19 Things You Should Never Buy at a Grocery Store

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Do you love your neighborhood grocery store and 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.

You can continue supporting your local grocery store, but skip buying these goods there because cheaper options are available.

1. Greeting cards

Woman with greeting card
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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. Greeting cards are one of the “21 Things You Should Always Buy at a Dollar Store.”

If you don’t want to make a trip to another store, check out the options on Amazon. Or if you’re the crafty type, make your own.

2. Batteries

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Batteries are an essential part of life, whether you’re a parent on Christmas morning or someone who relies on the TV remote. However, there’s no reason to overpay.

Head to the warehouse club of your choice, where you can stock up on bulk packages that bring your per-battery cost down. Amazon also sells bulk packages of batteries, including its own AmazonBasics brand.

3. Magazines

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A single issue of a magazine at the grocery store can set you back $3 or $4. Or more.

For many publications, you can subscribe to have them delivered to your home for the entire year for less than $20.

There are also plenty of ways to get discounted access to your favorite titles, as we detail in “4 Ways to Read Magazines for Free or Cheap.”

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.

Cloth diapers that you wash and reuse are always cheaper and more environmentally friendly. But for many people, disposables are the only way to go.

Buying them from a grocery store is easy, but you’ll pay a lot less per diaper using Amazon's Subscribe & Save service. It gives Amazon Prime members up to 20% off diaper subscriptions (basically just recurring deliveries), depending on how many subscription deliveries you buy.

If you’re willing to watch and wait for sales to stock up, another option is drugstore-brand diapers. See “7 Things You Can Buy for Next to Nothing at the Drugstore.”

5. Alcoholic beverages

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Beer and wine are money makers for grocery stores. You can minimize the markup by shopping at a warehouse club instead.

You may not even need a membership, as we explain in “18 Best Buys at Warehouse Stores”:

“In some states, nonmembers can buy booze at a warehouse club due to state laws that regulate alcohol sales. So call your closest club and ask about its policy for selling alcohol to nonmembers.”

6. Toothbrushes

Mom and daughter brushing teeth together,
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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 asking.

Yes, most people go to the dentist once every six months, and you should change your toothbrush more often than that. However, we’ll bet that, if you ask really nicely, your dentist will give you one or two extra 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.

These retailers are among those offering discounts when you set up automated shipments:

Some pet store chains also offer coupons and loyalty programs that can lower costs, as we detail in “8 Ways to Cut Your Pet Food Costs.”

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.

The water from your tap will hydrate you just fine. Invest in a couple of reusable water bottles, and fill them for cheap at home.

Does the local tap water taste iffy? Buy a water filter or a filtering pitcher, and keep it in the fridge for when you want a cold drink or need to refill those reusable bottles.

If you must have bottled water from a store, buy it at a lower price at your warehouse club.

10. Frozen pancakes

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It is a mystery why anyone buys frozen pancakes. Making pancakes at home is super easy. A basic recipe takes a few 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.

The same can be said for basic cookie, cake and brownie mixes. These things aren’t hard to make from scratch. By skipping the mixes, you’ll save money and possibly be a little healthier, too, because of those mysterious added ingredients in processed foods that you don’t put in at home.

Need a recipe? See “10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself.”

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 many 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 big retailers stores like Walmart and Costco, or at Amazon.

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 at the grocery store, but you can also buy only as much as you need. No reason to get a whole jar when you only want a teaspoon for a recipe.

You can also find cheap spices at the dollar store, but the quality and freshness 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, for instance. These shops also have online coupons and loyalty programs to help you save even more.

16. Toilet paper

Toilet paper
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There may be no more essential product to family harmony than toilet paper. And it’s 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 & Save service is also your friend here.

17. Light bulbs

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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 a warehouse club for lower prices, but you may find the best selection at Amazon.

18. Individually wrapped snacks

Woman eating cookies with milk
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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. Or, 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 a warehouse club and get, for example, $100 worth of gift cards to many restaurants for only $80. Different chains offer different options, as you can see by looking at:

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