Rule one of grocery shopping: Never (ever) shop when hungry. Rule two: Beware the items that are ridiculously easy to overspend on. We gathered ten examples below—plus tips on how and when to buy them on sale. Our intel comes from personal experience as well as a variety of women and bloggers who regularly cover the grocery scene.
The 10 Grocery Store Items That People Always Overspend On
1. Canned Soup
If you’re in the market for canned soup, the best time to scoop it up is in the fall and winter, when it inevitably goes on sale. During this time of year, don’t be surprised if you spot 10-for-$10 deals (even on more primo brands like Progresso). Given the shelf life, it’s a great moment to stock up.
Back-to-school is when cereal—and we’re talking every kind from Kashi to Lucky Charms—tends to have the deepest discounts. Still, you’ll frequently see coupons for this item, typically for as much as 50 cents to $2 off. (A quick Google search before shopping can help.)
Sure, you’ll shell out $4 for a single drink at Starbucks, but did you know that $5 package of instant coffee at the grocery store can almost always be found on sale? Just like with canned soup, fall and winter are the best times of year to buy your beans. That’s when you’ll see savings to the tune of $1 to $2 off. That’s at least a 20 percent markdown, and considering coffee has a decent shelf life (usually six months), you can easily store all that caffeine in your pantry.
4. Frozen Dinners
This one depends on your grocery store, but items like Lean Cuisine and Amy’s tend to go on sale fairly frequently. It may just be 50 cents off, but if you notice a sale—we’re big fans of checking Target’s grocery section to find discounts—it’s prime time to restock.
5. Paper Towels And Toilet Paper
Heed this advice: Never pay full price for either of these items. We repeat, never. There’s always a coupon. Or a deal for buying in bulk. And if your grocery store isn’t offering savings, take your business elsewhere…like CVS, where paper towels and TP are hardly ever full price.
6. Spaghetti Sauce
Love Rao’s four-cheese sauce? Same. But it’s another item you should try not to pay a premium for. A lot of times, it’s as simple as peeping the ends of the grocery store aisles for pasta sauce sales. In most cases, you’ll see weekly savings ops—we’ve seen this $9 jar for as low as $5.
7. Laundry Detergent
Grocery stores know you’re purchasing household items on repeat, so they tend to offer savings to sweeten the score. Still, items like laundry detergent (or hand soap, for that matter) come with the steepest savings during the most popular times of year to clean and purge. That means April for spring-cleaning and August for back-to-school. Plan your detergent hauls accordingly.
8. Salad Dressing
Yep, this is another category where you may be able to score a 10-for-$10 sale. Even if that savings opportunity is rare, keep your eyes peeled for coupons and markdowns for as much as $2 off.
9. Fancy Nuts
OK, this one is less of a sale thing and more of a be-smart-about-where-you-buy thing. For example, an XL package of walnuts at Costco may cost less in the long run than the bag you filled in the Whole Foods bulk department. The nuts at Trader Joe’s, another store known for its nut selection, can also be quite expensive. Be sure to measure the cost against the weight when you comparison shop for this snack.
10. Seasonal Produce
If you live, for example, in New England, beware buying strawberries in November…unless you want to pay $7 for a pint. (This is a true story!) Instead, it’s worth planning your recipes around what’s in season in your area (or, at the very least, substituting frozen strawberries during the winter months). A tip for sleuthing out what’s in season that month? Pop by your local farmers market—yep, you can find them year-round even in the blustery Northeast. There you can see everything that’s coming directly out of the ground…and will be grocery-store bound.