30 Things You Never Buy at the Grocery Store—But Should

It’s winter, time to hibernate and stock up on essentials. Keep your pantry full of goodness—and your home shipshape—with this list of 30 high-quality budget products for home and kitchen. Next time you go shopping, don’t strain your bank account. Instead, stick to this list of healthy, inexpensive solutions.

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Dried Beans

If you’re one of the many home cooks who prefer canned beans, it may be time to reconsider your purchasing habits. Canned beans often have additives like salt and calcium disodium EDTA, making them less healthful than their dried counterparts. Not only that, canned products are usually more expensive than the dried versions.

Related: 14 Pantry Goods That Basically Never Expire

Whole Produce

Time-saving products, including packaged produce, are more expensive. Buy seasonal whole fruits and veggies, especially bulk bags of apples, oranges, grapefruit, onions, and potatoes, to maximize your savings. Get even more for your money by simmering your vegetable peels and trimmings with herbs and water for an hour or so to make a rich broth for use in soups or risotto. 

Related: How To: Grow Fresh Produce from Your Leftover Groceries

Whole Chickens

Follow’s easy guide to buying whole chickens to cut costs and increase your culinary options. Be aware that cheaper poultry may be raised on less humane farms than organic or free-range options. If that’s a concern, consider visiting your local farmers market and asking vendors about their cheapest cuts.

Related: 11 Home Hacks You Can Do with a Bag of Groceries

Local Fish

According to Cooking Light’s guide to buying fish, “When local fish are abundant, the price goes down and the quality goes up.” If you can’t get local fish, try for American- or Canadian-caught. Avoid seafood from China or Southeast Asia because of regulatory concerns.

Related: 15 Things Never to Put in the Fridge

Bulk Oatmeal

If you’re buying boxed cereal or single-serve packets of microwavable oatmeal, give bulk oatmeal another look. Not only is raw oatmeal healthier and longer lasting than refined cereals, it is also cheaper and has a greater variety of uses. Add it to meatloaf in place of breadcrumbs, use it to soak up an oil spill in the kitchen or garage, or simply cook it and drizzle it with maple syrup for a satisfying breakfast.

Related: 10 Best-Bet Kitchen Buys from Ikea

Potted Herbs

Cut and packaged herbs are expensive, especially when you consider that much of the bunch will probably go to waste before you can use it. Instead, scan the produce section for potted herbs that are easy to grow and maintain, especially basil and mint. Avoid buying herbs potted in overly dry soil or with very thick roots, which are stress indicators.

Related: 12 Easy Herbs to Grow on Your Windowsill

Apple Cider Vinegar

This all-star vinegar can be used for dietary purposes as well as house cleaning. If you intend to use apple cider vinegar in salad dressings or drinks, choose a brand that contains “the mother”—which means it’s raw and unpasteurized, with live and active cultures.

Related: 10 Kitchen Favorites That Last a Lifetime

White Vinegar

White vinegar can be mixed with water, lemon juice, and essential oils for a cheap and effective surface and glass cleaner. For the biggest bang for your buck, select a generic store brand.

Related: 10 Unusual Tips for Your Cleanest Kitchen Ever

Coffee Filters

Even if you’ve switched to a Keurig machine or you don’t even drink the stuff, you may want to add coffee filters to your shopping list. There are many things you can do with a coffee filter, from cleaning windows to fashioning your own tea bags. 

Related: 13 Clever Alternative Ways to Use Coffee Filters

Clearance Candy

Before you know it, it’ll be Halloween again. Stock up on holiday favorites that have a long shelf life like lollipops and Tootsie Rolls. Avoid chocolate or anything that might melt or go rancid.

Related: 11 Things Never to Buy from the Dollar Store

Castile Soap

Why buy a separate specialty cleanser for every surface in your home when an all-purpose soap can clean almost everything? Save money by switching to a product like pure Castile soap in bar or liquid form. It can be used to wash anything from dishes and laundry to your own hands and body, if it’s properly diluted.

Related: 12 Secret Uses for Dr. Bronner’s Soap

Generic Salt

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Sea salt and table salt have the same basic nutritional value, despite the fact that sea salt is often promoted as being healthier.” So it’s fine to choose regular Morton salt or even a generic brand.

Related: 9 Unexpected Household Uses for Table Salt


One of the less common spices in the average American’s pantry, turmeric is also one of the most versatile. In addition to its culinary uses, turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries.

Related: 13 Unusual Ways to Use What’s in Your Spice Rack

Bounty Paper Towels

There’s no contest: Bounty paper towels are consistently rated highest by Consumer Reports. Buy a family pack and keep a roll in the car for emergencies.

Related: 10 Things You Never Thought to Keep in Your Car

Freezable Sale Items

Fresh blueberries are just 90 cents per container? Stock up, then freeze what you don’t immediately use. Lots of products are freezable, including dairy, baked goods, and meat.

Related: 10 Unexpected Things to Put in Your Freezer—And Why

Popcorn Kernels

Skip the microwave popcorn with its questionable preservatives, and pass on the expensive, buttery bags of the pre-popped stuff. Instead, buy a big bag of popcorn kernels. Then, for your next movie night, put a pot on the stove, add a little high-heat oil, and pop your own. It’s cheaper, more satisfying, and a lot more fun. 

Related: 13 Things Never to Put in the Microwave

Organic Eggs

Should you buy eggs or egg whites? According to Prevention magazine’s side-by-side comparison, whole eggs win. What about organic vs. conventional? Prevention’s take on it is that organic eggs are the safer bet.

Related: 12 Kitchen Gadgets People Always Regret Buying

Bar Keepers Friend

In the world of cleaning products, Bar Keepers Friend, a powder made of oxalic acid, is a cheap, nontoxic, all-around winner that’s great for scrubbing pots, sinks, bathtubs, and toilets to shining perfection. An equally versatile alternative is Bon Ami, which is slightly less abrasive.

Related: 10 Things Always to Keep Near Your Kitchen Sink

Parchment Paper

If you love to bake but hate scrubbing cookie sheets, it’s time to try parchment paper. Lay a sheet over your cooking surface to make your life easier by cutting down on cleanup after baking.

Related: 7 Tips for Quick and Easy Cleanup After Dinner


An unlikely household hero, these little wooden sticks are good for more than just cleaning teeth. They’re great for scraping dirt out of crevices, and if you keep a pack around the house you can make sure you never again lose the end of a roll of tape

Related: 13 Totally New Uses for Toothpicks

Trimmed Steak

Don’t pay for what you won’t eat. Ask the grocery store butchers to trim your steak of excess fat before they weigh it.

Related: Cheap Thrills: 15 Favorite Amazon Buys for Under $5

Plain Yogurt

Skip the flavored options, and stick with wholesome plain yogurt. If you don’t like the tangy taste, sweeten it with honey, maple, or fresh fruit to boost flavor without the added sugar. You can also use yogurt for cooking, beauty treatments, and household tasks, including polishing your brass.

Related: 10 Gadgets for Every Lazy Cook’s Kitchen

Witch Hazel

Searching for an ideal and low-budget skin care solution? Try witch hazel—and find a product without alcohol, such as Thayers, which offers scented and unscented options.

Related: 12 Unexpected Uses for a Regular Bar of Soap


Make your own laundry detergent, liquid drain cleaner, and rust remover with borax, a mineral cleaning agent that dissolves easily in water.

Related: The 10 Best Things You Can Buy for Your Laundry Room (for Under $50)

Aloe Gel

Keep your first aid kit stocked with aloe gel, which soothes burns, rashes, and other skin-related complaints. Choose a product that is at least 95 percent pure aloe, with few additives.

Related: Prep for Disaster: 10 Things You’ll Need in a Home Emergency

Brown Rice

You’ve probably heard that it’s healthier than white rice, but if you still haven’t made the switch to buying bulk brown rice, it might be worth another look. If you want to make your rice dishes more nutritional but don’t like the taste of brown rice, try red rice or black rice instead.

Related: 12 Things to Do with Rice—Besides Eat It

Loose-Leaf Tea

If you’re a tea drinker, the most cost-effective decision you can make is to stop buying tea in individual bags and start buying loose-leaf tea. Available in many varieties, loose-leaf tea has a stronger flavor and costs less per cup. 

Related: 10 Surprising Things You Can Do with Used Tea Bags

Tomato Paste

Do you have a ketchup addict in the house? If ketchup is your family’s go-to condiment at mealtimes, you could save on grocery bills by skipping the brand-name products and making your own from a combination of tomato paste, vinegar, and spices. And if you make a double batch, know that you can use some of that ketchup to clean your copper and silverware.

Related: 15 Brilliant Hacks for a Cleaner Home in 2018

Organic Honey

You may pay slightly more for organic honey, but it’s worth it to avoid health risks and support sustainable beekeeping. Organic honey is not the same thing as raw honey, so be sure to read the label closely.

Related: 10 Flowers That Attract Bees to Your Garden

"Green" Toilet Paper

Consumer Reports estimates that “the average American uses nearly 21,000 sheets of toilet paper a year—roughly the length of 23 football fields.” Help out Mother Earth by choosing an eco-friendly option like Caboo or Scott Tube Free.

Related: 10 Things Never to Flush Down the Toilet

Add It To The List

If you haven’t been buying these items, you’ll definitely want to add them to your shopping list! These staples should be stocked in every kitchen.