One of the rules of frugal grocery shopping is to buy in bulk. Indeed, we’re told to buy larger amounts of the things we like when they are on sale so that we save money in the long run. However, in some cases it’s actually better to forgo buying in bulk. Here are 8 things where this is particular true:
- Nuts: You might be able to get a great deal on nuts, but they actually expire in between one and two months. Nuts have a high fat content and can go rancid sooner than you might expect. Seeds (flax, sesame, etc.) can also have the same problem. Before you stock up on these delicious snack, think about how often you really eat them, and make sure you can eat them in the prescribed amount of time.
- Cooking oils: It depends on what kinds of oil you are using, and where you store them. Olive oil will keep for about six months in a cool, dark place. Peanut and corn oil can keep for a year unopened, and for six months after being opened. Sesame oil and walnut oil are only good for a couple of months. You can prolong the life of cooking oils in the fridge, but they are likely to thicken in the fridge, so you will have to wait for them to warm to room temperature when you want to use them.
- Brown rice: Brown rice does not keep as long as white rice (which is too bad, since brown rice is healthier for you). It lasts only six months to a year, although you can lengthen the shelf life by putting it in the refrigerator.
- Condiments: You might be surprised how long it takes you to get through your condiments — and they’re only good for between six months a year. Mayo, mustard and ketchup may all go bad before you use them if you buy in bulk. The same is true of peanut butter and jelly. (And Nutella.)
- Cereal: Right now, we have a pantry full of bulk cereal that’s about to expire. We bought it in bulk months ago, and we just aren’t getting through it that fast because we eat other, healthier things for breakfast most mornings. Carefully gauge your cereal needs, and consider slowing down on the bulk buying.
- Frozen foods: After a few months, frozen foods will get freezer burn. Even frozen meats won’t last forever. Carefully consider how much space you have, and whether you will get through the frozen foods before they go bad in the freezer. You might find that it’s better to keep a one to two months’ supply at a time, and rotate it.
- Spices: After six months to a year, spices start losing their potency. So buying huge bulk containers might not be the way to go — unless you cook a lot. Think about what you use most often, and whether or not you really need that much of each spice.
- Nutritional supplements: Whether its a multivitamin, protein shake mix or a bottle of fish oil capsules, be aware of whether you will get through that big container before it expires. This goes for medication as well. My husband and I stopped buying massive bottles of Ibuprofen after we discovered one that was three years past its expiration date.
Part of frugality is buying what you will use, and not buying excess that you throw away. Take stock of your habits, and pay attention to expiration dates. Good food storage is routinely rotated so that you eat things within their expiration date while having some months of food stored up. Making a plan can ensure that you have what you need — and that you aren’t throwing spoiled food out on a regular basis.