Kelly Bradley

When you're trying to save some money on your grocery bill, most people will tell you to buy in bulk. That way, you won't have to keep running back and forth to the supermarket to stock up on that particular item, and you're usually getting it for cheaper than normal.

Grocery stores like Costco and Sam's Club often encourage you to buy in bulk, but the truth is, there are always exceptions. The following items are a waste of money when purchased in large amounts:

Condiments

Condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard and dressing should only be purchased when you need them, otherwise they'll go bad before you can eat them.

You'll save money up front when you buy condiments in bulk, but that money will be lost when your expired condiments end up in the trash.

Health and Beauty Products

When walking through Costco, you can buy virtually anything in bulk, including health and beauty products like deodorant, mascara, sunscreen, foundation, eye liner, etc.

It may seem handy to have extras of these frequently used products, but most of them have a shelf life of about one year before they start to go bad.

Instead of bulk buying, it's best to look for the best sales on the items individually. Oftentimes drugstores will have weekly deals featuring those health and beauty products you use the most. Here's a quick look at the shelf life of beauty essentials:

  • Mascara: 2-3 months
  • Eye liner: 3 months
  • Foundation: 6-12 months
  • Concealer: 1 year
  • Deodorant: 3 years
  • Lip gloss: 1 year
  • Lipstick: 2 years

Spices

Spices like oregano, chili powder and garlic salt are essential for adding flavor to your dishes. However, if you see a bundle of spices being sold at Costco, you may want to refrain.

While spices don't necessarily expire, they do lose their flavor after about six months to a year. There's no sense in stocking up on spices if they're not going to do anything to help your cooking.

There might be some spices that you use on a regular basis, like oregano or red pepper flakes. If you rely on those frequently, it may be OK to buy in bulk. Otherwise, just purchase spices as you need them so you don't waste your money.

Brown Rice

If you want to keep a whole lot of white rice in your pantry, go for it. Unfortunately, you can't do the same with brown rice, which has a much shorter shelf life than its white counterpart.

But why? Well, brown rice contains much more oil, so it will only be good in your kitchen for six months. White rice lasts a bit longer – I'm talking 30 years. Unless you know you will be consuming a lot of brown rice in a short amount of time, I suggest saving money by purchasing smaller bags of it and stocking up on white rice.

Cooking Oils

Cooking oils are essential for making anything from baked goods to fried chicken, but be careful about how long you've kept your oils. The truth is, many of these oils can go bad after just just a few months.

If vegetable oil is unopened, it can last up to six months, but if it's already opened, toss it after one to three months. Olive oil also lasts for about six months, and should be kept away from any light or heat. It's best to buy olive oil in the darkest jar possible, as it takes longer for light to break down the product.

If you're not sure how long you've had your cooking oils, look for a change in color or an off smell to tell you whether to keep them or throw them away.

Bleach

Bleach can not only get the stains out of clothing, it can brighten up your glassware, disinfect trash cans, and even remove mold and mildew from shower curtains and grout. Bleach is certainly handy to have sitting around your apartment.

However, after just six months, bleach tends to lose its effectiveness. It's better to buy a smaller bottle of bleach and only stock up when you're running low.

Tips for Buying in Bulk

  • Always consider the expiration date. You may be getting a good price, but will you be able to finish all the food before it goes bad? Ask yourself how frequently you would consume what you're buying.
  • Keep in mind that buying in bulk isn't always the most financially sound idea. Next time you go shopping, bring your regular grocery receipt and compare prices for products that you most often buy. This will help you figure out where to get the best bang for your buck.
  • Get creative in the kitchen. Buying certain items in bulk can force you to become a more versatile chef. For instance, if you see that a big container of strawberries is on sale at Costco, take them home and experiment with all of the different ways you can use them. Make strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake, jam, cupcakes, smoothies, etc.

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