14 Items with the Biggest Markup at the Grocery Store

Published on October 29, 2016 by Lauren

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  • You’ve got your list and your keys, and you’re ready to head out to go grocery shopping. Not so fast!  There are some major money-zapping items that you should mark off your list right now.  There are so many items that are overpriced in the grocery store, but here are the 14 Items with biggest markups in the grocery store.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    When grocery shopping, it is really important to plan ahead.  Jumping in the car and driving to the store without a plan can be one of the biggest money saving mistakes one makes.

    One way that I want to help you is to help you create a plan so that you can save money – as a thank you for reading sign up below and grab a free 10 day meal plan.  I put together this plan so you can make 10 meals for under $80, and all you have to do it print it out and take it to the store.

    Planning ahead and knowing how to meal plan and avoid the hidden tricks grocery stores do, can help you save not just hundreds but thousands of dollars per year.  Here are some of my other favorite dump recipes, they are easy and delicious!

    Here are the top 14 items with the biggest markups in the grocery store:

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    1.) Non-grocery items:

    Examples: light bulbs, motor oil, lawn furniture, coolers

    The grocery store is counting on you buying these items so you don’t have to make one more stop.

    If you’re buying auto and home maintenance supplies at a grocery store then this is probably costing you a lot of money. Don’t let the convenience cost your family in the end.

    Money Saving Tip:

    • Make an extra stop at a big box store or a home improvement store to get the best prices on everyday household items.
    • Better yet, hit up Dollar General because they have some great deals – here are the best things to buy at Dollar General.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    2.) Prepared Foods:

    Examples: deli sandwiches, salads, fruit trays, pre-cut produce, and other ready-to-eat meal products

    These convenience items could be stickered with at least a 40% markup. You’re paying way more for prepared meals because of the convenience factor.

    Also – pay attention to product placement for these foods.  You will be surprised how you can save money just by looking somewhere else in the store.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Don’t go to the store hungry.
    • Don’t pay someone else for the privilege of chopping your veggies for you. You can make beautiful fruit trays and hoagie sandwiches at home for almost half the cost of pre-made items. And they’ll be so much fresher!

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    3.) Cereal

    Examples: name-brand cold cereals and packages of flavored instant oatmeal

    No, I do not particularly want to wake up and make a 4-course meal for breakfast every day. Cereal can save time and even money, but not if you’re paying for a name brand and not if you’re paying regular price. These breakfast items are usually marked up about 40%.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Shop at ALDI and save
    • Try generic cereals that are usually shelved right beside the name brands.
    • Always check unit pricing. I’ve seen unit pricing on the larger sizes actually end up costing more than a small box.
    • You can save so much when you wait for a sale and use coupons. Even without clipping coupons, sometimes you can stock up on some rock-bottom sale-priced cereal.
    • Mix your own pre-mixed oatmeal packets for pennies on the dollar compared to the flavored packages at the store.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    4.) Brand name over-the-counter medications

    Examples: pain medication, cough and cold medication, children’s remedies

    Many times the brand names are the same content with the same active ingredients as what’s in the generic varieties. Be smart and don’t pay for the name brand label.

    Money Saving Tips

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    5.) Cosmetics and Beauty Supplies

    Examples: Makeup, face creams, lotions

    50% markup is what you’ll be paying if you buy beauty products at the grocery store. That kind of convenience is costly.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Learn how to shop at Rite Aid using Plenty points. It takes a little bit of time, but you can save hundreds per year!
    • Shop around and find the best prices on beauty products in your area. Some beauty supply stores are open to the public and even put out their own coupons.
    • Clip coupons and watch for sales if you are brand loyal. This could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
    • You could also save money by making some beauty products yourself. Make your own homemade beauty products to save even more money.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    6.) Deli Meats and Cheeses

    Examples: expensive, hand-sliced meats and cheeses

    You can expect about a 50% markup when you go to the deli counter. Those items are marked up because of the special care that has to be taken to hire a dedicated employee to manage that area.

    Unless you’re a single person that buys a maximum of 5 slices of meat per week then you should avoid the deli counter completely because you’re throwing away your money.

    Money Saving Tips

    • You can find most varieties of cheese in the dairy section. The dairy shelves at my grocery store offer feta, bleu cheese, muenster, smoked provolone, and several varieties of imported cheeses.
    • Many packaged lunch meat makers have several varieties beyond bologna that you might not know about. I’ve recently seen great varieties of roast beef, pastrami, and dozens of types of ham and turkey in the packaged meat aisle.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    7.) Butcher Meats

    Example: any meat packaged in the store

    You’ll pay up to 60% markup on fresh meats from the butcher counter area of your grocery store.  This is due to the quick turnaround they have to have on these fresh products.  A lot goes to waste because they just don’t sell it before it goes bad.  So they make up the cost by charging you more.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Buy larger cuts of meat or family-sized packages. You can definitely save around 20% at most grocery stores by buying the bigger packages.  Package the meats in meal-sized portions and freeze them to fit in your meal plan over the next few months – its freezer cooking 101 stuff right there.
    • Buy items when they go on sale and freeze for later. We get a great deal on “Reduced for quick sale” meats in a special section of our butcher area. These meats have only a few days shelf life on them, but they freeze perfectly!
    • Learn more tips to save money on meat here.
    • Cook with these 5 cheap cuts of meat that are actually really tasty.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    8.) Batteries

    Examples:  you guessed it, batteries…AA, hearing aid batteries, 9volts… all of them!

    Those 4 packs of batteries that you have to have (so you pick them up while you’re at the grocery store) are costing you up to a 70% markup.  That’s mega bucks if you use batteries as much as we do in my house.

    Money Saving Tips

    • If you go through a ton of batteries with remotes, controllers, and the like, then it’s better to buy in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco.  The last time I looked a 24 pack of name brand batteries was around $13.  That’s close to $0.50 per battery.  Batteries at my grocery store, on the other hand, average at about $1 each.
    • You can also keep your eyes open for a B1G1 sale at CVS.  I see the CVS brand on sale quite a bit, and that’s where we grab them if we don’t need a mega pack from a warehouse store.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    9.) Out of Season Produce

    Examples:  fruits and vegetables that don’t grow year round in your area

    Lots of us are trying to eat healthier.  Unfortunately, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables can come with up to a 75% markup.  If that produce isn’t coming from within 100 miles of you in the last week then you’re paying for storage and shipping.  That adds up and sucks the healthy right out of your budget.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Buy in season.  Watch for rock bottom prices and ask your grocer what’s freshest and what’s coming out next week.  You should be adjusting your meal plans to fit the season.
    • Stock up and freeze produce to be enjoyed all year. Here are some easy tips of which produce items freeze well and how to keep those stock-up purchases feeding your family for months.
    • Sometimes even buying frozen will cost less.  Check the unit pricing and use frozen fruits and vegetables when it makes sense.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    10.) Spices

    Examples:  basil, oregano, cumin, paprika, pepper, etc.

    We all want to spice up our cooking without breaking the bank.  Brand name spices carry up to 97% markup.  There’s no reason to pay for a label when the product inside is the same as a generic spice or herb.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Aldi has great prices on most spices and dried herbs.
    • Sometimes you can even find comparable spices at the dollar store.
    • Make sure that you check out product placement in the grocery store – some spices at 1/4 of the price the next aisle over.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    11.) Coffee

    Examples:  brewed coffee and espresso drinks from a cafe in the grocery store

    These are popping up all over our area and lots of moms love the extra caffeine boost.  But be the smart mom that passes up the 99% profit margin that brewed beverages bring with them.

    Money Saving Tip

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    12.) Bakery Items

    Examples:  breads, cakes, tortillas, muffins, cookies

    Smart grocers pump the smells from the bakery into the entryway of their store.  It’s smart because I’ve never met anyone that didn’t LOVE the smell of fresh baked bread.  Well the smells are free, but the bakery items are marked up by 100%.  They’re convenient, but probably not worth the ding to your pocketbook.

    Money Saving Tips

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    13.) Holiday and Gift Items

    Examples:  greeting cards, boxes of chocolate, stuffed animals, balloons

    200% markup!  Grocery stores really get us where they want us on this one.  We don’t really want to get the kids out of the car one more time today so we’ll pay double for that balloon and greeting card that sings.

    Money Saving Tips

    • Go to the dollars store – it is one of the best things to buy at the dollar store.
    • Make your own!  Everyone loves a heartfelt sentiment and hand-written note.
    • Buy boxed cards for every occasion.  This will save you a ton of money throughout the year for all those last-minute expressions.

    biggest markups in the grocery store

    14.) Bottled Water

    4,000% markup!  (No, that is not a typo!)

    Usually, the water isn’t even special or imported from Europe. It’s a bottle of tap water.  No kidding here.  You are paying for lots of processing (for the bottle, not the water) and shipping.

    Money Saving Tip

    Do you know of other items we should watch out for when we’re trying to stick to our budget?  What are your favorite money saving tips?



  • Probably the least accurate article I have ever read. Please supply your credentials. 20 years in Supermarket buying, merchandising and operations here. 4,000% markup on water??? Lmao, the margins aren’t even 40%.

    • Eric, I think you may be getting 40% from wholesale cost to retail price. I think the author is getting 4000% from the cost of a 20 0z glass of water from the tap @ maybe $.025 to the retail price of $1.00. That is exactly 40 times, or 4,000%.

    • LOL I’m a pricing coordinator for a grocery chain and these numbers in the article are WILD!!! It started off not half wrong but went right of the rails!

      • You are mistaken. You do not understand how this writer is using math. She is NOT working for a grocery store as are you; she is working for herself at home. I have manufactured and sold to national grocery chains and I have sold into the deli and fresh fish departments. She is right on IMHO.

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