Food Money Saving Tips

25 Food Items You Should Never Buy Again

25 Food Items You Should Never Buy Again
Written by Oana Schneider

When you’re doing your weekly, bi-weekly or monthly grocery shopping, how much do you actually spend? Do you make a list of the things that you need to purchase so you don’t overbuy? Do you minimize food wastage by planning your weekly menu ahead of time? If you answered yes to most of these, then you are making the most out of your budget for groceries. You can feed your family well without spending too much, and avoid food wastage.

Here, we will take a look at the top food items that you should never include in your grocery list ever again. Before that, here are a few statistics related to grocery shopping, according to

  • For 2013, the average monthly grocery expenditure of consumers in the US for the baby boomer generation is $292.50 and $263.70 for the members of the silent generation.
  • For 2014, a household with three or four members spent more than $128 per week on average for groceries.

With the average family spending around $500 per week for groceries, you really need to exert the extra effort in making sure that you are not wasting your money. It will definitely help if you will make an inventory of what’s left in your pantry first before doing your grocery shopping for the week. If you have lots of canned tomatoes, buy cheap meat for stew that you can slow-cook and serve for dinner.

If you have fruits which are about to be overripe, buy ingredients for a simple dessert. Take the number of family members into account and do not overbuy. It’s easier to run to the store to buy a few items that’s missing for a recipe, than having to deal with a lot of extras that you can never really consume within a week. By taking these tips in mind, you can maximize your grocery shopping budget.

25 Food Items You Should Never Buy Again

Next, what are the food items that you should never buy again? If you don’t have a list of groceries to buy, it is very easy to simply reach in the grocery aisles for whatever items you like without thinking ahead. Again, it is very easy to waste food, let food items expire or go bad if you do not plan your meals ahead of time.

There are also plenty of food items which are overpriced, and are very easy and cheap to make on your own. Other reasons why you should steer clear of buying some of the items off this list is that they have a lot of unhealthy ingredients, some are just plain fake while others are a huge rip-off.

Here is our list of the top 25 food items that you should never buy again:

1. Bottled Water

Aside from the fact that individual bottled water containers add up to the non-biodegradable waste on Earth, they are also very expensive. If you don’t have your own water filtration system at home, purchase distilled water in big containers so you won’t have to contribute to the waste, while saving money as well.

2. Coffee Creamer

There are plenty of coffee creamer products in the market which claim to have zero transfat when they, in fact, have less than 0.5 grams per serving size. Considering the fact that you will add about a tablespoon of creamer in your coffee, you will still be actually consuming the transfat even if the label says ‘zero’. Use milk or whole cream instead of powdered creamer, or better yet, stick to black coffee.

3. Energy Bars

Although they would give you a boost of energy, protein bars or energy bars have very high fat and sugar content. They even have as many calories as a regular candy bar. A good substitute to get that boost of energy is to munch on fruits rich in vitamins, or a handful of nuts.

4. Energy Drinks

If you need an extra boost of energy, stick to a cup of coffee instead of a can or bottle of energy drink. The burst of energy that most of these drinks will give you come from sugar and caffeine, and there are even brands with ingredients that have side effects that can lead to heart problems or convulsions.

5. Frozen Fruit Bars

When you visit the frozen section at the supermarket, you will find a lot of frozen fruit bars. These may not necessarily be unhealthy, but they are definitely expensive. Make your own at home using a popsicle mold and you can use the freshest, cheapest ingredients by blending fruits which are in season.

6. Food Items with Cellulose in the Ingredients List

Cellulose is actually wood pulp. This is something that manufacturers use as an extender to add fiber, but you are in turn consuming just that: wood shavings. Never buy food items with this on the ingredients list.

7. Food Items with Blueberry on the Label

Did you know that most of the grocery items with blueberries on the label do not contain even one piece of the fruit? Majority of them are simply infused with artificial blueberry flavor. If you must have blueberry-flavored anything, buy the real fruit and simply incorporate them in your recipes.

8. Gourmet Frozen Veggies

Anything with gourmet on the label will cost you twice as much as if you made your own product from scratch. One example is green peas in herbed butter sauce. Buy your own peas, cook them in a knob of butter and sprinkle with your favorite herbs.

9. Gluten-Free Baked Goods

Baked goods of the gluten-free variety are packed with more refined flours and other artificial ingredients, as well as more sugar. If you were not necessarily diagnosed with gluten intolerance, you’re simply wasting your money adding this to your grocery list.

10. Lunch Packs

Whenever you’re buying something for convenience, you are usually paying a lot more. Instead of buying all-inclusive food trays for snacks or lunch, just grab whatever easy-to-prepare items you have on the kitchen – they’re a lot healthier.

11. Microwave Sandwiches

Pre-made sandwiches are packed with salt, fat and other additives which are not necessarily healthy. If you make your own sandwich at home, you can pack it with all your favorite ingredients and it will be a lot cheaper. 

12. Multi-Grain Bread

Most multi-grain breads in the market are white breads masquerading as multi-grain, simply because they have a few grains included in the dough. If you do want to consume grains, go for brown rice, steel-cut oats or quinoa so that you can get a dose of the real thing.

13. Non-Dairy Milks (Flavored)

Go for skim milk instead of flavored non-dairy milks which can cost twice as much. If you must drink this, go for the unsweetened version.

14. Prepared Meat Patties

If you’re craving for burgers, buy ground beef and prepare the patty yourself. Frozen beef patties which are pre-made have a very high fat content, and you’re not even sure about the quality fo meat used.

15. Prepared Pasta Sauces

Canned tomatoes cost under $1 while a jar of prepared pasta sauce goes for up to $6, depending on the brand. During the summer season, you can even get fresh tomatoes for a very cheap price.  Stop buying prepared pasta sauces and simply make your own, so that you can save money while maximizing the flavor.

16. Peanut Butter with Reduced Fat

If the label on a peanut butter jar says that it has reduced fat, it probably does have less fat than regular variants. However, manufacturers need to put something back on the recipe to make the peanut butter taste good, and sugar is the culprit. You might not have consumed a lot of fat, but your sugar intake will increase. What you can do is simply buy the regular peanut butter variant and consume less of it so that you won’t have to deal with the extra sugar and calories.

17. Powdered Juice Mixes

Powdered iced tea, orange juice or other flavored drink mixes contain a lot of sugar – more than a can of soda or one slice of pie. If you love iced tea, simply brew your own at home and sweeten it with honey, then fill with ice.

18. Pricey Cheese Variants

One of the most expensive cheese variants in the market is Parmigiano-Reggiano. Although this is a famous type of cheese that can actually take your pasta recipe to the next level, you don’t have to shell out more than $22 a pound for a slice. Better, cheaper alternatives with similar flavors are Pecorino Romano and SarVecchio.

19. Salad Kits

Sure, salad kits are mightily convenient but they also cost twice or even thrice as much as buying individual ingredients from the market. Buy your own greens and mix your own dressing to save money while adding a punch of flavor. You can even make your own croutons simply by toasting day-old bread.

20. Soups

Although there are some canned soup variants which have a classic, comforting taste to it, there are actually lots of soups with hidden unhealthy ingredients. Hydrolyzed protein and autolyzed yeast extract are a couple of ingredients which trick the brain into eating more when you’re already full. Instead of going for the canned or mix variety, cook your own soups instead.

21. Spice Mix

You usually buy a spice mix to use as a rub for meat, but these mixes typically just contain salt and an unknown number of herbs and spices. You can easily create your own mix in the pantry, don’t be afraid to experiment.

22. Smoked/Cured Meats

There’s nothing wrong with indulging your taste for good, smoked meat every once in a while. But consuming smoked/cured meats on a regular basis can lead to artery-clogging diseases. If you must have barbecue nights, buy meat fresh from the butcher and grill it over coal to get that smoky, cured flavor.

23. Rice or Side Dish Mixes

Herbed rice or side dish mixes may sound fancy and gourmet, but you can easily make these yourself. Simply cook the rice according to package instructions and add your own herbs and seasonings.

24. Trail Mix

A bag of trail mix is actually very expensive, although they make for a very healthy snack. To save money, make your own mix by purchasing raisings, almonds, dried fruit and you can even toss in a small pack of chocolate bits as a ‘cheat’. You can keep a trail mix like this in a glass container for up to three weeks.

25. White Rice

Finally, go for brown rice or opt for whole grain rice. You will have lesser risks of having diabetes especially if you consume lots of rice with every meal.

By avoiding adding these items to your grocery list, you can feed your family much more healthily, avoid wasting food and maximize your food budget.

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois and was part of our team as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget and has a degree in Communications.


  • I’m glad that I don’t buy some of these products anymore because I’ve been told they aren’t good for anyone. I guess that’s an advice I’m glad I took. Letting go of my coffee creamer would be a really hard thing to do since I use it every day. I really don’t like black coffee either so I guess milk would suffice. Gotta change some ways for a healthier lifestyle, right?

    • Kate, I have to say that I too will struggle with getting rid of coffee creamer, I rely on coffee to function (haha) and I don’t like it black, either. But as you said you do have to change for the betterment of your health! I might try milk with a little bit of honey, or something like that, as I need a little bit of sweetness with my coffee as well.

    • yeah your exactly right , but eating healthier is a way better choice. Waking up feeling good having more energy than eating bad things will impact your life more.

  • Wow! Were you looking in my pantry today?

    I have purchased and used more of the things on this list than I would like to admit. Since creating a budget, I’ve noticed the prices of grocery products and how much more money the convenience items cost. Frozen meat patties, gourmet frozen vegetables (steamers), trail mix, and energy bars are a constant in my family’s diet.

    I was planning my grocery trip and thought I would check in to see what advice the blog offered for the trip. Now I will be crossing a few items off and making some alternative choices today. I’m still shocked at how many of the items listed I use almost daily! I agree with Kate too. Coffee creamer will be a very difficult item to stop using completely. However, a gentleman at my work said he lost a great amount of weight by eliminating coffee creamer from his diet.

    Thank you for bringing this type of information to our attention.

    • Personally, I eliminated coffee creamer (ugh, those delicious flavored ones) from my life two years ago, and I have noticed a significant loss of weight on my part. Your coworker is absolutely correct; plain black coffee is a lot healthier, especially considering if you are drinking more than one a day.

      I never noticed the label “cellulose” on any of my foods, though. That’s alarming; I’m going to have to pay close attention to that in the near future.

  • Mineral water bottles are expensive. I’d carry safe drinking water from produced through my home water filtration system. I keep a bottle of water in my car, so that I don’t have to buy it from outside and thus save money.

    I don’t eat packaged food, so no worries there.

  • There’s nothing wrong with indulging your taste for good,
    By avoiding adding these items to your grocery list, you can feed your family much more healthily, avoid wasting food and maximize your food budget.

  • I’ve always made my own soups and bread. I also cook every thing from scratch using my own recipes or ones that I changed my self because I thought it turned out better. with 16$ I can get 40 lb’s of potato’s with that I make hash browns ,french fry’s, mashed potato’s for samosa’s and potato bread and pancakes. on a plus note you can freeze all of it. that’s just potato’s as for spice mix’s and salad kits though’s are the biggest waste of money you can do. every thing in though’s mix’s and kits and be found online and made from scratch for less and in vastly bigger quantity. all you have to do is find a good farmers market or veg/fruit stand. you can always look in there almost over due or “junk buggy” were you can get things for as cheap as a 1$ some places you can find things like 5 lb’s of onions for a dollar or 2 and then you can par boil things like onion and garlic and ginger after you shred it and freeze them in to cubes and throw a couple of though’s in what ever your cooking. some times its not about health for some people just trying to make ends meet and all but if you can do it healthier and cheaper why wouldn’t you right ?

  • Good to know I avoid buying most of these items. Though I must admit, I’m kind of a sucker for certain $2 Bertolli pasta sauces, haha. In any case it’s often cheaper and healthier to make your own variants of many of these items, and/or avoid them altogether. Good resource here.

  • Protein bars do have very high fat, basically, the amount of fat in the bar is only going to affect the calorie content. But the difference between protein and candy bar is, that protein bars contain more protein (>20g) and less sugar. I do agree that fruits are good substitute to get that boost of energy, but it isn’t the same.

  • While I did have prior knowledge of some of these, namely the more obvious ones such as water bottles there were a few I actually didn’t know about.

    Some of these items are no-brainers, the water bottle one for example where a reusable water bottle and tap water can provide every positive aspect of a disposable water bottle without taking more time to prepare. What’s interesting to me is the suggestions like canned pasta sauce; where it really comes down to a question of savings or convenience/time. For example let’s say that making your own pasta sauce costs only $3 but takes 25 minutes to prepare, while buying a pre-made pasta sauce costs $6 but has 0 preparation time. This creates the question of whether the $3 savings is worth the added 25 minutes (mostly likely only 10-15 extra minutes of preparation as you would already be in the kitchen preparing the pasta itself). In the end it’s probably best to buy the tomatoes and make it yourself as you obviously save money but also learn a new and valuable skill.

    Anyways, interesting article! Taught me a few things that I didn’t know, which should prove helpful being a university student on a strict food budget.

  • I do still buy rice but my boyfriend doesn’t like brown so we eat rice. I didn’t realize how unhealthy it was. I mean I knew it wasn’t as good for you but yeesh… I never buy bottled water because we have perfect drinking water here. And I try to stay away from salad kits and make my own by scratch.

  • This is really good to know, given I buy quite a few of these items! This is a very interesting article, nice to know all these things (energy bars and trail mix especially!!) and I can’t start creating a better food budget for when I go off to university (so hopefully I won’t have to live off noodles for too long). Great article!!

  • I’m so thankful that you have told us what not to buy but how would we be able to avoid purchasing these items if we don’t have enough choices in our local food mart or the nearest convenient store? what I am saying is can you post other alternative foods or grocery items that we can buy to replace the harmful ones. just in-case that there are limited choices ?

  • One of the things that annoys me the most is when people buy bottled water for something like £1 or more a bottle, because it’s practically free out of the tap (and if you don’t have a water meter, it is all just included in your monthly bill anyway). Personally, I like drinking from a bottle, so I will buy a crate of cheap water from a wholesaler (it’s £4 for 35 bottles) and I will then reuse each of the bottles for a couple of days afterwards. So, my water costs me £4 for about 4 months, much better than shelling out such a huge amount for several individual bottles per day like a lot of people who I know choose to do.

  • I try to only buy bottles of water when I’m in need of a bottle. I’d then refill it and use it for the next few weeks. I never heard of that thing with the soup though. I’ve often had a small portion of soup for dinner and felt full for the rest of the night.

  • Those tips are really awesome since we do often buy things that are not supposed to be bought. Good thing here is that we will be able to save much for non-necessary expenditures due to buying of non essential stuff. It would help if we have good list of those needed stuff for our weekly needs at home. As for me, we often keep stocks of junk food which I agree is not really healthy but since we got used to it we still keep on buying them. I guess we should find ways to make better substitute for it.
    One things for sure those tips were really helpful, considering those added comments that will help us all understand it better.

  • Good ideas!! Some I’ve known of (spaghetti sauce & salad kit) while others, I either didn’t think about it or had no prior knowledge like the powdered juice mixes. I guess it’s more of a convenience thing. I just hate standing in the kitchen, it’s my least favorite place to be. I’m not sure why either because it use to be enjoyable. Anyway, thank you for the added knowledge.

  • Great article! I’m happy to see that I don’t buy most of these foods already, especially the trail mix part. Why buy prepackaged trail mix when you can just go to the bulk foods sections and get your own there? So much cheaper, and you can choose what goes in it. Also, though I find the gluten-free fad to be a bit annoying, I’m glad that our celiac afflicted friends have more variety in their diets.

  • I think that a lot of items that people buy that are pre-made are unnecessary since they are full of items that we are unsure of and they are expensive. I personally am guilty of buying white rice. This is something that has a lot to do with flavor even though I do know that the wheat rice is better for me.

  • Let me see. The number one thing that I need to get rid of is my penchant to keep buying energy drinks. I have two night shifts per week and I need the energy boost. Now that I think of it, I am starting to feel their side effects. I have to lessen or remove them entirely.

    Next is that I do need to learn how to cook more dishes since my current knowledge level is not enough and might cause me to over spend on already prepared food.

  • There is nothing like traditional home-cooking for a large family as ours. My husband and I support each other in saving money on better food, nutrition home-education and recreation. Of course, things get out of hand when money gets transferred to so-called “needs”– not in the grocery list.

    White rice is our man staple food. But with me and because of age, metabolism of high-carbs and starch isn’t as it used to be when I was young. So, I prepare high in protein traditional food preparations and combinations.

    Excellent advice! Practical and doable.

  • Thanks to the fact that I love cooking, I make most of the things on this list myself. There were a few surprises though, like the fact that cellulose is wood pulp! And most blueberry things don’t have blueberries, it does make sense and I love the real thing better anyway. It is actually horrible that the gluten free cookies are even more unhealthy than normal cookies. Thanks for this information.

  • The only things I do buy off that list are bottled carbonated water, white rice and ready-made pasta sauces. I don’t, however, only consume white rice, I have a variety of different types of rice that I use for different dishes, but plain old white rice is definitely best for a chilli. I have pasta-sauces as a standby in the pantry as I don’t always have time to make my own – but I do when I get the opportunity. And the bottled water? Well, I just like it!

  • Yea, I’m also an advocate for eating healthy. It’s so important now, with all the diseases in town. It’s better to watch what we put in our stomach. For me, the goal this year has been to go as natural as possible, when it comes to food. I’ve struggled with it but I’m gradually getting a hang of it. I’ve come to see it’s more about training our tongue to accept whatever taste we give it. And, the process is through repetition. Just keep giving the tongue the taste you want it to get adjusted to. Over time, it becomes second nature.

  • I do agree with most of these, especially bottled water, unless you live in an area with very poor quality water of course. The chemicals from the plastic in the bottle probably negate any benefit from drinking bottled water. I don’t agree with not buying multigrain bread as I can’t replace all my bread with rice or other whole grains. Rice doesn’t make very good toast!

    • I know, right? I definitely have a bottled water conflict, you are actually paying for the water that you can get almost for free if you were a tap water fan, I guess. Without mentioning that bottled water is more processed (and when it comes to me, that means less “natural”) than tap water, but as you’ve said, consuming tap water is not always the healthiest option. I live in México and it’s kind of scary to drink tap water here, a lot of people are being slowly damaged for that, so, what we do here is going to a little center that is in every neighborhood, to get purified water, it’s less expensiver than bottled water and it feels safer than tap water, so I guess that I’m in the middle point.

  • I agree with this post completely, most of this stuff is actually things that we don’t really need and as you’ve said, actually some of them we can make it by ourselves, on that way, it will be less expensive, and more healthy and reliable, in my opinion. I especially agree with you with the coffee creamer, about two months ago, my dad bought an unnecessarily big coffee creamer package, he said that it was necessary since he’s a big fan of coffee creamers, but I think that he just used it twice, it was a waste of money!

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