I’ll be the first to admit that I have a love/hate relationship with Costco.
On an intellectual level, I know I’m saving money when I go there to buy bulk foods. And they do have products I like. But on an emotional level? My trips to the giant wholesale store rank on the same level as root canals and mall shopping on Christmas Eve.
In other words, I go as rarely as I can. Come on, I know some of you are in the same boat as me!
The habit I’ve gotten into is when I go, I buy a bunch of stuff so I don’t have to go back for a long, long time. And at first this seemed like a good strategy until I realized that I was actually wasting money this way. I was buying the wrong products in bulk, and they were going bad before I could use them up.
Many people don’t realize how fast some products go bad causing you to lose a lot of money in the process. Unless you’re feeding a family of 20 or you own a restaurant, there are some things you just shouldn’t buy in bulk.
Let’s take a look at what they are:
1. Brown Rice
Raise your hand if you think brown rice lasts forever. Don’t worry, if you’d asked me a few months ago, I would have had mine up in the air too.
Most people think brown rice will keep until the apocalypse comes. It’s rice, after all. Doesn’t that mean it’s non-perishable?
Well, no. Brown rice actually has a much shorter shelf life than white rice because it contains more oil (it’s also much better for you than white rice); it only lasts 6 months. And even then, you should keep it in the refrigerator.
If you have a choice, buy brown rice in smaller bags at the grocery store and go for the white rice when you need to buy in bulk since this will last significantly longer. Quick Tip: Buying Basmati white rice in bulk at Costco is an awesome way to get some real bang for your buck.
As a vegetarian, I eat a lot of nuts. And since nuts are expensive, I was stocking up at Costco. But I wasn’t eating them fast enough. After a few months, they started tasting bitter and were just, off. The squirrels in my yard got gourmet fare this summer because I just couldn’t eat the nuts anymore!
Nuts have the same problem as brown rice, but worse. Because they’re heavy in oils they go rancid quickly, within 1 or 2 months (depending on your heat and humidity). Nuts also need to be stored in the fridge or freezer.
The good news is that nuts in the shell (like roasted peanuts and pistachios) have a longer shelf life, so those are pretty safe to buy in bulk.
I know, this one’s a shocker right?
Bleach starts to lose its effectiveness after 6 months. So unless you have some serious bleaching needs, it pays to buy smaller jugs.
My spice cabinet is packed full with jumbo containers of black pepper, cinnamon, sea salt…I could go on.
Want to know how long ago I bought them? Trust me, it was a while ago.
Spices lose their “spice” after 6 months to a year. It’s important to look at your cooking habits to see what you’re realistically going to use up.
For instance, the cinnamon was a bad idea because I don’t use it that much. But I use red pepper flakes every day; I’ve gone through my jumbo red pepper within that 6 month time frame. So for me, red pepper flakes are a good bargain to buy in bulk while cinnamon is not.
A good rule of thumb is to look at your spice cabinet closely. Which spices do you have up front for easy access? Chances are that these are the spices you’re using most often, which means you can probably safely buy them in bulk for extra savings. You probably shouldn’t be buying in bulk the spice in the back though.
For the spices that you shouldn’t buy in bulk, one awesome solution is to grow a home garden.
5. Olive Oil
Olive oil is another one of those products that you would think would have an incredible shelf life.
The truth? It doesn’t.
Olive oil lasts around 6 months. If you keep it away from light and heat, it will last a bit longer, but it’s still just not going to be as good.
A good tip? Always buy olive oil in the darkest colored container you can. The reason is because the more light that hits the oil, the faster it’s going to break down. So dark colored green jars are the best.
While a trip to bulk stores like Costco can save you a ton of money and time in the long run, that doesn’t mean you should buy anything and everything when you go there. There are some products where it makes total sense to buy them in bulk, while there are others where you are just wasting your money on products that will become sub-par before you get a chance to consume them.
What has and hasn’t worked for you to buy in bulk? Any products you think should be added to this list?