The grocery store can be a bit of an intimidating environment if you don't go in there with your list of items and your plan for what you're going to do. After all, if you don't have a meal plan in mind, you just end up buying a bunch of stuff that looks good, which inevitably leads to overspending and, usually, a fair bit of food waste. There are plenty of ways to cut back on your spending at the grocery store.
Now, there are certain items that you really should just never buy at the grocery store because they're a big waste of money. Everyone has a different amount that they budget for groceries, or simply a different amount they feel comfortable spending, but if you're looking to get the most out of your grocery shopping dollars, you need to avoid these 20 items at all costs.
Grocery stores know that many people walking through the front doors are pressed for time and just looking for quick, easy solutions — that's why fresh items are pretty much always less expensive than their processed, ready to go counterparts. Grocery stores try to design a situation where you can find everything you might need for your meals right there — even if it's not really where you should be buying absolutely everything.
So, if you're looking to cut back on your grocery store spending, take a look at whether you're buying any of the items on this list. If so, you might want to reevaluate, because your hard earned dollars could be put to use elsewhere!
20 Bottled Iced Coffee
It's really simple to take regular brewed coffee and chill it for an iced treat, yet despite this, many people turn to the bottled iced coffee beverages for a little jolt. While it's okay to treat yourself to a more decadent coffee every now and then, in general, you're wasting major money if you're getting plain black iced coffee in a bottle. You can use exactly the type of beans you love at home, make as much as you need, and even have enough to last you the whole week without having to buy multiple bottles. What's not to love about DIY cold brew?
19 Baking Mixes
It's one thing to buy a pre-made cake from your grocery store's bakery if you absolutely don't enjoy baking, but baking mix itself is a huge waste of money. First of all, most mixes are packed with preservatives and additives. And second, they don't even do the job for you! You still need to add an ingredient or two, pour the cake into a pan, figure out when it's done, etc. They're not taking all that much work out of the equation, and you're paying a huge premium for the fact that the dry ingredients are already mixed together. Seriously — it takes seconds to mix them from scratch!
18 Bottled Water
Many people choose to avoid bottled water for environmental purposes — it's a lot of plastic being used if you drink several bottles a day. However, bottled water is also terrible from an economical standpoint. You're much better off investing in a water filtration jug or system, or even a water filtration water bottle — they exist! — in order to be sipping clear, pure water. Plus, let's be honest, who on earth wants to lug an entire case of bottled water home every week? Talk about a nuisance! There are just so many other ways to get your daily water needs met.
17 Snack-Size Treats
If you have a problem with portion control, chances are, you've bought snack-sized treats a time or two. And yes, it's definitely convenient that they serving sizes are already pre-packed and just ready to go. However, you're paying a huge mark-up for something that literally takes just a few seconds — if you bought a regular sized box of whatever you're buying in the snack sized packaging, and simply took a minute to package it into individual portions, you'd save a ton of money. It's just as convenient, and you can even package them in reusable containers to cut back on some of the waste.
16 Microwave Popcorn
Microwave popcorn is probably one of the most crazily marked up items you'll find in the grocery store. Popcorn itself is incredibly cheap — you can usually get a huge container of kernels for only a few dollars. Microwave popcorn, on the other hand, is fairly expensive, and you'll pay almost the same amount for six servings as you would for a huge container of kernels that'd last you for months. And, as an added bonus, popcorn you make yourself from kernels doesn't have all the chemicals found in microwave popcorn. Unless you're just really, really into the colour of the bag of your favourite brand, you're wasting your money.
15 Party Supplies
Grocery stores are smart — they know you probably just want to cross everything off your list and would hate to make another stop. That's why they usually carry things like paper plates and napkins and plastic cutlery — so that when you're shopping for the food you're planning to serve at your party, you can pick up a few of the non-edible items you need. And, because they know it's more convenient, they charge a little extra for it. If you need disposable plates, cups, cutlery or anything of that sort for your party, you're far better off getting it at a dollar store — and you'll likely have better options there too!.
Most people know that soda is terrible for your health, and yet they continue to buy cases every time they visit the grocery store. Soda is already fairly expensive for what is essentially just flavoured sugar water, and with discussions of soda taxes and even can deposit fees, that price just keeps increasing. If you want to buy a bottle or two every now and then as a treat, that's one thing, but if you're buying 24 cans a week, you're not doing your health or your wallet any favours. It's a big waste of money, and definitely has a negative impact on your health.
13 Pre-Made Salads
While there are a few vegetables that can get pretty pricy when they're out of season, in general, vegetables aren't all that expensive. That's why it's so crazy to see grocery stores charging as much as they do for pre-made salads. You could buy all the ingredients to make salad for a week for the same amount as it costs to buy one pre-made salad, in many cases — that's ridiculous! Again, you're simply paying someone for the convenience of not having to chop any vegetables or portion out your dressing — it's all done for you, but you could probably make a far more delicious salad from scratch.
12 Gluten-Free Products (If You're Not Celiac)
If you're a Celiac, then by all means, you'll need to make a little room in your grocery budget for gluten-free items. If you want to get gluten-friendly versions of some gluten-packed goodies, like cookies or pastas, you'll probably need to pay a premium. However, if you're not gluten-free, why on earth would you waste your money on those products? They're often double, if not triple, the price of regular versions, and often aren't even healthier for you unless you have a gluten intolerance. If you truly want to experiment with gluten-free meals, you'd be better served just finding foods that are naturally gluten free, and eating regular versions of your typical gluten-packed favourites.
11 Pre-Made Patties Or Meatballs
Making burger patties or meatballs is super simple — you just mix up the meat with a few add-ins like eggs and breadcrumbs, add your preferred mix of spices, and shape them in your hands. It's not much work at all. Despite that, many people find themselves drawn to pre-made patties and meatballs at the grocery store, which usually cost far more than just buying the ground meat to make your own versions. And, if you get them from the frozen foods aisle rather than the butcher, they probably contain a lot of additives and filler ingredients you don't want in your diet.
10 Shredded Cheese
If you find yourself staring at the blocks of cheese and the shredded cheese, chances are, you'll reach for the shredded cheese time and time again because it's just more convenient. After all, why bother shredding it yourself when someone has already done it for you? Well, first of all, pre-shredded cheese usually ends up costing more per ounce than a block of cheese. And second, in order to keep shredded cheese fresh, it usually contains additives that you really don't need in your life. Just take the two minutes and grate it yourself — the cheese will be fresher and your meal will be healthier.
9 Frozen Fries
Potatoes are probably one of the most inexpensive things per pound that you can add to your grocery list. And, you can transform them into a ton of healthy dishes and use them as a component to countless meals. That's why it's so insane to buy frozen fries. All you need to do in order to create delicious fries from regular potatoes is spend about 10 minutes chopping a potato into fries — that's it! And, again, you'll know exactly how much oil you're putting on your fries and what types of seasoning you're putting on — there are no mysteries or chemicals when you're making them from scratch.
8 Salad Dressing
Okay, there are a lot of salad dressings that are inexpensive, but those types are pretty much always packed with preservatives and MSG and a ton of other ingredients you may not really want in your body. Salad dressings that are sold in the produce aisles and contain all natural ingredients are better for your health, but they're definitely not better for your wallet — they often cost five times as much as the cheaper versions. Luckily, there's an easy solution — just make your own salad dressing! It may sound intimidating, but it's easy, foolproof, and you'll know exactly what's going into it.
7 Marinara Sauce
Here's the dilemma when it comes to marinara sauce. There are definitely cheap options at the grocery store, but they're often packed with way more sugar than marinara sauce should ever contain. And, the sauces that have a better list of ingredients are often way more expensive than their cheaper counterparts. Luckily, there's a third option — making your own marinara sauce from scratch. A simple can of crushed tomatoes is usually just a dollar or two, depending on where you shop, and you can combine it with some seasoning and make your own marinara sauce in no time at all.
If you're the type of person who cooks on a regular basis, chances are, you have everything you need in your kitchen to create any dish you want. However, if you're not much of a cook, chances are you might need to pick up some kitchenware in addition to the ingredients when you're trying out a new dish. Perhaps you don't have a wok, perhaps you don't have a spatula, or maybe you need a particular size of dish to bake something in. There are plenty of places to buy kitchenware, but some grocery stores will sell a few options right there to make it a one-stop shop — and majorly overcharge for them.
Spices are an essential part of any dish, but it can definitely be expensive to stock your kitchen if you don't have too many. After all, with each container being several dollars at the grocery store, it can be a total budget buster to need to buy four, five, or more spices for a recipe. That's where bulk stores come in. At a bulk store, you can buy a smaller quantity of spices for a much cheaper price, and as an added bonus, it ensures your spices are always fresh. Sure, it may be worth it to buy a container of a spice you use on a daily basis, but for something that you only need a teaspoon of for one recipe? Don't waste your money on an entire container that will just sit in your pantry.
4 Out Of Season Produce Or Vegetables
You should definitely eat seasonally if you care about how your produce tastes, but you should also eat seasonally if you care about your budget. When something is out of season and your grocery store is still carrying it, it means they need to ship it from somewhere far away, and that usually comes with a cost. Sure, you may occasionally want certain ingredients when they're not in season, but in general, you should try to stick to the growing season as closely as you can for the most delicious and inexpensive fruits and vegetables. Better yet, hit the farmers' market!
3 Only Brand Name Products
There are many people who are incredibly loyal to certain brands — they just feel other, more inexpensive brands don't taste the same as their pricier favourite. However, the vast majority of people wouldn't be able to tell the different in a blind taste test — so you're definitely spending way too much at the grocery store if you stick exclusively with name brand items. Sure, store brand can be hit or miss, and there are some things that you might want to spend the extra money on, but there are plenty of items where no name brand is just as delicious.
2 Trail Mix
Trail mix can seem like such a convenient purchase when you're browsing the grocery store aisles, and many people assume it's far cheaper to buy it pre-mixed than to buy all the components separately. After all, those ingredients add up! And, while it may seem cheaper to buy a small pack of trail mix, if it's something you'll be eating on a regular basis, it's far more economical to buy larger portions of the different components and create your own blend. And, as an added bonus, you can put exactly what you want in your own mix — no more picking out ingredients you don't like.
1 Pre-Cut Vegetables
Yes, cutting a ton of vegetables can be a little bit of a pain if it's not a part of the cooking process you enjoy. However, there's no way to avoid the fact that pre-cut vegetables are a massive waste of money. You're paying for the convenience of someone chopping them up, when really, it takes way less time to chop all your vegetables than you probably think it does. You might rationalize that you'll save an hour of chopping by going for the pre-cut packages, but unless you're eating baskets of vegetables on a daily basis, it probably only takes 10 or 15 minutes to get all the chopping done.