Don't waste money at the grocery store: Find out what expensive items you can buy cheaper elsewhere with these tips from Savvy Sugar.
While it may be convenient to shop for everything at the same place, those grocery store aisles can hold hidden expenses.
That's why divvying up your list and spending an extra few minutes at the specialty store or dollar store is a worthwhile detour that can save you big. (See what to buy and what not to buy at the dollar store.)
We talked to consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch to find out what's best bought at your regular grocery store—and eight items you should never put in your cart. Your first strategy for savings? Avoiding markups—when stores jack up prices in particular categories, and you're the one who pays.
Cubed or Presliced Meat
Meat markup is up to 60% and much more for precut or precubed meats. Since meat has a refrigerated shelf life of just five days and must then be thrown out, most meat departments in grocery stores aim for a minimum 30% markup, and often much higher, to make up for losses. Steaks, for instance, are marked up 40% to 50%; some cheaper cuts, such as round and chuck meat, are marked up as much as 60%. Lesser cuts of meat, those typically cut into pieces for stir-fries or stews, are marked up as much as 300%, should never be bought at full price because they're always discounted at some point. To save, look for markdowns on meats that are near their sell-by date, or hit up bulk stores like Costco for savings of up to 30% off larger slabs of meat. You can refrigerate that which you don't use for later.
Name-brand spices are marked up close to 97%. Instead, buy your basic spices at a natural food store. For instance, a $3.52 jar of bay leaves at the grocery store will cost you only 12 cents for the same amount at a natural foods store. Drugstores and discount stores also sell spices cheaper than at a grocery store. You may have to bring your own bottles to fill, but the savings make up for this.
Bakery items are marked up nearly 100% as you’re paying for convenience. For instance, a $20 supermarket cake can be made from scratch or out of a box at home for just $5. Bread can also be baked inexpensively at home. Since most people won't bake bread at home, look for buy-one-get-one-free deals and freeze one loaf or buy when bread is marked down. Savvy shoppers will ask store managers when bread gets marked down—usually nearing the expiration date or end of the day.
Batteries are marked up as much as 60%. Stay away from batteries at the grocery store and instead throw them in your online cart next time you're browsing Target or Walmart's website. Better yet, hop on over to a warehouse store like Sam's Club or Costco, where you can find double the quantity for the same cost as your local supermarket. Since batteries have no expiration date, buying in large quantities is A-OK.
Produce that has been presliced, prechopped or diced for the consumer will cost on average 35% more than the whole vegetable or fruit. Shoppers are paying for convenience, but a task that takes no more than five minutes isn't worth paying more for. Opt to shop for produce at a local farmers' market and buy only what's in season to enjoy the lowest prices. Better yet, pop by a street vendor for the least expensive fruit and veggies.
Though warehouse stores offer unbeatable prices on bulk laundry detergent and other household cleaning supplies, you could skip the special visit and save time by purchasing online at stores like Walmart and Target. With various free shipping deals and online coupons ($5 off $50 at Target from CouponSherpa.com), you could stock up on bulk detergent and avoid lugging to and from your car. And, since laundry is one of those never-ending chores, the bulk stuff won't get wasted.
Personal Care Products
From body lotion to shampoo and toothpaste, unless it's on sale, skip it. The best deals are offered at various drug stores like CVS (with coupons) and Walmart. These products are even cheaper at dollar stores (shop there for makeup applicators, cotton swabs, shampoo, etc).
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