14 items that cost more at the grocery store

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You’ve got your list and your keys, and you’re ready to head out to go grocery shopping. Not so fast!  There are some major money-zapping items that you should mark off your list right now. We hope you’ll enjoy these money-saving tips on how to avoid the 14 items with the biggest price mark-ups at the grocery store.

1. Non-grocery items

Examples: light bulbs, motor oil, lawn furniture, coolers

The grocery store is counting on you buying these items so you don’t have to make one more stop. If you’re buying auto and home maintenance supplies at a grocery store then this is probably costing you a lot of money. Don’t let the convenience cost your family in the end.

Money Saving Tip

  • Make an extra stop at a big box store or a home improvement store to get the best prices on everyday household items.

Warehouse clubs also typically offer great prices on household items.

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2. Prepared Foods

Examples: deli sandwiches, salads, fruit trays, pre-cut produce, and other ready-to-eat meal products

These convenience items could be stickered with at least a 40% markup. You’re paying way more for prepared meals because of the convenience factor.

Money Saving Tips

  • Don’t go to the store hungry.
     
  • Don’t pay someone else for the privilege of chopping your veggies for you. You can make beautiful fruit trays and hoagie sandwiches at home for almost half the cost of pre-made items. And they’ll be so much fresher!

3. Cereal

Examples: name-brand cold cereals and packages of flavored instant oatmeal

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No, I do not particularly want to wake up and make a 4-course meal for breakfast every day. Cereal can save time and even money, but not if you’re paying for a name brand and not if you’re paying regular price. These breakfast items are usually marked up about 40%.

Money Saving Tips

  • Try generic cereals that are usually shelved right beside the name brands.
     
  • Always check unit pricing. I’ve seen unit pricing on the larger sizes actually end up costing more than a small box.
     
  • You can save so much when you wait for a sale and use coupons. Even without clipping coupons, sometimes you can stock up on some rock-bottom sale-priced cereal.
     
  • Mix your own pre-mixed oatmeal packets for pennies on the dollar compared to the flavored packages at the store.

4. Brand name over-the-counter medications

Examples: pain medication, cough and cold medication, children’s remedies

Many times the brand names are the same content with the same active ingredients as what’s in the generic varieties. Be smart and don’t pay for the name brand label.

Money Saving Tips

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  • Don’t pay for a brand name if it’s the same as the generic. Check the label and save up to 40% on the same medication.
     
  • Get lots of details here on how generics can achieve the same goal and save money, too.

Read more: Store brands vs. name brands at the pharmacy

5. Cosmetics and beauty supplies

Examples: Makeup, face creams, lotions

A 50% mark-up is what you’ll be paying if you buy beauty products at the grocery store. That kind of convenience is costly.

Money Saving Tips

  • Shop around and find the best prices on beauty products in your area. Some beauty supply stores are open to the public and even put out their own coupons.
     
  • Clip coupons and watch for sales if you are brand loyal. This could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
     
  • You could also save money by making some beauty products yourself.  Check out this post with some great tips on making your own leave-in conditioner, exfoliating face scrub, and more.

Read more: How to make a disposable razor last an entire year!

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7. Deli meats and cheeses

Examples: expensive, hand-sliced meats and cheeses

You can expect about a 50% markup when you go to the deli counter. Those items are marked up because of the special care that has to be taken to hire a dedicated employee to manage that area. Unless you’re a single person that buys a maximum of 5 slices of meat per week then you should avoid the deli counter completely because you’re throwing away your money.

Money Saving Tips

  • You can find most varieties of cheese in the dairy section. The dairy shelves at my grocery store offer feta, bleu cheese, muenster, smoked provolone, and several varieties of imported cheeses.
     
  • Many packaged lunch meat makers have several varieties beyond bologna that you might not know about. I’ve recently seen great varieties of roast beef, pastrami, and dozens of types of ham and turkey in the packaged meat aisle.

8. Butcher meats

Example: any meat packaged in the store

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You’ll pay up to 60% markup on fresh meats from the butcher counter area of your grocery store.  This is due to the quick turnaround they have to have on these fresh products.  A lot goes to waste because they just don’t sell it before it goes bad.  So they make up the cost by charging you more.

Money Saving Tips

  • Buy larger cuts of meat or family-sized packages. You can definitely save around 20% at most grocery stores by buying the bigger packages.  Package the meats in meal-sized portions and freeze them to fit in your meal plan over the next few months.
     
  • Buy items when they go on sale and freeze for later. We get a great deal on “Reduced for quick sale” meats in a special section of our butcher area. These meats have only a few days shelf life on them, but they freeze perfectly!

9. Batteries

Examples:  you guessed it, batteries…AA, hearing aid batteries, 9volts… all of them!

Those 4 packs of batteries that you have to have (so you pick them up while you’re at the grocery store) are costing you up to a 70% markup.  That’s mega bucks if you use batteries as much as we do in my house.

 

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Money Saving Tips

  • If you go through a ton of batteries with remotes, controllers, and the like, then it’s better to buy in bulk at Sam’s Club.  The last time I looked a 24 pack of name brand batteries was around $13.  That’s close to $0.50 per battery.  Batteries at my grocery store, on the other hand, average at about $1 each.
     
  • You can also keep your eyes open for a B1G1 (buy one, get one) sale at CVS.  I see the CVS brand on sale quite a bit, and that’s where we grab them if we don’t need a mega pack from a warehouse store.

10. Out of Season Produce

Examples:  fruits and vegetables that don’t grow year round in your area

Lots of us are trying to eat healthier.  Unfortunately, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables can come with up to a 75% markup.  If that produce isn’t coming from within 100 miles of you in the last week then you’re paying for storage and shipping.  That adds up and sucks the healthy right out of your budget.

Read more: 29 ways to keep your fresh produce fresher for longer

Money Saving Tips

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  • Buy in season.  Watch for rock bottom prices and ask your grocer what’s freshest and what’s coming out next week.  You should be adjusting your meal plans to fit the season.
     
  • Stock up and freeze produce to be enjoyed all year. Here are some easy tips of which produce items freeze well and how to keep those stock-up purchases feeding your family for months.
     
  • Sometimes even buying frozen will cost less.  Check the unit pricing and use frozen fruits and vegetables when it makes sense.

To see the full list of items with the biggest price mark-ups, and how to save, click here.



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