General rules for avoiding grocery store rip-offs:
Do it yourself. Whether this means washing, chopping, or baking, the less work you have to do, the more you pay. Sometimes it's worth it. But it's usually not.
Buy generic. Sure, you could go crazy combining sales and coupons. But buying the store brand is always a guaranteed savings. If you don't like it, don't be shy about asking for a refund.
Check the unit price. This is the price per ounce, pound, or fluid measure. It's usually on a little white sticker near the item. The smaller the number, the better the deal.
Don't shop when hungry. You're more likely to make impulse buys – and bad decisions – when you're feeling peckish.
I find that when I order grocery pickup or delivery through a service like Walmart Plus, I save more because there are no impulse purchases and I can easily compare prices without feeling rushed.
Let's take a look at some specific items that are often overpriced.
The most overpriced items at the grocery store
1. Pre-cut or pre-washed fruits and vegetables
You're paying a premium for the convenience of having someone else do the work for you. Pre-cut or pre-washed fruits and vegetables are also more likely to go bad faster because they've been exposed to oxygen and light.
2. (Most!) name brand items
Store-brand products are almost always cheaper than name-brand items, and they're usually just as good. In fact, in some cases, store brands are even better than name brands!
3. Processed snacks
Forget about the health aspect. Snacks are a rip-off. You're paying for the packaging, the marketing, and the convenience of having a ready-to-eat food.
4. Ready-to-eat meals
Just like processed snacks, you're paying for the convenience of not having to cook. You're also often paying for extra packaging, like plastic clamshells or styrofoam trays.
5. Gourmet coffee
Coffee beans are one of the most heavily marked-up items in the grocery store. A lot of us are snobs about our coffee brand, but be sure to give cheaper brands a try every now and then.
Our very favorite is McCafe Premium, which is super affordable.
6. Craft beer
Guys. I know the labels are cool but this is a serious indulgence. It's fine every now and then, but it's way, WAY overpriced.
7. Out of season berries
This one is a seasonal rip-off. If you're buying strawberries in the middle of winter, you're paying for the shipping and storage costs. Stick to seasonal produce to avoid overpriced fruits and vegetables.
8. Deli meat
Deli meat is often one of the most expensive items in the grocery store. Yes it's convenient and yummy, but it doesn't last long and it costs a FORTUNE.
Use it sparingly!
9. Prepared salads or sides
These are great for a quick lunch or dinner, but they're also a major money suck. If you're on a budget, stick to homemade sides like rice or roasted vegetables. (Consider adding meal prep to your schedule and get lunches packed in bulk.)
10. Individual potatoes and apples
Unless you're buying from a bulk bin, those individually wrapped potatoes and apples are a waste of money. Get a 5 pound bag and save a bundle
11. Baby food
Baby food is WAY overpriced. If you're on a budget, make your own baby food at home. It's easy, and it'll save you a ton of money in the long run
Does this sound hard? It's not. Smash what you're eating with a fork. Done!
12. Single-serve yogurts
Yogurt is a healthy snack, but those tiny little cups are a rip-off. A single serving of yogurt is about 6 ounces, which you can get for much cheaper in a large tub.
Grab a bowl. You're saving money.
13. Trail Mix
This is a healthy snack, but it's so easy to make at home. Just mix together some nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and chocolate chips. Store it in a Ziploc bag and you're good to go!
14. Any prepared drink
With the exception of milk, you're basically paying for water with a small amount of sugar and flavoring. Water is expensive to ship, expensive to store, and basically free from your kitchen sink.
Buy powdered mixes or concentrates and mix 'em up at home!
15. Baked Goods
Bakery items are often overpriced, especially when you can easily make them at home. If you're craving cookies, cake, or bread, try making it yourself!
Cereal is a major money suck. Per pound, it's one of the most expensive items at the store.
Almost ANYTHING is a more economical breakfast: toast, eggs, or yogurt will all keep you full longer.
17. Individually wrapped anything
If you're buying anything that's individually wrapped, you're paying for the packaging. Buy in bulk and save some serious cash.