The 6 Biggest Bargains in Any Grocery Store

updated Jun 21, 2021
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As a money-saving expert who works to help families improve their budgeting skills, I focus pretty heavily on how to reduce grocery costs. (After housing, food costs are the second biggest bill that families have to pay each month!)

To help people shop smarter and make money-saving decisions in the grocery store, I outlined six of the biggest markups at any grocery store. And with grocery prices currently on the rise at around 4 percent across the U.S., I figured there was no better time to revisit the topic. While it’s important to know what to avoid buying due to excessive markups, there are also some really brilliant deals to look out for.

Here’s a look at the six biggest bargains in any grocery store.

Credit: Faith Durand

1. Rotisserie Chicken

As a working mom with two little kids, I often find myself scrambling to put together a somewhat healthy meal right as the clock strikes 5 p.m. My saving grace is always a rotisserie chicken from my local grocery store. Believe it or not, these cooked birds are often more affordable than other prepared chicken, meats, and fish. Why? In an effort to salvage unsold refrigerated chickens nearing their sell-by date and recoup any potential loss, grocery stores cook them.

A full, ready-to-eat, seasoned chicken comes with an affordable price tag of around $7 to $8 a pop at most food stores. Price Economics recently ran a detailed price comparison on rotisserie chickens and found that both Costco and Smart & Final lead the pack with the lowest prices. At $1.61 to $1.82 per pound, respectively, both of these rotisserie chicken options are cheaper than their uncooked, refrigerated counterparts.

Related: Costco Rotisserie Chicken Will Always Be $4.99 and Here’s Why

2. Sushi

I love a good spicy tuna roll with a little crunch on top, but rarely do I order out when I’m trying to watch my spending. Luckily, I figured out a way to satisfy those cravings on the cheap — by buying from my local grocery stores. There are plenty of options that are made fresh daily.

Recently DealNews reported that restaurant sushi was on average 50 cents more per tuna avocado roll than supermarket sushi. The data also showed that grocery stores even include more fish per roll for that lower price tag, too. Keep an eye out for grocers that offer specials on their rolls on different days of the week. For instance, Sprouts hosts “Sushi Wednesday,” in which you can buy select rolls for just $5.

Credit: Kelli Foster

3. Generic Baking Supplies

I’m all for baking my family’s favorite treats to keep grocery costs down — but it’s important to buy the right ingredients. (I’m talking about the generic, store-brand ones.) There’s virtually no difference in quality between brand name and generic sugar, flour, and baking powder (other than packaging and price). Although the brand name bag or box might be more aesthetically pleasing, it’ll likely also cost you $1 to $2 more.

Credit: Kelli Foster

4. Frozen Produce

I used to believe that fresh food offers more nutritional value compared to frozen until I came across this 2017 study in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, which revealed that fresh produce loses vitamins as it sits in the fridge (even after just a few days!). Frozen produce is flash frozen shortly after harvest and is often at peak nutritional value.

In addition to the nutritional benefits frozen produce offers, there’s also a financial one, too. Frozen produce typically costs around 20 to 30 percent less than fresh (and it results in less waste, too). Considering the fact that American families throw away around $1,600 worth of fresh produce each year, as reported by Feeding America, opting for frozen can help prevent that, and tighten your total grocery spend even further.

Credit: Heather McClees Williams

5. Flowers

Most non-food items are rarely a good deal at your local grocery store, but there is one exception: flowers. If you buy flowers at the grocery store (versus from a flower shop), you’ll likely save 30 percent. You can even find some pretty potted plants like orchids for a steal, especially at stores like Trader Joe’s.

Related: I Used to Be a Grocery Store Florist — Here’s What All Shoppers Need to Know

Credit: Joe Lingeman

6. Manager Markdowns

My family seems to consume a lot of protein from meat, fish, and chicken (which just so happen to be the most expensive food items). The best way to cut costs here? Look for manager markdowns. Most grocery stores will reduce prices on perishable items — particularly, poultry, meat, beef and fish — nearing their use-by date to avoid a complete loss in the event they go bad and have to be thrown away. This makes for great deals for shoppers because you can score savings of up to 70 percent off.

Get in the habit of checking for such manager markdowns when you first go to your grocery store. Depending on what you find out, adjust your meal plan to work around these cheaper main ingredients. Just make sure to cook whatever protein you purchased right away or freeze for later use (as long as it wasn’t previously frozen).

What’s your favorite way to save in the grocery store?