While we love the convenience of only having to make one trip to the grocery store to get all your essentials, often it comes at a price to your health and wallet. Many of us want to avoid high grocery costs but also need to be aware that there are unhealthy yet convenient options that exist at grocery stores.
In this piece, we’ll go over products that you should not buy the next time you visit a grocery store. We often pay for markups when all the work of preparing and mixing the food has been done for you. The convenience is great but there are easy ways to curb your spending, avoid impulse buys and stay healthy.
Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Hacks
Things Not To Buy
#1 Hot Bar Buffet
Hot bars at grocery stores are a great option for when you’re on the go and need something quick to eat. The tradeoff is that you’ll end up paying a lot for prepared foods. Hot bars require you to pay by the pound and we often stuff boxes so full that it ends up costing us in the end and often leads to food waste.
#2 Granola Bars
Granola bars are a great snack because of how easy they are to throw into the kid’s lunches, sports bags, or even your purse when you’re on the move. But more often than not, store-bought granola bars contain more sugar and preservatives than homemade bars, and are also more expensive. We know it’s hard to resist this particular grocery store item! but in the long run it’s best for your health and your pocket.
#3 Baking and Pancake Mix
Cake and breakfast batter mixes are super convenient, but they often are pretty pricey, have short-lived expiration dates, and many contain preservatives, and are high in trans fat.
We recommend buying ingredients separately and creating your baked goodies and pancakes from scratch. This way you can control the number of preservatives and additives that go into your food.
Kitchenware is very expensive at grocery stores. They often have a limited supply so cannot buy enough inventory to pass on a good deal to their customers. You’re better off shopping for kitchenware at TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Amazon, Walmart, and Target.
No doubt there are many costs associated with having a baby, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find creative ways to get the necessities for cheap.
We like to skip the huge markups grocery stores add to diapers and prefer to buy them in bulk from warehouse stores like Costco or Walmart. We also recommend checking out online diaper subscription services through sites like Amazon through their Amazon Mom program.
#6 Deli Sandwiches
Deli sandwiches are great for people on the go and you can have the deli counter clerk customize your sandwich to the T, but it often costs more than when you make a sandwich on your own. Buying ingredients separately allows you to make the sandwich three times over for the cost of one deli sandwich.
#7 Office and School Supplies
Office and school supplies are often limited in grocery stores. This also causes grocery stores to markup their prices due to the convenience of buying all that you need in a one-stop shop. You’re better off buying office and school supplies at the dollar store or on Amazon.
#8 Party Supplies
We always stick to buying food at grocery stores. Party supplies are always marked up with their limited stock and selection. Though many grocers do offer a range of party supplies, they’re often pretty expensive. We recommend going to a discount party store like Party City or shopping online through stores like Amazon.
#9 Pre-Cut Veggies and Fruit
Your diet should consist of lots of veggies and fruit, but it does not have to be expensive. Pre-cut veggies and fruit come at a premium price for convenience. If you’re running late to a potluck, then, by all means, shop the pre-cut section, but if you have time and want to save money, it’s best to buy fruits and veggies in whole and cut them yourself.
#10 Salad Dressing
Bottled salad dressing often has more than a dozen ingredients, and some have excessive calories per serving. We recommend skipping the bottled dressings and buying ingredients to make it yourself at home. Many dressings only use 4-6 ingredients that are simple to make if you have a food processor or blender. It’s also much fresher and healthier.
#11 Pre-cut Meats
Steak kabobs, cubes of meat for a stir fry, and chicken tenders can be marked up by nearly 60%, says Andrea Woroch, a recognized consumer and money saving expert. She recommends picking up larger slabs of meat and untrimmed chicken that you can then portion yourself to save money.
#12 Bottled Water
If your drinking water is unsafe, then you absolutely should buy bottled water. But you can also get by with a home-water filter and a reusable water bottle to save thousands of dollars over time. Bottled water can cost about 1,000 times more than water from a home faucet. Many people buy bottled water for convenience and portability, but the environmental cost can be steep. A better alternative is to buy stainless steel water bottles and store them in the refrigerator for on-the-go use.
#13 Out of Season Produce
Reduced supply makes off-season produce extra pricey. “Just because strawberries are available in December doesn’t mean you should buy them,” says Kendel Perez, savings expert for CouponSherpa.com. She recommends either buying only what’s in season or opting for frozen produce, which is flash-frozen at peak ripeness.
#14 Snack Sized Bags
According to London, while they’re great for portion control, snack packs aren’t so great for your wallet. Consumers can save $150 per year by nixing individual serving bags of potato chips, according to clark.com. Those little bags, and lunch-sized portions of produce, are often marked up by 50%.
#16 Spices and Herbs
Consumer Reports ran a blind taste test using pricey name-brand spices versus cheaper generic versions and asked tasters to compare them. Most of the tasters couldn’t tell them apart. Local ethnic stores such as Mexican or Indian grocery stores often sell spices and herbs for up to 90% less than the name brands sold at grocery stores.
You may not get a fancy bottle, but you can pick up a few reusable ones from the dollar store that will work just as well. Go to a health-food store where they’re often sold in bulk. Buy just a small amount at a time — it’s much cheaper and your spices will be fresher.
#16 Canned Beans
A bag of dried beans goes much further than canned ones. One bag of beans often equates to 12 cans of beans! It also lasts longer too. It’s a no-brainer to buy dried beans and just spend time preparing them for your next meal.
Are you interested on maybe buying in bulk? we also have a list with the best foods to buy in bulk so you can keep saving!
#17 Pre-Arranged Flowers
It might be easier to grab a bouquet from the store, but you are often overpaying for floral arrangements that are less than pristine. Also, they are usually padded with a great deal of unnecessary greenery. This doesn’t mean you need to skip grocery store flowers altogether.
#18 Pet Food
Individual portions of dog food at grocery stores are costly and wasteful.
Many pet products are packaged in plastic which is bad for the environment. We recommend buying in bulk at stores like Walmart or Amazon, or buying dry food that often comes in large plastic bags, not small plastic containers. It’s also healthier and often more delicious for your dogs and cats.
#19 Cleaning Products
You’ll find the best deals on household cleaners at big box stores such as Amazon and Walmart. The dollar store is also a good place to pick up these items, too, though it’s worth noting that their brands may be more diluted. You can also save money by using natural products to clean the home, such as white vinegar and baking soda.
#20 Kitchen Utensils
Kitchen utensils like baking sheets, baking pans, spatulas and etc. are often marked up 30% compared to big boss stores. We recommend waiting for a coupon from the grocery store to scoop these items up. You can also find better deals on these items from stores like Amazon, Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx and Home Goods.
Are you new to this world of kitchen utensils? Here’s a list of kitchen must-have utensils for your first apartment.
#21 Greeting Cards
Greeting cards are always expensive no matter where you go. We recommend making your own or buying greeting cards at the dollar store or on sale at convenience stores.
Grocery stores hit batteries with a steep markup and for good reason: when you need batteries, you often need them fast. You can find better prices on batteries at warehouse club stores or online at sites like Amazon. We like using rechargeable batteries that can be used for years.