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With their tempting prices and extensive product selections, it’s easy to become distracted when shopping in bulk at wholesale stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s. Buying in bulk has long been considered a practical way to save on household expenses. However, exercising discretion in what you choose to buy in bulk is important.

To make the most of your savings on bulk purchases, here are 14 household essentials you should never buy in bulk. 

Bread

pasta and bread
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Bread has a relatively short shelf life, remaining fresh for just a few days. While it is possible to store some bread and baked goods in the freezer to extend its lifespan, the reality is they never quite retain their original taste and texture after thawing.

So unless you plan to use a large amount of bread for a gathering or large household, it’s wise to opt for smaller portions and purchase only what you’re confident you’ll consume in the upcoming week.

Milk

milk
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Milk can easily spoil – in as little as a few days after it has been opened. And if you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of tasting spoiled milk, you likely want to steer clear of large milk containers.

Cooking Oil

cooking oils
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Purchasing cooking oil in bulk may seem like a good idea, but it’s worth noting that it typically has a shelf life of just six months. Unless you’re frying food daily, you might find using up a gallon of vegetable or canola oil a bit challenging.

Produce

vegetables celery apple cucumber
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Unless you have a large family or plan to entertain friends, buying fresh produce in bulk is not the best option since the majority of produce items tend to lose their freshness within a week, and some can even spoil in just a few days.

Eggs

egg shells in basket
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If you don’t use eggs frequently, be cautious about buying them in bulk. Eggs usually have a ‘best before’ date of a few weeks from the purchase date. While it might seem cheaper to get a large quantity, it’s better to avoid buying them in bulk to avoid spoiling.

Skincare Products

makeup
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Contrary to what many think, beauty products aren’t designed to last indefinitely. Cosmetics like eyeshadow, foundation, lipstick, and mascara gradually deteriorate over time and can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Bacteria can begin to grow in beauty products as soon as they’re opened or used. To minimize waste, it’s a good idea to choose smaller sizes that you’ll be able to use up relatively quickly.

Spices and Dried Herbs

spices in a jar
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Most spices have a ‘best by’ date – for good reason. Once they reach this date, spices and dried herbs lose their potency, so they likely won’t have the same flavor and taste you remember.

While that 16-ounce spice container might seem like a great deal, it may not deliver the same fresh taste and flavor after sitting in your cabinet for a year or two.

Cheese

cheese
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Regardless of how delicious cheese may be, unless you plan to share it or consume it daily for an extended period, it’s wise to pass on the oversized pack.

Condiments

ketchup and condiments
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Condiments like mustard or ketchup tend to remain fresh for approximately six months once opened, whereas products like mayonnaise and certain jams typically retain their freshness for just about a month or two after opening. It’s best to avoid buying these items in bulk. 

Brown Rice

bulk items in jar
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Brown rice has a shorter shelf life compared to white rice and can go rancid more quickly. It’s best to purchase only what you can use up within a couple of months and replenish as needed.

Flour

flour in bag
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Unless you do a ton of baking, getting a 50-pound bag of flour isn’t the most practical choice. Flour tends to absorb moisture and can go rancid.

Ground Coffee

coffee grounds and beans on table
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When it comes to enjoying ground coffee, freshness is key. While coffee doesn’t exactly spoil, aged coffee grounds tend to lose their rich flavor and delightful aroma.

For optimal results, it’s advisable to consume coffee grounds within a few weeks to a few months after they’ve been roasted and opened. Unless you’re an avid coffee drinker, it’s best to pass on the large bag of coffee from the bulk aisle.

Soda and Frizzy Drinks

Yellow soda can standing out amongst red soda cans
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Buying soda in bulk might seem like a cost-effective choice, but there’s a caveat. These carbonated beverages have a tendency to lose their fizz and flavor with time, potentially diminishing the satisfaction of your bulk investment.

Liquid Bleach

pouring bleach
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Liquid bleach can be a bit sensitive when it comes to shelf life. Typically, you’ve got about six months from the time you bring it home before its effectiveness starts to fade.

If you’re not a bleach enthusiast, it’s wise to pick smaller bottles of affordable store brands or generics at your local supermarket rather than splurging on jumbo-size name-brand bleach.

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Tamara White is the creator and founder of The Thrifty Apartment, a home decor and DIY blog that focuses on affordable and budget-friendly home decorating ideas and projects. Tamara documents her home improvement journey, love of thrifting, tips for space optimization, and creating beautiful spaces.

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