9 Purchases You Should Never Buy in Bulk

Don’t fall into the “more is more” trap. These items have a shorter shelf life than you’d think, meaning it doesn’t pay to go big.

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Herbs and spices
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The container might claim the herbs and spices inside don’t expire for one to four years, but that’s under the assumption that you store them correctly. Moisture and heat from your oven could get to spices stored above the stove, and paprika and chili powder do best in the fridge. While you won’t get sick from old spices, they could start losing flavor after a year. Buy smaller containers and replace them once the quality declines.

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Clorox bleach being poured into measuring cup
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Believe it or not, liquid bleach has an expiration date. Once open, it only takes about six months for it to become less effective. Powdered products, though, are a different story. If you keep them in a cool, dry spot, they’ll stay good indefinitely. Opt for one of those, or get a small bottle of generic brand liquid bleach for the best value.

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Don't buy in bulk
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Even though they tend to have a lot of preservatives and are stored in the fridge, condiments won’t last forever. Once you open a jar or bottle, it’s a matter of months until it goes bad. Mayonnaise, for instance, should only be left in the fridge two months after opening, according to the USDA, though ketchup can last closer to six months. Leave the value-sized bottles at the store and pick up a smaller size for your family.

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Skin cream
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Skincare products

Every time you stick your fingers in a tub of skin cream, you let in germs and up your risk of contamination. Plus, a lot of skincare products will start losing effectiveness within three to six months. Stock up on the items you go through fast, but go for small pots over big tubs for the products you might not use up.

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Whole-wheat flour
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Whole-wheat flour

Flour is a go-to thickening agent for sauces and soups because it attracts water. But that also means it will attract moisture from the air, making it turn musty. While all-purpose flour can last up to a year, whole-wheat and nut flours could go bad in just a couple months because they contain oils. When these oils degrade, the flour will start to smell funky.

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A dozen eggs at the grocery store will probably cost less per egg than a larger pack from a warehouse club. And unless you’re cooking for a crowd, you probably won’t use up a 36-pack before the eggs’ three- to five-week expiration hits, so you’ll end up tossing the extras.

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Assorted fruits and vegetables
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Naturally, you should never buy more fruits and vegetables than you’ll be able to use before they spoil. But there’s another reason not to bulk buy: Warehouse clubs tend to keep their prices steady throughout the year, while supermarkets usually slash prices when foods are in season.

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Coffee grounds
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While ground coffee won’t hurt you even three to five months after its sell-by date, old grinds will lose their fresh taste and pleasant aroma. For a mug your barista would approve of, go for small bags that were roasted within a couple weeks. If you’re looking to buy instant coffee, though, might as well buy a bigger container—it can last up to 20 years past its printed date.

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Cereal with strawberries and nuts
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While you can get good deals on cold cereal at warehouse stores, you can often find even better options at grocery stores. If you wait until it goes on sale at the supermarket, you’ll probably save money from a bulk box. Sources: eatbydate.com, eatthis.com, kiplinger.com, moneycrashers.com, wholegrainscouncil.org.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest