Today on “If you have enough money to live cheaply”…

…I want to share something I learned recently: there are online restaurant supply companies that will sell to the general public and ship to residential addresses, and you can use them to order bulk less-than-perishable foods (including canned fruits, veggies, meat, and soups, and dry goods like pasta and rice and beans, and condiments, and drink mixes or syrups). We started using Webstaurant Store a while back for certain things. Individual dietary needs means we can’t take advantage of all their offerings, but I’d like to pass on the good word to those who can.

Now when I say bulk, I mean bulk. You might want to get some friends and/or neighbors and/or coworkers together to split an order, and when you’re comparison shopping make sure you’re paying attention to the unit sizes and how they compare to the ones on the grocery store shelves. $15 for something like ten cans of tomatoes might not sound like a good deal… until you realize they’re 6+ pound cans and so you’re getting them for less than a quarter a pound.

Now, that’s before shipping, which is something you’ll want to watch, and it doesn’t do you much good to have 60+ pounds of canned tomatoes if you can’t go through an open 6 pound can before it turns, which is why it’s probably good to coordinate. But if you’re involved in a church or school function, or you’re running a daycare, or you just have a large extended family to feed? Score.

You can get some good deals on staples this way. It can also be a cheap way to get some treats, which is how I discovered it a while back.

You know those flavor syrups that coffee shops use? It’s hard to find them in grocery stores beyond the most obvious everyday flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and hazelnut, and they’re not cheap. We use the sugar-free versions to add a sweet indulgence and variety while controlling blood sugar, but those are even harder to find. You can get them online for around $10 a bottle, or a bit cheaper on Amazon if you aren’t picky about flavors and don’t mind getting bundles of the same one.

But the restaurant supply store has them for around $5 a bottle, before shipping and taxes.

Again, you have to have the money to make this deal work; with shipping, it doesn’t really become worth it until you’re buying more than half a dozen at a time. But if you can either save it and splurge or get a bunch of friends and coworkers to go in with you, can add that decadence to your morning coffee or soda or whatever.

So, again: if you’ve got the shelf space and flexibility in your budget, and you do a little careful comparison shopping and watch the shipping (I suggest keeping your shopping cart open in another tab so you can refresh to see what the shipping is as you add items), you can save yourself some money. Might take some planning and friend-wrangling to make it really worth it, but it can really pay off for you if you can make it work.