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8 Groceries You Shouldn’t Buy When You’re Broke

Tran Van Quyet / Getty Images/iStockphoto
Tran Van Quyet / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Going grocery shopping on a tight budget? There are certain types of food items you should steer clear from buying when you're broke.

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Some groceries may seem like a bargain or have a low enough price to warrant adding to your cart. However, not all of these items are the deals they appear to be. In some cases, buying certain groceries and failing to use them up in a timely manner can lead to food waste even if you didn't intend for this to happen.

The next time you head to the grocery store a little short on cash, stick to a careful list excluding the following items. These are the groceries you shouldn't buy when you're broke.

AMR Image / Getty Images
AMR Image / Getty Images

Fresh Produce

Unless you will use these items every day, author of "Buyer-ology" Karen Green recommends avoiding buying fresh produce when you're broke.

The better recommendation is to purchase frozen produce like broccoli and carrots. Green said you can store frozen produce in the freezer and use it as you go rather than wasting it, and it's usually a more cost-effective option.

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Specifically, Fresh Tomatoes

If you want tomatoes included in something you're making or eating, Green recommends buying canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes.

"They are cheaper and better for you as the lycopene is more readily available," said Green.


Brand Name Products

Organic chef and certified nutrition and wellness counselor (CNWC) Melissa Eboli recommends any grocery shoppers on a tight budget forgo widely known brands. Instead, stick to generic store brand names.

Paying for brand names, Eboli said, means shoppers tend to pay a premium since they're paying for the marketing and branding of said name. Savvy grocery shoppers who skip brand names may see if their supermarket offers its own brand name of organic products. This allows you to shop in a cost-effective manner while still enjoying quality ingredients.

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Sheila Fitzgerald /
Sheila Fitzgerald /


While snacks may seem inexpensive, Eboli recommends limiting your purchases and sticking with basic and essential foods (i.e. necessities like milk, bread, eggs, meat, pasta and rice).

If you have a bit of leftover cash at the end of your shopping trip, you might consider putting it toward a snack or two. Eboli recommends factoring this purchase in last as you continue looking for deals and bargains on all your favorite foods.

SDI Productions / Getty Images
SDI Productions / Getty Images

Convenience Foods

Many grocery stores sell convenience foods like single burritos, grab-and-go sandwiches and soups and salads from the deli. Shoppers can find convenience foods in the deli section or in the freezer aisle.

These foods may seem like a good idea, but Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at, said they're usually pretty expensive. Shoppers are not getting nearly as much food either. "They often include enough for one meal, but even if you can get two out of them, it's still usually not worth the overall price," said Ramhold.

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sergeyryzhov / Getty Images/iStockphoto
sergeyryzhov / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Marinated and Pre-Prepped Meats

It's tempting for grocery shoppers to spot a package of marinated chicken breasts or pre-formed burgers with bacon and cheese in them and think about buying them. After all, it's practically already made for you. This should save you some time and money, right?

Nope. It can be convenient to purchase pre-prepped meats, but Ramhold said these purchases tend to be more expensive than if shoppers bought the ingredients and made the dish on their own.

AJ_Watt / Getty Images
AJ_Watt / Getty Images

Frozen Meals

Several items in the frozen section fall into the don't-buy category, including mozzarella sticks, frozen dinners and pizza rolls. Some may be packaged in larger bags to make shoppers think they're getting their money's worth -- but it's usually a trick.

Ramhold said frozen meals are a waste of your money. "They're going to be a few servings at most and more expensive per serving than if you were to buy the ingredients and make the dish yourself."

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Jeramey Lende /
Jeramey Lende /

Single Serve Beverages

Many grocery stores keep small mini fridges stocked with single serve beverages, like water and soda, next to the check-out aisle. While it may be tempting to buy one (or a few) before you leave, Adam Schwartz, CEO at CouponSurfer, recommends avoiding this pricey purchase.

"I have been in supermarkets where the price of a single cold bottle of water was within a few cents of a 24-pack case of water," said Schwartz.

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This article originally appeared on 8 Groceries You Shouldn’t Buy When You’re Broke