Supermarket Buys That Are a Huge Waste of Money
Supermarkets are a huge convenience and they offer great savings—unless you’re putting these items in your cart!
1. Precut/Prepared foods
It’s hard not to pass up the convenience of those cute take-and-go fruit cups or perfectly formed burgers for the grill. But try to resist: “According to an analysis by Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart Magazine, you pay as much as 370 percent more for these convenience foods,” says Birken.
2. Dog Food
Walking down the pet supply aisle is fun—so many fun toys and treats to spoil Fido! While pet food and treats are relatively inexpensive, you and your pet may pay the price later. “Most of the pet foods available at the grocery store list corn as the first ingredient, which isn’t ideal for your pet’s digestion, and also include cheap meat by-products to fill out the rest of the ingredients,” says Birken. Healthier pet food, natural kitty litter, pet treats, and toys are cheaper at large retail stores, Tractor Supply or even Chewy.com. If you’re considering getting a dog, this is how much it costs to own one.
3. Seasonal Items
All those delightful seasonal products placed near the cash register are there to separate you from your hard-earned cash. “Seasonal items are generally not a good buy at grocery stores,” says Birken. “For one, the supermarket is not the place to go for good-quality patio furniture or pool toys. These items might look nice in the store, but they’ll probably be pretty battered before the season is over,” she warns. Before you start shopping though, find out the best time to buy everything throughout the year.
Why is it that you remember you need a new pair of pantyhose when you’re at the grocery store and not at Target? “Hosiery is almost always going to be cheapest at a pharmacy or big box store, particularly when it’s one of the sale items through a loss-leader,” says Emily Guy Birken, author of End Financial Stress Now: Immediate Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Financial Outlook. And you’re unlikely to find your brand. “I’d say only buy hosiery at the grocery store when you’re already late for a wedding and got a run in the stockings you’re wearing.”
5. Everyday Spices
Most supermarkets have an extensive spice selection, but that’s not the place to stock up on the ones you use regularly such as cinnamon, garlic salt, oregano, and onion powder. You’ll shake on more savings if you head to a discount grocery store like Aldi where you can pick them up for $1.19 each. At that price, you could get at least three or four bottles of spices for one bottle at the supermarket.
6. Microwave Popcorn
A six-pack of microwave popcorn at the supermarket will run around $4. A 30-ounce bag of popcorn kernels is around $3. Sure, that doesn’t seem like a huge waste of money, but a six-pack box only has 15 servings (if it all pops!) but a 30-ounce bag of popcorn kernels, makes at least 30 servings. That’s a lot more popcorn for your next Netflix binge; plus, it’s the healthier since you control the toppings and how it’s made.
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8. Snack Packs
We’re all about portion control, but those handy snack packs really pad your grocery budget. “Unfortunately, you’re paying a huge premium for the convenience and cuteness factor,” says Birken. For example, a 12.4-oz box of Cheez-It crackers is around $3 at but a 12-pack of Cheez-It crackers of nearly the same weight is $4.50. “Invest in reusable baggies or a pre-molded lunch box, and package your own snacks for a much healthier body and wallet,” suggests Birken.
9. Gift Cards
Gift giving is super easy and convenient when you can toss a gift card on the conveyor belt with your milk and eggs—but those cards are much cheaper with a Sam’s Club membership, especially when you buy them in a bundle. For example, two $25 P.F. Chang’s gift cards are $45.98. That’s a savings of $4.02. Costco members have similar deals like an App Store and iTunes $25 gift card for $23.99.
10. Bibble Bath
After fighting the crowds and unloading the groceries, you may feel your trip to the supermarket has earned you a long soak in the tub. That’s fine, but don’t buy your bubble bath (or other personal products) there. A bottle of Calgon Bubble Bath is around $6 at the supermarket but only around $3 for the same size bottle at Walmart. Or shop online Birken says. “You can save on your toiletries by setting up a subscription for the ones you use most through something like Amazon’s Subscribe and Save, which can cut as much as 15 percent off the regular price.”
11. Automotive goods
“Just because you can pick up antifreeze or other automotive supplies at the grocery store doesn’t mean you should,” says Birken. Besides paying too much, you could compromise quality with a brand you don’t recognize or get the wrong formula for your car. “Go to an auto parts store for these items. You’ll get a better selection and a better price,” says Birken.
12. Party Supplies
“If you’re already picking up food for the party, it may feel natural to just grab paper plates, cups, plastic ware, and a tablecloth at the supermarket while you’re there. But you’ll spend much less on the same items at the dollar store,” says Birken.