The One Thing You Need to Know About Every Grocery Store Bakery Department

updated Feb 10, 2021
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Grocery stores are full of enticing food displays, but the one area that always gets me is the bakery department. The smell of freshly baked cookies and other delectable treats never fails to draw me in, and I always end up tossing something special (that wasn’t on my list, mind you) into my cart.

Grocery stores strategically place bakeries near the entrance, knowing all too well that many shoppers (like me!) will pay them a visit. But there’s something you need to know before you buy: Grocery store bakery departments have the highest markups of any other section of the grocery store, with a gross profit margin at around 60 percent (as reported by The Retail Owners Institute).

While elaborate cakes and fancy pastries require special skill to bake and decorate to perfection, if you’re looking to get the biggest bang for your buck, you’re better off baking the basics like cupcakes, cookies, and sheet cakes from scratch. Here are three other ways to save money on grocery store baked goods.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

1. Look for deals on day-old treats.

Many bakeries will mark down prices on muffins, cookies, and other treats that are a day old by around 30 percent off, according to AARP. Just make sure to review the suggested “use by date” on the container to make sure you will eat (or freeze) it before it goes bad.

Credit: Lauren Volo

2. Buy a blank cake and DIY the decorations.

Most grocery store bakeries keep undecorated cakes on hand for last-minute orders. And they’ll usually sell you the blank cakes (and even some frosting) for less than an assembled cake. Pick up the pieces and do the assembling and decorating yourself. Not a great decorator? Just add sprinkles. Sprinkles make everything look good.

Read more: The Supermarket Secret for Semi-Homemade Cakes

Credit: Sarah Crowley

3. Head to the baking aisle.

The fresh bakery department isn’t the only place to find sweet treats. Head to the baking aisle to find an assortment of boxed (or bagged!) cake, brownie, and cookie mixes for anywhere from $1.20 to $2.50 a box. Tip: Because some mixes require wet ingredients like eggs or vegetable oil, review the directions first to confirm you have everything you need before leaving the store.

Do you have any more bakery department tips? Share them in the comments below.