30 Items Frugal People Don’t Buy At The Grocery Store

Grocery stores can be convenient, but some items are typically priced higher there compared to other places. Here are thirty high-priced items to consider avoiding at the grocery store. Supermarkets have sneaky ways of encouraging shoppers to spend more money. The truth is, you could cut your food budget in half simply by NOT buying these items when you shop.  

Take a tour with us through a local supermarket.

In this video, we show you how to cut your grocery budget in half, thirty items to avoid buying, and give you helpful hints on how to get the same products for less money.

1. Seasonal Home Décor

Seasonal décor items sold at grocery stores can be more expensive than similar items available at stores specializing in home decor. These stores often have a wider range of price points and promotions to choose from. Additionally, specialty home decor stores often offer higher-quality items and a greater variety of designs and styles for seasonal décor. You’re more likely to find unique and stylish pieces that suit your taste and preferences.

The most frugal solution, however, it to wait for seven to ten days after the season or holiday has passed. That’s when you’ll find those same, reusable items discounted by 75-90%. Simply buying and setting aside your haul to use the following year will save you a lot of money.

Before purchasing, inspect clearance items for any damage or defects. Small flaws can often be fixed, but make sure the item is still worth the reduced price.

If you plan to keep the items to give for birthdays, holidays, or other gift-giving occasions, create a gift stash and ensure you have adequate storage space to protect the items from dust, moisture, and damage.

Look for home décor items with classic or timeless designs that are not tied to a specific trend or season. Neutral colors and versatile patterns are more likely to stand the test of time and can compliment a variety of home styles. Even when buying clearance items, prioritize quality. Well-made pieces are more likely to be appreciated as gifts and will last longer.

2. Name-Brand Spices and Seasonings

In general, specialty spices and seasonings tend to be more expensive at grocery stores. By bypassing big brands like McCormick, and, instead, steering toward store-brands, you’ll cut the cost about in half.

You can also often create you own spice blends less expensively by purchasing the individual ingredients and mixing them up yourself. Finally, you might consider buying in bulk from specialty spice shops or online retailers.

3. Pre-Cut Fruits and Vegetables

Convenience comes at a cost. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are often more expensive than buying whole ones and preparing them yourself. A great example is pre-cut melon. It’s always less expensive to buy the entire melon and cut it up yourself. If it’s too much for you to eat, cut the watermelon into chunks. It freezes beautifully and is perfect for making smoothies.

4. Prepared Snack Trays

These can be either shelf-stable or may be found in the produce department. A simple solution is to buy the basic ingredients and make them yourself. This is especially thrifty if you use items which are already on sale or low-priced.

5. Bottled Water

Purchasing bottled water regularly can add up quickly. Invest in a reusable water bottle and use tap water to save money and reduce plastic waste.

6. Brand Name Cleaning Products

Generic or store-brand cleaning products often provide similar effectiveness at a lower price compared to well-known brand names.

7. Snack-sized and Single-Serve Items

Buying snacks and other items in single-serving portions is usually more expensive per unit than buying larger quantities and portioning them yourself.

8. Frozen Convenience Meals

Frozen dinners and convenience meals can be pricey for what you get. Preparing homemade versions or buying in bulk can be more economical.

9. Organic Produce

While organic produce is typically pricier than conventional, you can often find better deals at farmers’ markets or through local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs. Check the prices at locally-owned ethnic markets, too.

Often, you can score fantastic deals on produce, especially if you buy a case of it. I once got organic broccoli for $1 per bunch at my favorite ethnic store, because the owner had overstocked it.

10. Name-Brand Toiletries

Similar to cleaning products, store-brand toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, and soap are often more affordable than their name-brand counterparts.

11. Bakery Items

Items from the in-store bakery, such as bread, pastries, and cakes can be expensive. Made-from-scratch bread isn’t difficult to make. If you don’t feel you have the time or expertise to make full loaves, try dinner rolls or making yeast-free tortillas, which cost as little as 5¢ each.

12. Canned and Packaged Soups

Canned and packaged soups can be convenient but are often more expensive than making homemade soups from scratch using fresh ingredients.

The ingredients for fresh made-from-scratch soup can be assembled in about fifteen minutes. Try flavorful chickpea soup or our favorite Italian lentil soup.

13. Pre-packaged Fresh Herbs

These small amounts of herbs are encased in plastic and can be found hanging on small hooks in the refrigerated produce aisle. Not only do you not know how long that herb has been in the package, all that plastic is unnecessary, cannot realistically be reused, and ultimately goes into an already overloaded landfill.

While we excluded spices and seasonings earlier, packages of fresh herbs can also be overpriced at grocery stores. Look at the farmers market and you’ll find a larger quantity for a better price and they are really fresh

If you’re looking for a more hands-on solution, it’s easy to grow herbs in small containers on your window-sill or in containers on your patio or in your yard.

14. Specialty Ice Cream

High-end, small-batch ice creams can be costly at grocery stores. The advantage is that you are often supporting small, locally-owned businesses when you purchase these items. The disadvantage is the cost. Rather than avoiding them completely, we suggest that you make them a special occasion treat and gladly purchase them for holiday dinners.

15. Ready-Made Pizza

Pre-made pizzas, especially gourmet or specialty varieties, can be expensive. Making your own pizza at home or buying an inexpensive, on-sale pizza from the store and adding your own combination of additional toppings can be more budget-friendly.

16. Organic Snack Bars

Health-conscious snack bars, especially organic or specialty brands, can come with a higher price tag. You can often find more affordable options by buying ingredients in bulk and making your own homemade bars.

17. High-End Cooking Utensils and Gadgets

Specialty kitchen tools and gadgets, such as high-quality knives or unique appliances, are often marked up at grocery stores. Shop at kitchen supply stores or online retailers that specialize in culinary equipment for better deals.

If you need an even better deal, check Facebook Marketplace. People often buy premium culinary or household items, don’t use them, and wind up selling them on Marketplace at a steep discount. It’s also worth your time to stop by local thrift stores periodically just to see what’s on the shelves. We’ve found new-in-the-box kitchen items at a fraction of what we would have paid new.

18. Packaged Salad Greens

Pre-packaged bags of salad greens are convenient but can be pricier compared to buying whole heads of lettuce or greens. Buy fresh produce and wash and prepare it at home to save money.

19. Authentic Ethnic Ingredients

Specialty ingredients used in specific ethnic cuisines can be marked up at grocery stores because of their limited availability and importation costs. These items might include items like saffron, miso paste, or garam masala. Shopping at ethnic grocery stores or online markets that specialize in these cuisines can often yield better prices.

20. Name-Brand Boxed Cereal

Boxes of name-brand cereal are incredibly expensive per ounce, especially at full price. It’s a little-known fact that off-brand or store-brand cereals are often the exact same product. The quality and quantity are the same. Only the prices are reduced.

When buying name-brand, look for great sales and then layer manufacturer or store coupons at checkout to save even more. Doing this, can bring the cost down to the same or less than off-brand cereals.

21. Pre-Made Smoothies

Pre-packaged smoothies and smoothie kits can be expensive. Making your own smoothies at home with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables is more cost-effective.

22. Pre-packaged Granola

Organic breakfast cereals and granola can be pricier than their conventional counterparts. Consider buying organic oats and adding your own toppings to create a more budget-friendly breakfast option.

23. Fancy Condiments

When it comes to adding flavor and color, basic condiments will go a long way in elevating your cooking and food, but the name-brand “fancy” versions can cost you a lot of money. Specialty condiments like gourmet mustards, imported mayonnaises, or artisanal ketchups are often more expensive at grocery stores.

Stick to basic condiments and explore local markets or specialty stores for unique options. Buying the store brand versions is also a way to cut the cost. Often the store brands are simply the name-brand items which have been rebottled and relabeled.

24. Bulk Nuts and Dried Fruits

Nuts and dried fruits can be quite expensive when purchased from the grocery store’s bulk section. Check out warehouse clubs or buy in larger quantities from online retailers to save on these snacks.

25. Soda and Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated beverages, especially name-brand sodas, can be costly at grocery stores. Buying generic or store-brand versions or opting for alternatives like sparkling water can be more economical.

26. Single-Serve Coffee Pods

Single-serve coffee pods for machines like Keurig can be pricier per cup compared to traditional coffee grounds. Invest in a reusable coffee pod or use a regular coffee maker to save on coffee expenses.

27. Bottled Coffee or Tea

Not only are bottled coffees and teas expensive, you have no control over the amount of sugar which has been added. Make your own version from scratch for a fraction of what you pay for the pre-bottled versions.

28. Jars of Baby Food

Jars of prepared baby food can be relatively expensive. Over time, the cost can add up, especially if your baby consumes a significant amount of baby food.

Additionally, store-bought baby food comes in a limited variety of flavors and combinations. When making baby food at home, parents have more control over the ingredients and can introduce a wider range of tastes and textures to their baby.

Finally, homemade baby food is often fresher and retains more of its nutritional value than commercial baby food, which may undergo processing and extended shelf life requirements.

I made my own baby food for all four of my sons, using fresh ingredients and freezing it in ice cube trays for later use. Each thawed cube of baby food (from a standard ice cube tray) is approximately two tablespoons.

29. Name Brand Cleaning Products

Name brand cleaning products typically come with a premium price tag compared to generic or store-brand alternatives. You’re essentially paying for the brand’s marketing and reputation.

Before buying, read the back of the label. Many generic or store-brand cleaning products contain similar active ingredients as their name brand counterparts. The core ingredients responsible for cleaning and disinfecting are often the same or very similar.

Store-brand cleaning products are often formulated to meet or exceed industry standards for effectiveness and safety. In many cases, they perform just as well as name brand products but at a lower cost.

We suggest adopting a “try it and see if you like it” policy, when it comes to at least being willing to purchase and use one bottle of a product which is different than your regular choice. The worst-case-scenario is that you won’t care for it and won’t ever buy it again.

We’ve done this for years and found some true “keepers” in the array of items which we have tried. However, some off-brand products have contained more water than the big brand products. As a result, we had to use a lot of more of the product to achieve the same result. This meant that they didn’t get written on our “buy again” list.

30. Prepared Deli Salads and Sandwiches

There’s a good reason that store bakeries are baking bread during the busiest times of the day. Those irresistable smells draw hungry shoppers to the deli area like bees to honey.

The price mark-ups in the prepared food, bakery, and deli areas are among the highest in the store, creating the maximum profit margins on products that practically sell themselves.

6 thoughts on “30 Items Frugal People Don’t Buy At The Grocery Store”

  1. Great article as always! When it comes to ice cream I look at ingredients ! The fewer # of ingredients the better imho. So Tillamook is one of those brands. I tend to only buy it when the store offers it as a loss leader or digital coupon. 3.99 half gallon this week. In another town over the summer I saw it for 8.99 each. OUCH!. I am a huge ingredient list reader !
    As for bottled water. Our household buys as many cases as we can possibly buy. We live in the desert and you must ALWAYS have some on hand especially when you are in your car. You never know when you may be offering one to a friend or a homeless person, or God forbid you are stuck in traffic or your car breaks down and it is 117 degrees outside. We cannot live with out it and even more so in the desert.
    Coffee pods we do purchase. It is cheaper in the long run for just the two of us who only drink one cup each morning (I know one cup right? ) I am always looking for the best cost on a large amount. Currently Costco brand wins. I also recycle those coffee grounds into my garden! I also do keep regular ground and a lot of coffee beans in the freezers for a just in case moment….

    Reply
  2. I use my food saver which is a great benefit for me since I’m one person I tend to go thru my food at a slower pace. I tend to use up my chicken when I don’t have any free food that I get from my insurance company which saves me alot of money in the long run. So I’m so happy that I’m able to get that type of food. Which are TV dinners but so tasty. And isn’t all that bad. The Soduim is high I only eat it once a day which isn’t too bad….

    Reply
    • I don’t have a food saver and I’ve had several people recently tell me that I should get one. I’m very intrigued by them and wonder if it would save me money or not. I’ll have to keep my eye open for one at a great deal.

      Reply
  3. Bulk nuts and dried fruits are available for much cheaper at my local ethnic store. I just paid $3.99/lb for cashews on sale when normally 6.49/lb. I always check their weekly flyer.

    Regarding fresh herbs, again my local ethnic store has much better deals than the ones that come in plastic. I recently paid 4/.99 for fresh cilantro.

    Reply
    • That is a really great point. Some people don’t realize that ethnic stores are treasure troves for great products at an expensive prices. I, too, buy nuts at my local favorite ethnic store and they also have organic produce at the lowest prices in town.

      Reply

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