For my large family, a Costco membership makes a huge difference to our grocery budget. And not to mention the overall efficiency of restocking our pantry and refrigerator each week. My three growing kids eat a lot.
In the near-20 years I’ve been a member, I learned that not every item is worth putting into my cart at Costco, or any wholesale club for that matter. Here are five products that I avoid buying at Costco—my local grocery store or even farmers markets provide me with a better deal, especially when considering how much goes to waste when I buy in bulk and end up having to toss out (or compost) expired food.
Those pallets of Pink Lady apples look appealing and may even be cheaper by the count than your local grocery store, but fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t the smartest purchase at Costco. Even employees share that it has nothing to do with the quality of the produce, but more so with the sheer quantity.
Unless I am inviting the whole neighborhood for a giant piña colada happy hour, I’m probably not going to get through a bulk of pineapples or have room in your freezer to store them all. It’s more likely that the pineapples will rot before we’re able to eat them all. Instead, I opt for fruits and vegetables at my local grocery store or farmers market and purchase what I’ll go through within the week.
2. Dried Spices
Costco carries a variety of dried spices—garlic powder, ground cumin, Himalayan pink salt, Italian seasoning, and much more—but do I ever need a 14 or 16-ounce container? Never! Similar to fresh produce, the spices lose their quality (and often expire) before I get the chance to enjoy the entire container.
When the spices lose their potency over time, their impact on the recipe diminishes. How much time? Ground spices start to get dull after about six months, while whole spices will maintain flavor for about a year or two.
So resist the temptation to grab a 16-ounce jar of nutmeg at Costco and stick with the smaller containers at your local grocery store.
If your fridge looks anything like mine, your sauce and condiment shelves are always packed like sardines in a tin can. Bulk condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and hot sauce, which may seem like a good deal in terms of price per ounce, aren’t a smart addition to your fridge—they are so bulky.
Beyond not fitting in the fridge door, I always lose money on mega-sized condiments because I never get to the bottom of the container before it expires.
I have really upped my baking game these past few years (especially during COVID), but it doesn’t justify purchasing a 25-pound bag of flour. My kids eat a lot of homemade treats, but never that much!
Flour soaks up moisture in the air over time—which can cause molding—so the longer you keep it, the more time it has to turn rancid. You can tell this has occurred if it gives off a stale, musky, or sour smell. This won’t happen for quite some time—all-purpose flour lasts about a year and nut flours a couple of months. You can extend its lifetime by refrigerating or freezing it. (I can’t fit 25 pounds of flour in my fridge!)
This tip comes from YouTuber Flo Lum, an avid Costco shopper and chef. She used to buy her bulk rice at Costco, but after a little price shopping, she noticed that a 25-pound of jasmine rice at Costco was 30 percent more expensive than the same rice at her local Asian grocery store. I was surprised by this! I’ve only bought rice at Costco because our family eats it as least once a day—we easily go through 25 pounds of rice a month. I double-checked prices at my local Asian market, and she’s right!
A version of this article originally appeared on MyRecipes.com.