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The 9 Things You Should Never Buy at the Drugstore

Those drugstore deals sure seem convenient, but don't be fooled: Here are the 9 things you should never buy at the drugstore—and why.

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They’re the most commonly purchased item of any parent of a young child, which is why it’s important to save on diapers. But the drugstore should not be your place to buy them. In 2018, Pocket Your Dollar updated its analysis on the diaper industry and its varying prices and found that Walgreens charged more than Costco, Target, Amazon, and in all categories. Basically, buying your diapers anywhere else is the better option.

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MilkIllia Iovenko/Shutterstock


Milk is something that runs out quickly in any household—and restocking at the drugstore while picking up a prescription seems like a simple solution. Turns out, the answer is more complicated than that. In 2009, drugstore giant CVS was found to be selling expired milk, along with past-due eggs and baby formula, too, according to Consumerist. While the company has since ensured the freshness of its dairy products, there’s no definitive answer on whether it’s actually more cost-effective to buy milk at drugstores as opposed to grocery stores. Milk prices vary across the country, as do discounts at both types of stores. But if you don’t have the time or energy to compare prices, grocery stores are probably your best bet.

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Prescription drugs

Yes, this is the most obvious thing to buy at a drugstore, but it turns out you can get prescription drugs for less at big-box stores like Costco or Walmart, according to Consumer Reports. “Big-box stores such as Costco and Walmart use the pharmacy as a traffic builder for their stores, whereas traditional chain stores, such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, make the majority of their revenue and profits from the pharmacy,” Stephen W. Schondelmeyer, PhD, PharmD, said. Check out these things you should always buy at big-box stores.


Vitamins and supplements

OTC stuff may not be the best to buy at the drugstore, either: Consumer Reports also found that vitamins offered both at the drugstore chain Rite Aid as well as at various dollar stores had subpar supplements on shelves. The consumer group recommends going with a store or retailer you know and trust instead.

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Toilet paper

You’re much better off picking up your toilet paper in bulk, according to research from the Good Housekeeping Institute. “Most drugstore branded toilet paper was more expensive than other brands available in bulk sizes,” reports GHI. Don’t miss these 9 purchases you should never buy in bulk. Don’t want to pay for a membership for one of the popular bulk shopping centers? Both Costco and Sam’s Club allow non-members to shop online!

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Pair of chairs and an umbrella on the beach of Ponta Verde, Maceio, Alagoas, northeast of BrazilFred Cardoso/Shutterstock

Beach chairs

When the Today show took a look at what you should buy at warehouse stores such as Costco and BJ’s, they also discovered what was important to never buy at drugstores, like beach chairs. While they may be cheaper at drugstores, the quality and lifespan will be lower, ultimately resulting in a quicker need to replace them altogether.

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Beauty stores like Sephora and Ulta are much pricier than the drugstore, but you can do even better at warehouse stores. A recent price comparison test from found that mascara was an average of $2 cheaper per tube at a big-box store versus a drugstore. The only exception is if you are a member of your preferred drugstore’s reward program; you can earn cashback for buying makeup, which can make it a better deal in the long run. For example, with Walgreens’s Beauty Enthusiast program, you earn $5 for ever $50 spent on beauty products, exclusive coupons, and sneak peeks at new products. Don’t miss the 11 things you should always buy at drugstores.

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Barbecuing is one of the most essential parts of summer, but don’t pay the drugstore tariff on your briquets, recommends Today. Since you’ll go through a sizeable amount, you’ll get more bang for your buck—and make fewer trips to the store—if you buy charcoal in bulk elsewhere.

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Chocolate and almond dipped white and dark popsicles, overhead view over a marble backgroundJeniFoto/Shutterstock

Frozen foods

The frozen section at the drugstore is enticing when temperatures rise, but the experts at Today say that when purchasing ice cream or frozen apps for your next party, you’re far better off doing so in bulk. And if you’re looking for frozen treats in the summer, you may find prices are marked up even higher. Next, check out the 14 things you should never buy at the dollar store.

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Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.