Kroger is one of the biggest grocery retailers in the nation. It should come as no surprise. The staff is friendly, and the savings are abundant — mostly.
We get it. It’s much more convenient to shop at a supermarket with a variety of items than it is to go from store to store searching for one-off necessities at the lowest price. But for those of us who are energized by the deal and a haggler at heart, it’s nice to know a few grocery “cheats” applicable to this beloved chain.
Not every popular supermarket item is best purchased at Kroger. In fact, in some instances items are cheaper or better quality elsewhere. Here are 16 things you should never buy at Kroger.
1. Organic food
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.
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2. Anything close to the expiration date without haggling for 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.”
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3. Fuel at full price
The Fuel Program at Kroger means you should never buy gas at full price again. If you’re a regular Kroger customer, your loyalty card can save you tons on fuel expenses. The more groceries you buy, the more points you accrue. The more points you get within the month, the cheaper your gas becomes. You’ll get 10 cents off each guzzling gallon for every 100 points you earn.
If you’re really feeling thrifty, buy your gift cards at Kroger. You’ll earn two times the fuel points and double down on savings. Luckily, Kroger sells cards to most major retailers right in the front aisles.
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4. Common items that are more expensive than Kroger’s brands
Kroger proudly stands behind many of its branded products from Simple Truth, Fresh Selections by Kroger, and Big K. But don’t feel like you ever have to buy the generic store brand just because it’s cheaper. The chain backs its quality guarantee, meaning it’ll replace or refund any item that doesn’t meet your standards. In other words, if you don’t like Kroger’s brand, you can swap it out for the comparable brand name for free.
Next: Never buy more than you need.
5. Buying all 10 items just to get the advertised discount
Kroger is known for advertising bulk specials, such as “10 Gatorades for $10” or “five 14-ounce chicken stock cans for $5.” This is a great way to save money, but you should never buy more than you need of any item.
Kyle James from Rather Be Shopping says this is a common trick grocery stores use to get you to spend more money. Instead of buying all 10 items buy two or three, and the same discount still applies to your desired amount.
Next: Produce items to avoid at Kroger
6. Certain produce items
Don’t cancel that warehouse membership just yet. Although certain produce, such as grapes or carrots, are cheaper at Kroger, Cheapism also found other produce items, such as bananas, apples, and spinach are way more expensive at Kroger than Costco. For example, a 16-ounce bag of spinach costs $6 at Kroger, while a 40-ounce bag at Costco is only $5.
Next: Another popular supermarket item to dodge at Kroger
7. Certain meats
The same thing goes for meat products at Kroger, according to Cheapism’s comparison. Shopping at Kroger, even with its sales and loyalty-card discount, netted savings on only 10 of 50 items it analyzed. And the savings were much smaller compared to Costco.
If you’re looking to stock the freezer with meat, it might be best to steer clear of Kroger. The study found rotisserie chickens were 11.4 cents more expensive at Kroger, while ground beef was 12.5 cents pricier per ounce.
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8. Items not eligible for a senior discount
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: Certain items on certain days
9. The free Friday item on Thursday
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: Don’t go to Kroger without one of these.
10. Anything without your loyalty card
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.
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11. Any sale item without stacking coupons first
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.
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12. Name-brand spices
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: Kroger offers many grocery items that should be avoided, but there are also a few other non-grocery products to bypass.
13. Greeting cards
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.
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14. Wrapping paper
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 Philly.com 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.
15. Brand-name items
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.
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16. Small cuts of meat
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.