ounce jar for $1.79, or $.15 per pickle. This store, however, only sells pickles in 55-gallon drums for $699, or $.13 per pickle. Naturally, after calculating the pickle return on investment, you go home with the barrel of pickles, set for life. You contemplate how the pickle industry can survive this unsustainably discounted offering. You purchase an extralarge mocha latte on your drive home to celebrate all the money you saved.

The warehouse club is where you find all the things you never knew you always needed. I often wonder what each shopper’s original grocery list looked like before entering the store. Fifty pound bag of rice? Check. Twenty pounds of ground beef? Check. Box of 10 avocados? Check. Kayak? Check. Wait, what? Gun safe, pergola, hot tub, snow tires, seven-night stay at a Cancun resort, milk, eggs and bread. Check, check, checkity-check. Ah, lists are just a “starting-point” anyway. These shopping carts need independent suspension and anti-lock brakes.

Like many of my random stories, bulk warehouse clubs have a fond tie to my childhood. I initially dreaded bulk shopping with my mom, until the day I discovered they sold entire boxes of baseball cards, of course at a handsome discount compared to single pack value. I broke into a cold sweat when I computed the wax pack math (only 27 cents per pack! This can’t be possible!). I convinced Mom this was a necessary “investment opportunity” for our family. From then on I was hooked.

Today, I’m feeding my own family of five. I now realize man can’t live on baseball cards alone. Man (and his family) needs stuff. Lots of stuff:

Peanut Butter: We need a 5-pound tub of peanut butter. While that may seem excessive, that’s only 1 pound of peanut butter per person, my weekly quota. Peanut butter containers without their own gravitational pull simply do not suffice.

Cheese: My eldest child sprinkles shredded cheese on everything like fairy dust, making all foods magically delicious. We buy so much cheese, Wisconsin has granted us honorary dual citizenship as a thank you.

Toilet paper: There’s no distinguished way to roll through the warehouse club with 10,000 square feet of toilet paper. Want a sure-fire way to run into your ex-girlfriend? Toss a couple 36-roll packs of toilet paper in your cart, and you’ll be sure to reunite in the next aisle.

The excitement of a new bargain can sometimes fog the memory, causing O.I.A.B.T. syndrome (Oops, I Already Bought That). During a recent trip, I forgot I had already purchased a three-pack of giant contact solution bottles ... twice before. I might as well just swim in the stuff with my eyes open. Maybe I can give away bottles to trickor- treaters next Halloween.

Free samples are the definitive perk of any warehouse club. Rationality is completely abandoned on free sample day. I’m never quite sure of the appropriate level of politeness required in this unique social situation. I feel guilty if I gobble down one server’s offering, but refuse the neighboring sample. What if this is their own personal recipe? Gluten-free bologna pesto egg rolls? Uh ... sure, I’ll try one. Wow, you can really taste the lack of gluten. Oh, they’re on sale today? Well, I guess I’m getting a pallet of these tasty treats. I imagine this to be a slightly less awkward version of speed dating.

Some day in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have fewer reasons to buy in bulk. One by one the kids will move out. My ridiculous impulse buys will be harder to justify. Soon a 16-ounce jar of pickles will suffice. Until then, I’ll cherish my membership to the “club” and honor it like the land of milk and honey. (Check and check.)




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