7 products to never buy in bulk

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3 Things You Should Never Buy in Bulk

Is buying in bulk really worth it?

Many consumers assume buying in bulk saves cash. Not always: A recent study in the International Journal of Consumer Studies found that low-income households waste more food than middle-income homes, partly due to bulk buying. Brian Wansink, author of "Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life," says only half of what families buy in bulk is eaten within a week. The other half goes to waste. "You're so tired of the food you bought, you end up throwing it out," Wansink says. He still believes buying in bulk is cost-effective, but only if you do it right. Here are seven products to never buy in bulk if you're on a budget.


Although giant bottles of ketchup and mayonnaise may seem like bargains compared with the price of smaller containers, family finance and frugal living expert Jordan Page advises leaving them on the shelf. "It almost always will go bad before you can go through it," she says. Instead, she suggests waiting until the standard-sized products go on sale, as they do during summer barbecue season.

Over-the-counter medication

"Over-the-counter medications are typically not a good idea in bulk simply because they can expire before you get through them," says Kendal Perez, a spokeswoman for CouponSherpa.com. For example, pills such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may last a few years, but they can expire much quicker if stored improperly. Perez says it's cheaper to skip the name brands and buy generic products in smaller quantities.

Canned food

Although the shelf life of some canned food can be years, they'll go bad quickly once they're opened. For this reason, Page suggests avoiding bulk cans of pasta sauce or vegetables, despite the seemingly lesser cost per unit. "You would basically be eating spaghetti sauce or crushed tomatoes for two weeks straight if you were trying to use up everything in that can," she says.

Boxes of something you've sampled

It may be tempting to purchase the entire box of a sample you just tasted at Costco, but Perez says it can go to waste quickly if the product turns out to be not as good after the first bite. "You want to make sure you really like it before you have a whole ton of it that you're going to consume," Perez says.


Buying crates of soda from wholesale stores is a bad idea, Page says. "Soda is one thing that people will tend to buy crates of from Costco or wherever, but you are overpaying," she says. Instead, she suggests waiting until your favorite brand of soda goes on sale, then buying it in smaller quantities.


Stocking up on sunscreen before hitting the beach? Dr. Melda Isaac, founder of MI-Skin Dermatology Center in the District of Columbia, says you should buy sparingly and be mindful of expiration dates. "If it is left open, then the active chemical ingredients in sunscreens degrade," Isaac says. Instead of using chemical-based sunscreens, she suggests picking up physical-block sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as active ingredients, since these have longer shelf lives.


Although you may find great deals on in-season produce when buying in bulk, fruits and vegetables tend to spoil quicker than shoppers can consume them. "Most of the time, half of the package is going in the garbage," Page says. She suggests purchasing a smaller amount – even if it costs more per pound than buying in bulk – because you'll be more likely to eat it before it goes bad.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

See some of the safer products to buy in bulk:

Safe things to buy in bulk
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7 products to never buy in bulk
Shoppers lift cases of bottled water in preparation for a hurricane and tropical storm heading toward Hawaii at the Iwilei Costco in Honolulu on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Two big storms so close together is rare in the eastern Pacific. Hurricane Iselle could make landfall by Friday and Tropical Storm Julio could hit two or three days later, weather officials said. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Huggies diapers and a box of Kirkland diapers are on display at Costco Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, in, Portland, Ore. Wholesale companies increased their stockpiles of autos, paper, and other goods in October by the most in five months, a sign they expect consumer demand to rise. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this June 13, 2011 photo, shoppers buy toilet paper at Costco in Mountain View, Calif. Shoppers go into Costco, TJ Maxx or a DSW shoe store looking for a bargain on something they need and end up splurging on irresistible finds.(AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
** FILE ** Reynolds Wrap, an aluminum foil made by aluminum producer Alcoa, is on display at Costco in San Jose, Calif., in this Oct. 9, 2007 file photo. Alcoa Inc. is expected to release quarterly earnings after the bell Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Shoppers make their way past Nabisco Ritz crackers at Costco Wholesale in Las Vegas on Thursday, May 26, 2005. Costco Wholesale Corp. earnings rose 6 percent in the last quarter. (AP Photo/Laura Rauch)
A shopper reaches for a product along an aisle at Costco Wholesale Wednesday, May 25, 2005, in Tigard, Ore. Wholesale club operator Costco Wholesale Corp. said Thursday, May 26, that its profit rose 6 percent in the third quarter, helped by improved sales and a moderate gain in business at locations open at least one year. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Boxes of Frosted Flakes are shown on the shelves of a Costco store Saturday, May 14, 2005 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Kellogg Co., the nation's top cereal maker, had worldwide sales in 2004 of $9.61 billion. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
This Sept. 2, 2011 photo, shows a bottled water display at Costco Wholesale in Mountain View, Calif. Wholesale businesses boosted their stockpiles for a 19th consecutive month in July, but their sales were flat. Faltering demand could force businesses to cut back on orders when the economy is at risk of another recession. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
TUCSON, AZ - APRIL 4: Large boxes of tea are seen at a Costco store April 4, 2008 in Tucson, Arizona. As the American economy slows down, consumers are increasingly turning to thrifty measures to push their money further. Costco stores sell items in bulk, often reducing costs. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - APRIL 4: A woman looks over a coupon sheet while standing next to bulk packages of paper towels at a Costco store April 4, 2008 in Tucson, Arizona. As the American economy slows down, consumers are increasingly turning to thrifty measures to push their money further. Costco stores sell items in bulk, often reducing costs. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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