Every time I walk into the grocery store, I feel like a kid at the candy shop. I head eagerly to the fresh produce section and fill my basket with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
But five minutes later, I’ve already forgot about the carefully curated list that I came with. Somehow, I always end up browsing the ice cream and candy isles.
And if I go to the store when I’m hungry, there’s a good chance I’ll leave with at least 10 items that I definitely don’t need.
The problem is, most of these unnecessary purchases are incredibly expensive packaged goods. The cost adds up fast when you make a habit of buying these foods every time you head to the store.
So, here are five foods you should avoid buying at the grocery store to potentially save yourself a lot of money in the long run.
1. Packaged Bars
Packaged granola/protein bars can be incredibly expensive. They typically range from $1–$2 each. So, if you buy seven a week at $1.50 a piece, that’s already $10.50 spent.
When I was in college, there was a two or three week period where I went protein bar crazy and ate one almost every single day. I was way too reliant on them because they were super convenient, but the cost was outrageous.
So, I had to start making my own from home. If you use a few simple ingredients like oats, peanut butter, and pure maple syrup, you will save about $9.65
Here’s the breakdown of ingredients and cost (for seven bars):
- Peanut butter — about $0.15
- Pure maple syrup — about $0.50
- Old fashioned rolled oats — about $0.20
Obviously costs will vary by brand and location, but this is just a rough estimate.
So, with this one simple swap, you’re already saving about $38 per month.
2. These Drinks
Those little pre-packaged smoothies you see at the grocery store might be tempting, but they can rack up the cost very fast.
In high school, I had a friend who bought one every day at lunch. By the end of the year, she had spent hundreds of dollars on smoothies alone.
So, let’s assume you buy four smoothies a week at about $8 total. By making a simple smoothie at home,
Here’s the breakdown of ingredients and cost:
- bananas — $0.50
- strawberries — $0.50
- splash of almond milk — $0.05
- ice — free
By switching from store bought smoothies to your own homemade version, you can save $28 a month.
3. The Following Dip
A container of hummus costs about $3. Even if you only buy one per week, you can save money by making your own fresh hummus at home. With
Here’s the breakdown of ingredients and cost:
- canned chickpeas — $0.40
- olive oil — $0.18
- fresh squeeze of lemon — $0.25
- spices — free (assuming you have them)
So, the hummus swap will save you an extra $3.25 each month.
4. Instant Oatmeal Packets
A box of instant oatmeal typically contains 12 servings and costs about $2.79. However, a container of rolled oats is only about $2.59 for 45 servings (when compared to the serving size of the pre-packaged oats).
Therefore, those instant oats are more than three times the cost.
This was one of the easiest swaps I made, and it’s not really a swap at all. Essentially, you are just buying a larger quantity of oats, which decreases the cost drastically.
Let’s say you eat oatmeal five times each week. If you compare equal serving sizes, you will save about $0.90 per week.
Here’s the breakdown of ingredients and cost (for 5 servings):
- Rolled oats — $0.28
Thus, the total savings each month will be $3.60 for this incredibly simple swap.
5. This Frozen Entree
Many individually wrapped frozen burritos range from $2 — $3 a piece. If you eat five a week you could be spending $15, give or take a few. But, make your burritos fresh at home, and you can save $12 a week.
Plus, making your own burritos is super simple. I make them all the time as a quick lunch, and it only takes me about 15 minutes from start to finish.
Here’s the breakdown of ingredients and cost (for five):
- tortillas — $0.75
- refried beans — $1.25
- salsa — $0.50
- avocado — $0.50
This swap is the best of the five I’ve shared in terms of savings. By making your own burritos, you can save about $48 each month.
The Total Saved
If you add up the total saved for the month for the five swaps I’ve provided, it’s about $120. This might not seem like much, but it adds up to $1,440 in a year. Plus, these are just five examples of things that you’ll pay more for at the grocery store.
There are many others that you might be buying, such as frozen dinners, that you could save a lot of money on (and make a lot healthier) by cooking yourself at home.
Making everything from scratch 100 percent of the time isn’t realistic for most people. Sometimes the time is better spent on work, taking care of children, etc.
Even I (someone who loves to cook) rely on the occasional packaged snack that I can buy at the grocery store because it’s quick, readily available, and saves me time. But, whenever I do cook more at home from scratch, I always notice a decrease in my monthly grocery bill.
The fact is that you truly can save quite a bit of money by substituting homemade snacks for ones you’d typically buy at the grocery store. So, if you have the time, I urge you to give it a try. Then, watch your bank account grow.