15 Things You Shouldn’t Be Buying at Gas Stations
Americans spend billions of dollars at gas stations each year—but not on gas. Make the most of your pit stop (and get the biggest bang for your buck!) by avoiding these items when you refuel.
Flashy headlines and photos may catch your eye in the checkout line, but whatever you do, don’t reach for that copy of US Weekly. Gas stations and grocery stores alike place items like magazines and candy bars in premium spots to draw your attention. The result? If you only stopped for a bathroom break, they just cashed in on your impulse purchase. Beware of these things you should never buy at the airport, too.
Sandwiches and wraps
In a 2016 investigation by HuffPost, a food safety inspector found that many gas stations did not store food properly. Perishable items like sandwiches and wraps should be held at 39°F or colder; otherwise, they become breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses that make you sick. Before you reach for that turkey wrap, make sure the fridge’s thermometer reads at least 39°F. HuffPost also recommends choosing items near the cooling element and avoiding foods at the top of the stack.
Get this: 7-Eleven sells a whopping 45 million gallons of fountain soda each year. That’s enough soda to fill 68 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to the chain. But you need to think twice before filling up your cup, and here’s why: Thanks to moisture that collects inside the machine, soda dispensers are prime environments for mold. Banish the Big Gulp and opt for water, instead. Given soda’s negative health effects and cost, you will be doing your wallet and waistline a huge favor.
If the sodium and fat content of hot dogs don’t turn you off, consider how they are stored. Hot foods need to be kept at 135-140°F to avoid bacteria growth, and hot food storage at gas stations is often not up to par, according to HuffPost. They suggest avoiding hot dogs on the bottom of the heating rack, especially if they have a “glazed” appearance. Chances are those wieners have been sitting at low temps for too long. You should never buy these foods at the airport, either.
A 1-ounce bag of Lay’s Classic Potato Chips has 160 calories, which seems harmless at first—until you learn that over half of those calories are from fat. And don’t even get us started on those 170 milligrams of sodium. Plus, when it comes to packaged food at gas stations, you should always check the expiration date before you buy; the HuffPost investigation found that expired foods were one of the most common food safety violations at gas stations.
Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock
From keychains to decorative towels, anything stamped with the name of a nearby city or state is not worth your money. Not only will you pay a premium price for a cheaply made item, but gas station souvenirs are practically designed to lure you into spending more during your pit stop. Photos would be better (and budget-friendly!) mementos of your trip. Don’t miss more invisible ways stores trick you into spending money.
Specialty coffee drinks
Stay away from the mochas and lattes, too. Between the milk, syrup, and other added ingredients, the calories in that java drink can add up fast. A medium mocha with 2% reduced-fat milk and chocolate mocha sauce, for example, could have up to 660 calories and eight grams of fat. Even worse, gulping down a bottled Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino is like eating 32 Nilla Wafers at once. You’re better off sipping on a plain old cup of joe.
If you need a pick-me-up on a long road trip, a giant energy drink might be the first thing you reach for. Gulping down a can of Monster may give you a boost, but research shows that it can also lead to serious heart problems, as well as anxiety and insomnia. And with up to 62 grams of added sugar per 16-ounce can (that’s the equivalent of six Krispy Kreme donuts!), you will consume way more than the recommended daily dose of sugar.
Buyers, beware: Little Debbie can destroy your diet. Their Red Velvet Creme Filled Cakes have 35 grams of sugar and 16 grams of fat, including nearly 50 percent of the daily recommended intake of saturated fats. Chocolate Chip Cream Pies, on the other hand, contain 33 grams of sugar. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, reach for trail mix or dried fruit instead. Better yet, try one of these snacks for road trips that nutritionists love.
Beer and wine
Give the boot to bottom-shelf beers like Game Day Ice and Game Day Light, both of which are produced for and sold at 7-Eleven. They may be cheap, but you will get what you pay for. Beer Advocate gives Game Day Ice a 1.85/5 rating, while Game Day Light received a rating of 1.95/5. So unless your favorite brew is on sale, you will find the same brands for cheaper prices at a discount liquor store.