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See I told you, this would help!

Coupon Abbreviations
  • SC = Store Coupon
  • MC = Manufacturer Coupon
  • SS = Smart Source
  • RP = Red Plum
  • PG = Proctor and Gamble
Coupon Terms
  • WYB = When You Buy
  • B1G1 = Buy One Get One Free
  • .75/1 = 75 cents off one item
  • .75/3 = 75 cents off three items
  • EXP = Expiration Date

Going Nuts? I can help you understand coupon terms and abbreviations

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On Southern Savers the goal is to save at least 40% on your grocery bill. There are some overpriced items though that will thwart that plan as soon as they hit your shopping cart. They are hiding on grocery store shelves disguised by convenience and instant gratification, but these high markups can be avoided by a little math and planning ahead.

Note: It is by no means wrong to buy these things. I have bought these items and items like them before. We all have moments when we need something right then. I just want to present some alternative options to buying marked-up products and show just how much more you are paying.

Here are the Top 10 items every coupon shopper should avoid.

#1 Hard Boiled Eggs

Eggs are cheap. The humble egg is probably the most versatile ingredient in your refrigerator. You can make cakes, omelettes, mayonnaise, meringue, and ice cream– or you can just boil them. Boiled eggs are cheap and filling, but boiling water and peeling the egg shells can be a little bit frustrating. Somebody at Almark Foods recognized this frustration and the profit that could be made from it. Remarkably, people seem to be willing to buy two eggs for $1.29. That’s an incredibly high $7.74 per dozen!

The solution? Boil some eggs ahead of time. You can even keep them with the shells on in an egg carton, or pre-peeled in a plastic bag. If you have trouble getting the shell off without peeling off most of the egg, just boil the eggs in water with a few shakes of baking soda.

#2 Spice Blends

Alton Brown in his cookbook, “I’m Just Here For the Food”, on spice blends:

“I recently just bought a jar of spice mix. The jar in question bore a bright, shiny, full-color photo of a smiling celebrity chef. The back label… listed six ingredients, the first of which was salt. I bought one jar of the chef’s mix as well as new containers of each of the spices listed in the ingredient roster. Once home, it took me about half an hour to replicate the mix. Using a pharmacy scale, I then calculated the amounts of each spice I used and the approximate cost. Now I know why the chef is smiling.”

He goes on to report the result of his calculations: a 500% markup!

Buying a jar of spice blend is the least obvious way to waste of money on this list. It just doesn’t seem to be too expensive at first glance. Also, people tend to think that spice blends, especially those branded with celebrity chefs, are expertly portioned and require skill and experience that they don’t have. This just isn’t true.

 Making your own spice blend isn’t difficult at all.  We’ve posted about spice blends before, but some things bear repeating. The first (and therefore most abundant) ingredient on almost all of the spice blends that I inspected was salt. Salt is incredibly cheap. Adding salt to a commercial spice blend is kind of like “watering down” a drink, and as we have mentioned before, having salt in a spice blend makes it difficult to season food properly. Salt and spices should be added to food separately because they have two different culinary functions.

The best way around buying spice blends is to invest in stocking up on spices for your cabinet. That way you can save money, control the salt and ingredients that go into your food, and experiment with your own spice blends.

#3 Pre-Sliced and Pre-Diced Produce

If you buy this, you are paying quite a price for the convenience of not having to dirty your cutting board. The “tomato trinity” mix, which is a mix of diced onions, tomatoes, and green peppers, is $2.99 for one 8 oz package! That’s $6/lb for tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. I understand paying extra for convenience, but $6/lb for those ingredients is incredibly high.

I also saw a 6 oz package of sliced mangos for $3.99. That’s over $10/lb… for mangos! I don’t think that the convenience of not having to slice mangos is worth that kind of a markup, but it’s hard to know what you are truly paying without doing the math.

#4 Slices of Cake

The word temptation is perennially associated with dessert, and it comes to my mind when I think of seeing the slices of cake in the bakery of the grocery store. It’s only a couple of dollars, and just one slice isn’t going to hurt me. But math just had to ruin it for me.

One 3 oz slice of cake is $2.50. That’s $12.50/lb for cake!  So please avoid the temptation of putting this in your shopping cart the next time you’re passing by the bakery section. If you must have cake, just buy the whole cake for what comes out to be about 4 times cheaper. If you don’t have a big family and you aren’t planning a party any time soon (or if you just don’t want to share), just take a slice for dessert tonight and freeze the rest. Even if your waist line doesn’t thank you, your wallet will.

#5 Pre-Seasoned Meat and Fish

There are a few reasons to avoid buying pre-seasoned meat in the grocery store. The most important reason is the mark-up. The worst offender that I saw was this package of ribs. It was a normal-sized rack of ribs weighing in at just over two pounds for $17.99. That’s $7.70 per pound. That may not seem like too much for ribs, but I saw the same cut of meat in the store’s meat department for $3.99 per pound.

In the Publix Ad recently, Tilapia was on sale. You could get plain Tilapia for $5.99/lb or cajun Tilapia for $6.99/lb. Personally, I’d rather shake on my own cajun seasoning and save $1/lb.

Season your own meat, and save money. Sometimes pre-prepared meat does go on sale with a coupon from time to time. When that happens, you can do the math to see which is cheaper. In general though, it is cheaper (and often healthier) to season it yourself.

#6 Whipped butter

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You can make whipped butter at home. The easy way is to cut up a stick of butter into chunks, put the chunks into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, and whip it (whip it good!) until the butter is at the desired consistency.

The more difficult but still relatively easy way is to cut a stick of butter into chunks, let it come to room temperature to soften, and use a bowl and whisk to whip to desired consistency.

You can also add herbs, chopped garlic, lemon juice and/or zest, or any other flavors to your homemade whipped butter. Store in a Tupperware or used store bought whipped butter container.

If you buy butter already whipped, you’re paying nearly double. At my Publix, store brand whipped butter was $2.39 for an 8 oz tub. That’s the same amount of butter as two sticks. I can get 4 sticks of butter on sale for $2.50.

The package is big, but by definition whipped butter contains more air per unit of volume than a stick of butter.

#7 Kabobs

Avoid buying these pre-made kabobs that appear in grocery stores in the summer time. You’re paying by the pound, which includes the weight of the skewer (which, I admit, is negligible but still worth noting) and the vegetables. You are also paying for the labor of making the kabobs. Buying the ingredients separately, cutting them, and skewering them yourself saves a considerable amount of money. Kids love to help make kabobs!

I think that it’s also (while there is some debate about this) better to skewer each ingredient on its own skewer. I think that putting everything on one skewer means that you will have to overcook one thing to avoid undercooking another thing. Although, some people don’t mind charred veggies, so it’s your call.

#8 Cold Soft Drinks At The Checkout Line

This probably isn’t an observation that you haven’t made yourself. Grocery stores keep their single-serving bottles of soda in refrigerators by the checkout area for immediate consumption. The price is much higher per ounce than the room temperature bottles on the soda aisle.

The solution? Plan ahead. Refrigerate the cheaper bottles yourself.

#9 Packaged Herbs and Herb Paste

I admit that I’ve bought these pouches of fresh herbs before, but knowing how easy it is to grow your own herbs makes it difficult to pay $1.99 for a handful. I know, sometimes you have a recipe that you want to try, but you have no other way to access fresh tarragon. At least by buying the fresh herbs you are getting a better deal than the herb paste.

The pastes are a worse waste of money than the fresh herb pouches.

You can make your own pastes with herbs, spices, and oil in a food processor. You can grow your own herbs, find friends who grow herbs (they will have extra for you if their plants are mature), or go find herbs out in public places. Seriously, there is tons of parsley, oregano, and rosemary growing in a park near my house. You can find rosemary bushes in a lot of public places.

#10 Frozen Wings

Frozen chicken wings are usually marked up pretty high. They come pre-seasoned, sometimes precooked, and often leave something to be desired in quality. I saw a 1.75 lb bag of seasoned wings for $8.99 in the frozen section of Publix. In my experience, these precooked wings taste a little bit funny, and usually have the texture of baked chicken instead of the crispy texture of restaurant-quality wings.

Buying raw wings on sale and cooking them yourself is the way to go. You can control the ingredients that go into your seasoning/sauce, you can make a superior product, and you can save money. Wait until they go on sale and stock up! Because of their size, you can cook them right out of the freezer without defrosting.

Like other pre-seasoned meats, with a sale and coupon you may be able to get them for less than the price of raw. This is rare, so if you love precooked chicken wings, stock up when that happens. Chicken wings go on sale for $1.99/lb or less, which is hard to beat.

Conclusion

Remember, it is not wrong to buy these items. I know that as a busy mom sometimes it makes my day to buy my mangos pre-sliced, but you are paying more. In general, convenience has a steep price tag, so plan ahead when you can and try to forget about this post when you can’t.

What are some overpriced items you have seen in the store?

    • Joss

      Love it! I’m totally with you on the mangos!!!

    • Udi

      So good!!!

    • stacey

      “whip it, whip it real good” made me laugh :)

    • Andrea Jo

      #1 made me smack my forehead! Recently on a family trip I went to the grocery store with my husband’s aunt who is always admiring my coupon skill. She was going to buy sliced pineapple in the produce section for $4. I stopped her and took her to the can goods and we got a can for under $2.

      • Debbie

        On the other hand, if you want fresh pineapple, canned just won’t do. Although the price is so high, I usually forgo the fresh.

      • Marikb

        Canned pineapple tastes nothing like fresh pineapple, so there is a significant difference in product there. It would be much more fair to compare the price of sliced fresh pineapple to the price of a whole uncut pineapple…

      • Toni

        The canning process destroys the enzymes in the pineapple, so IF you want to experience the anti-inflammatory properties of the enzyme bromelain, you want to buy the pineapple fresh.

      • Andrea Jo

        Well when our husbands just wanted it to throw on the grill to see how it tasted on a hamburger its not worth it go buy a whole one and cut it up or spend $4 on half a dozen slices.

      • Andrea Jo

        Well when our husbands just wanted it to throw on the grill to see how it tasted on a hamburger its not worth it go buy a whole one and cut it up or spend $4 on half a dozen slices.

    • bonita sonorense

      I agree in all of them.. :)

    • Guest

      I agree in all observations :)

    • Noelia Kline

      Did you mean $7.74/dozen eggs since they come with 2 per package. ;)
      PS. Thank you for putting this site together. You have helped me save soooo much money, we’re able to use the extra to finally go on a family trip. :)

    • mlw1ofakind

      Smuckers pb&j “uncrustables”. I cringe everytime I come home and my husband has purchased these for the kids. If they want a cold pb&j, I’ll make it and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes!

    • Karen

      thanks for all you do! BUT I save so much money on some of these items and buy them on sale when you help…. ;)

    • April Stroud Roberts

      Oh my gosh, it drives me INSANE when my husband buys sodas at the checkout for him and our daughter. I have to remind myself that it’s not all about my couponing all the time. :) LOL

    • Lana

      Bagged salads are another thing to avoid as far as I am concerned. They are expensive and taste terrible!

    • Amie

      I so agree. A while ago I was working hard to eliminate unnecessary items from my shopping list so that we could be on budget. My husband loves his soda and was still getting a 12 pack of soda per week and a few 2 liter bottles so he could have his 2 sodas per day, only to find out that it wasn’t enough for him and he was paying for an extra soda per day out of the vending machine. I asked him why he didn’t just ask me to pick up one more 12 pack for $2-3 rather than spending $1.50-$2 per day. When I take my kids with me to run errands, we bring a snack and a drink. I figure it is a waste of my time to clip coupons and shop around only to blow all those savings on check out drinks and snacks.

    • Tammy Goggins

      Any fresh produce that is peeled, sliced, chunked, diced, etc. I cringe every time I see one of these packages in someone’s cart! LOL!

      Don’t forget all the pre-prepped items in the meat/seafood market like meatloaf, stuffed flank steak (you know, those pretty spirals), all kinds of stuffed fish, meatballs, and the like.

    • Kathy

      While I agree about the cake, I have bought this type of thing at Publix before because I really just wanted ONE slice. It was just a ‘cake’ kinda day and I didn’t want to make a whole one or put it in my freezer. If it’s in my freezer, I’ll be more tempted to eat it more often! :) One slice cures my occasional craving and I’m done! :) Great list!

      • JenJenJen

        I agree with your sentiments on the cake slice issue! I happen to live in an area where the cake prices are pretty high at Publix. So it is not common to see and 8″ round cake priced at $16.99 or even $17.99. In some cases of real temptation I would rather spend the $2.49 for a slice instead of $18 for the whole thing and then either be tempted to eat more or then have to freeze it (which I have done before and does not quite taste as good to me anyways)!

      • Jenni P.

        I can’t agree with this one from Jenny. The idea of buying an entire cake, when all I may need to fill a craving is one slice, just to freeze the rest and probably destroy it’s texture in the process, making the rest of the cake taste dried out, that would be an ever greater loss of money. I’ve had frozen cake, and I would never do that to a Publix cake (the only kind I ever buy already made). I almost always make our own cakes, and when I finally buy a single slice of a cake, it’s usually because it has ganache or some other non-easy-to-replicate ingredient in it. (And now I REALLY want some Chocolate Ganache Supreme cake… *drool*)

        • Radiogalz

          Ooooo! Ganache is really easy to do! Two ingredients…cream and bittersweet chocolate. Double boiler melted together and whisked. So easy and no artificial ingredients or stabilizers!

      • amyfurlong

        I don’t buy the whole cake because I would eat the WHOLE cake! I don’t have room in my freezer for something that size and don’t want to freeze a cake anyway. To me, buying a slice (which I’ve only done a few times) is a way of satisfying a craving without totally going on a eating binge. Man, I really love cake!

    • april

      It’s amazing how much you can save when you cut out the middle man’s work and do it yourself. As for the cake, I wouldn’t buy one slice either, I would bake a cake if I really really crave it and then take it to work so everyone could enjoy and you still get your one slice!

    • Claire

      Add popcorn to the list. A $3 bag of popcorn only weighs 7 oz. That’s 50 per oz as opposed to $1 for a 16 oz unpopped bag of popcorn kernels. Just add kernels to a large, covered bowl and heat for 10 minutes in the microwave.

    • mrs b

      The only way I can justify some prepackaged items is this way–a lot of jobs I have worked have been located near supermarkets. I usually packed a lunch from home, but sometimes you just want to grab something different. A yogurt and some sliced fruit (for the jobs I worked where we didn’t have a kitchen and you knew there wasn’t a surface you would want to cut fruit on), or other convenience foods still came out cheaper than getting fast food.

      I could easily do lunch and have a snack for later for less than $5, when coworkers were spending $10+ for supersized or delivered food. The single slice of cake? I’ve been guilty of that…but my husband and I have also each gotten a slice of two different kinds and split them as a lunch date treat (especially at that one market whose nickname is “____ paycheck”–chantilly cake..mmmmmm)

    • Meghan Lacock

      Sometimes I buy a herb plant in the produce section, which is usually $3 and just snip off what I need, keeping the rest alive until another use. This works really well for the softer herbs that don’t grow well in my summer garden, like parsley and Cilantro. I seem to only need them in their off season!

    • amyfurlong

      the easiest way to get whipped butter, with a small one time investment, is to use a butter crock. I bought one on eBay for $7. Leave a stick of butter out for a few hour then press it into the butter crock with a spoon. Soft, spreadable butter whenever you need it.

    • Rande Hagen Laux-Thorman

      Tarragon is one of those herbs that just doesn’t hold well to the southern humidity and heat. If you want fresh tarragon in the south and want to grow it yourself, a local nursery told me to switch to Mexican or Texas Tarragon. Marjoram is winter sensitive. I haven’t bought a spice blend, or a taco seasoning package in YEARS. I followed the local owner of a Mexican restaurant around Sam’s club one day. Knowing who he was because we went to the restaurant often. I watched what he picked up in the spice section of the store. It took me a few trials and errors but I got the mix down perfect. One year for Thanksgiving at a pot luck dinner, because a lot of our husbands were deployment, someone wanted honey butter for the rolls. I said give me a few days and I’ll come up with something vs buying the Country Crock blend. I did and it was a hit. Now every year my husband has me make a garlic n herb blend and a honey blend for the holidays. I don’t think I could ever buy a ‘meat mix’ pre packaged knowing I could cut up a roast or steak and make my own. I’ve never bought the pre seasoned meats, I guess I like my own blends better? Or a different bbq sauce, I don’t know. And the cost just floors me. I’m very guilty of the end cap sodas and drinks. If I forget to grab a drink and we’re out for a few hrs I have picked them up or bought a 6 pack of bottles. If I brought home premade wings I think my husband would die. He will always throw out there ‘you have how many cookbooks and know how many websites?’, on top of the fact he cant stand them, reminds him of navy food.

    • Jennifer

      Speaking of spice blends, I make my own seasoning salt and meat seasonings. I make them in large batches and save them in large shakable containers. They last forever. The salt only costs about $2.50 for 2-2/3 cups of seasoning. I break down the prices of all the meals I make/post to my blog so others can see how much they will spend making these meals and then compare, if possible, to how much it would cost to just buy it ready made at the store.

    • CharityKlein

      Individually wrapped baked potatoes and snack size bags of chips.

    • Rebekah Looney

      I hate the chips and pop at the checkout but, for me my husband has Altzimers and sees these so instead of buying alot of stuff we dont need, and then he sees them at home and doesnt want to eat the good meal I fix; I will pick these up so they can be gone by our trip home. We only go to the store a couple of times a month.

    • Stephanie Wells

      If your forced to shop Kroger as I am sometimes,it doesn’t matter.They never have good sales and my bill is usually over 200dollars.

      • holly

        Stephanie, if you are on Facebook find Kroger Krazy….Kroger is where i do MOST of my shopping because of the Sales/ combined couponing, i save over $2,000 a year there!!!!! Definitely follow that page it will show you how!!! :)

      • Sherri

        Kroger made me so mad when they stopped doubling coupons in our area. And they tried to justify it by saying that they lowered the prices…ha! I can still find the same items cheaper at Publix by doing my couponing there. For anything else, I go to Aldi. Love that place!

    • Leah

      There are times I actually save on pre-cut produce and kabobs or stirfry cut meat. My store marks them down (because they don’t sell fast enough and tend to expire quicker). So if I see them marked 50% off it is usually a good buy for me if I can cook it that day. But I never buy them at the full price!