27 Foods You Should Never Buy Again

Cross these items off your grocery store list—whether they're rip-offs, fakes, drastically unhealthy, or just plain gross, here are the foods to keep out of your shopping cart.

From Dollar Savvy
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    Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

    A few shavings of nice cheese on top of pasta or vegetables can take a simple dish from good to great—but you don't have to fork out $22 a pound for the famous stuff. Instead, look for varieties like Pecorino Romano and SarVecchio, which offer the same flavor at half the price.

    Smoked and Cured Meats

    From fancy charcuterie to “dime a dog” night, pass on cured meats in any form—they’ve been linked to cancer, disease, high blood pressure, and migraines. Plus they’re packed with artery-clogging grease: regulations allow up to 50% (by weight) of fresh pork sausage to be fat.

    “Blueberry” items

    Ahh, blueberries...now in everything from your breakfast cereal to muffins, granola bars, and sauces—or are they? Turns out that most of the blueberry-flavored items on grocery store shelves don't feature a single actually berry, just artificial blueberry flavor. Buy your own berries and add them to plain cereal for a real health boost.

    Multi-grain bread

    This is junk food masquerading in a healthy disguise. Check the ingredient list to make sure whole wheat is the first, and main, ingredient—otherwise, you’re just getting a few grains mixed into regular white bread. Better yet, forgo the bread and enjoy straight-up barley, brown rice, quinoa, or steel-cut oats.

    Reduced fat peanut butter

    When companies take out the fat, they have to add something back in to make the food taste delicious. In this case, it’s lots of extra sugar—and who wants that? Instead, spread regular peanut butter on your sandwich for more of the good fats and protein without fake sweetness.

    Bottled tea

    Brew your iced tea at home and you'll save both big bucks and your waistline—bottled teas can have more grams of sugar than a soda or slice of pie.

    Tomato-based pasta sauces

    A jar of spaghetti sauce typically runs $2 to $6. The equivalent amount of canned tomatoes is often under $1. Our suggestion: Make your own sauces from canned crushed tomatoes or fresh tomatoes — particularly in the summer, when they are plentiful, tasty, and cheap. The easiest method is to put crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh) into a skillet, stir in some wine or wine vinegar, a little sugar, your favorite herbs, and whatever chopped vegetables you like in your sauce — peppers, onions, mushrooms, even carrots — and let simmer for an hour. Adjust the flavorings and serve. Even easier: Coat fresh tomatoes and the top of a cooking sheet with olive oil and roast the tomatoes for 20 to 30 minutes at 425˚F before making your stovetop sauce.

    Swordfish

    Large bottom-feeder fish such as tuna, shark, king mackerel, tilefish, and especially swordfish are high in mercury. Choose smaller fish, like flounder, catfish, sardines, and salmon instead.

    Energy drinks

    Stick to a cup of coffee for your afternoon boost. Seemingly harmless caffeinated beverages are often sugar bombs—and the FDA has received numerous reports linking brands like 5 Hour Energy and Monster Energy to heart attacks, convulsion, and even death.

    Gluten-free baked goods

    If you aren't diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, keep in mind that gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean healthy—and gluten-free baked goods like bread, cookies, and crackers often are packed with more refined flours, artificial ingredients, and sugar than traditional baked goods. Plus, they can cost up to twice as much as you'd normally spend.

    Flavored non-dairy milks

    Vanilla-eggnog-caramel soy milk doesn't win you any points in the health department—and it definitely won't help your grocery receipt bottom line. If you prefer non-dairy milks for personal dietary reasons, buy unsweetened versions. And if you're just trying to eat healthfully, skim milk should be just fine.

    Foods made of WOOD

    Take a look at the ingredient list for your high-fiber cereal or snack bar, and you'll probably see an ingredient called "cellulose." Turns out that cellulose is a code word for "wood pulp." Food manufacturers use it to extend their products and add fiber, so it looks like you’re getting more food. But really you’re just left with a mouthful of wood shavings.

    White rice

    Skip the refined grains and go for whole: a 17% higher risk of diabetes is associated with eating five or more servings of white rice per week, compared to eating white rice less than once a month.

    'Gourmet' frozen vegetables

    Sure, you can buy an 8-ounce packet of peas in an herbed butter sauce, but why do so when you can make your own? Just cook the peas, add a pat of butter and sprinkle on some herbs that you already have on hand. The same thing goes for carrots with dill sauce and other gourmet veggies.

    Microwave sandwiches

    When you buy a pre-made sandwich, you're really just paying for its elaborate packaging — plus a whole lot of salt, fat, and unnecessary additives. For the average cost of one of these babies ($2.50 to $3.00 per sandwich), you could make a bigger, better, and more nutritious version yourself.

    Premium frozen fruit bars

    At nearly $2 per bar, frozen 'all fruit' or 'fruit and juice' bars may not be rich in calories, but they are certainly rich in price. Make your own at home — and get the flavors you want. To make four pops, just throw 2 cups cut-up fruit, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice into a blender. Cover and blend until smooth. You might wish to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water so the final mix is a thick slush. Pour into 4-ounce pop molds or paper cups, insert sticks, and freeze until solid.

    Boxed rice 'entree' or side-dish mixes

    These consist basically of rice, salt, and spices — yet they're priced way beyond the ingredients sold individually. Yes, there are a few flavorings included, but they're probably ones you have in your pantry already. Buy a bag of rice, measure out what you need, add your own herbs and other seasonings, and cook the rice according to package directions.


    Energy or protein bars

    These calorie-laden bars are usually stacked at the checkout counter because they depend on impulse buyers who grab them, thinking they are more wholesome than a candy bar. Unfortunately, they can have very high fat and sugar contents and are often as caloric as a regular candy bar. They're also two to three times more expensive than a candy bar. If you need a boost, a vitamin-rich piece of fruit, a yogurt, or a small handful of nuts is more satiating and less expensive.

    Spice mixes

    Spice mixes like grill seasoning and rib rubs might seem like a good buy because they contain a lot of spices that you would have to buy individually. Check the label first: We predict the first ingredient you will see on the package is salt, followed by the vague 'herbs and spices.' Look in your own pantry, and you'll probably be surprised to discover just how many herbs you already have on hand, and you can improvise as much as you want.

    Powdered iced tea mixes or prepared flavored iced tea

    Powdered and gourmet iced teas are really a rip-off! It's much cheaper to make your own iced tea from actual (inexpensive) tea bags and keep a jug in the fridge. Plus, many mixes and preparations are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, along with artificial flavors. To make 32 ounces of iced tea, it usually takes 8 bags of black tea or 10 bags of herbal, green, or white tea. If you like your tea sweet but want to keep calories down, skip the sugar and add fruit juice instead.

    Bottled water

    Bottled water is a bad investment for so many reasons. It's expensive compared to what's coming out of the tap, its cost to the environment is high (it takes a lot of fossil fuel to produce and ship all those bottles), and it's not even better for your health than the stuff running down your drain.

    Even taking into account the cost of filters, water from home is still much cheaper than bottled water, which can run up to $1 to $3 a pop.

    If you have well water and it really does not taste good (even with help from a filter), or if you have a baby at home who is bottle-fed and needs to drink safe water, buy jugs of distilled or 'nursery' water at big discount stores. They usually cost between 79 cents and 99 cents for 1 gallon (as opposed to $1.50 for 8 ounces of 'designer' water). And you can reuse the jugs to store homemade iced tea, flavored waters, or, when their tops are cut off, all sorts of household odds and ends.


    Salad kits

    Washed and bagged greens can be a time-saver, but they can cost three times as much as buying the same amount of a head of lettuce. Even more expensive are 'salad kits,' where you get some greens, a small bag of dressing, and a small bag of croutons. Skip these altogether. Make your own croutons by toasting cut-up stale bread you would otherwise toss, and try mixing your own salad dressing.

    Individual servings of anything

    The recent trend to package small quantities into 100-calorie snack packs is a way for food-makers to get more money from unsuspecting consumers. The price 'per unit' cost of these items is significantly more than if you had just bought one big box of cheese crackers or bag of chips. This is exactly what you should do. Buy the big box and then parcel out single servings and store them in small, reusable storage bags.


    Trail mix

    We checked unit prices of those small bags of trail mix hanging in the candy aisle not that long ago and were shocked to find that they cost about $10 a pound! Make your own for much, much less with a 1-pound can of dry roasted peanuts, 1 cup of raisins, and a handful of almonds, dried fruit, and candy coated chocolate. The best part about making your own? You only include the things you like. Keep the mixture in a plastic or glass container with a tight lid for up to 3 weeks.

    'Snack' or 'lunch' packs

    These 'all-inclusive' food trays might seem reasonably priced (from $2.50 to $4.00), but you're actually paying for the highly designed label, wrapper, and specially molded tray. They only contain a few crackers and small pieces of cheese and lunchmeat. The actual edible ingredients are worth just pennies and are filled with salt.


    Gourmet ice cream

    It's painful to watch someone actually pay $6 for a gallon of designer brand ice cream. Don't bother. There's usually at least one brand or other on sale, and you can easily dress up store brands with your own additives like chunky bits of chocolate or crushed cookie. If you do like the premium brands, wait for that 3-week sales cycle to kick in and stock up when your favorite flavor is discounted.

    Pre-formed meat patties

    Frozen burgers, beef or otherwise, are more expensive than buying the ground meat in bulk and making patties yourself. We timed it — it takes less than 10 seconds to form a flat circle and throw it on the grill. Also, there's some evidence that pre-formed meat patties might contain more e. coli than regular ground meat. In fact, most of the recent beef recalls have involved pre-made frozen beef patties.


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    Your Comments

    • Mark Talmont

      I’m around teens a lot. They are addicted to these “chip” types of snacks. Read the label on this stuff sometime. There is no food in the bag.

    • kurgen99

      Have you lost your mind? There is no replacement for Parmigiano-Reggiano!! Even when I was a starving student, I would still buy it because a little can go a long way. The only thing that is ever used to replace it is Grana Padano which is known as the “poor brother” to Parmigiano-Reggiano. Pecorino Romano is nowhere near a substitute. It is way saltier.
      You obviously, either don’t cook at all, or don’t have any sort of refined palate.
      Good thing you didn’t post this in Italy.

      • http://twitter.com/devans00 devans00

        It’s about quality of life and priorities.

      • Logicandegg

        I was just about to say the same thing but you said it for me. Thank you:) There is no replacement for this classic.

    • PNW Tom

      Wow, there’s some useful information here, but the half-truths and absolute falsehoods really drown out what little here is useful. I’d expect better from Reader’s Digest. Cellulose won’t kill anyone–it’s fiber, for cryin’ out loud. And why “never” buy a prepared meal? Sure, the ingredients cost a bit more, but people buy these for the convenience–their time has value too. And of course a lot of blueberry flavored foods doesn’t have blueberries in them.

    • Lycopersicon Esculentum

      I disagree with you on the, Parmigiano-Reggiano, the Gourmet ice-cream, and the cured meats.
      Do not mistake luxury items for items that are a trick or a trap.
      Each one of these things is wonderful and amazing in small amounts.

      What not to waste your money on is cheap imitations of these. Don’t waste you cash on “”Parmesian” Cheese” or “Cheese Food Product”, skip grocery store shrink wrapped bacon or sausages, and forget about beautifully packaged high priced ice cream products filled with agar agar and guar gum.

      All three of the real things can be found, however, at your nearest small Italian Grocery Store.

      ,

      • kurgen99

        Gourmet ice cream has more butter fat. THAT’s why it tastes better.

    • joeymegatron

      oh yes, spending 1 hour cooking tomato sauce makes more sense then open up a jar and put it on simmer for 10 to 15 minutes…sure it does. dopes.

      • TheMeckMan

        It’s your health. Just be aware you’re consuming many many more hundreds of milligrams of salt per serving. If you get canned Marzano’s their salt content is roughly 20mg per coup (30-50 times less than most store bought sauces). As an Greek/Italian – American I’ve never cared for store made sauces and an hour is pushing it. You can make a very light sauce in under 20 minutes.

    • Brian Corvello

      Nuts, I love grilled swordfish.

      Know how you grill a swordfish?

      Ask him a lot of tough questions!

      LOL!

      • SPEECHFREEDOM1976

        That’s funny!
        I know you like nuts – remember last night?

        • Brian Corvello

          Nope.

          • SPEECHFREEDOM1976

            don’t be shy!

    • Toasted Spleen

      Umm tuna are not bottom feeders, while flounder and catfish are.

      • TheMeckMan

        Exactly, I said the same thing. Journalism has gone to the morons in this country. RD is not half of what it was 30 years ago.

    • MissA01

      Well, I am taking back my Kelloggs Special K Crisp and NutriGrain bars…full of wood pulp. These are the things politicians help push thru for their friends in the food industry and call it names like ‘Cellulose’ and get it into our food while keeping unemployment benefits from being extended for people who’ve had their jobs outsourced. Wth do we need to eat wood pulp for?

    • http://www.hotdishinc.com Lara Mulchay

      I stopped reading after the first one, simply because it’s inaccurate. First, the suggestion that a Pecorino (which is made from sheep’s milk, not cow) tastes like Parmigiano_ Reggiano is simply false. Can it be substituted ? In a lot of cases, yes, but it certainly will have a different flavor profile. A better suggestion was that of SarVecchio – which is similar to Parmigiano but made in Wisconsin, not Italy. Just like wines are reflective of the region in which it is made, cheeses from different regions- (even different farms in the same state here in the USA) will vary, even using the same recipe & methods. Comparing an Italian cheese to one made on an entirely different continent has it’s considerations. Parmigiano-Reggiano has been perfected over hundreds of years, and it’s protected as a distinct regional product. There is nothing else quite like it in the world. As for the price tag? We need to reconsider our need to purchase “cheap” food – when most often it means a lessor quality and often less money going to the producer. $22 a pound for a high quality cheese is actually quite reasonable. I am a huge advocate for American artisanal cheese, and as such, I commend the recommendation of SarVecchio. However, it’s not much less expensive than it’s Italian counterpart. Quality, true artisanal cheeses cost more, but are of a substantial quality, and as such, less of it is needed in most recipes. This translates to more bang for your buck, and more calorie-conscious as well. The cost is reflective of the craft, care, and handling of the cheese. Simply, wouldn’t it make sense to spend more per pound, if you have to use less of it? Wouldn’t you rather eat 2 oz of a full flavored, sustainably produced cheese, than consume 4oz of a less flavorful, mass-produced product? I suggest visiting the American Cheese Society webpage for more suggestions on how to support our local cheesemakers. Each purchase of American made artisan/farmstead helps grow this budding industry and contributes to strengthening our food systems.

      • TheMeckMan

        Exactly. You’re lucky you didn’t get to the bit about Tuna, Swordfish, and sharks being bottom feeders. -_-

        BTW that wheel of Parmigiano looks good. :)

    • ..

      So how come everybody in India and China doesn’t have Diabetes?

      • TheMeckMan

        Because they don’t eat refined white rice we have ‘perfected’ (from a ‘manufacturing’ standpoint in the US). They eat basmati, brown, and black rice.