Make a list and stick to it. That's one of the best ways to be kind to a budget at the grocery store. You avoid impulse purchases because of hunger or tempting specialty items.
But even the most prudent listmaker might not be protected from paying too much at the grocery store.
That's because manufacturers know which favorite products can fetch higher prices -- and they don't shy away from marking them up tremendously.
To keep from paying more than you have to next time you’re shopping, think twice about tossing any of these five most marked-up items into your cart.
Bottled Water: 4,000% Average Markup
Gulp! Sure, it's handy, but the manufacturing costs of producing plastic for the convenient containers make bottled water one of the worst values at the supermarket, said Jackie Warrick, president and chief savings.
You can save big bucks by investing in a filter for your home faucet (most are under $100) or a pitcher that filters water for around $30 -- as well as a reusable plastic water bottle. That way, you can have all the bottled-tasting H2O you can guzzle without your hard-earned cash going down the drain. (Also handy: Wash out wide-mouthed sports drink bottles, fill up with ice and add a little water. Within an hour, you'll have cold water on a hot summer day for the kids.)
Name-Brand Spices: 100% Markup
They're given a lot of real estate on the shelves and even have their own television commercials. But: 'Essentially, you're paying for the brand name and nothing else,' Warrick said. The flavor and potency of name-brand spices are the same as generic ones.
Save some cash and skip buying name-brand spices. Instead, pluck the generic store brands from the shelf. Or look to the bulk foods section for spices you use often, such as cinnamon, dried parsley, etc. If a recipe calls for a spice you don't use regularly, you can buy exactly the amount you need in the bulk section -- that way, you won't waste money or ingredients. Better yet, get your garden going -- or at least a few pots inside in your home -- to have access to your favorite fresh herbs.
Household Specialty Items: Up To 60% Markup
You might think it's easier to pick up light bulbs, school supplies or duct tape at the grocery store instead of making an extra stop at another store. But you're going to pay a hefty price for that convenience because items that aren't food and drinks are costly at the grocery store.
Household items at grocery stores are marked up as much as 60% more than their price at office supply, home improvement and other similar specialty stores.
'You have to weigh the pros and cons of saving money by going to another store or the convenience factor of being able to pick it up in one spot,' Warrick said.
Name-Brand Cereal: 44% Average Markup
Notoriously one of the most expensive items at the grocery store in relation to its true value, name-brand cereal can really hit your wallet. To keep breakfast from busting your budget, look for coupons. And to save even more, skip the boxed, expensive brands and buy those generic store-brand bags to save a bundle.
Precut Produce: 40% Markup
It's tempting to try to shave a few minutes of meal prep by purchasing precut produce -- especially when you're making soups, stews or other foods that require plenty of veggies. But Warrick said this time-saver is way overpriced. So unless you have no other option -- for example, your mate just sprang the news on you that you're hosting dinner for the boss in less than an hour -- grab your cutting board and knife and get chopping.
The Investing Answer: Remember that just because your grocery store slashes prices on giant bottles of ketchup or 10 pounds of potatoes doesn't mean it's a bargain. If you don't need -- or think you can use -- a jumbo-sized item, skip it. Super-sized items that are lower priced are not the cheaper choice if you wind up throwing money away because you toss half or more of the unused item.
And to make sure you're paying the best price, scan the shelf labels for the price per unit (usually written in cents per ounce, etc.). Sometimes the least likely size -- the medium one -- can be the best deal.