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15 Things to Not Buy at Costco or Sam’s Club

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If you’re looking to reduce money spending on grocery purchases, one of the best solutions is to buy things in bulk more often. That’s why a warehouse store like Costco can become an attractive option for many shoppers. Assuming you have multiple products that you use frequently, you’ll get much better value when purchasing them in higher quantities. However, not all things you can buy at Costco can be considered worth the expense.

It could be tempting to buy everything in bulk from Costco, but it’s safe to say that some things don’t last as long as expected or simply lose potency surprisingly fast. This is typically the case for food items. Other things may also not be worth buying from Costco because there are usually better deals elsewhere. In this article, we’ll explore the most important things that would be smart to skip when shopping at Costco. Here’s what you need to avoid to get a better bang for your buck at this store.

1. Ground Coffee

Costco Ground Coffee

Although ground coffee is very convenient to use and can save money when bought in bulk, it’s best to avoid it when shopping at Costco. Compared to whole beans, ground coffee loses some flavor and strength right after it has been processed. You might think that you could live with this drawback, but then you have to take into account the time it takes to consume a large quantity of ground coffee.




Even if you drink your coffee religiously every day, it’s safe to say that it will take a while to go through a bulk pack of ground coffee. The loss of flavor can be so severe that it will significantly diminish your enjoyment of the morning coffee. That’s why it’s probably a better idea to get the whole beans and use your own coffee grinder.

2. Store Brand Toilet Paper

Costco Toilet Paper

The cheapest toilet paper from Costco can look like a sweet bargain, but you should think twice about getting it. Even if you don’t have a particular preference for softness and strength, the store-brand toilet paper you can get here is really lacking in quality. Many former Costco employees can attest that toilet paper is one of the worst products you can get at the warehouse store.




The cheap price of the store-brand toilet paper can seem really tempting, but when you take into account the longevity of the paper, the cost no longer appears that small. Compared to other brands, Costco’s toilet paper will be used faster making you lose money in the long run. It’s strongly advised to spend a little more on high-quality toilet paper that offers better value overall.

3. Flour

Costco Flour

Unless you’re baking stuff every day, there’s not really a point in purchasing flour in bulk. Many shoppers make the mistake of getting large quantities of flour when visiting a Costco store without being aware of the limited shelf life of the product. Even flour that’s properly packaged to avoid spoilage will still attract a lot of moisture and become rancid faster than you’d expect.




Some types of flour can also go bad faster than others. White all-purpose flour tends to last longer than whole wheat varieties. The fat content of the flour typically plays an important role in terms of shelf life. For example, popular gluten-free options like coconut and almond flour are rich in fat content and can spoil really fast. These specialized flours are expensive in small packages but it’s even worse to get them in bulk if you won’t be able to consume them in a timely manner.

4. Over-the-Counter Medication

Costco Over the Counter Medication

Having a good stock of Advil and Ibuprofen in your home represents a good idea. However, it’s not recommended to purchase over-the-counter medication in bulk from Costco. There’s a significant risk of failing to use all that medication before its expiration date. You don’t typically need to take these medications on a daily basis. Therefore, it makes more sense to purchase only as much as needed in smaller quantities.




If you’re looking to save money on over-the-counter medication, it’s more cost-effective to switch to a generic brand when shopping at a regular drug store or various retailers. Generic medications feature the same level of safety and potency as name-brand drugs. This is an easy way to save money while avoiding the danger of expired medication that no longer works as expected.

5. Condiments

Spices from Costco

Do you enjoy using sauces like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise very often? If the answer is yes, it might seem like a great investment to purchase these condiments in bulk from Costco. The problem with this idea is that you need to be aware of the shelf life of various condiments because there’s a big risk of your favorite sauces going bad before you get the chance to use them.




Most condiments such as ketchup and mayo can last for a few months unopened in the pantry. However, they start to spoil quite fast after breaking their seal. In that case, it’s best to purchase only as many condiments as you need to prevent issues like flavor loss, discoloration, and complete spoilage. Another aspect to keep in mind is the space needed to store all your bulk purchases of condiments.

6. Oil

Costco Oil

Anyone who’s ever been to a Costco is probably familiar with the jumbo containers of cooking oil that appear very cost-effective. For those who fry their foods every day, buying that much oil could be worth it. Most people, however, would be better off getting their olive oil in smaller quantities. This is due to the risk of cooking oil becoming rancid faster than you can use it.




Considering that oil is fat, it goes without saying that you need to be extra careful about it going rancid. Once you pop the seal on that large vat of cooking oil, the clock starts ticking. Most products can only last unopened for a few months before the oil starts to smell strange and taste stale. Only those who fry regularly might be able to get good value from a giant container of canola oil.

7. Books

Books at Costco

Costco is a great store for many shoppers who want to get all the products they need in a single trip. You can find many different things to buy here, but not all of them are worth getting from Costco. Books can be considered a good example. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll be better off searching for good deals online or visiting more specialized stores that feature a greater variety of authors.




Although Costco appears to have a big selection of books, you’ll quickly notice that it’s mostly tried-and-true bestsellers. If you search for new releases or more niche authors, it’s safe to say that you won’t have much luck getting great book deals at Costco. There’s a high chance of making an impulse buy when purchasing a book at Costco, so it’s best to avoid it.

8. Barbecue Grills

Costco BBQ Grill

If you’re preparing for the backyard grilling season, you’ve probably considered purchasing a new barbecue grill from Costco or Sam’s. The large selection of cheap products could be tempting but buying your grill from this store may not be a good idea. Many exclusive models found at Costco are unreliable and provide disappointing grilling results.




Even when Costco’s grills perform decently, they’re typically more expensive compared to similarly-priced models from other stores. This kind of investment would be better made in a specialty store that offers a great variety of quality grills. Unless there’s some massive discount, you’re better off searching for deals on barbecue grills elsewhere.

9. Eggs

Costco Eggs

Buying eggs in bulk at Costco can look like a great way to save money. However, this is only recommended to do if you have a big family or really like to eat many eggs very often. As opposed to other places in the world, the eggs in the US are washed before sale. The process helps to get rid of any contaminants but leaves the shells more vulnerable to spoilage.




Eggs tend to last for around three weeks. Keep in mind that refrigeration is required. That brings up another considerable problem. You may not have a lot of space in the fridge to keep all those big cartons of eggs properly stored. This is why you can end up with lots of rotten eggs and actually lose money instead of saving by purchasing in bulk.

10. Canned Goods

Costco Canned Goods

There’s nothing wrong with buying canned goods in bulk considering how they have a pretty long shelf life. Why avoid these products from Costco? The reason is that you may not make very good money savings. Many shoppers simply assume that canned goods at Costco should be cheaper than bulk purchases at other stores. The truth is not that simple.




Grocery stores can often feature big sales on these goods whereas the price of canned products at Costco doesn’t fluctuate too much. In many cases, you could end up spending up to 40% more money for the same canned goods bought from Costco instead of other stores that offer discounts. The bottom line is that you should pay attention to sales and stock up when the prices of canned goods reach their lowest.

11. Freshly Baked Goods

Freshly Baked Croissants Costco

That big batch of croissants from Costco can seem very appetizing. While buying freshly baked goods in bulk saves money, this is only assuming that you can actually finish the food in time. Croissants or other baked sweets don’t last very long and aren’t as practical to eat as the alternatives from your local French bakery.




Mass-produced baked goods are cheap but they will usually make big compromises on quality. If you’re not willing to sacrifice the taste of your favorite croissants, it’s best to avoid Costco for these products. A large croissant often ends up uneaten completely, which means that all your money savings are effectively eliminated.

12. Avocados

Avocados from Costco

Avocados can be quite expensive when bought in singles. That’s why it could be a solid money-saving trick to purchase them in large bags. Costco seems like a great place to stock up on tasty avocados in bulk, but there’s a catch. These avocados are typically sold still raw and they’re expected to ripen at home.




As opposed to other produce, avocados have a really brief window of softness. When they’re finally ready to eat, you can end up with a huge bag of ripe avocados that can’t be eaten fast enough. Unless you’re throwing a guacamole party, it’s recommended to buy avocados in smaller packs to reduce waste and keep your money savings.

13. Sour Cream and Yogurt

Sour Cream

Sour cream and other dairy products bought in bulk can be very susceptible to spoilage before you’re able to use them. That’s a good reason to avoid them on your next shopping trip at Costco. If you still consider stocking up on sour cream yogurt, you need to plan more carefully to see whether they can be consumed in a timely manner.




Even though they’re pasteurized, dairy products won’t last long. They will also take up a significant chunk of the available space in your refrigerator. These goods are best enjoyed fresh because sour cream and yogurt will typically lose their flavor quite rapidly even when they’re still safe to eat.

14. Spices

Spices from Costco

There’s a reason why spices are typically sold in small quantities at most stores. Buying them in bulk isn’t recommended because many spices lose their flavorful qualities over time and can go bad quite fast. Salt may be an exception, but all the other spices are vulnerable to spoilage. Buying a large quantity of ground ginger won’t save you money if you fail to use it all before it reaches the end of its shelf life.




Whole spices are usually better to be purchased in bulk. Black peppercorns, for example, are safe to get from Costco, especially if you use pepper in your foods very often. Ground spices, however, can easily go past their prime before you get the opportunity to include them in your foods. Make sure you buy spices in reasonable quantities and store them properly for maximum freshness.

15. Name-Brand Alcohol

Grey Goose Vodka

If you enjoy a certain brand of alcoholic beverages such as vodka or whisky, it’s not a good idea to get it from Costco. This is actually a good case of being better off buying Costco’s generic brand version. When it comes to many alcoholic beverages, name-brand options can be significantly more expensive in this warehouse store.

You can get a decent vodka that tastes virtually the same while making great money savings. Unless you’re extremely loyal to one particular brand, you’ll be missing out on some solid bargains at Costco by not opting for the store’s own spirits brand.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

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