Buying in bulk can be very tempting, but bigger isn’t always better. You can certainly save money by buying some things in bulk, but it could be a costly mistake to think that the biggest package you can find at a wholesale warehouse club is the best deal on everything, every time. Sometimes, less is more. Here are some examples:
Cooking oil. With a shelf life of about six months, buying bigger bottles of cooking oil is not a good idea, unless you fry food daily or have a large group of people to feed. The larger bottle is not always cheaper than its smaller counterpart, either. Compare per ounce prices and you may be surprised to find they are the same on both sizes.
Eggs. Since eggs are only good for three to five weeks, you would have to consume one to two eggs every day to safely get through a warehouse club 36 pack. So again, unless you have a large family, buying eggs by the dozen is probably a safer bet.
Cereal. Stocking up on cereal when it is on sale at the grocery store will often save you more money than buying in bulk. Plus, since cereal tends to go stale unless kept in an airtight container, buying large quantities may just end up being a waste of money if you have to toss it out.
Coffee. The freshest and best tasting cups of coffee are made from beans that have been recently roasted. If you have access to fresh roasted beans, you are getting the best value for your caffeine dollar. Choose a bag of beans that contains the amount of coffee you will consume in a week or two and no more.
Produce. Some vegetables are more expensive per pound, such as onions which can be found on sale for 99 cents per pound, whereas the three-pound bag sells for an average of $3.50. Produce prices at the grocery store will drop when items are in season, but the warehouse prices tend to stay the same.
Nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Because of the natural oils found in these healthy snacks, they should be stored in airtight containers and kept in a cool, dark cupboard for no more than a month or two. After that, the oils can go rancid quickly. The same is true with whole grains, which are also high in oils. If you have a large amount of nuts and seeds on hand and aren’t sure how quickly they will get eaten, it is best to put them in the fridge or freezer to extend their shelf life.
Spices. Large containers of spices are not a good bulk buy for most, as they lose flavor after about a year. Some manufacturers post expiration dates of one to three years for dried herbs and ground spices, but proper storage is essential. Storing your spices over the stove will drastically affect their freshness due to exposure to heat and moisture. Storing these in a cool, dry place is a much better choice.
Skin care products. Between their short shelf life (3 to 6 months) and the risk of contamination, smaller sizes are the way to go here.
Sunscreen. Although these products have a longer shelf life than other skin care products (up to three years), sunscreen loses its effectiveness when exposed to high heat…like a day spent in the sunshine on the beach or poolside. Buying a smaller container at a drugstore or grocery store can be better for your wallet, and your skin.
Bleach. Did you know liquid bleach only has a shelf life of six months? Generic or store brands in smaller than one gallon containers are the smart choice for liquid bleach. Powdered cleaning products, however, can last a long time if they are stored correctly (again, in a cool, dry place, like spices).
Soft drinks. If you are one of those people who can’t bring yourself to buy generic or store brand soft drinks (which are often just as tasty as national name brands), you can still save money buying from your local supermarket, especially when sales are going on, or you have a coupon or loyal shopper’s discount card.
Copy paper. Plain white copy paper can be found for much less money at an office supply store such as Staples or Office Depot, rather than at a warehouse store.
Although warehouse clubs do offer some unbelievably low prices on bundles of certain items on a regular basis, weekly specials and coupons can very often result in even bigger savings found at your local grocery store. So, unless you have some household storage space you are just dying to fill up with something, we recommend you rethink your bulk purchases and buy only those items that are truly a benefit to your bottom line.