Getting ready to go all-in on bulk shopping as the pandemic winter approaches? Can’t say as I blame you. A well-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry feel like a gift at the best of times and can help make you feel sane during the worst of times. But if you are new to the bulk shopping game, it can sometimes feel like you are pressured to buy EVERYTHING in bulk, which is usually not a terrific idea. Never fear, I’m here to guide you. Here are the top five things to NEVER buy in bulk, and the big three you should always look to buy in bulk.
(And remember: This is a time to stock up, but never hoard. We can do this if we keep our heads in check!)
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DON’T BUY: Delicate lettuces and leafy greens
The sheer volume of the giant bags of spring mix or baby spinach can be staggering, and nothing spoils faster than these lightweight leaves. And it only takes a couple of soft, rotten leaves down in the bottom to ruin the whole batch. So, unless you have the eating habits of an alpaca, buy these as needed and in smaller amounts at your local grocery store instead.
DON’T BUY: Prepared foods
If you aren’t entertaining (and who should be doing much of this during the season of social distancing?), these won’t be as good a deal as you think they will. That package of turkey and cheese rollups and giant bowl of fruit salad might look like a whole week of lunches for the family, but they won’t be delicious on day three when the lettuce has wilted, the mayo and tomato have sogged out the wrap, and the pineapple has started to ferment. Most of these foods tend to be best eaten within a day for optimal quality, so unless it is something you can freeze in portions, best to let this one go.
DON’T BUY: Fresh cheeses
Un-aged cheeses like fresh mozzarella, creamy chevre, ricotta, and burrata have no protective rind like their older counterparts and will spoil much faster. So again, unless you know you will go through a three-pound tub of crumbled feta in a week or two, don’t risk it. Look for good deals at budget-minded grocery stores like ALDI and Trader Joe’s instead.
DON’T BUY: Sliced bread
Nothing stales faster than pre-sliced bread, and nothing is more prone to freezer burn than a sliced loaf. So even if the store is offering you three loaves for the price of one, if you aren’t feeding a big family sandwiches every day, you will end up with a whole lot of stale or moldy bread.
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DON’T BUY: Spices
Salt you can load up on, but most people go through very small amounts of any one spice. Consider that whole spices lose their oomph after a year, ground spices after six months, and dried herbs after only three months. Which means you should purchase spices in small amounts as needed, and from purveyors who you trust to have fast turnaround. Because no one needs a giant container of paprika that tastes like sawdust.
DO BUY: Dried staples
Rice, dried beans, pastas, as well as whole grains all last nearly forever, so feel free to load up on these on your next bulk shopping trip.
DO BUY: Canned goods
If you know you use a particular canned item, whether it is tuna, beans, or soup, the long shelf life makes it an ideal bet for buying at scale.
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DO BUY: Dried fruit and nuts
These high-ticket items are always a terrific deal at the big box stores. Both will last a long time when stored properly, so be sure to keep fruit in airtight containers or bags, and store nuts in the freezer until you need them to prevent rancidity.
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