We've all done it. Spent an afternoon wandering the aisles of Costco or Sam's Club, and whoops! How'd we manage to buy all of that? But, such is the carefully engineered and orchestrated allure of modern day bulk buying.
If recent times are any indication, toilet paper is a sound bulk buying decision. But, when it comes to many pantry staples ... uh, not so much. Let me expound. Yeah, just try and stop me.
Seasonings are one of the worst things to buy in bulk - unless you're running a restaurant. You know. Those places we used to go eat back in the pre-COVID day? Nice people asked us what we'd like to eat, and then brought it to us? Oh, how I miss that.
But, I've been in far too many kitchens where I've seen - and tried to use - herbs and spices that have lost their mojo. Even the best won't last more than six months without losing their potency. The volatile oils in herbs and spices are what give them their unique aromas and flavors - and when those oil 'go' you might as well be sprinkling sawdust in that dish you've slaved over.
Add to that the improper storage of herbs and spices, and we're talking double whammy bad mojo. Storing your expensive - and ounce per ounce, herbs and spices are some of the most expensive grocery items you buy - flavorings right next to, or above your stove is rather like throwing money down the drain. Send it to me instead. The money. The heat from your cooking sources will degrade the aroma and flavor of those pricey ingredients even faster. You can see my 'daily' spice and herb collection below - in a pull-out that is across the kitchen from the ovens and stovetop, and next to my prep area. The extras are in the freezer.
If and when I buy in bulk - and only those unique blends that I use a LOT - I keep only a small jar of it on the shelf (well away from the stove or oven) and the remainder lives, tightly wrapped in the freezer until I do a 'topping off'. I would never spend premium money on things like onion or garlic powder. Those type of items have a high turnover in stores, and so are always 'fresh'. Buy the least expensive store brand and be done with it. Spend the extra money on those herbs, blends and spices that matter - and then from trusted purveyors like Penzey's or The Spice House. They have serious cred and reputations to protect, so you're just not going to get second-rate product from them - and I've been buying from both for decades. Even better, for those who live in the Reno, Nevada area, is Salty-Savory-Sweet, The Spice & Tea Shoppe. Stop in and let their helpful staff guide you. I've been a regular there since they first opened up on California Ave. They're even closer now, a few doors down from Trader Joe's at 5061 South McCarran. And, by the way, they'll ship anywhere. In fact, owner, Lindy, told me just the other day that they're developing quite the following back east!
What's the other thing that I'd never buy in bulk at the Big Store? Oil. Especially since (as a Whole-food, Plant-based, No Oil eater) I don't use oil anymore, but even when I did, I'd never buy a big container of something like olive oil. Oil - especially when improperly stored - goes rancid. Find a good quality California EVOO and stick with it. The Whole Foods 365 brand ain't half bad. Why do I recommend California EVOO? Because I've seen and read far too much about olive oil purveyors 'cutting' premium Italian, and even some Greek oils with inferior, cheaper oil.
California producers have gone to great lengths to guard against that in order to protect the reputation of their product.
And, finally, another word about EVOO - don't spend big money on olive oil you're going to cook with. Waste. Of. Money. Again, buy the store brand. Spend the big money on the stuff you're going to carefully drizzle on a salad.