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Would you buy a half-tonne box of pasta?

Felicity Hannah

Buying in bulk helps shoppers keep the cost down – that’s a given. But how far would you go to save money? Would you buy a half-tonne box of penne pasta?

Well, residents in the Turkish cities of Istanbul, Edirne and Bodrum can buy one for 999 Turkish lira, which is around £350.

The mega boxes are being sold to raise money for charity, with the proceeds going to Unicef.

How much would a mega box save you?

So how does £350 for 500kg compare to what we pay in UK supermarkets? Well, you can buy 1kg of dried penne pasta for around £1.35 in most mainstream supermarkets.

That means you’d pay £675 for a half-tonne. Clearly some Turkish shoppers are getting quite a bargain. But would you buy it if you could?

How big is the box?

The mega-box isn’t just making headlines because it’s a money-saver; it’s actually breaking a world record. The world record for the biggest box of pasta ever made.

In fact, it’s 1.5m high and well over a metre wide. That’s unlikely to fit in the utility room.

And while the mega-box of pasta might be unusually large, it does illustrate a problem many of us have with buying in bulk. Sometimes there simply isn’t space, especially if you live in a flat and don’t have a garage.

Few recent homes have the storage space that older properties were constructed with. But if you don’t have any obvious space for bulk-bought groceries then get creative. Food doesn’t need to live in the kitchen; packets and tins can be stored under beds and on top of wardrobes.

It’s a good idea to keep a tally of what you’ve got in the house. It’s easy to forget a jar at the back of a cupboard, let alone stuffed under the bed.

Remember, you can freeze more food than you might think; pretty much anything can be frozen. Read our article ‘Never put eggs in the fridge: A dozen food myths that could cost you’ for some tips. You could even build up an edible emergency fund.

How much can bulk buying save you?

Even if you can’t save money by buying epic quantities of pasta, how much can bulk buying cut your food bills?

Well, if you’re a member of a wholesale shop like Costco then you can buy in bulk and save as much as 20% compared with the prices in more mainstream supermarkets.

But not everyone can reach an outlet like that. Also, the upfront membership costs £30, including VAT for non-trade individuals, which might put some stretched households off even if they’d save more in the long term.

So how much can you save by buying larger packets from your regular supermarket? Here are some examples we found in Tesco:

Regular packet
Larger packet
Pasta shells
500g at £0.95 (£1.90/kg)
1kg at £1.35 (£1.35/kg)
£0.55p per kg
Luxury Soft Toilet Tissue
4 rolls at £1.89 (47p each)
18 rolls at £7.89 (44p each)
3p a roll
Frozen garden peas
1kg at £1.40 (£1.40/kg)
1.8kg at £2.25 (1.25/kg)
£0.15p per kg
Mature British cheddar
250g at £1.88 (£7.52/kg)
500g at £3.50 (£7/kg)
£0.52 per kg

At a saving of just 3p a roll, I might be tempted to buy a smaller pack of toilet roll and keep some of my cupboard space for other things. However, if you’ve got the space then you may as well stock up and get the saving.

When buying in bulk isn’t a bargain

Finally, it pays to never assume that buying a larger quantity of something means you’re getting a better deal.

Sometimes, supermarkets exploit our willingness to chase bargains by actually charging more per item for a multipack. For example, Tesco sells four cans of Heinz Baked Beans for £2, so 50p each.

However, it sells six cans for £3.19, which is 53p each. It also sells a box of 12 330ml cans of Coca Cola for £4, which is 33p each. However, a pack of 24 cans that size costs £9.49, which is 40p each.

Quite often these kinds of anomalies are because the supermarket has lowered the price on the smaller packet and not the larger. But always double check that what you’re getting is actually the best deal, even if you have to carry a calculator as you shop.

Read our article ‘A fanatic’s guide to supermarket savings’ for more tips.