20 Things You Should Never Buy at the Grocery Store

Stop wasting money. These 20 items are overpriced at the grocery store, but we can tell you where to get them cheaper.

20 Things You Should Never Buy at the Grocery Store Photo by By Lisa F. Young / Shutterstock.com

Do you love your neighborhood grocery store? Buy everything you need there?

If so, your local grocery store probably loves you too. It loves that you’re willing to spend so much on items you could get for a whole lot less money elsewhere.

Keep supporting your local store, but skip the following 20 things. These are the goods you should never buy at the grocery store when you have cheaper options available.

1. Greeting cards

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Anyone who’s bought a grocery store greeting card has felt the sticker shock. $4.95 for a piece of cardstock with a pretty design? You can do better. Go to the dollar store and pick up some equally nice options for a buck. Buy in bulk on Amazon, and spend even less. Or if you’re the crafty type, simply make your own.

2. Batteries

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Batteries are an essential part of life, particularly if you’re a parent on Christmas morning. However, there’s no reason to overpay. Head to the warehouse store of your choice — Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s Wholesale Club — where you can stock up on bulk packages that bring your per-battery cost down. Not a member? Amazon also has good prices on bulk batteries.

3. Magazines

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A single issue of a magazine at the grocery store will set you back $3 or $4. For many publications, you can subscribe for the entire year for less than $20. There are also plenty of ways to get discounted access to your favorite titles. Or go to your library where, you guessed it, the magazines are FREE to read!

4. Diapers

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Who knew it cost so much to cover your little one’s bottom? Well, experienced parents know, but it’s often a surprise to new moms and dads. Using cloth diapers you can wash and reuse is always an option, but for many people, disposables are the only way to go. Buying those from a grocery store is easy, but you’ll pay a lot less per diaper by going through the Amazon Subscribe and Save service. It gives Prime members 20 percent off diaper subscriptions. Plus, if you schedule deliveries right, you should never have to worry about finding yourself amid a middle of the night blowout diaper-less.

5. Alcohol

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Beer and wine are money-makers for grocery stores, but you can minimize the markup by shopping at a warehouse club instead. Thanks to many state laws, even people who aren’t members can walk into these stores to buy booze.

6. Toothbrushes

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Are you really buying toothbrushes at the grocery store? Don’t you go to the dentist? If you do, you’ll find they have drawers full of them for the taking. Yes, most people go to the dentist once every six months, and you should change your toothbrush every three months. However, we bet if you ask really nicely, your dentist will give you two to last until your next visit.

7. Special occasion cakes

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Getting a birthday cake at the grocery store is convenient, but it isn’t all that cheap, especially if you need to feed a crowd. Instead, we’re going to send you back to your warehouse club where you can get a giant decorated sheet cake for the same price many grocery stores charge for their small ones.

8. Pet food

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The grocery store isn’t the worst place to buy pet food, but you can do better. The subscription service through Chewy.com works a lot like Amazon’s Subscribe and Save. You can set up automated shipments and get a discount in return. Stores like Petco, Pet Supplies Plus and PetSmart also offer competitive prices, coupons and loyalty programs that can result in free food. Don’t forget to also visit your local feed store to look for deals.

9. Bottled water

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Unless you happen to live in a city where the water is unfit to drink, there is no reason to buy bottled water … period. The water from your tap will hydrate you just fine. Invest in a couple of reusable bottles and fill them for cheap at home. Water tastes iffy? Buy a filtering pitcher, and keep it in the fridge for a cold fresh drink when you want it and to refill those reusable bottles. If you absolutely must have individual bottles from a store, buy them at your warehouse club.

10. Frozen pancakes

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Why frozen pancakes are a thing is a mystery. Making pancakes at home is super easy. A basic recipe takes about five minutes to whip up and slightly longer to cook. We know you can do it. Cook up a big batch on the weekend and freeze the extras to eat throughout the week. Your cost will be pennies per pancake.

11. Basic baking mixes

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Let’s take it one step further and say you should banish buying all basic baking mixes from the grocery store. If you’re baking with Bisquick, you really aren’t saving any time if you think about how long it takes to mix together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. All you’re doing is paying more. Same can be said for basic cookie, cake and brownie mixes. Really. These things aren’t that hard to make from scratch. By skipping the mixes, you’ll save money and possibly be a little healthier too.

12. Kitchenware

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Speaking of baking, the grocery store knows you might need some equipment to cook up all the delicious food you’re buying. That’s why most have a selection of pots, pans and even small kitchen appliances for purchase. Resist the urge. You can probably find better prices and quality at stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods. For rock-bottom prices on your kitchenware, wait until the Black Friday sales when department stores sell theirs for a song.

13. Spices

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Herbs and spices can be another item leading to sticker shock in the grocery store. That tiny little bottle costs how much?! If you have a bulk food store that sells spices, you can save a bundle. Not only could the per-ounce cost be less than the grocery store, you only have to buy as much as you need. No reason to get a whole jar when you only want a teaspoon for a recipe. Note: you can also get cheap spices at the dollar store, but the quality may be questionable.

14. Party supplies

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Like greeting cards, party supplies are sold at the grocery store for a premium. Don’t make the mistake of getting your candles, tablecloths and colorful napkins there. Swing by the dollar store and buy them on the cheap instead.

15. Coffee

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It’s the elixir of life for many people, which is probably why it costs so much at the grocery store. To get cheaper coffee, you have a couple of options. Your warehouse store (noticing a theme here?) is a good place to stock up on bulk packages of whole-bean, ground and K-cup coffee. If you have a Keurig machine, you can also register it at Keuirg.com, where they send out the occasional good deal. Perhaps most surprisingly, you can find low sale prices on coffee at office supply stores like Staples. These shops also have online coupons and loyalty programs to help you save even more.

16. Toilet paper

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There may be no more essential product to family harmony than toilet paper. It is also shocking how much tissue paper rolled around a tube can cost in the grocery store. Head to your warehouse club or office supply store for discounted bulk purchases. Amazon’s Subscribe and Save is also your friend here.

17. Light bulbs

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Now that incandescent lightbulbs are no more, it can cost a lot of money to light up your house. Walk past that display in the grocery store if you want to save some cash. You could go to Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s for lower prices, but the best prices per bulb we found were on Amazon.

18. Individually wrapped snack items

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You know you should buy the jumbo box of goldfish crackers and put them in baggies for school lunches, but that’s way too much work. OK, fine. Just don’t buy those individually wrapped snacks at the grocery store. You can get a big box of them at a much cheaper price per serving if you go to a warehouse club. If brand doesn’t matter, see what your local dollar store has in stock.

19. Gift cards

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Forgot to buy a gift? No problem! Grocery stores have set up convenient displays of all sorts of gift cards by the checkout lanes. Now, for many of these, you might only pay face value. So you’re probably wondering why we’re saying that you’re overpaying. That’s because you can go to Costco and get $100 worth of gift cards to many restaurants for only $80. If your warehouse store doesn’t have the gift card you want, check out one of the many gift card reseller sites and see if you can’t get a deal there before shelling out full price at the grocery store.

20. Bread

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If you have a bakery outlet store nearby, you should never buy bread at the grocery store. They practically give the bread away at the outlet, and it usually freezes quite well. Even if your outlet store isn’t around the corner, it may be worthwhile to take a trip. These discount shops are often filled with all sorts of bread and snack products. Stock up your freezer and then eat your carbs for cheap all month long.

What products do you find overpriced at the grocery store? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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