Saturday, March 19, 2011

Costco: Redefining “Almost Out”

Determining whether or not you are “almost out” of something is an equation based on personal needs and uses; how much of said thing you have on hand and how much time historically it takes you to use remaining quantity of said thing.

For instance, if you are single, living alone and usually have macaroni & cheese once a week, being down to your last two boxes of macaroni & cheese is not “almost out”. If you have three kids under the age of ten and are down to your last two boxes of macaroni & cheese, we’ll hold on while you go to the store.

Back? All right then. If you’re like me, you like to plan your shopping at least a few hours in advance and try to do it at roughly the same time, be it once a week, twice, or every afternoon at 3:30 after you pick up the kids. This is basic shopping math

and should hold true under pretty much any circumstances. But recently I have noticed a subtle force at work attempting to undermine in my head the veracity of this simple equation; the perception of “almost out” based on quantity remaining vs. quantity originally purchased.

I’ve always appreciated the reasoning behind buying in bulk whenever possible. So when my mom got a Costco account and invited me and my sister to accompany her on her weekly excursions, I was all for it. I knew it would mean making some changes, namely figuring out how to store 900 square feet of barbecue sauce and fabric softener sheets in an 800 square foot apartment, but I have a balcony and am not particularly attached to most of my furniture anyway.

I organized cabinets and closets, bought stackable racks for canned goods, put shelves wherever shelves could be put. I prepared for a life of buying in bulk much the same way people prepare to bring newborns home; knowing much of the future of my household would revolve around this thing I had decided to do, that there would be moments when I wondered why I ever thought I could handle it or that it would be a good idea, but that at the end of the day it would prove to be the right thing and make me really really happy.

Among the first purchases of my BIB career was a 36 roll pack of toilet paper. Fortunately, the rolls were individually wrapped, so I could split the package up and stash them wherever they fit. Yes, twelve rolls of toilet paper and a decorative bath towel do make a very attractive ottoman, but more important is the peace of mind that comes from knowing it’s entirely possible that you will never ever have to ever buy household paper products ever again as long as you live.

Flash forward the amount of time it takes to use 30 rolls of toilet paper, to a Costco Eve, as I am writing out my shopping list and say to myself “oh, need to get toilet paper, we’re almost out”. And there, like so many cherry blossoms on a breezy late spring afternoon, the memories of years I spent buying toilet paper in 4-packs broke free from my mind and simply drifted away.

I have since managed to reclaim some of those lost years. I understand once again that, for a two person household, having six rolls of toilet paper is okay. My hands no longer tremble when I notice we are down to our last pound of rice. I still sometimes feel compelled to buy another two-pack of 40 oz bottles of Ranch dressing as soon as we open the second one, but I’m working through that. I am. And I’m getting there.



  1. and when you accidentally drop the second bottle of ranch dressing and it splatters everywhere and you're forced to use all your remaining toilet paper to clean it up? THEN where are you?

    yeah, that's what i thought. you have plenty of empty space in the back seat of your car. don't be wasteful.

  2. Except that I'm using the back seat of my car to store my laundry detergent and canned tomatoes. In addition to not wasting valuable storage space, the extra weight is nice when driving on windy days.