Saving Money

What Not to Buy at a Warehouse Store

Some Things Don't Belong on Your Costco Shopping List

By MELANIE EVANS | Updated October 23, 2023

When people get serious about saving money on the groceries they buy one of the first things they often do is pay for a membership at a warehouse store like Sam's Club or Costco.

This IS a good idea, as you can indeed save money buying in bulk on some things, but there are other items that just because you can buy them in bulk on your next warehouse shopping trip does not mean you should. Here's a look at some of those things, along with the reasons why it does not make sense to buy them in bulk.

Common Condiments

In industrial kitchens, super-sized cans of mayo, peanut butter, and other condiments make perfect sense, but they don't make much sense in the home kitchen. Why? Aside from the fact that you likely won't be able to finish them before the expiration date, you still have to worry about the possibility of contamination.

Any time someone dips a spoon, knife, or finger into the container to scoop any out, bacteria and other contaminants are introduced. Consider all the disgusting stuff you might be consuming by the time you finish the bottle or jar, and we're betting the regular-size condiments instantly sound like a better offer.


Even if they are cheaper, those big 25- or 50-pound bags of flour aren't a good buy unless you do a lot of baking. According to the Whole Grains Council, whole wheat flour can only last one to three months in the pantry because the oils in it go rancid fast.

Even though all-purpose flour has a longer shelf life, about 4-6 months past the best-buy date, it's still not a good idea to keep it in the pantry for that long. Since flour is vulnerable to weevil infestations, having it in your pantry is a recipe for disaster.

Seeds and Nuts

It's a good idea to have your pantry filled with nuts and seeds because they're so nutritious, just don't overdo it. They, like flour, are susceptible to rancidity. Just buy what you can eat within one to two months of the best-buy date printed on the jar or package, is a good rule of thumb to ensure great taste.

Herbs and Seasonings

Spices, herbs, and seasonings, unlike flour and nuts, do not go bad, but they do lose their potency over time. With this in mind, it's best to buy spices in small jars that you can use up quickly and refill on a regular basis.

Ground spices should be used within two to three years, according to spice icons McCormick, but many professional chefs recommend changing the spices in your kitchen every six months. That last bit of advice is another reason to buy small, as throwing away a little container of a spice will hurt a lot less than trashing a big one!

One more note here. No matter how convenient it can appear, keep your herbs and spices away from the stove. Heat, humidity, and light will hasten the fading of their flavor. They should be stored in a pantry or a cupboard, or in a spice rack located on a shadier counter in your kitchen.


Making your own coffee is far less expensive than buying it at a coffee shop, and although you might be tempted to save even more money by purchasing a large bag of grounds or beans, resist. The secret to good coffee is fresh coffee.

Purchase a small bag to keep in the freezer between brews. When you run out, have fun trying new flavors. That's preferable for some to drinking the same coffee every day but still a more affordable way to experiment with coffee flavors than hitting Starbucks or DD every day.

If you want to save money on coffee, and are one of the many people who have switched to a single serve brewer like the Keurig, invest in a pack of reusable K-cups and fill them yourself. Coffee in a tin or bag is much less expensive than those individual K-cup containers.

Cleaning Products

Buying large bottles of your favorite cleaners might seem like a good idea, and it is if you own a maid service, but it just doesn't make sense for regular people (who already have a hard time keeping one house clean). That's because many of your favorite cleaners have a far shorter shelf life than you would expect.

Laundry detergent is only good for six months to a year after it's been opened, according to the Goodhousekeeping Research Institute. Dishwasher detergent is only good for three months and liquid hand soap is only good for 12-18 months.

Anti-bacterial products have a shorter shelf life when purchased in bulk, according to their findings. In fact, it was discovered that certain items, such as multi-surface cleaner, had their shelf life cut in half when they were stored in larger containers.

This study provides an excellent argument for using white vinegar as your primary cleaning solution. It has a nearly limitless shelf life and is significantly less expensive than store-bought cleaners (even when purchased in bulk). If you buy a gallon, it will be a long time before you need to buy another.


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