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The convenience of only having to take a trip to the grocery store to get everything you need is unbeatable, but sometimes it comes with a price. And if you want to avoid an above-average bill or protect yourself from unhealthy options, there are certain things you should never buy from the supermarket. After all, grocery stores regularly flag items where some of the busy work has already been done for you – such as pre-cut fruits and vegetables or snack-sized treats – or on non-food items like diapers and cleaning supplies. The good news is that by planning ahead, you can save some money and not exceed your grocery budget.
“Often times, the cheapest and most suitable items for you aren’t prepackaged,” says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, and author of Dressing on the Side (and other diet myths debunked). And consumer finance expert Andrea Woroch recommends that you always have a list with you to stay focused and stop impulse buying. You can get significant health benefits and cost savings by avoiding these big money problems and instead filling your shopping cart with loads of healthy, inexpensive merchandise.
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Hot bar buffet
Hot bars in grocery stores seem like a good option if you’re on the go and want to grab a quick meal, but these buffets are not quite a penny on your bill. Often times, according to The Daily Meal, you spend a lot more than if you got something out of the freezer because you have to pay in pounds in hot bars. And if you want to be even more convincing, these buffet style bars are more likely to develop food-borne diseases.
Granola bars are a great snack as they are easy to toss in their lunches, gym bags, or even your child’s purse when you’re on the go. But most of the time, store-bought granola bars contain more sugar and preservatives than homemade bars and are also more expensive. According to The Kitchn, you can often make your own granola bars much cheaper at home. The recipe delivers twice what you get in a prepackaged box from the grocery store.
The cost of raising a baby is certainly high, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to get your essentials cheaply, especially when it comes to diapers. A good option is to skip the huge markups that grocery stores add to diapers and buy them in bulk from warehouses like Costco or BJs. According to CBS NewsYou can also find diaper subscriptions online through websites like Amazon, which offer discounts on diapers through their Amazon Mom program.
Pre-cut vegetables and fruits
Of course, you should be on a diet high in fruits and vegetables, says Jaclyn London, author of Dressing on the Side (and other debunked diet myths) and director of the nutrition laboratory at the Good Housekeeping Institute. And if you need to buy pre-cut fruit for convenience, it is understandable why you should opt for something pre-packaged. But if you have the time, it’s best not to pay the premium for pre-cut products.
According to US News & World ReportBottled dressing often contains more than a dozen ingredients, and some have 120 calories per serving. A better idea is to skip the dressing and make a light vinaigrette at home. Many only use three or four ingredients and taste fresher. Another plus: you no longer have bottles of half-used salad dressing filling your fridge.
Steak kabobs, stir-fry meat cubes, and chicken tenders can all be valued by almost 60%, says Andrea Woroch, a recognized expert on saving consumers and money. She recommends eating larger cuts of meat and uncut chicken, which you can then portion to save money.
If your drinking water is unsafe, it is essential to buy bottled water. Or, you can get by with a household water filter and reusable water bottle to save thousands of dollars over time. Bottled water can cost around 1,000 times more than water from a household tap. Many people buy bottled water to make it convenient and portable, but the environmental cost can be high. A better alternative is to buy stainless steel water bottles and keep them in the refrigerator for on the go. “But do everything you can to make sure you are hydrated,” says Jaclyn London.
Produce out of season
Due to the reduced range, products out of season are particularly expensive. “Just because strawberries are available in December doesn’t mean you should buy them,” says Kendel Perez, savings expert at CouponSherpa.com. She recommends either buying only what is in season or opting for frozen products that are flash frozen when they are fully ripe.
According to London, snack packs are great for portion control, but not as good on your wallet. According to clark.com, consumers can save $ 150 a year by shredding individual serving bags of potato chips. These small bags and servings of lunch size products are often 50% labeled.
Spices and herbs
Consumer reports conducted a blind taste test of expensive branded spices versus cheaper generic versions in various recipes and asked tasters to compare them. For the most part, the tasters couldn’t tell them apart. According to Andrea Woroch, local ethnic shops often sell spices and herbs up to 90% less than the brands sold in grocery stores. “You might not get a fancy bottle, but you can get some reusable ones from the dollar store that work just as well,” she says. Or go to a health food store, where they are often sold in bulk. Buy a small amount at a time – it’s much cheaper and will keep your spices fresher.
Canned legumes start at $ 1 per 14 ounces, but are 2 pounds. According to clark.com, a bag of dried black beans at Aldi costs about $ 1.59. That’s 12 cups (96 oz.) Of beans after soaking – a difference of $ 0.042 per ounce for cans versus $ 0.016 for dried beans.
Getting a bouquet from the store might be easier, but you often pay too much for flower arrangements that are less than flawless. “I find that the pre-made bouquets in the supermarket are often less fresh,” writes Faith Durand of Apartment Therapy. “They seem to wither faster. Plus, they’re usually padded with a lot of unnecessary green.” This doesn’t mean you have to skip the grocery store flowers entirely. However, Durand recommends buying only individual varieties of flowers and looking for the freshest bouquet with buds that are not yet fully open. You can then create your own colorful bouquet at any time.
Woroch says that buying pet food in bulk from a warehouse or large store like Walmart and Target will get you the best bang for your buck. Skip each serving if you can.
“Big stores have the best deals on household cleaning products,” says Woroch. The dollar store can also be a good place to pick up these items, although it’s worth noting that their brands may be more watered down. “Better still, make your own multipurpose cleaner for less than 50 cents by using pantry staples like vinegar, baking soda, salt, and lemon,” adds Woroch.
Tools like spatulas, cookie sheets, and baking tins can be found on the baking aisle, but you probably shouldn’t be buying them from the grocery store unless you have a coupon. According to Perez of CouponSherpa.com, these items sell 30% more than stores like Target, Walmart, TJ Maxx, and HomeGoods.
“Despite the abundance of cards and party favors at your local grocery store, the dollar store is a much better place to pick up those items,” says Perez. Get cards (usually 50 cents each) from the dollar store so you are not tempted by the grocery store’s $ 5 cards.
Grocery stores hit batteries at a steep premium, and for good reason: When you need batteries, you often need them quickly. “You can find better prices for batteries in warehouse club stores or online at sites like Amazon,” says Perez.
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