Beautiful young woman shopping in a bulk food store no waste policy.

14 Items You Should Reconsider Buying in Bulk

Saving money is always in fashion, and what better way to do that than to buy in bulk? Or so you are often led to believe. There are countless big box stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club, that encourage bulk purchasing, and if you have a large family, it often makes the most sense to buy larger quantities of items.

However, you’re the only one who knows what you and your family consume and use the most. Just follow one simple rule, and you’ll succeed: Don’t buy more of something than you can use before it goes bad. 

1. Fresh Produce

Fresh organic vegetables on table.
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When it comes to fresh produce, it’s essential to consider your personal needs before buying in bulk. If you’re planning to consume less daily or freeze for meal prep, opting for smaller quantities is wiser. 

Larger quantities may be necessary for multi-person households, but a week’s worth is usually sufficient for single-person households or couples. 

2. Eggs

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You should only buy eggs in bulk if you plan to make frittatas or four-egg omelets daily or are a baker. According to the USDA, if refrigerated, raw eggs in their shells only last three to five weeks from the purchase date. 

With the cost of eggs these days, I’m not convinced many people are buying them in bulk, but if you need to, shopping around for the best price is smart. Certain chains where people don’t typically buy eggs, like Target, often have a sale on eggs.

3. Cooking Oils

variety of oils on counter with peppers.
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Several types of cooking oils can spoil over time, so it’s recommended to refrain from purchasing vegetable or canola oils in bulk. However, if you deep-fry food regularly or have a restaurant or catering company, it is more cost-effective to buy them in bulk.

You can prolong the shelf life of some oils by putting them in the fridge, but certain oils may solidify when exposed to colder temperatures. The containers oils come in are the perfect vessel for proper storing, as long as you keep them in a cool, darker pantry or cabinet. 

4. Bread and Bakery Items

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Purchasing bread and bakery items in bulk is not recommended either, as they are prone to spoiling quickly unless you keep them refrigerated. You can freeze baked goods, but pastry items with frosting or glaze won’t withstand freezing. Instead, the glaze will become a sticky mess when the pastries thaw out.

If you have immediate plans for the baked goods, bulk up. If not, buy only what you need.  

5. Spices

Hand holding jar of spices on kitchen counter.
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Typically, whole and ground spices don’t go bad over time. However, they do lose their potency, resulting in you having to use more of the spice to obtain the robust flavor you were looking for when preparing your meal.

Results can vary between whole and ground spices, but generally, whole spices tend to stay more flavorful for longer than ground spices. Serious Eats provides an excellent resource for cleaning and storing your spice cabinet. 

6. Condiments

condiment sauces
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Raise your hand if you have ever gone to your aging parents’ home and found stored condiments that have never been opened and have an expiration date going back 5 to 10 years. I know I have–it’s actually a running joke in my family. 

Despite what the older generations might think, condiments have a shelf life, even if left unopened, especially if used. Vinegar is acidic and is the exception to this rule, as it can last indefinitely and is used to preserve other foods. 

7. Whole Grains and Nuts

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Both whole grains — including whole grain flours — and nuts are high in oils. Just like cooking oils, the natural parts of these foods can go rancid quicker than you’d like.

Because of this, nuts and nut flour, whole grains, and whole grain flour should ideally be stored in the freezer.

8. Items You Can’t Freeze

box dried goods
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Only you know your household’s eating habits. Unless you regularly consume the things you’re thinking of buying in bulk, you won’t save much if you end up throwing half your haul away.

It’s important to note that if you can’t freeze the items if they’re close to their expiration date or starting to wilt, then it’s not worth purchasing them. These items include any dry or canned goods as well. 

9. Bleach and Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning wiping down a gas stove.
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I know what you’re thinking– buying cleaning products in bulk makes the most sense. It can save money, and you’ll always have the products on hand. However, liquid bleach and other cleaning supplies have a shelf life of approximately six months, so it’s best not to buy them in larger quantities unless you’re using copious amounts of either. 

Other cleaning products around the house have different expiration dates. Good Housekeeping has a nifty guide to help you sort out those cleaning supplies.

10. Sunscreen

Woman putting on sunscreen
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Due to sunscreen formulations having a “best by” date set by the manufacturers, it’s also a good rule not to bulk purchase this item. According to the Mayo Clinic, most sunscreens have an effectiveness that only lasts up to three years. 

If you live in a hotter, more tropical, and sunny region of the world and slather sunscreen every day, multiple times a day, buying in bulk makes sense. However, if you only break it out when spending a day at the beach a few times every summer, you might think twice about those huge, enticingly inexpensive bottles.  

11. Face Cream

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If you’re like me, you have a favorite face cream and makeup brand. However, it isn’t wise to load up on those brands just because there’s a good deal. Face creams have chemicals that expire, and makeup, like mascara, can develop bacteria.

If the sale is too good to pass up, I suggest decanting a smaller amount of the face cream in a separate jar and storing the larger container in the back of the fridge to prolong the shelf life. Just ensure your hands and utensils are clean when filling the small jar back up to prevent cross-contamination.  

12. Sodas

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Unless you have a caffeine addiction and drink multiple glasses or bottles of soda every day, buying this product in bulk isn’t a good idea. Carbonation doesn’t last forever, and the beverage will go flat over time, even if tightly sealed. Who wants to drink a flat Coke?

Grocery stores view sodas as a “loss leader,” so they sell them below cost to entice people into their stores. However, carbonated beverages are one of the items stores put on sale the most, so instead of bulking up, wait for the next sale. 

13. Dairy Products

dairy products
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This goes without saying, but dairy products should never be bought in bulk. They cannot last long enough to be consumed entirely and used unless you’re an avid baker or love cheese more than anything else in the world (I’m calling myself out here).

14. Medicine

over the counter medicine
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Most over-the-counter pain relievers or sleep aid medicines have directions to be taken only as needed, so buying them in bulk doesn’t exactly serve a net positive purpose. Besides, the vast majority of these medicines have expiration dates. 

Buying smaller bottles or single packets of generic brands is also more cost-effective. Anti-inflammatories should not be taken every day, as they can be bad for your liver and kidneys.

14 Simple Ways Anyone Can Elevate Their Cooking Skills

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Here’s the deal: no one becomes Gordon Ramsey overnight. I mean, even Gordon Ramsey didn’t become Gordon Ramsey overnight. It takes time to master the art of cooking, and there’s no better time to start than now. I used to joke that I wasn’t a good cook and felt sorry for the man I would marry one day. But I’ve since learned that it’s really the little things that make someone a good cook, and here’s the secret–anyone can do it. Here are 14 simple and easy tips to elevate your kitchen game.

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With a passion for travel, great food, and beautiful art, Julie put aside her 15-year career in the tech industry and dove head-first into a more creative sphere. Utilizing her degree in Communications, she is pursuing freelance writing. An avid traveler, Julie has experience writing and documenting the amazing spots she has visited and explored, the delicious food she has tasted, and the incredible art she has admired and purchased! When she’s not writing, she can be spotted around Austin, TX, at various art gallery openings, having a delicious meal with her husband and friends, and playing with her two dogs.