14 Things You Should Never Buy at Sam’s Club

NEWS & TRENDING - SHOPPING & DEALS NEWS
Don't fall into the Sam's Club shopping trap with these 14 must-avoid purchases.
Updated April 11, 2024
Fact checked
sam's club logo outside store

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Shopping at Sam's Club can be a fantastic way to save money on everyday purchases. Although the per unit savings can be quite attractive, buying certain goods there is not so cost-effective.

Some things at Sam's Club are just a waste of money. When planning your next Sam's Club run, strike these 14 items off your shopping list.

Editor's note: Prices are subject to change and may vary by location.

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Fresh produce

MVProductions/Adobe fruits and vegetables in a supermarket

Sam’s Club specializes in bulk savings, but fresh fruit and vegetables have short shelf lives. When bought in bulk, they often spoil before you can eat them. 

Save your veggie purchases at Sam’s when you need 20 pounds of carrot sticks and red peppers for a party tray.

Lotion

Yakobchuk Olena/Adobe woman pumping out moisturizer in hand from bottle

It turns out lotion isn’t shelf-stable, or at least not as shelf-stable as one would like. Once you unseal a bottle, it’s generally good for 12 to 24 months — although you should still adhere to any expiration dates stamped on the bottle. 

Old lotion won’t harm you, but it won’t be as effective. If not stored properly, harmful bacteria can build up.

Milk

Elena Medoks/Adobe a glass of milk

If you’re not a heavy dairy drinker, hold off on purchasing it at Sam’s Club. It only sells milk by the gallon, while other grocery stores sell it by quart or half-gallon. This gives you time to consume the milk before it goes bad.

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Diapers

RaspberryStudio/Adobe diapers besides baby in white sheets

As a mom who has used Maker’s Mark diapers before, I can tell you I am not a fan. Compared to Pampers or Huggies, they leak more often. Plus, they’re not even the cheapest. 

Per unit, Maker’s Mark diapers start at $0.15 each, matching Target’s pricing for Up & Up. Target, however, has regular diaper promotions that make their diapers much cheaper, like spending $50 to $100 on diaper goods to get a gift card of $10 to $30.

Shampoo and conditioner

TATIANA/Adobe girl washes her hair with shampoo

As with body lotion, shampoo and conditioner can lose effectiveness with age. Don't buy that jumbo three-pack unless you and your whole household use the same hair products. 

Beyond wasting your money, you could be hurting your hair. Over time, ingredients separate and become unstable, leading to bacterial contamination that causes irritation, dryness, follicle damage — and even hair loss.

Cooking oil

Prostock-studio/Adobe  black woman cooking fresh vegetable salad in kitchen

Sam’s is known for selling cooking oil by the gallon, But you should skip it unless you have an army-sized family. Cooking and olive oils are good for up to four months. 

Expired cooking oils can cause healthy fats to break down and harmful free radicals to start forming — not to mention the rancid taste that comes with it.

Spices

monticello/Adobe variety of spices on kitchen table

While spices typically can’t go bad (unless they get contaminated with other food products), they can go stale and bland over time. 

Unopened, ground spices lose their potency quickly and typically don’t last beyond six months.

Flour

Timmary/Adobe flour spilled out of the bag

Expiration dates don’t always mean much, and well-sealed flours can safely last for years. However, other flours that contain rye, almond, or buckwheat have a shorter shelf life and go rancid more quickly. You’re better off buying smaller quantities that you’ll definitely use.

Gift wrap

nd700/Adobe colorful wrapping paper

Buying gift wraps — especially in holiday-themed prints — can be a ginormous waste when purchased in packs of four or more. You’ll likely tire of the paper before you go through the entire roll, and dollar stores offer a cheaper way to get new-season variety every year.

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Salmon

Ekaterina Pokrovsky/Adobe salmon on farmer market in Paris France

Sam’s Club sells fresh salmon at the bargain price of $10.99 per pound. However, the farm-raised salmon you’ll find at the discount retailer has numerous health concerns. 

Farm-raised salmon contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) linked to type-2 diabetes, obesity, and increased risk of stroke. Red dye is added to color their gray-tinge flesh pink, and they also contain higher levels of saturated fat.

Greek yogurt

juliasudnitskaya/Adobe greek yogurt in blue bowl with white spoon

Although Sam’s Club and Walmart are the same company (both part of Walmart, Inc.), the prices aren’t always identical. Chobani Greek yogurt is just one example. 

You can find variety packs at Sam’s Club with a per-ounce price of $0.21, while Walmart stores have similar packs starting at $0.17 per ounce. 

If the cheapest price per unit is your top concern, make sure to compare prices closely in the weekly store ads.

Fresh chicken

voltan/Adobe chicken on cutting board

Along with Greek yogurt, fresh chicken is another popular grocery item that can be cheaper at Walmart. 

Currently, prices are nearly identical, with chicken running $2.67 per pound at Walmart versus $2.68 per pound at Sam’s Club, but at times, Walmart’s savings can be even greater.

And even if Sam’s were a couple of cents cheaper per pound, given the club fee of $50 per year, the savings in poultry may not be enough to justify your membership.

Books

motizova/Adobe hardback books

Books are another item to skip over on your next run to Sam’s Club. They’re not necessarily badly priced, but they’re not the cheapest you’ll find, and the assortment is random and limited. You can find a better variety of books with attractive prices at other stores.

Gift cards

dennizn/Adobe gift cards of amazon and google play on table

Some shoppers swear you should always buy gift cards at Sam's Club, but I would advise against it. On more than one occasion, I've been gifted a gift card (properly rung up) from Sam's Club that didn't work when I tried to redeem it. 

Additionally, for true deal seekers, many gift card portals offer a much wider selection of gift cards and far deeper discounts.

Bottom line

Gorodenkoff/Adobe woman browses through the canned goods section of the store

Sam’s Club can be a fantastic store to save money, but not every item is a deal. Beyond the pitfalls of buying in bulk, review prices carefully. Amazon, Target, Costco, or even Walmart often have better “deals” than the popular warehouse giant.

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Author Details

Stacy Garrels Stacy enjoys writing about fintech, consumer deals, the side hustle economy, and random tomfoolery. She's personally tried more than 100 different gigs, including being an Uber driver for one afternoon.

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