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7 Things You Shouldn’t Buy In Bulk (Plus 13 You Should)

Dried beans, toilet paper and vitamins are good things to buy in bulk to save money. If you buy cooking oils in bulk, they could go rancid before you can use them up.

Knowing What To Buy In Bulk Can Save You Money

Buying in bulk, whether at a grocery store or a warehouse store like Costco, is a popular method that many people use to save money on food and household necessities. Even though the closest Costco is a good 30-minute drive away, I still shop there regularly to pick up things we use a lot of (and because I’ve learned a few surprising Costco tips that help me save even more!)

According to the USDA, the current cost of feeding a family of four at home is somewhere between $1,000-1,600 per month. That’s a lot of money either way, so it’s no wonder people are looking for ways to get the most out of their food and grocery budget, including buying in bulk.

The key to successfully saving money on bulk buys is knowing what makes sense to stock up on and what doesn’t. In this post, we’ll take a look at the best things to buy in bulk if you’re looking to save money, before moving onto some of the worst things to buy in bulk.

Note: We all have different budgets, shopping lists, and home situations, so you may not totally agree with these lists or the items on them. If there’s something you disagree with, I’d love to discuss it further, so go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments!

13 Of The Best Things To Buy In Bulk

Toilet paper is usually a very good thing to buy in bulk because you can store it indefinitely.

1. Toilet Paper

Buying toilet paper in bulk can save you up to 50 percent versus the cost of buying a few rolls at a time. The challenging thing about buying a lot of toilet paper at once is figuring out where to store it all, but it’s worth the effort in my opinion! (The space under a bed is always an option!)

Want to make sure you’re getting the best T.P. for your money? Check out my Toilet Paper Showdown!

Buying dog food in bulk saves you a lot of money on pet supplies.

2. Pet Food

Whether your pet has special dietary needs or is simply a picky eater, you probably feed your pet the same food every day. So if your local Costco or Sam’s Club carries that type of food, buying it there is a no-brainer!

Not only will it save you money on pet expenses, but you won’t have to worry about restocking your furry friend’s food supply for a good, long while.

As long as you store it properly, buying bulk meat at big box stores can save you a lot of money.

3. Meat

Warehouse stores typically offer good quality meat at a significant savings versus traditional grocery stores. But before you bring home a dozen pounds of ground beef, it’s important to make sure you have space for all that meat in your freezer.

Another important consideration when buying meat in bulk is what you’ll put it in to keep it fresh in your freezer. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — using a vacuum sealer is by far the best way to store meat in your freezer and prevent freezer burn, especially when you buy meat on sale or in bulk!

Food wraps like foil and zipper bags are great to buy in bulk.

4. Storage Products

As I said, when you buy food in bulk, you’ll need to store it correctly! That’s why I recommend adding items like tin foil, freezer bags, and food storage containers to your warehouse shopping list — that way, you’ll have plenty of options when choosing the right food wrap for the job.

Buying vitamins in bulk can save you a ton of money if you use them before they expire.

5. Vitamins

If you take the same multivitamin every day, you might as well buy it in bulk for a better price! However, that bottle of 500 vitamins is only a good value if you actually take them all, so be sure to note the expiration date before you commit to taking it home.

Diapers are a huge expense, so buying diapers in bulk is a good idea.

6. Diapers

From what I’ve seen, most baby-related websites estimate the cost of a year’s supply of diapers to be around $800-1,100. Buying diapers in bulk can save you plenty of money if you play your cards right!

Be sure to consider the timing of bulk diaper purchases — after all, you don’t want to stock up on diapers that your baby will soon grow out of. I suggest waiting until the baby graduates to a new size before stocking up.

Cooking oils are a good thing to buy in bulk if you can use them before they go bad.

7. Cooking Oil

Certain cooking oils, like good quality olive oil, don’t necessarily come cheap. Getting a large container at a warehouse store is guaranteed to be a better bargain.

However, if you rarely cook with olive oil (or rarely cook at home, period), you may not be able to use all of that oil before it expires (though there are plenty of uses for olive oil that don’t involve cooking!) So use your best judgment here to avoid losing money in the long run.

Things like canned goods are among the best things to buy in bulk because they have such a long shelf life.

8. Canned Goods

Canned goods with distant expiration dates are always a smart bulk buy. Canned tuna, soups, and other canned goods can be around 30 percent cheaper at warehouse stores than at standard grocery stores.

Again, you should only buy canned goods you’re certain you’ll actually use. And there are plenty of canned and bottled foods that never expire, so buying those in bulk makes a lot of sense!

Batteries, light bulbs, and other household essentials are also good things to buy in bulk.

9. Batteries

Disposable and recyclable household supplies like batteries and light bulbs make excellent bulk buys. As long as you have somewhere to store them, you’ll get around to using them eventually! (Personally, I like knowing I have another lightbulb ready to go when I see a bulb in one my fixtures burn out!)

Buying toothbrushes in bulk may encourage better hygiene practices.

10. Oral Hygiene Products

Dentists recommend that you replace your toothbrush every three months, but the average American waits nine months to make the switch. So buying toothbrushes (or replacement brush heads for your electric toothbrush) in bulk is not only a smart way to save money, but a good way to encourage better oral hygiene practices too.

Cleaning supplies or the ingredients to make them are always good things to buy in bulk.

11. Cleaning Products

Your favorite cleaning products, or ingredients you use to make homemade cleaning solutions, are smart bulk buys too. Personally, I use things like baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, and white vinegar all the time, so I always make sure to stock up on them when I’m at Costco!

Cleaning is something we all do regularly, so there’s no reason not to stock up on supplies you know you’ll get around to using eventually. Bonus fact about vinegar — no matter how long it takes you to use up your stockpile, vinegar stays good forever. You never have to worry about it going bad.

Dried beans and pasta are good to buy in bulk because they have such a long shelf life.

12. Dried Beans And Pasta

Dried beans and pasta are great pantry staples because they last a long time and take up relatively little space. Dry pasta will stay good for up to two years in a sealed container, while dried beans will last about a year. Cooking dried beans in an Instant Pot is fast and easy and you can save a lot of money over canned beans.

If you don't mind committing to using a brand for a long time, shampoos and conditioners can be good buys when you buy in bulk.

13. Soap And Shampoo

When it comes to hygiene products like soap and shampoo, some people are loyalists while others flit between varieties and brands. Buying soap or shampoo in bulk can be a good way to save money, but only if you buy what you already use regularly, or won’t mind using for the foreseeable future. (The same goes for razors and deodorant too!)

Now that we’ve covered what you should buy in bulk, let’s shift gears and take a look at what you may want to leave off your shopping list the next time you go to shop for bulk items!

7 Things You Should NOT Buy In Bulk

Pop is not a great thing to buy in bulk because grocery stores often discount it.

1. Chips And Soda

Chips and soda are big promotional items for supermarkets and grocery stores, especially around major events like sports playoffs or championships, national holidays, and even the changing of the seasons. Major manufacturers help retailers deeply discount these products on a rotating basis, so it’s not hard to get a great deal on them at your local grocery store.

Unless you use a lot of a certain kind of produce, it's not a good thing to buy in bulk.

2. Produce

You’re almost always going to better off buying smaller amounts of produce items at the grocery store rather than buying them in bulk, unless it’s something you use a lot of. Take smoothies, for example — if you make yourself a smoothie every morning without fail, then it would make sense to buy your greens or frozen fruit in bulk.)

There are plenty of opportunities to save on produce at the grocery store too, because there’s usually at least one in-season item on sale for a low price. Choosing the best fresh fruit can also help you save by avoiding waste, and it’s harder to do that if you’re buying it bulk in bags.

Grocery stores regularly sell chips at a discount, so buying them in bulk doesn't usually save you money.

3. Candy, Snacks, Etc.

Although you can save money by buying candy, snacks, and other forms of junk food in bulk, it’s not be the wisest decision for your health. Personally, if I have a big stash of my favorite snacks somewhere, I end up burning through it all much too quickly and then I just feel terrible (both physically and emotionally!)

Unless you have rock solid self control when it comes to candy and snacks, saving a few dollars in the long run just isn’t worth the temptation.

Buying frozen foods in bulk can take up a lot of freezer room, so in general I don't buy them in bulk.

4. Frozen Foods

Although frozen food will last a good long while, it’s not always smart to buy it in bulk. One common issue people encounter when buying frozen food in bulk is that it ends up taking over much of their available freezer space.

Another potential issue is whether or not you’ll be able to use it up before its expiration date. When in doubt, stick to buying canned foods in bulk, rather than frozen ones.

Buying nuts in bulk isn't usually a good idea unless you use a lot of them, since they can go rancid fairly quickly.

5. Nuts

Nuts can be quite a bit more affordable to buy in bulk. But unfortunately, the high fat content in nuts (especially in peanuts, pecans, and walnuts) can cause them to go rancid a lot quicker than you’d think. Storing them in the fridge will help make them last a bit longer, though!

Condiments are risky to buy in bulk because huge bottles can expire before you can use all of it.

6. Condiments

Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and other condiments usually only keep for six months to a year. So unless there are a lot of hungry eaters in your house who apply their condiments in liberal amounts, you may not end up using them up in time! When you do buy them, store them upside down in the fridge to ensure a good seal and make them last longer.

Because herbs and spices lose their flavor in a relatively short time, it's not a good idea to buy them in bulk.

7. Spices

The only spices you should buy in bulk are the trusty and essential herbs and spices you use frequently. Spices start losing their potency and flavor after about six months, so it makes more sense to buy most spices as you need them at a regular grocery store.

What do you buy in bulk?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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Bright Ideas

  • I store my cooking oils and nuts in the freezer. I vacuum pack dry fruit and chocolate chips in mason jars. If you do not have a machine to vacuum pack a mason jar you can place the food and an oxygen absorber in the jar and put the canning lid and ring on tight. I warm my cover for a very short time on a coffee cup warmer. Your chips and dry fruit will last for years depending where you store it. This will also work for white flour.

  • I buy all my laundry supplies at Costco. I normally shop at the Air Force Base in my city, which is usually cheaper than the grocery stores, and I still save money buying these items at Costco. In addition, I buy paper towels and the big bottles of hand soap to refill my little containers at home.

  • At this point in my life (65yo), and just having my adult son here, I do not need too much, too often. How I miss the days of a full chest freezer to go to when feeding a family. I would even love a small freezer now, but just can’t swing it! It is SO nice when you go to cook something and have all the ingredients right there! Well, enough of my reminiscing!
    Jillee, when you talk about buying toilet paper in bulk, do you also do the same with paper towels? Also, I would think that laundry products would be a good buy? (if I missed you mentioning that…sorry) Thanks Jillee, another great and helpful post! God bless all. :-)

  • Pet food I disagree with – to a point. Certainly the tiny bags of food are disproportionately overpriced. But larger quantities can go rancid or lose their “fresh smell” and pets won’t eat it. Buy the quantity your pet can consume in a reasonable amount of time, maybe 3-4 months or so. Split it into 1-2 week portions to store. I use vacuum sealer bags then store the bags in sealed rigid plastic containers. The food stays so fresh smelling my pets think it is a brand new bag… and it all gets eaten.

    • I kind of agree. I, personally would have to store it in my basement (on shelves and in art-tight totes), but I would be afraid of mice! Wouldn’t matter how tightly stored it is, they can eat through ANYTHING! Powerful for being such cute little critters! :-)

  • I buy all my spices in bulk and save huge amounts of money. (I suggested to the manager at my grocery store that they post a sign in the spice aisle “Ask about our home equity loan program.”). I keep the big containers in my freezer, dole out small amounts into glass spice jars you can buy at Bed Bath and Beyond for about a dollar and store those in my spice rack.

    You need to label the jars carefully of course, so you don’t get the Saigon cinnamon confused with the adobo chile powder!

  • I, also, freeze the bulk nuts and save a lot of money. I will buy the frozen vegetables and fruits and divide them up for individual meals. This is where my upright freezer pays for itself over and over. The flour and sugars are a great deal for me since I do so much baking. I buy the large size of Dawn and white vinegar and paper towels.

  • Dishwasher soap, hand soap to refill dispensers are on my list also. Fabric softener sheets, especially with the many uses you have outlined, are a bargain at Costco. Thank you Jillee for all of your wonderful ideas! I have a Pinterest category labeled laundry and household dedicated to you!

  • Nuts keep well in the freezer. I keep sunflower seeds in there to garnish salads. I keep bags of walnuts, pecans, and almonds in there too. I buy raw peanuts and roast them myself. The raw peanuts are in the freezer, the roasted peanuts don’t last long enough to worry about. No special storage requirements needed and there are always nuts for baking or garnishing or eating by the handful.
    We grow a lot of pecans here in Oklahoma so in the fall it’s not uncommon for someone to share their overflow. A backyard tree can provide more than you can eat in a year, so we almost always have them on hand. Yum!

  • Shredded cheese freezes well? DAYUM — WHO KNEW??? (Obviously not me…!) Thanks SO much for that little piece of information. [sneaking off to add shredded cheese to her next shopping list]

  • With 3 boys, I pretty much just shop at sam’s club every week. We eat very simple meals so I don’t need a lot of speciality ingredients. Cheese is one thing I save a ton on. I can get 5 pounds of shredded cheese for $10.75. The cheapest at the grocery is usually 1.79 for 8 ounces. We go through everything so fast that they don’t have a chance to go bad- nuts, mayo, everything pretty much. And while everything isn’t cheaper, the convience of shopping at one place is worth paying a little bit more for something. That may change as my children get older though :) or all in school and I can shop by myself :)

    • I was just going to comment that you better start saving for when those boys are teens, and then saw that you wrote this comment 8 years ago. I am sure you are close to the situation I’m talking about already! Good luck raising your sons, and you brought a smile to my face of years gone by. God bless you and your family. :-)

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