17 Things to Always Buy at the Supermarket—Besides Food
If you're only buying things you can chew, you're missing out on the real values of your local grocery store. Here's what the experts say you should be looking for (and some little-known ways to use them).
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Lawn chairs and other seasonal items
Look for deals after the season passes. “You’ll get a great sale and you can even try everything out so you’ll be all stocked up for next year,” say The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure and co-founders of the 21-Day Body Reboot.
Unseasoned meat tenderizer
Bet you never thought of using an unseasoned meat tenderizer for your insect bites or bee stings, but that’s exactly what The Nutrition Twins recommend. “Make a paste of the meat tenderizer with a little water and use this to bring down the swelling rather than buying expensive lotions online.”
This healthy spice is a powerhouse ingredient famous for its anti-inflammatory properties, but your food isn’t the only place you can put it to use. “For minor scrapes and very superficial wounds, rather than purchasing an antibiotic ointment, try dabbing a little bit of turmeric on the cut or scrape instead,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Turmeric contains curcumin, which has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to help with cleansing and healing.”
Eating healthy can be challenging, so make it easier on yourself by having a kitchen stocked not only with healthy foods but with healthy kitchen gadgets. “Always make sure you have items on hand that make it simple to eat produce, like an apple or mango corer and a vegetable peeler,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RDN and former manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Learn some more secrets for a healthier grocery trip.
Vegetable storage containers
Buying produce in bulk can save you cash, but not if your veggies spoil. “Getting containers that are specific to keeping produce fresh will make things last longer and keep them fresher,” says Kirkpatrick. “Extra points for clear containers that display on an eye-level shelf, not in a drawer at the bottom.”
Small sandwich bags
If you find yourself overeating your healthy snacks like nuts and seeds, fill up a bunch of small sandwich bags instead to help with portion control. “Small sandwich bags are very helpful for portioning out snack items that you’re likely to binge on,” says Kirkpatrick. “Make individual portion size baggies to take with you on the go. You’re so much more likely to eat an entire bag of potato chips rather than ten small bags.”
Oil spray cans are very useful for keeping fat and calories in check, but they tend to be more expensive than regular bottles—and they can destroy the coating on non-stick pans (here’s why). Instead, The Nutrition Twins suggest simply buying an empty spray bottle and filling it with your favorite oil: “It will be better for the environment and you’ll skip out on the aerosol can.” Here are some more overpriced grocery store items you’re better off just making at home.
Store brand paper products
Skip Kleenex and look for store brands for everyday essentials like tissues and toilet paper. “It’s a great way to get high-value products for low prices,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Often the store brand has a purchasing deal with a big-name manufacturer, so you’re actually getting a very similar product to the name brand, only under the store label.” Watch out for the foods you should never buy generic.
An egg timer
“Not to time eggs, but for when cravings rear their ugly head,” explains Kirkpatrick. “I have my clients set an egg timer and do something else—other than go into the kitchen—when they are tempted to engage in late-night eating: Fold laundry, get clothing ready for the next day, take a shower, etc.” This is a great way to determine if you’re having a craving or you’re actually hungry; more likely than not the craving will pass and you’ll start to be more in tune with actual hunger cues.
Tea is a great way to cancel out sugar and junk food cravings when they hit. Kirkpatrick suggests buying loose leaves and steeping them in a tea ball and having that for your evening treat. Add in ice and some cut up fruit for extra flavoring during the hot days of summer. Learn the secrets grocery store employees won’t tell you.
Apple cider vinegar
Instead of buying pricey cleaning agents, reach for apple cider vinegar. “This cleans very well and you don’t get any of the dangerous chemicals that you get with household cleaners,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Even if your kids get a hold of this and sniff it, no harm done.”
“Rather than buying chemical-filled cleaners and fresheners, place baking soda in the fridge or an area you’d like to deodorize,” say The Nutrition Twins. By the way, these are the foods you should really stop buying altogether.
Like spices, Kirkpatrick says that zest from fruits like oranges, lemons, and limes is a great, easy, and inexpensive way to add incredible flavor to replace salt or fats.
Individual measuring utensils
“At the grocery store, you can buy single measuring utensils; elsewhere you’ll have to purchase an entire set, even if you just need one,” advise The Nutrition Twins. These are the sneaky supermarket tricks you still probably fall for.
Green cleaning products
Cleaning products are used daily for dishes, clothing, bedding, and more, and you should know what’s in them! Even for so-called natural cleaning products, there are no regulations for listing ingredients on packaging—except at Whole Foods Market. The supermarket has developed the Eco-Scale Rating System that, among other things, requires every ingredient to be listed (third party agencies evaluate each product they sell for environmental impact, safety, efficacy, source, and animal testing). Here are 50 of the healthiest foods you can buy at the supermarket.
Essential oils and diffusers
Supermarkets often have their own name brand products for cost-saving, like Whole Foods’ Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffusers. The diffusers can elevate any living space, and buying them at the store ensures you’ll find the size, weight, and design that best fits your space—and lets you sniff out the perfect blend of essential oils to go with your purchase.
Beauty, hair, and body care products
Shopping for beauty products can be overwhelming, especially if you’re looking for quality non-toxic buys. Whole Foods Market specializes in clean beauty with carefully curated brands like W3LL People, Mineral Fusion, Trilogy, and Au Naturale, as well as makeup brushes and nail polishes. In-store makeup counters and in-store beauty experts let you test products and find your perfect shade before making a purchase. Many of the items regularly go on sale in-store—the brands get big markdowns during Whole Foods Market’s annual Beauty Week. Next, check out some more supermarket shopping tips from America’s favorite grocery stores.