It’s no secret: stores make money by purchasing their products for a low price and selling them to consumers for a much higher amount. But have you ever stopped to wonder just how much grocery stores are raking in and which products offer the biggest opportunity for markups?
Grocery stores have some of the lowest profit margins in the retail landscape. Typically, food products get marked up much less than other merchandise, like apparel. However, when it comes to figuring out which things are marked up the most, the true cost of goods may surprise you.
Ahead, check out all the biggest markups in the grocery store from lowest to highest, including one item that’s marked up a shocking 4,000% (No. 15).
1. Non-grocery items
- Markup percentage: 40-50%
- What to buy instead: Shop for these items elsewhere
Need lightbulbs or lawn furniture? It might be more convenient to just grab these items during your weekly grocery store visit but doing so will almost always come at a cost. That’s because non-grocery items are typically priced higher in the grocery store than they are at other retailers like Walmart or Amazon. Shopping around for these items will save you significant cash (even if it does take a little extra time).
Next: Prepared foods
2. Prepared foods
- Markup percentage: 40%
- What to buy instead: Frozen meals
Most grocery store marketers understand that people are in a hurry. One way to save time? Stopping by the store to pick up a dinner that’s already cooked. However, choosing this type of meal can be unnecessarily expensive.
You’ll spend a lot more on prepared foods than you will on frozen food items that take a few minutes to prepare. Again, your best option is meal planning in advance. In a pinch, a rotisserie chicken is a cheaper alternative to other prepared foods in the supermarket.
- Markup percentage: 40%
- What to buy instead: Generic brands
The cereal aisle can be overwhelming with all the colorful boxes and options. Name brand cereal often comes with a high markup and it’s not always worth it. Try saving money by switching to the generic store brand versions of your favorite cereal or at the very least shopping with coupons.
Next: Over-the-counter medication
4. Over-the-counter medications
- Markup percentage: 30-40%
- What to buy instead: Generic versions
You might notice a theme – many items can be purchased more cheaply if you’re not married to the name brand version. Generic over-the-counter medications like cold and flu formulas or pain relievers often contain the exact same ingredients as the name brand versions. They just cost a lot less.
Next: Cosmetics and beauty supplies
5. Cosmetics and beauty supplies
- Markup percentage: 50%
- What to buy instead: Buy them elsewhere
Yes, it’s an extra trip, but buying makeup at the drugstore means you’ll get a better selection and better pricing. Grocery stores carry these items for people who are in a hurry and don’t mind paying more. If you’re not one of those people, shop for your makeup and beauty items elsewhere.
Next: Organic produce
6. Organic produce
- Markup percentage: 30-50%
- What to buy instead: Non-organic (sometimes)
There’s nothing wrong with switching to organic produce and paying a little more to stay healthy and pesticide-free. But certain produce items – like bananas and avocados – aren’t worth buying organic anyway. Do your research and figure out which fruits and vegetables you must buy organic and which don’t matter as much. It’ll save you a bunch of money at the checkout counter.
Next: Deli meats and cheeses
7. Deli meats and cheeses
- Markup percentage: 50%
- What to buy instead: Packaged meats
There’s nothing like getting some fresh sliced deli meat and cheese – especially when they let you try a few free samples. But you could save more money by purchasing pre-packaged meat that’s on sale or has a coupon. Price comparisons are the best way to determine the better value here.
Next: Fresh butcher meats
8. Fresh butcher meats
- Markup percentage: 60%
- What to buy instead: Clearance or frozen meat
The meat section can be overwhelming even for the savviest grocery shopper. But if you’re looking for good values, first seek out any meat that’s on clearance and stock up. You can freeze it to have later or just be sure to eat it before it spoils.
Generally, frozen meat is cheaper than fresh butcher cuts and often goes on sale, too. Buying in bulk can save you on either type of item.
- Markup percentage: 70%
- What to buy instead: Batteries in bulk
Keeping a stock of batteries for your home is essential. Overpaying for yours is not.
Buying batteries in bulk is the smartest solution for saving money on this necessity. Either head to a discount warehouse club like Costco or Sam’s Club or order yours on Amazon instead of getting this item at the gorcery store.
Next: Out of season produce
10. Out of season produce
- Markup percentage: 75%
- What to buy instead: In season or frozen produce
The strawberries you buy in January are a lot more expensive than the same package you pick up in June. That’s because out-of-season produce has to be shipped from faraway places at certain times of the year.
Save cash by only buying in-season produce. Another option if you can’t live without your daily strawberry peach smoothie? Try shopping for your favorite fruits and veggies in the freezer aisle instead.
- Markup percentage: 97%
- What to buy instead: Generic
Do name-brand spices taste better? That’s up to you to decide. But if you can’t tell the difference, then buying the generic version will almost always save you money. You can even find popular spices at the dollar store or purchase them in bulk at a warehouse club.
Next: Prepared coffee
12. Prepared coffee
- Markup percentage: 99%
- What to buy instead: Bring your own
Grocery stores are starting to add coffee bars to their locations as they realize how much shoppers prefer a comfortable shopping experience. But every time you splurge on a cup of coffee to shop with, you’re wasting money.
Like to shop while you’re sipping coffee? Brew your own at home and take it with you.
Next: Bakery items
13. Bakery items
- Markup percentage: 100%
- What to buy instead: Cake mix or clearance
As with so many things, shopping for bakery items will cost more thanks to the convenience factor. Instead of buying premade cakes and cookies, purchase mixes for a few dollars and make your own.
Another great option is finding the clearance section for the bakery and stocking up on day-old baked goods that still taste just as good. You can often save 50% or more on delicious treats.
Next: Holiday or gift items
14. Holiday or gift items
- Markup percentage: 200%
- What to buy instead: Clearance or dollar store
The seasonal aisle of the grocery store is full of holiday-themed items that are mighty tempting while you’re shopping. However, the markup on these types of things is exorbitant. Instead, find seasonal items, greeting cards, and wrapping paper at the dollar store. Or buy it on clearance after the holiday is over.
Next: Bottled water
15. Bottled water
- Markup percentage: 4,000%
- What to buy instead: A water filter
Bottled water is the most overpriced, high markup item in the grocery store – by a lot. This item is marked up 4,000% and somehow people just keep purchasing it.
Save money and make less waste when you opt for filtered water from the tap instead. Get a reusable water bottle, fill it up at home, and never look back.