Is bigger really better when it comes to buying bulk items? Only if you know what to look for, said Laura Connerly, assistant professor for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

"From bulk bins at the grocery store to warehouse clubs, consumers face increasing opportunities to buy in bulk," she said. "The idea is that buying in bulk lets the average consumer participate in economy of scale - a larger quantity at a lower per unit cost. But – is it always a bargain?"

Connerly suggests:

• Compare costs. "Don’t automatically assume that the bulk price is cheaper," Connerly said. "Some stores have units prices posted on the shelf but you may have to do your own calculations. Unit price calculator apps are available for most smart phones."

• Think about storage. "Will you have adequate space to store larger quantity purchases?" she said. "If pantry space is limited at your house, think twice before bringing home a case of canned green beans. Storage space may also be a food safety concern for items that require refrigeration."

• Use it or lose it. "If you won’t use it, it’s a waste of money," Connerly said. "Don’t purchase more than you will be able to consume by the expiration or ‘best if used by’ date. Even shelf-stable food products lose nutrients and quality over time."

For more information about managing your finances visit or contact your county extension agent.