Americans spend a hefty chunk of money at the grocery store. But there are some items the average family can skip buying there.
According to the latest survey by the government, the cost of providing healthy meals for a family of four ranges from $131 a week for the thriftiest folks to $299 a week for more liberal spenders. Five years ago, the weekly range was between $117 and $266.
That’s a lot of money. Smart shoppers use coupons to shave some dollars off of their weekly bill, but studies have shown that in many cases, coupon clippers end up spending more because they buy things they don’t need.
A better strategy might be to skip buying some items altogether and finding alternatives for others. This list can help you get started. Read on for 10 things you shouldn’t buy at the grocery store.
1. SALAD DRESSING
Bottled dressing often has more than a dozen ingredients and some have 120 calories per serving. A better idea is to skip the dressing and make a light vinaigrette at home. Many use just three or four ingredients and taste fresher. Another plus: You aren’t left with bottles of half-used salad dressing filling up your refrigerator.
2. GIFT CREDIT CARDS
They can be a life-saver when you truly need a last minute gift, but some gift cards from the grocery store have big activation fees.
3. GREETING CARDS
If you don’t want to pay four or five dollars for a card at the supermarket, you could buy a cool set of blank cards to use for any occasion.
4. NAME-BRAND SPICES
Even basics like cinnamon and garlic powder seem to get pricier all the time. Consumer Reports ran a blind taste test using pricey name-brand spices versus cheaper generic versions in different recipes, and asked tasters to compare them. For the most part, the tasters couldn’t tell them apart. Skip the grocery store spices completely and head to the nearest health-food store where spices are sold in bulk. Buy just a small amount at a time—it’s much cheaper and keeps your spices fresher.
5. PRE-ARRANGED FLOWER BOUQUETS
“I find that the pre-made grocery store bouquets are often less fresh,” writes Faith Durand on Apartment Therapy. “They seem to wilt faster. Also, they are usually padded with a great deal of unnecessary greenery.” This doesn’t mean you need to skip grocery store flowers altogether, however. Durand recommends just buying single varieties of flowers, looking for the freshest bunch with buds that aren’t fully opened yet.
6. PARTY SUPPLIES
A trip to the dollar store is a must for party planning, and these stores know how to work that niche. You can buy just about everything you need there, from candles to cheap plastic tablecloths to helium balloons.
Grocery stores offer all of these items as well, along with the convenience of one-stop shopping, but you’ll pay two or three times more.
There is simply no reason to buy something named by Men’sHealth as the worst supermarket kids’ lunch in America.
The magazine was speaking specifically about the deep-dish pepperoni pizza Lunchables, which it says has “a back label that reads like a chemistry textbook.” The meal has 500 calories, 890 milligrams of sodium and a whopping 28 grams of sugar. That’s more sugar than your child should consume all day, the magazine says.
Other Lunchables packs have less sugar and fewer calories, but in many cases the healthier alternative is a homemade turkey sandwich or leftover pasta.
Grocery stores hit batteries with a steep markup and for good reason: When you need batteries, you often need them fast.
One of the best places to get batteries is in bulk at Costco or other warehouse clubs. Amazon can have some pretty good deals as well.
9. BOTTLED WATER
Forget buying plastic bottles of water over and over. All you need is a couple of stainless steel water bottles to fill and keep in the fridge. You’ll save the planet and some money.
Anyone who has to buy diapers knows that the grocery store isn’t the cheapest place to get them. But when you desperately need them, it’s great that they’re right there.