Don’t Buy These Items at the Supermarket

shopping cart, grocery shopping
Photo: Astrakan Images/Cultura/Getty Images; Illustration: Jason Hoffman/Thrillist
Photo: Astrakan Images/Cultura/Getty Images; Illustration: Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

The supermarket seems like the place where you can buy just about anything -- but should you? Store owners have gotten clever about capturing as many of your dollars as possible while they have you as a captive audience. And we can’t blame them. But that doesn’t mean you have to play along.

We reached out to current and former grocery store workers, plus combed through some industry reports, and identified the grossest foods and biggest ripoffs in the industry. If you eat food, like, at all, you'll definitely want to check out (see what we did there?) this list.

Editor’s note: All grocery stores aren't created equally, especially when it comes to what's natural. Take this with a grain of salt. But not too much salt. That's usually a sign that something's being covered up.

salad dressing
Photo: Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock; Illustration: Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Salad dressing

We're gonna start you out with an easy one, a sort of appetizer before we dive into the truly maddening. That salad dressing in the fridge at the grocery has 12-20 ingredients and can add around 10 grams of sugar to your dinner. And it costs somewhere between three and 10 bucks for a bottle. You can make that stuff fresh with three to four ingredients costing you maybe a buck for a bottle's worth, and drop the sugar. Besides, knowing how to make salad dressings is a cool dinner-party trick. It's not even hard.

shampoo grocery store
Photo: 97/E+/Getty Images; Illustration: Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Almost anything that's not food

You go to the grocery store to buy groceries, but almost every trip includes grabbing paper towels, a lightbulb, some school supplies, and maybe a birthday card. You are getting gouged on most of those non-food items. With the exception of paper disposables like TP and paper towels, these can cost 50% or more above what you'd pay in a store dedicated to those items. Buy that stuff at the hardware store, the stationery store, and the dollar store. The same goes for diapers and other baby items.

Deli soups

When meat starts to near expiration, they cut it up and put it into soups and chili at the deli counter. To make it worse, health inspections aren't too rigorous for those counters. Plus, that chili topped with wood pulp pre-grated cheese might have been made that morning and been sitting there all the way to lunchtime. Go buy your lunch at an actual restaurant.

Deli salads

When produce goes really bad, it gets tossed out. When it just gets a little bad, they cut it up and put it in those big bowls of salad at the deli counter. They rely on strong-flavored ingredients like olives, cheese, and the aforementioned dressing to mask the flavor of slightly rotted veggies. (See also: anything in a brine.) You're better off buying salad fixings fresh and making your own, or eating a big-boy salad at an actual restaurant.

grated cheese, cheese, cheese topping
Photo: Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty Images; Illustration: Jason Hoffman/Thrillist

Pre-shredded or grated cheese

Those bags of easy pre-shredded cheese you buy for Taco Wednesday (because you're bad at alliteration) are convenient, but did you ever wonder why the cheese doesn't melt? It's because the companies that make those bags cut costs by adding non-cheese fillers, including wood pulp. It's like buying bacon only to find out that half the bacon is stuff that's not bacon. Grate your own cheese. It'll give you Popeye forearms if you eat as many tacos as we do.

(Almost any) bottled water

We all know the joke about how Evian spelled backwards is "naive." But we also know that Evian is a brand that actually uses filtered, pure spring water. Fiji and (weirdly, considering the shitty, flimsy bottles) Crystal Geyser do, too. But most of the rest of them? Especially the cheap stuff selling for $2 for a flat of 30? That's tap water, poured into a plastic bottle, and sold at a 3,000% markup. I mean, I know we're lazy, but are we really too lazy to pour our own damn tap water into our own plastic bottle? Skip this expense and go buy a Nalgene refillable bottle. But don't buy that at the grocery store. It's non-food and a ripoff.

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Jason Brick is a voracious reader, heroic drinker, and super-cool dad (not necessarily in that order of importance). When not testing the theoretical limits of coolness, he practices martial arts so he can beat people up for teasing him about how much he likes playing Dungeons & Dragons. Find out more at