Never Put These Popular Grocery Store Items in Your Cart

Hizkiail - June 3, 2021
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When you go to the grocery store, it’s tempting to drop a little more cash on those little convenient items. Why buy whole apples when you can buy prepackaged sliced fruit? Who wants to make their own salad dressing when it’s already bottled? These things may be cheap and easy time-savers, but consider the larger scheme of things.

There are some items at the store that you should skip buying entirely, whether it’s to save some money, reap the health benefits, or to do your part when it comes to saving the environment. The next time you run to the store and feel tempted to buy some of these things, think twice about putting them in your cart.

Bottled water

Unless you’re dealing with unsafe drinking water, bottled water is an unnecessary expense that can add up quickly. While it’s portable and convenient, it can also cost both you and the environment dearly over time.

Your best bet? Buying a reusable water bottle and keeping it filled with tap water

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Pre-sliced fruits and veggies

If you can cut and prepare your own produce, paying a premium for packaging and convenience isn’t worth the cash or the toll on the Earth.

Pre-sliced fruits and veggies
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Kitchen utensils

Need a new spatula or cookie sheet? You’d be better off heading to a department store and stocking up, as these items have a steep markup.

Kitchen utensils
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Greeting cards

Not only is a grocery store’s selection of greeting cards lacking, but you’re going to be paying upwards of $3 or $4 for even the cheaper brands. It’s best when it comes to picking the perfect card to peruse a department store to pay less and have additional options.

Greeting cards
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Your prescriptions

It might be far easier to go ahead and pick up your medications while doing your weekly shopping, but grocery stores charge higher premiums for even the most common prescription drugs. If you find you’re routinely paying more out of pocket, you might want to find a dedicated pharmacy.

Your prescriptions
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Salad dressing

It’s far easier (and cheaper) to prepare your own dressings for those nutritious salads that you’re making yourself. Plus, you’re ditching all the added fat, sugar, and calories that come in the bottled brands, which essentially make eating salads in the first place a waste of time.

Salad dressing
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Pre-packaged deli meats

Don’t trust the food dates on packaged meat. It’s not uncommon for workers to simply repackage the products that are about to expire and simply replace the sticker date, meaning you could be buying meat that’s just about to go bad. Just ask for fresh cuts if you have to buy it there, or head to a real butcher shop instead.

Pre-packaged deli meats
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Diapers

Grocery stores know that exhausted parents still have to get supplies for the week. That’s why, among many other items, they mark up diapers, since it’s far easier for shoppers to buy things there instead of making multiple stops with a crying baby in tow. Grab your baby supplies elsewhere.

Diapers
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Shredded cheese

Buying a block of cheese and grating it yourself is cheaper — plus, there are countless additives sprinkled into the pre-shredded packages. It’s best for your health and wallet to go ahead and just shred it yourself.

Shredded cheese
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Beer and alcohol

Sometimes you can count on a decent sale to pop up on your favorite beer or wine, but buying booze at a grocery store can cost you far more than simply heading to a liquor store or buying in bulk at places like Costco, which has all the brands you love.

Beer and alcohol
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Magazines

Unless you’re keen on paying cover price for magazines you’ll read once and fling into the trash (or have the kids use for projects), stick to a subscription. You could alternatively use your library card to read the latest issues online or on your favorite device for free.

Magazines
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Shampoo, soap, and other toiletries

If you must stock up on personal care items, it’s best to skip the grocery store unless you want to pay twice as much for smaller sizes. Grab your toiletries and other necessities at big-box department stores to pile on the savings.

Shampoo, soap, and other toiletries
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Vitamins

If you really want to grab supplements, they can be obtained much more cheaply elsewhere, and in larger quantities. Their effectiveness is still very much up in the air anyway, so they’re really something you should be wary of buying — period.

Vitamins
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Organic fruits and vegetables

Most produce that’s labeled “organic” at the grocery store is typically marked up, with a price to match. If you’re really concerned about the label, consider checking out a local farmer’s market for the freshest, most organic fruits and veggies you can get.

Organic fruits and vegetables
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Cosmetics

It might be tempting to toss that new tube of lipstick in your cart while at the grocery store, but you’ll save money in the long run by opting for a trip to the drugstore instead. Plus, you can stop there and grab your prescriptions like we mentioned earlier, too.

Cosmetics
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Baked goods

Sure, walking past the bakery section is tempting — those cookies and perfectly decorated cupcakes are calling your name — but you should skip the sweet stuff. It’s far cheaper to make your own, plus you can shave off some of the extra sugar and calories that grocery store bakeries stuff their own products with.

Baked goods
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Frozen dinners

Sometimes you might not have the extra time in the day to make a healthy, delicious dinner. But even as easy it might be to grab a Banquet family meal to delight your household with at the end of a hard day, in the end you’re spending too much money on meals that are rife with salt, fat, and calories.

Frozen dinners
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Soda

We all know we should probably be avoiding soda so we can get away from the myriad health problems it causes (yes, even diet sodas!). But the way it’s priced, even when it’s part of a sale, just isn’t worth buying into.

Purchasing a water filter once is way cheaper and far healthier than reupping your soda stores every couple of weeks.

Soda
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Tomato sauce

You’re paying a premium when you purchase packaged tomato sauce. Considering it’s mostly crushed-up tomatoes and spices, you could easily skip the plastic or glass container and make your own with very little trouble. That way, you’re doing your part for the environment as well as creating less waste!

Tomato sauce
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Pet food

Most grocery stores are stocked with pet food you can give to your furry best friends, but it typically isn’t the high-quality chow you might expect. Your best bet would be to pick up your typical brand from the pet store so you don’t upset your pup’s tummy with lower-quality food.

Pet food
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Batteries

Like many other non-food items in the grocery store, batteries are overpriced — and they’re also not available in bulk, so you’re paying more and getting less. Instead of grabbing batteries when food shopping, buy them at a warehouse store where you can get them in bulk, or order them from Amazon for a better price.

duracell aa batteries, just one example of counterfeit goods found in canada and seized by the rcmp
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Herbs and spices

Spices and fresh or dried herbs can be super pricey at the grocery store, but you do have options. You can purchase dried herbs and spices in bulk at a warehouse store for a cheaper price.

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Instead of buying fresh herbs, you can plant them yourself (they’re low-maintenance and easy to grow) so that you always have an abundance. If there’s an ethnic market near you, you may be able to find spices for a much lower price as well.

 

Party supplies

It’s really convenient to pick up balloons, candles, and streamers at the grocery store where you’re also getting supplies to bake a cake, but these items are going to marked up. Instead, make a quick detour to the dollar store, where you can find really cheap party supplies that get the job done. Or order them in advance on Amazon for a lower price.

balloons
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Coffee

It seems obvious to buy coffee from the grocery store, but it’s often expensive… and they don’t always have the best options. If you’re purchasing Keurig or Nespresso pods, you’re better off ordering those from the brand websites, where you can get a discount and other offers. Warehouse stores have great deals on bulk coffees, and you can even find inexpensive coffee at office supply stores.

coffee pouch clear
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Boxed baking mixes

Sure, boxed baking mixes for items like pancakes or cakes seem much easier and more convenient, but in reality, they’re really not. Most just contain a mix of things like flour, sugar, and baking powder (along with a slew of preservatives and other difficult to pronounce chemicals), and you can very easily mix that up on your own at home.

The healthiest and cheapest way to bake is to buy baking staples like flour, sugar, and baking powder separately, then mix them up yourself. Plus, they taste better!

cake batter in mixing bowl
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Cooking wine

Don’t be fooled by the bottles of cooking wine in the grocery store aisles. They don’t taste great, and the cost adds up. You’re much better off using an actual bottle of wine that you have laying around your house.

Using old bottles of red or white to cook is a great way to use up wine you’re not going to drink (just don’t let it sit for too long, or it will get vinegary).

a man adding white wine to a saucepan
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Minced garlic

Minced garlic in a jar isn’t exactly expensive, but it is more money than just buying fresh cloves of garlic. It’s also not as fresh and comes packed with other ingredients to keep it from going bad. Mincing your own garlic is incredibly simple, and fresh garlic is super cheap.

bowl of minced garlic
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Premade salads

Grabbing a salad for lunch at the grocery store is probably not the best idea for several reasons.

You’re probably paying close to $10, if not more, for something you could very easily throw together on your own. The quality is questionable, you don’t actually know how old those fruits and veggies are, it’s a waste of plastic, and there aren’t many safety regulations stores have to follow with these.

Instead, buy your own ingredients and make several salads with those.

greek salad in take away bowl on white background from above
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Seasoning blends

In the spice aisle, you’ll find tons of different seasoning blends: garlic and herb, taco seasoning, cajun seasoning, Italian seasoning — the list can go on forever. These are often pretty pricey, and they’re really not worth it. If you have a basic array of spices and dried herbs at home, you can easily mix these together yourself for something that tastes more fresh and doesn’t include any additives.

It’s also a great way to use up spices you may not normally use that much so you don’t have food waste.

blend bread dipping seasoning
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Snack-sized bags

Those little prepackaged snack size bags of chips and cookies make it easy to grab a snack and go, but think about it: They’re pretty much a waste of money. You’re spending more on these small packages than you would on a regular size bag of chips, when you could easily buy the bigger bag for a lower price, then divide the chips up yourself.

If you insist on buying the smaller bags, at least go to a warehouse where you can buy them in bulk for less money.

snack food for sale at john f kennedy international airport
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Gift cards

Most grocery stores now offer convenient gift card racks that have gift cards to every store you can think of. Grocery stores don’t mark these up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy them at a warehouse store for a cheaper price. If you’re a member of Costco or Sam’s Club, you can buy them there and save.

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Cut-up meat

Making stew? You might feel tempted to purchase a tray of cut-up stew meat. Don’t. These have been marked up since they were cut up for you already.

Instead, just buy a chunk of meat and cut it yourself. Or, better yet, trick the system by bringing that chunk of meat to the store butcher and asking them to cut it for free.

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Food containers

You’ll find a selection of plastic and glass food containers at the grocery store, but you don’t need to buy them there. Not only are they going to be more expensive at the grocery store, but there also won’t be a ton of options and you probably have to buy them individually rather than in a package.

You’re better off ordering a package of food containers from Amazon to save money. You’ll also find a wider variety of options elsewhere.

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Books

Some grocery stores sell a small selection of books for adults and kids. It can be tempting to grab the latest best-seller you’ve been meaning to read, but ignore them: books are marked up at the grocery store, and you can get them for a much better price on Amazon or even in a bookstore.

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Toilet paper

Unless you’re really desperate, there’s no need to buy toilet paper from grocery store (and the same goes for paper towels and napkins). You can get toilet paper for a lot cheaper at a store like Costco or BJ’s, where you can also buy in bulk.

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Baby food

Need some jars of baby food? You can likely find better deals and purchase them in bulk on Amazon or even the brand’s website. It’s also worth noting that if you’re able to, making your own baby food is much cheaper and a lot less more simple than it seems.

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Pre-packaged smoothies

You’ll find individually pre-packaged smoothies in the dairy section or refrigerated section. These sound like a delicious and quick breakfast option, but glance at the ingredients: they’re probably packed with sugar, calories, and filler ingredients you don’t need.

Making your own smoothie might not be as convenient as grabbing one from the fridge, but it’s cheaper when you break it down, and it’s probably a whole lot healthier.

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Name brand cereal

Cereal is expensive, and the boxes really don’t last that long. Most grocery stores will sell all the big name brand cereals, but they’ll also sell generic versions of these cereals right next to them. Ignore the name brands and opt for the store-brand version instead. These are cheaper and taste just as good (sometimes it can be the exact same cereal in a different box!).

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Packets of instant oatmeal

Boxes of packets of instant oatmeal are pricier than a container of oatmeal, and that’s because you’re paying for convenience. A package of instant oatmeal may seem easier for on-the-go breakfasts, but save yourself a few dollars and buy a large container of instant oatmeal, then dole it out into bags at home yourself.

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Laundry supplies

Like cleaning supplies and paper items, laundry supplies are going to be marked up at the grocery store and will cost you more for pretty much no reason at all. You can find better prices and a wider selection at a store like Target, or you can buy this stuff in bulk at a big-box store like Costco. And, of course, there’s always Amazon.

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