16 Things You Completely Waste Your Money on at the Grocery Store

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Salad bars charge for prep you can do. | Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

16 Things You Completely Waste Your Money on at the Grocery Store

If spending money onِ meals leaves yourِ wallet a littleِ lighter thanِ you wouldِ like, you’re notِ alone.
The average American spends $151 everyِ week atِ the grocery store orِ restaurants.
If you’re notِ strategic aboutِ your shopping, heِ warned, you’ll endِ up wandering theِ aisles andِ tossing expensive, unhealthy processed andِ packaged food intoِ your cart.

1. Food from the salad bar

Grocery store salad bars promise a convenient, healthy meal.
But youِ pay a price forِ not havingِ to prep thoseِ veggies yourself.
“At theِ salad bar, mostِ of theِ items thereِ canِ beِ purchased forِ less inِ the produce aisle, andِ it onlyِ takes a fewِ moments toِ wash andِ cut them,” saidِ Jeremy Kranowitz, theِ executive director ofِ Sustainable America.

Grocery Store

Save by buying spices in bulk. | iStock.com

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2. Herbs and spices

You canِ easily spend $5 orِ moreِ on a small jar ofِ spices atِ the grocery store.
To save money, head toِ your local ethnic market, andِ buy inِ bulk, whereِ you mightِ beِ able toِ save upِ toِ 90%, saidِ money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.
Even apartment dwellers canِ set upِ a small container garden nearِ a window orِ onِ a balcony.

3. Cooking tools and bakeware

Picking upِ a baking pan, skillet, orِ serving dish atِ the supermarket isِ convenient, butِ you canِ usually find a betterِ deal onِ these items elsewhere.
“You’re lookingِ atِ overpaying byِ 30% onِ average forِ basics likeِ frying pans andِ baking sheets,” saidِ Woroch, whoِ recommends borrowing items fromِ friends ifِ you haveِ a last-minute needِ forِ a specific tool.
To outfit yourِ kitchen properly withoutِ spending a ton, sheِ suggests shopping holiday sales atِ major retailers, suchِ asِ Macy’s.

Borrow specific tools from friends if you don’t have a need to purchase them. | iStock.com/Cleardesign1

 4. Items that are smaller than they look

When food manufacturers wantِ toِ raise theِ price ofِ anِ item, theyِ sometimesِ try toِ hide theِ increase byِ shrinking theِ package size.
In otherِ words, thatِ “pint” ofِ ice cream mightِ only containِ 14 orِ 15 ounces.
To makeِ sure you’re reallyِ gettingِ the bestِ deal, lookِ forِ the cost perِ ounce, whichِ isِ often displayed inِ small print onِ the item’s price tag, saidِ food stylist Rachel Sherwood.

5. Snack-sized foods

Individual, 100-calorie servings ofِ crackers, nuts, andِ other snack foods areِ a tempting buy, especiallyِ if you’re tryingِ toِ lose weight.
“The cost perِ serving isِ significantly moreِ than ifِ you purchased a full sized bag andِ simply divided theِ servings intoِ smaller zipper bags,” sheِ said.
I suggest buying nuts likeِ pistachios inِ bulk andِ separating themِ inِ to smaller servings.

Packages can be deceiving. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

6. Greeting cards

But don’t buy itِ atِ the supermarket, whereِ thatِ piece ofِ folded paper mightِ cost youِ $4 orِ $5.
Instead, stock upِ onِ cards atِ the dollar store, suggested Karen Hoxmeier ofِ My Bargain Buddy.
That way, you’ll alwaysِ have oneِ onِ hand whenِ you needِ itِ — andِ at a quarter ofِ the cost ofِ the higher-priced item.

7. Personal care products

The supermarket isِ usually notِ the bestِ place toِ shop forِ personal care andِ beauty products.
She suggested buying yourِ toiletries atِ a big-box store, suchِ asِ Wal-Mart orِ Target, instead.
But ifِ you doِ need toِ restock yourِ soap, shampoo, andِ shaving cream, theِ supermarket isn’t theِ worst place toِ shop.

Snack packs almost always have a significant markup. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

8. Magazines

There’s noِ shame inِ thumbing throughِ theِ latest issue ofِ Us Weekly whileِ you’re waiting inِ line, butِ don’t throw thatِ magazine inِ your cart.
Stores place theseِ magazines nearِ the checkout, hoping you’ll getِ sucked inِ byِ the dramatic headlines.
But buying periodicals atِ the grocery isِ a big waste ofِ money.

9. Gift cards

When youِ forgot toِ buy a wedding gift orِ spaced outِ onِ someone’s birthday, youِ mightِ haveِ no choice otherِ than toِ grab a gift card atِ the grocery store.
But you’ll save money whenِ you buy yourِ gift cards elsewhere, providedِ you canِ plan ahead.
You canِ alsoِ search sites, suchِ asِ Gift Card Granny, forِ discounted cards orِ use reward points toِ stock upِ onِ cards.

10. Grapes you haven’t taste-tested

We don’t advocate thievery, butِ some people wouldِ neverِ purchase a bag ofِ grapes orِ similar item withoutِ doingِ a tiny taste test first.
But theِ question ofِ whether it’s OK toِ sample a grape orِ two beforeِ you buy inِ order toِ avoid gettingِ a bum batch inspires someِ fierce debate.
Just askِ a produce clerk forِ permission toِ taste a grape orِ other type ofِ produce.

11. Pre-cut meat and vegetables

Pre-cut vegetables andِ sliced meat makeِ meal prep easy, butِ convenience comesِ atِ a big cost.
Some ready-to-cook items cost asِ much asِ 370% moreِ than theِ normal versions, anِ analysis byِ Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart magazine found.
But you’ll actuallyِ save onِ broccoli florets, unlessِ you eat theِ stalks.

12. Baby food

Baby food isِ often availableِ for forِ less online atِ retailers, suchِ asِ Amazon. They sell food forِ little onesِ atِ cost inِ order toِ lure inِ parents who’ll eventually makeِ bigger purchases, according toِ Consumer Reports. Most homemade food costs 12 cents toِ 39 cents anِ ounce, compared toِ 62 cents anِ ounce forِ jarred baby food.

13. Alcohol

Unless it’s onِ sale, resist theِ urge toِ pick upِ a six-pack orِ bottle ofِ wine whileِ you’re doingِ your weekly shopping. Your booze mightِ cost 10% orِ 20% moreِ than atِ a warehouse clubs, suchِ asِ Costco, according toِ Marketwatch. You canِ alsoِ keep anِ eye outِ forِ sales atِ liquor stores andِ wine shops toِ save onِ your adult beverages.

14. Prescriptions

If you’re worried aboutِ the cost ofِ health care, itِ might beِ time toِ switch yourِ pharmacy. Grocery stores hadِ some ofِ the highest prices forِ a basket ofِ common prescription drugs, a recentِ analysis byِ Consumer Reports found. The cost difference mightِ not matter toِ you ifِ you haveِ insurance coverage.

15. Anything unwrapped that touches your cart

We don’t wantِ toِ gross youِ outِ too much, butِ your shopping cart isِ pretty disgusting. coli, a University ofِ Arizona study found. The study didn’t lookِ atِ contamination inِ the part ofِ the cart whereِ you’re actuallyِ putting yourِ food, butِ those thingsِ clearlyِ aren’t gettingِ cleaned afterِ each use.

16. Party supplies

You alreadyِ have theِ chips andِ dip inِ your cart, soِ why notِ grab theِ napkins andِ paper plates, too. But theِ local supermarket isِ rarely theِ bestِ place toِ stock upِ onِ party supplies. Online stores, suchِ asِ Oriental Trading, alsoِ have tons ofِ cheap favors andِ party goods.