Here’s What You Should Never Buy at Kroger

Kroger’s staff is friendly, and its savings are abundant — mostly. One of the biggest grocery retailers in the U.S., Kroger has certain thrifty buys and others to avoid. Don’t make your grocery list until you discover the things you should never buy at Kroger. One entire category of food is a budget buster (page 10).

1. Pre-cut food

prepared foods fruit display
Prepackaged foods | littleny/iStock/Getty Images
  • Savings: $1-$5 per item

Kroger jacks up the cost of pre-cut foods. Many ready-to-cook items cost as much as 370% more than normal versions, Consumer Reports found. Pre-washed pre-cut kale cost 317% more. Pre-cut celery at Kroger costs $2.99 for 14 ounces, but a large stalk that could make over a pound once chopped is just $1.59.

The one food you’ll save on broccoli florets; buying pre-cut broccoli is actually 12% cheaper than buying whole heads because it eliminates waste. 

Next: The easiest gift to buy — but not at Kroger.

2. Gift cards

Kroger gift cards
Gift cards on display at Kroger | Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • Savings: up to $20

Kroger sells gift cards at full price, which may seem normal. But big-box stores, like Costco and Sam’s Club, sell discounted packs of gift cards, which can save $20 off $100 worth of gift cards. You can also browse sites like Gift Card Granny for discounted cards or use reward points to stock up online. Many stores and restaurants also offer holiday “give one, get one” deals.

Next: The only way to buy fuel at Kroger

3. Fuel at full price

getting gas
Refuel your car using Fuel points only. |
  • Savings: $2.50-$5 per fill-up

The Fuel Program at Kroger means you should never buy gas at full price. If you’re a regular Kroger customer, your loyalty card can save you tons on fuel expenses. The more points you get from buying groceries within a month, the cheaper your gas becomes. You’ll get 10 cents off each guzzling gallon for every 100 points you earn.

Next: Certain items on certain days

4. The free Friday item on Thursday

Yes, Free Download Friday is a real thing. | Thinkstock
  • Savings: $5 on average

On Free Download Friday, Kroger stores give away a certain item for free to all customers each week. So don’t go buying angel hair pasta on Thursday if it’s going to be free the next day. Members can check the site beforehand or receive texts reminding them to go redeem their free item in the store.

Next: Save money for your next birthday party.

5. Cakes and cookies

Cake is better homemade anyway. | iStock/Getty Images
  • Savings: $8-$12

Don’t head to the grocery store for your next birthday cake. Homemade baked goods taste better anyway. However, if you’re really short on time, big-box stores like Costco or Sam’s Club sell huge sheet cakes for $15-$20. You’ll get 75% less cake for that price at Kroger.

Next: The truth behind the “10 items” rule

6. Buying all 10 items just to get the advertised discount

Campbell's soup
Only buy what you need. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Kroger is known for bulk specials, such as “10 Gatorades for $10” or “five 14-ounce chicken stock cans for $5.” It’s a great way to save money, but you should never buy more than you need of any item. Rather Be Shopping reveals this is a common trick Kroger uses to get you to spend more. Instead of buying all 10 items, buy two or three; the same discount still applies.

Next: Roast this yourself and you’ll save a ton.

7. Cooked chicken and other meats

barbecued chicken with vegetables
Some meats are more expensive at Kroger. |
  • Savings: at least a few bucks per item

If you want to stock up on meat, steer clear of Kroger. A Cheapism study found rotisserie chickens were 11.4 cents more expensive at Kroger, while ground beef was 12.5 cents pricier per ounce.

You’ll also pay a premium for convenience. At Kroger, a 12-ounce bag of Tyson Oven Roasted Chicken Breast costs $5.49 or about 46 cents per ounce. But a whole pound of raw Heritage Farm chicken breast goes for $1.99, or 12 cents per ounce — about a 75% discount. Buy it raw, and roast it for 45 minutes yourself.

Next: Americans spend tons of money to manage their health.

8. Prescriptions

Rosemary Petty, a Publix Supermarket pharmacy technician, counts out a prescription of antibiotic pills
Prescriptions at Kroger | Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • Savings: $5-$15

If you’re worried about the cost of health care, it’s time to swgmitch your pharmacy. Grocery stores like Kroger have some of the highest prices for prescription drugs, according to Consumer Reports. The cost difference may not matter if you have insurance. But if you’re paying for drugs out of pocket, you’ll save by shopping at Costco or an independent pharmacy.

Next: Produce items to avoid at Kroger

9. Certain produce like bananas, apples, and spinach

Red apples in wooden bowl
Know which produce items are a good buy and which are not. |
  • Savings: $1 per item on average

Don’t cancel your warehouse membership. Although certain produce like grapes or carrots can be cheaper at Kroger, Cheapism found that other produce items, like bananas, apples, and spinach, are way less expensive at Costco. For example, a 16-ounce bag of spinach costs $6 at Kroger, while a 40-ounce bag at Costco is only $5.

Next: You can eat healthy for less — but not at Kroger.

10. Organic food

woman holding a bag of fruit
Organic produce | Choreograph/iStock/Getty Images
  • Savings: $.50-$2 per item

Sure, organic food is rising in popularity, but so are its prices. According to a comparison conducted by Cheapism, the organic selection at Kroger is more expensive than both Aldi and Walmart. In fact, 12 popular items, such as meat, produce, and dairy, were still more expensive at Kroger even after the loyalty discount was applied. So if you’re looking to eat organically, Kroger might not be the best place to get a deal — though it does have the largest selection.

Next: The best place to buy spices

11. Name-brand spices

Avoid name-brand spices at the supermarket unless you want to pay more. |
  • Savings: $2-$11

Splurging on name-brand spices are rarely worth the added expense. When it comes to grocery stores, it’s best to head for the generic brand instead. Or simply avoid the supermarket in general. In a price comparison done by Clark, it found Walmart spices were three times cheaper than those sold in traditional grocery stores. But if you must shop at Kroger, remember its quality guarantee, and go for taste, not price.

Next: Don’t go to Kroger without one of these.

12. Anything without your loyalty card

Young man using cellphone in a grocery store
Kroger loyalty cards are a no-brainer. |
  • Savings: 10%-40%

Loyalty cards are a no-brainer, but we must say it: What are you possibly doing shopping at a store without a loyalty card? Kroger offers deals for loyal shoppers. Sign up for the Kroger Plus Card, and nab exclusive savings unavailable to other customers.

What’s even better is you can load manufacturers’ coupons directly to the card, and the discount will automatically apply at the register. With savings this easy, you should never walk out of Kroger paying full price for almost anything.

Next: You don’t have to buy the store brand to save money.

13. Common items that are more expensive than Kroger’s brands

cereal aisle
Kroger will allow you to exchange generic items. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Savings: a full refund

Kroger stands behind its branded products from Simple Truth, Fresh Selections by Kroger, and Big K. But you don’t have to buy the generic store brand just because it’s cheaper. The chain backs its quality guarantee, so it’ll replace or refund any item. In other words, if you don’t like Kroger’s brand, you can swap it out for the comparable brand name for free.

Next: How to handle Kroger coupons the right way

14. Any sale item without stacking coupons first

grocery shopping
Always stack your coupons. |

Unlike most grocery stores, Kroger allows you to stack coupons on applicable items. This means you can stack a manufacturer’s coupon with an in-store paper coupon to really maximize your savings. Never buy an item without first checking online, in the store, or in the mail for coupons that can decrease your weekly grocery bill. It’s a coupon clipper’s dream.

Next: Never buy almost expired items without doing this

15. Anything close to the expiration date without haggling for a discount

bucket of vegetables
Don’t buy anything close to expiring without getting a discount. |

For items you know won’t last long in your cupboard, consider purchasing the item that’s nearing its expiration date for additional savings. Kroger often employs “Woohoo” tags to highlight bargain buys.

But the Krazy Coupon Lady offers some advice on savvy shopping in these instances. “Most items nearing expiration will already be labeled with a yellow and red manager’s special tag, but sometimes items are missed! If you see a product that will soon be expired, or a piece of produce that is uneven or not looking as fresh as the others, ask for a discount.”

Next: Kroger offers many grocery items that should be avoided, but there are also a few other non-grocery products to bypass.

16. Greeting cards

Don’t buy greeting cards at Kroger. | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Don’t head to Kroger and expect to score a deal on greeting cards for your next momentous occasion. In yet another trusty price comparison, Clark found the dollar store often sells the same type of cards for much less money. At Kroger, you’ll pay upward of $5, but elsewhere you could score a deal for much less.

Next: Senior shoppers should be more careful at Kroger.

17. Items not eligible for a senior discount

Senior woman at grocery store
Double check your senior discounts before buying anything. |

Some Kroger stores offer senior discounts on certain days of the week. Because they’re eligible for 5% to 10% savings on Kroger products, seniors should never pay full price for their groceries. However, these discounts vary by store and location, and frugal shoppers should be cautious now more than ever.

The national grocery chain recently made headlines regarding price changes. Be careful not to assume any savings you might have enjoyed previously. For instance, according to Clark, the Atlanta division recently discontinued its senior discounts in 188 stores.

Next: Let’s boycott a whole aisle, shall we?

18. Wrapping paper

rolls of colorful wrapping paper
Wrapping paper is cheaper elsewhere. |

That whole aisle that always seems to house random, miscellaneous items? It’s best just to skip it. School supplies, pens, markers, and party supplies are other items that are more expensive at Kroger than a dollar store.

David Bakke tells shoppers will find a better selection — and cheaper prices — on gift items outside of the grocery store chains. “You’re better off getting gift-giving supplies like wrapping paper, tape, bows and ribbons at dollar stores where they are less expensive.”

Next: These items are more expensive at Kroger and should be avoided.

19. Brand-name items

woman grocery shopping
Many name-brand items are more expensive at Kroger than other stores. |

In a comparison among Walmart, Aldi, and Kroger, Aldi wins the prize for cheapest bill. But when considering overall selection, Kroger takes the cake. Buying name-brand products in general will cost you at Kroger, as 19 out of 26 items compared were more expensive than its competitors.

Savvy shopping will require a bit of give and take. According to consumers, the jury’s still out on Walmart’s Great Value generic brand.

Next: A grocery hack that will save you tons

20. Small cuts of meat

meat counter
Have your butcher take care of trimming the steak. |

Did you know buying chicken thighs or pork chops on an as-needed basis is a waste of money? Next time you shop at Kroger, bypass the small cuts of meat, and head straight for the big guns. A supermarket butcher confessed you can save about 30% just by letting the butcher break down a larger cut into smaller pieces. Try buying a big roast and divvying it out into ground meat, smaller roasts, and soup pieces to cut down your bill.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: