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10. Cooking tools

If you just bought pancake mix and realized you don’t have a spatula at home, think again before running out to purchase one at the grocery store.

“Those types of items are usually much cheaper at discount retailers like Walmart,” personal finance expert Rachel Cruze advises in Reader’s Digest.

It may also be more cost effective to pick up a set rather than purchasing individual utensils.

Voraciously by The Washington Post even recommends purchasing kitchen tools at restaurant supply stores for better quality and cheaper prices. These products are more likely to withstand damage, last longer and they often cost less because supply stores price their items to sell to businesses in bulk.

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9. Prepared meals

Didn’t have time to pack a lunch for work the night before? You might be tempted to grab a ready-to-eat sandwich from your nearby grocery store.

But while you’re saving yourself time and effort, you’re still paying more for the convenience of an already prepared meal.

You could save up to 90% on items like deli meals and pre-made salads just by making them at home, says consumer savings expert Jill Caponera in Reader’s Digest.

Savings like that may incentivize you to just hit up the grocery store in advance and buy your cold cuts, cheeses and bread separately.

Pro tip: Schedule out time in your week for meal prep so you’re not scrambling to assemble a sandwich before work.

8. Name-brand cereals

According to the latest inflation data, the price of cereals and bakery products rose 13.6% over last year.

In addition to that, you’re often overpaying for just the packaging design and advertising when you opt for the branded versions of your favorite cereals over the generic variety, says Kitchn.

For example, you’ll fork over $4.28 for an 18-ounce box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes at Walmart.com, but you can save more than half the cost by purchasing the store brand version instead.

“Compare ingredients of name brand with generic — if the ingredients are the same, you won't taste much of a difference. In fact, most store labels (generic) are actually produced by the big-name brands,” Andrea Woroch told PopSugar. “This difference in packaging results in prices that are as much as 50% cheaper!”

She adds that some stores may even offer a money-back guarantee on their own brands, in which case you can always keep the receipt and return the cereal if you’re dissatisfied with the taste.

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7. Pre-cut produce

The price index for fruits and veggies is has risen 2.5% over the last year so finding ways to save on this healthy necessity is imperative.

Buying your fruit and veggies in pre-cut chunks sure saves you the time (and cleanup) of chopping away at them yourself, but it will cost you more in the end.

For example, an 8-ounce container of diced yellow onions costs $2.78 at Walmart.com, but you could pay around $2.38 for a three-pound bag of uncut yellow onions instead. There's similar markup on fruit: A whole watermelon costs about $4.68, but just two pounds of the pre-cut melon goes for over $8.

“Generally speaking, I think that it’s better for most people to buy whole fruit from an economic standpoint; it’s going to be less expensive,” Max Lugavere, health and science journalist and author told HuffPost in 2021. “It’s going to be fresher, also.”

Pre-cut produce typically comes packaged in plastic, too — which poses a serious environmental issue when that plastic ends up in a landfill.

Consider taking an hour of your week to prep all your fruits and veggies in advance and avoid the hassle of doing it throughout the week. It’s an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to avoid splurging at the grocery store.

6. Diapers

It’s tough being a new parent, and baby stuff can be expensive — diapers alone use up a big chunk of those funds.

The exhausted parent making an emergency run to grab a box of nappies may simply not have the time to travel to a specific location or hunt for the best deal.

But, save yourself the time (and money) by making your one stop at a big box store instead of the supermarket — check out warehouse clubs like Costco where you can buy them in bulk.

You can also look out for coupons or sales, join loyalty rewards programs with popular diaper brands like Huggies and Pampers or sign up for Amazon Family, which allows you to get up to 20% off with a diaper subscription.

Another option is to invest in cloth diapers — although The New York Times reports that there’s been some debate over their cost effectiveness and environmental benefit.

Read more: 60% of working Americans aren't confident about retiring one day. Put those nagging thoughts to rest — in as little as 3 minutes heading into a recession

5. Prepared meat

We all love the convenience of pouring your marinated chicken right out of the package and into the oven. No need to prep hours in advance, no cleanup — it’s the ultimate ready-to-go meal at the end of a long work day.

However, food magazine Kitchn says you might be paying up to 60% more when you purchase your meat pre-chopped or marinated.

For example, at Walmart.com thin-sliced chicken breast retails for $4 per pound, but you’ll pay only about $3 per pound for a family-pack of unsliced chicken breast.

Like the pre-cut produce, you can set aside time in the week to prep your meat in advance. If you’re looking for even more ways to save at the meat counter, Kitchn also suggests looking for marked-down meat that is nearing its sell-by date. Just be sure to cook or freeze it right away.

4. Baked goods

Sure, the smell of freshly baked croissants and chocolate chip cookies wafting toward you when you step into the grocery store can be tantalizing.

But Kitchn claims you can face markups of up to 300% on baked goods at the grocery store’s bakery counter. That’s a steep increase.

Home cooking site Allrecipes also reports that some offerings at the in-house bakery aren’t prepared fresh and may be frozen in advance.

If you don’t have the luxury of preparing your baked goods from scratch, consider buying a box of pre-made cake mix to whip up at home instead. Or, look for discounts on day-old items at the bakery — just be sure to check the expiry date.

3. Bottled water

This one isn’t specific to just grocery stores — think twice before you grab that bottle of water from any checkout line cooler. It might not take a lot out of your wallet at the moment, but it’ll add up over time.

Reader’s Digest claims that bottled water can have a markup of as much as 4,000% — the site says a $2 water bottle costs manufacturers a mere 5 cents to produce.

The CDC reports that over 90% of Americans have access to safe, potable water straight from their kitchen tap. If you don’t trust the source, you can also get a water filtration system to clear out any contaminants.

If you’re only purchasing bottled water on the go, remember that disposable bottles are not only pricey — they’re also damaging to the environment. Invest in a reusable water bottle instead — glass, stainless steel or BPA-free plastic are ideal — and stop worrying about having to pay everytime you're thirsty while out and about.

2. Alcohol

Before a big party, you might be tempted to save time by just picking up the booze while you grab your snacks and other essentials.

But don’t buy your beer at the grocery store — you can actually save by buying in bulk at the warehouse clubs.

Beer and wine could be priced 10% to 20% more at grocery stores than at warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club, according to consumer reporter and author Jeanette Pavini, who spoke to Business Insider in 2015.

You might not even have to pay the membership fee: “Alcohol laws vary state to state, but in general it is against the law to charge a membership fee for alcohol purchases, so score deals on your favorite wine and spirits even if you’re not a member,” she said.

1. Pet food

You can’t forget about your fur babies when you do your grocery haul, but you can save on pet food depending on where and how you purchase it.

Skip out on buying cans of wet food one by one, which can be costlier, and consider buying them in a bulk package from Costco.

Or, you can sign up for the loyalty program at your local pet store to earn rewards, snag coupons and get discounts.

For example, PetSmart offers a free membership program called Treats, which lets pet parents earn points on purchases, services and donations to PetSmart charities, which can later be redeemed for discounts. You’ll also receive access to some members-only deals.

“Ordering pet food online can often save you more by selecting the ‘repeat delivery’ deal option [for] savings of up to 15% off orders,” savings expert Andrea Woroch says in Business Insider’s 2015 article.

More: 5 ways to offset the rising cost of groceries

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Serah Louis is a reporter with Moneywise.com. She enjoys tackling topical personal finance issues for young people and women and covering the latest in financial news.

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