25 Things You Shouldn't Buy at the Grocery Store
We've all done it — grabbed a candy bar or gossip magazine while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store. Without realizing it, we've just thrown our meticulous shopping out the window for the sake of convenience and a last-minute treat. Such quick spending decisions can add up over time.
There are plenty of purchases at the grocery store that can be avoided with a little forethought. They can be found cheaper elsewhere, which I admit is a hassle if you want to finish your shopping trip at one store and get it over with. But with some planning and the strength to avoid last-minute shopping for things you forgot, you can save money by buying these 25 things elsewhere. (See also: 8 Overpriced Grocery Items to Skip)
Let's start with the common item that catches your eye while waiting in line. The headlines and photos are meant to grab your attention, and while a quick glance through may be worth a minute or two, don't give in and buy them. You'll pay the full cover price at the grocery store, and even if they give a 10% discount, it's still a ripoff. If you're only going to read that particular magazine once, go to the library, borrow an issue from a friend, or go to the magazine's website to read a few articles. If you want every issue (or even just a few) it's a lot cheaper to subscribe.
2. Organic Fruits and Vegetables
Compare supermarket prices of organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables, and all of the organic ones will likely be higher — much higher. If it's in-season (apples in the fall, watermelon in summer), find your local farmers market. You should find cheaper prices there for organic fruit and vegs that should taste a lot better than something trucked to your store.
You can save 70% by buying in bulk at Costco, or better yet, buy rechargeable batteries for a higher upfront cost that will save you a lot of cash over the year. Department stores such as CVS often have much better sales on rechargeable batteries than grocery stores do.
This goes for many things that are pre-made at a grocery store, but cakes are one of the top ones. You're paying for a baker's time and expertise in making a cake for you. For a lot less money, you can make one at home. Then again, your time may be worth enough that it makes sense to pay someone to bake the cake for you.
5. Cut-Up Stew Meat
This is another instance where paying for convenience doesn't make sense. Stew meat is comprised of some of the cheapest cuts of meat, so paying for it to be cut up into chunks just adds profit back to something that should be inexpensive to begin with. Grab a knife when you get home. If you can't do that, then buy a big piece of meat at the grocey store and ask the butcher to cut it up for you for free.
6. Pre-Cut Vegetables
You're not saving as much time as you think you are by buying pre-cut vegetables. Get to know your meal by washing and cutting veggies yourself, and don't pay a supermarket employee to do it for you. Same goes for fruit. You can slice a watermelon at home for free.
7. Anything Cooked or Made at the Store
Like buying cakes, buying friend chicken or going to the deli department and paying someone to make you a sandwich carries a hefty price for the convenience of not doing it yourself. That may be worth it to you. But if you want to save money, do it at home. Think ahead and buy everything you need to make sandwiches for the week, and make them at home for at least half the cost of what the store charges.
8. Canned Goods Not on Sale
Grocery stores mark up canned goods a lot — 50% is common — because they're often staples that people use a lot. Canned soup, for example, is a big seller in the fall and winter, and eventually a sale will lower the price. When you see a sale for something you buy often, stock up.
9. Deli Cheese
Many things in the deli section are more expensive than they are elsewhere in the grocery store, so it's a good area to avoid. Fancy cheeses can be found in the dairy section for a lot less money.
Name-brand spices especially are more expensive at a grocery store than at a natural food store. Instead of paying a few dollars for a spice you use regularly, you'll pay pennies at a health food store.
11. Fruit With a Short Shelf Life
Berries are notorious for getting moldy within a few days of purchase, and grocery stores charge more for such fruit because they have to cover their cost for the spoiled fruit that doesn't sell and they have to throw away. Either buy it fresh at the farmers market, where it's more likely to be freshly picked and won't go bad as quickly, or pay up and eat it soon.
12. Bottled Water
You probably already know that bottled water is a waste of money and that free tap water at home is just as safe. But if you're going to buy bottled water, buy it in bulk at Costco or another discount store, or at least buy generic brands that cost less. While water is a staple of life, bottled water at a grocery store is overpriced and should be avoided.
The markup is too high to make a box of cereal worthwhile. Either wait for a sale or buy a two-pack box at a warehouse store. I'm not trying to say that bulk stores are the answer to all of your grocery-shopping problems, but this is another area where they make a lot of financial sense.
Warehouse stores beat supermarkets in this area too, and online stores such as Target have better prices. If it's something you use a lot of, you might as well stock up.
If you can't get these free from your dentist, get another dentist. A regular pharmacy should be able to sell you a toothbrush or dental floss for a cheaper price than a grocery store can.
16. Greeting Cards
I have yet to see these sold at anything but full price at a grocery store. $2.99 for a paper card with printed thoughts from someone else? No thanks. Buy them in bulk online, make one yourself, or even better, have your kid make cards and pay them half of what you'd pay a grocery store.
17. Party Supplies
Candles, birthday hats, and paper plates are some of the party supplies that supermarkets stock for shoppers' convenience. Go to a dollar store or party supply store for lower prices.
18. Light Bulbs
Like any hardware item you'll find in a grocery store, it's probably a lot cheaper at a hardware store that specializes in such things. Again, you're paying for the convenience of having many things on your shopping list for sale at a grocery store, but don't let a darkened light bulb at home make you buy one immediately.
This is another item that's at the grocery store for your convenience, but the high price of a baking pan, cooking utensils, or similar kitchen products is often so high that you're better off shopping elsewhere. Baking cookies may be a spur-of-the-moment decision, but a good baking sheet should be a staple of every home.
Like toothbrushes and other such products, most skin-care items can be bought cheaper at a drugstore.
21. Swiffer Cloths
These popular dusters are great for cleaning, but the replacement cloths can be bought a lot cheaper at a dollar store. Or tie an old rag to the device and sweep away.
Like many things at a grocery store, unless beer is on sale, skip it and go to a discount liquor store. You'll find the same brands at cheaper prices.
Not that they go together with beer, but unless they're on sale, diapers can be found cheaper at department stores.
24. Rotisserie Chicken
Rotisserie chickens look good under the hot bulbs at the supermarket, but you'll likely find them cheaper at warehouse stores. And you'll get a bigger bird for your money elsewhere — giving you more leftovers to enjoy.
Yes, it's a staple at most houses and is needed so often that a quick trip to the grocery store is worth it as far as saving time. But a gallon of milk is usually half the cost at a warehouse store, so if you don't mind the crowds and are there for other purchases, grab some cheaper milk.