Top 7 Grocery Store Rip-offs

Stop whining about the cost of groceries

In 1960 American households spent almost 18% of their total income on food.  Now American households spend  less than 10% on average on food even though we eat out more than ever before.  Furthermore, Americans currently spend a smaller percentage of household income on groceries than any other nation.  When it comes to food prices, Americans today have less to complain about than any other nation in history.  Every time you leave a grocery store, you are literally getting the deal of the century.

Per capita disposable income spent on food in the U.S., 1960-2013

Grocery budgets are easy to modify

With these facts in mind, it seems obscene to think about “grocery store rip-offs.”  It makes more sense to think about how our food industry is negatively impacting our health and our world.  However, some expenses at the grocery store are simply unnecessary.  In fact, the money you save on these rip-offs might enable you to shop more responsibly.  Unlike home insurance, your kid’s braces, or the vig you owe your bookie, your grocery budget can be lowered simply by your desire to do so.

Top 7 grocery store rip-offs

#7) Frozen potato products

Do not by frozen french fries, home fries, or hash-browns. Buy a big, cheap sack of potatoes instead.  Processed potato products are more expensive, full of objectionable ingredients (palm oil, trans fats, excessive salt, etc…), and require wasteful refrigeration.  Making a big tray of baked fries or grating some potatoes for hash browns is not that big a deal.

TIPS: I like to spiralize potatoes and bake them on a rack with a bit of olive oil spray and seasoning.  Never store potatoes in a plastic bag; the trapped moisture will ruin them.

#6) Bottled water

Bottled water is a waste of money with an incredible environmental impact.  If you are destroying the Earth so that you can drink water from Fiji’s pristine rain forests, please take a moment to slap yourself as hard as you can. If you have a legitimate concern about the quality of the water from your well or municipality, purify the water yourself and stop worrying.

#5) Beef

Beef is (comparatively) expensive.  It also has the highest environmental impact of any major food source.  It should be expensive.  It should be more expensive.  I love a big steak, but this should be a rare (literally in my opinion) treat.  Start reducing your beef consumption by eating more fish, vegetarian options, etc…


TIPS: Switch the beef out of your tacos, burritos, meatloaf, stuffed peppers, etc… These types of meals are very tasty with a substitution.  Learn to cook fish well; your heart will thank you.

#4) Quick rice

Minute rice, ten-minute rice, parboiled rice, and frozen rice are all unnecessary.  Is it really that hard to boil rice?  Think of all that wasted packaging. Buy a big, cheap sack of rice and stop being in such a damned hurry.

#3) Pre-seasoned entrees

More and more grocery stores are selling pre-seasoned entrees like fish or pork chops.  You are paying the store to repackage the entree, sprinkle on some paprika or whatever, and slap on a sticker with instructions.  Don’t do it.  Believe in yourself; you can sprinkle your own paprika.

TIP: Have a well-stocked spice rack; it will pay off.

#2) Paying the full price for shelf-stable items

Not everyone has the space to store shelf-stable items, but if you have a bit of space to spare, you should have a “stash.”  You do not need to be an extreme couponer to benefit from a stocked pantry.  If you know that you use a canned item that is on sale, why not buy five?  It is also amazing how many times the “stash” can bail you out when you have no idea what to make for dinner.

TIP: Check the unit price on the shelf ticket.  Larger sizes are usually a better deal and reduce the packaging waste.

#1) Hummus

hummus price

Your bookie’s goons visit you more often than your mother.  The bank has repossessed your ’83 Cimarron.  You are selling your blood plasma and volunteering for medical experiments.  You bought your son a do-it-yourself braces kit. And all because you were too lazy to make your own hummus?!  Get some chick peas, tahini, olive oil, and seasonings and take back your life.

TIP: An immersion blender makes this quick and easy.

The cost of laziness

The amount of money you spend on food is easily adjusted.  For all of the items on this list, you are trading money for convenience (or supposed convenience). You can reduce your costs without suffering or feeling deprived.  In fact, in most cases you will be eating healthier and tastier food.

Related post: Money-saving Grocery List

How have you cut your grocery costs?

What is the biggest grocery store rip-off in your view?


4 thoughts

  1. I love shopping in the bulk section- I can buy only exactly the quantity I want, and use re-usable containers!

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