Buyers beware: When it comes to grocery shopping, not all markups are created equal. While it’s safe to assume that, for the most part, your favorite grocery store prices its merchandise accordingly, it’s important to realize that some items should be permanently crossed off your grocery list. Read on to see the biggest offenders, and how to make a smarter shopping choice.
Bottled water: This might just be the most overpriced item on your list, coming in with an astounding 4,000 percent markup. Not to mention, in today’s oh-so-green society, those plastic bottles are a real strain to the environment.
How to save: Drink good old-fashioned tap water, which some say is actually better for you. And if you just can’t stomach your local tap water, try getting a faucet filter so you can enjoy gallons of filtered water at a fraction of the cost.
Bakery: You’re just paying for convenience here, which is usually a big tip-off when it comes to spotting items with a disproportionate mark-up. A cake from the bakery could cost as much as $20, which is roughly a 100 percent mark-up.
How to save: Make your own cakes and fresh bread at home.
Magazines: Items found close to the register are another danger zone for overpaying, especially when it comes to those magazines. It’s easy to get sucked into an article while waiting for your turn to check out, and many find themselves buying the magazine on impulse.
How to save: If it’s a magazine you truly love, sign up for a subscription which is about 90 percent cheaper than paying per issue. If you were interested in a particular recipe or article, you can probably find it for free on that magazine’s Web site.
Prepared foods: Sure, those pre-made salads or dinners-to-go look tempting, especially when you just don’t feel like cooking. But it will cost you about 40 percent extra than if you prepared it yourself.
How to save: Freeze your leftovers, and keep a couple of dinners on hand at all times. That way, you’ll have the convenience of premade meals on busy nights for almost half the cost.
Pre-sliced fruit: Once again, it will cost you big to save just a little bit of time—as much as 35 percent.
How to save: Slice it yourself, and better yet, shop for produce at your local farmer’s market. It will be fresher, and likely cheaper since transportation costs are eliminated from the pricing.
Pre-sliced meat: 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 percent markup, and often much higher, to make up for losses. Steaks are marked up 40 to 50 percent; cheaper cuts like chuck meat are marked up as much as 60 percent; and lesser cuts of meat, those typically cut into pieces for stir-fries or stews, are marked up as much as 300 percent.
How to save: Only buy marked-down meats on the sell-by dates, or hit up bulk stores and freeze your supply.
Name brand spices: You’ll see about a 97 percent markup here.
How to save: Buy your spices at a natural foods store. You may have to bring your own bottle, but you could fill up a jar of bay leaves for about 12 cents versus paying almost $4 at the grocery store.
Batteries: If you buy batteries at a grocery store, you’re probably paying about 60 percent too much.
How to save: Throw them in your online cart next time you’re shopping on Amazon or a similar site, or stock up at a bulk store. Batteries, when properly stored, don’t have an expiration date so it’s a good idea to stock up when you spot a good deal.
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