14 Things Never to Buy in Bulk

Bulk shopping seems like it should be a surefire way to save money, but buyer beware: Bigger isn't always better. In an effort to pinch pennies or cut down on the number of shopping trips, you can get stuck with a lot of unused or spoiled products and actually end up spending more in the long run. The key is to shop smarter, not larger. So, on your next trip to the warehouse club, skip putting too many of these 14 items in your cart.

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Cooking Oils


Any chef knows that cooking oils are among the most important ingredients in the kitchen. But pantry staples like canola and olive oil have a pretty short shelf life, lasting only about three to six months on the counter before turning rancid. If you don’t fry or sauté too often, stick with smaller bottles of oil to avoid frying your wallet.

Related: 10 Unexpected Things to Put in Your Freezer—And Why



Buying a 36-pack of eggs at a big-box store is usually not cheaper per egg than buying a dozen at a regular supermarket. And because eggs go bad in just three to five weeks, you don’t want to buy more than you plan on cracking open in a month.

Related: 11 Home Hacks You Can Do with a Bag of Groceries



Bleach is an essential household cleaning product that you might assume never expires. But the active ingredient in bleach breaks down over time (or when exposed to temperature changes), weakening the solution. Bleach will typically be most effective for the first six to nine months after opening, so it is best not to buy too much at a time.

Related: 7 Surprising Alternative Uses for Clorox Bleach



Enjoying a good cup of joe is a cherished morning ritual, so why would you want anything less than the freshest beans you can buy? Coffee beans are at their tastiest within two weeks of roasting, so skip the bulk bag and opt for smaller servings that were packaged closer to their roasting date.

Related: 10 Things a Coffee Maker Can Do—Besides Brew Coffee



Dried spices don’t exactly spoil, but they will get stale and lose flavor over time. Ground spices will stay fresh for about six months, while whole spices can last a little longer. To ensure tasty freshness, forgo buying that bulk cinnamon and choose smaller containers that you know you can use up, or at least won’t need to spend a king’s ransom to replace. 

Related: 13 Unusual Ways to Use What’s in Your Spice Rack



While ketchup and many other condiments have preservatives that guarantee a long shelf life, once a bottle is opened it shouldn’t stay shoved in the back of the fridge for more than six months. Skip the oversize bottles and watch for seasonal sales around summer holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Related: The 10 Most Surprising Things You Can Buy at Sam’s Club



Stocking up on extra-large bottles of sunscreen can burn more than just your wallet. Sunscreen loses effectiveness over time, especially when the bottle is left baking under the hot sun on the beach. When it comes to sun protection, don’t sweat buying a fresh bottle each summer.

Related: Skip the Store: 9 Things Always to Buy Online

Brown Rice


Unlike white rice, which has a nearly indefinite shelf life, brown rice is high in oil, which makes it prone to spoiling in as few as six months. It’s best to buy only as much as you will cook, and be sure to store brown rice in an airtight container kept in a cool, dry place.

Related: 14 Pantry Goods That Basically Never Expire

Pain Killers


Over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen can be expensive, but it is doubtful that even a large family could finish off a bulk bottle of pills before the expiration date, which is usually a year or two after the manufacture date. Stick to more modestly sized bottles and generic brands to reduce the pain on your wallet.

Related: 9 Home Repair Remedies to Borrow from Your Medicine Cabinet

Baked Goods


Unless you are making enough sandwiches to feed a whole soccer team, it doesn’t make sense to buy bakery products like loaves of bread in bulk. No one likes a moldy PB&J!

Related: 9 Health Code Violations Hiding in Your Kitchen



Beer usually has a shelf life of only four months to a year, especially if stored at room temperature. So, unless you’re stocking up for a big weekend party, stick to cold six-packs for your everyday alcohol needs. Cheers!

Related: 7 Extraordinary Household Uses for Beer



Both liquid and powder laundry detergent can start to lose their potency after a few months on the shelf. In order to maximize the cleaning power of your detergent, buy only as much as you will use in six months. Similarly, dishwasher detergent has a shelf life of just three months.

Related: 12 Laundry Mistakes You’re Probably Making

Makeup Multipacks


Buying multipacks of your favorite beauty products may seem like a no-brainer, but it is important to keep an eye on the expiration dates of products like mascara and liquid eyeliner. To look your best and keep your peepers healthy, avoid putting expired products on your skin, especially around your eyes.

Related: How To: Get Your Bathroom Guest-Ready in 20 Minutes or Less



No parent wants to be scrambling to get to the store the minute the diapers run out, so it can be tempting to buy in bulk. But babies grow so fast that it is risky to buy too many of any one size or style of diaper. Resist stocking up weeks in advance, and leave a little room for growth.

Related: 10 Things Always to Keep in Your Junk Drawer

Buy This, Not That


A good shopper can spot the difference between a good and bad deal. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Become a savvy spender by knowing when the best sales happen during the year and where you can find the greatest discounts.