25 Things I Don’t Buy in the Grocery Store (And What I Use Instead)

25 Things I Don't Buy in the Grocery Store - RichlyRooted.com

Last week when I shared a list of our typical pantry and fridge staples, I mentioned that there are a lot of items that we simply don’t stock. Today you get a look at what you likely won’t see when you open our pantry or fridge! We stopped buying many of these items simply because we learned about ingredients in food and decided that these things don’t contain the nourishment we want for our bodies.

Because we buy grass-fed hamburger and milk, nitrate-free bacon, and other expensive items, we also needed a way to free up grocery budget space. Leaving these items off the list saves us big bucks in the long run, so we can spend more on foods that we feel should be higher quality (for us, that means animal products!). Not buying these items is my best tip for saving time and money in the grocery store!

It’s not that we don’t like Oreo Cookies and Coke. We do! And if someone offers them to us, we might still eat them! But we’ve realised that we have more to gain by not eating them than we have to lose by giving them up.

What have we given up by not buying these items in the grocery store? Two main things:

What have we gained?

  • Better cooking skills
  • More room in the food budget
  • Deeper appreciation for a range of flavours and textures
  • Better health and energy

I think you, too, have a lot to gain by eliminating at least a few of the items listed below! Don’t feel guilty about what you do eat. Instead, research these items in more depth, figure out what ingredients are used to make them, and decide if you really want to be spending your hard-earned cash on these foods!

Dry goods that I don’t buy in the grocery store:

1. Baking mixes

Use instead: Muffins, pancakes, cakes, and breads from scratch.

2. Bouillon 

Use instead: Homemade chicken stock.

3. Canned fruit

Use instead: Fresh fruit in season, or frozen from seasonal picking. Here’s why we try to avoid canned goods.

4. Canned soup

Use instead: Homemade soups, like the ones from the delicious Ladled soup cookbook, or my own Chicken Noodle Soup or Hearty Clam Chowder. (And here’s a list of 50 real food soup recipes to try!)

5. Canned vegetables (except tomatoes)

Use instead: Fresh vegetables, with a few frozen additions.

6. Cereal

Use instead: Something else for breakfast, or a homemade granola recipe.

7. Cookies

Use instead: Something from scratch, like these chocolate chip cookie bars.

8. Cooking spray

Use instead: Butter!

9. Pasta sauce

Use instead: A simple white sauce or a blend of tomatoes, herbs, and olive oil.

10. Salad dressing

Use instead: Olive oil and vinegar, a quick blender dressing, or the ranch dressing recipe from my cookbook.

11. Sauce mixes/packets

Use instead: Sauces and seasonings from scratch, sans MSG!

Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches - RichlyRooted.comHomemade breakfast sandwiches! Bacon, egg, cheddar cheese, and Dijon mustard on an English muffin!

Cold foods that I don’t buy in the grocery store:

12. Frozen pizza

Use instead: Eric makes a meeeean homemade pizza and crust!

13. Ice cream and ice cream toppings

Use instead: Homemade ice cream–it’s NOT hard! My homemade custard ice cream is incredible. And if I want fresh inspiration, I turn to one of these 60+ from-scratch options. I’m shocked at the amount of unnecessary ingredients in storebought ice cream!

14. Juice

Use instead: Water. Coffee, tea, kombucha or homemade drinks to mix things up. (Check out my Recipe Index for ideas.)

15. Margarine and butter spreads

Use instead: Butter, duh!

16. Mayonnaise

Use instead: A good homemade version, so you can skip the soybean oil!

17. Pie crusts 

Use instead: Homemade. It’s so simple! And no hydrogenated oils.

18. Pre-made breakfast food (poptarts, sandwiches, toaster pastries)

Use instead: Homemade breakfast sandwiches, burritos, or just something else for breakfast!

19. Pre-made desserts (pies, cakes, etc.)

Use instead: Something from scratch, like a good strawberry pie or gooey butter cake.

20. Processed chicken products (nuggets, sandwiches, etc)

Use instead: Hand-breaded and fried chicken made from real chicken breast meat. Here’s one recipe I’ve been wanting to try.

21. Shortening

Use instead: Solid coconut oil, butter, or lard, depending on the recipe.

22. Sliced cheese

Use instead: Cheese sliced off a block! Tastes fresher and saves a little money.

23. Soft drinks

Use instead: Kombucha or other homemade drinks. I’ve been wanting to try water kefir, too!

24. T.V. dinners, stir-fry in a bag, Hamburger Helper, or other convenience suppers

Use instead: A little more meal planning to make your own tasty supper! You can make your own version of hamburger helper very easily! Here’s a recipe I shared in my “Fall Comfort Food” series!

25. Yogurt

Use instead: Homemade yogurt in the crock pot.

Your turn: What items have you stopped buying in the grocery store?


My cookbook is all about making real food from scratch! It includes 75+ recipes that are simple to make and use wholesome, familiar ingredients, and has 8 chapters on topics like food substitutions, kitchen tools, and freezer cooking. Pick up a copy HERE.

Further Reading: Check out these posts on real food substitutions for the pantry and for the fridge, and this post on 20 First Steps to a Real Food Diet.


    1. This is a very practical list and can improve overall health! The only thing I disagree with is using butter often, if you’re not active. Olive oil is great with a lot of food and has healthy fats!

  1. These aren’t realistic. In this part of the country, sliced and block cheese are priced exactly the same. If you buy block cheese from the deli its a lot more expensive.

    100% juice is good for u. Lard???? Not recommended by doctors. Butter is very expensive and not heart jhealthy. And…what is wrong with soy beans or soy bean oil? Very tasty and better for you than a lot of other things.

    We do try to eliminate as many bad additives as possible. Buying healthy frozen veggies/fruits is possible.

    1. Teri, you need to do some more research on lard and butter. It is true that many doctors do not recommend them but that is based on outdated information. Thankfully, some doctors and researchers are starting to wake up and change their tune. Butter and lard are minimally processed and have been around for thousands of years. We as a society have gotten sicker as we try to replace them with things that can only be made in a factory using industrial equipment and chemicals. Have you ever tried making soybean oil in your kitchen? You can’t. It takes a refining process similar to motor oil. Vegetable oils are molecularly unstable. The refining process oxidates the fats and creates free radicals. That oxidation is what harms your heart and arteries. Not to mention, vegetables oils are mostly the omega 6 type. Humans need a higher 3:6 ratio. Animal fats are more stable and grass fed animals in particular contain more omega 3’s. I can go into my yard, milk my cow, skim the cream, and churn it into butter all on a matter of a couple of hours. Lard is even easier. I will never believe a natural food like butter or lard are bad while factory foods like refined vegetable oils and extruded cereals are good. It goes against common sense. I am glad the research and medical community are finally starting to figure it out.

      As for cheese, I do choose to pay more for a block cheese from the deli (or even better, from local farmers) because that is one of those animal products where quality does matter. A minimally processed, grass-fed cheese is packed full of nutrients. Other more processed cheeses are full of junk. Not to mention the hormones and antibiotics given to factory cows.

      And juice… There might be some nutrients in juice but have you looked at the sugar content? Just eating a piece of fruit would be a better choice. Store bought juices are pasteurized, too. Part of the benefit of eating fresh fruits and vegetables is getting the living enzymes. Pasteurization kills those.

      1. I also heard that juice can have mold in it):

        Thanks for summing up all this about good and bad fats! We want to get grass-fed cheese someday–not in the budget right now, but someday, someday!

    2. The lard you get in the grocery store usually contains hydrogenated oils, so I would definitely stay away from that! But if you get lard rendered from pasture-raised pork at a Farmer’s Market, it’s a good fat!

      We found that block cheese has a more potent flavour than pre-sliced cheese, so we buy that even in states where they’re the same price!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    3. Soy has been linked to a decrease in thyroid function and an increase in hypothyroidism. Though the link is more correlation and the human body is complicated, soy prohibits the body to absorb trace minerals like selenium which the body needs to make T4 (thyroid hormone).

    4. Most soy is GMO so I avoid it like the plague. I use coconut fat whipped with a bit of powdered salt in place of butter and for most other oil uses. It is very heart healthy (to my doctor’s shock!). And sugar from sugar beets is also likely GMO. They haven’t figured out how to break into the sugar cane business yet as far as I know. Ice cream sauces are so easy to make it is a crime to pay for it. I use the Hershey fudge recipe and just don’t cook it to candy stage. YUM.

    5. I work in a deli inside a grocery store, you dont have to buy the whole block,plus they are huge lol. You can get it freahly sliced, doesnt really cost much more,less if you get it when it is on sale? or just get a block from,dairy aisle. Its about the same price,give or take a few cents as kraft singles.
      Lard is not as bad for you unless you use unreasonably large amounts in one dish. Tons better than shortening. Walmart has grass fed butter,Kerrygold for $3.44. Its not bad expensive compared to others and the taste is awesome and much healthier.
      As for sugar, i buy morena pure cane sugar,unrefined non gmo. I have researched it, it is in fact the purest and contains all its vitamins and minerals and tastes soo much better than the what i call white poison. I spend the exact amount as i did when i used to buy white sugar.
      Its important to menu plan and go by a grocery list. It really will help save money and help keep you on track. Its all a matter of what is most important to you.

      1. Autumn, I will have to check out that sugar brand/variety! The non-gmo ones I looked into before were definitely more expensive than cheap, plain white sugar.

      1. Elsie, I have a recipe for hamburger and hot dog buns on my blog. Once you try them, you’ll never want to go back. They taste so good! They also freeze well so you and double or triple the recipe and keep them on hand in the freezer.

  2. I have been making major changes over the past year. I am also using butter over cooking spray now and it works much better.

  3. I would most certainly add that it saves on meat costsas well to hunt your own wild game. II’m not sure where you are from, but I’m from Wyoming and we have the mighty Rocky mountain elk around here. A big cow, after butchering can produce upwards of 1200 lb of good, solid, nutrient enriched, lean, muscle building proteinated meat. I also shoot two to three deer, a few pheasant, a wild turkey, and catch a variety of fish (anything from walleye to trout) to give myself a variety of meat. It kicks ass on the budget too. If you compare licenses, ammo, guns (which last more than one year), tackle, and everything else that goes into acquiring these animals, you will still come out money ahead. It is well worth it to be a hunter and fisherman.

  4. We have eliminated premade coffee creamer. It is cheaper to make it at home and the taste is really fresh and customized to your tastes!

    I enjoyed your article. There are several on your list that we have already eliminated from our diets as well!

  5. Thanks for this list! Since my son became old enough for solid foods i have been on a healthy whole foods journey. He is now 2.5 yrs old and my diet has changed drastically. We eat as much homemade, whole unprocessed foods as possible. I only use butter, olive oil or coconut oil to cook with and i buy as much natural and organic dairy, produce and meats as possible. We dont do lunch meat or prepackaged stuff, hardly any canned stuff and my health improved greatly. I lost a good bit of weight and don’t have as much stomach or skin problems as i used to. I. am now 6 months pregnant with my 2nd son and am handling it great because of it. Keep the information coming please!

  6. The Humbled Homemaker shared this post on facebook and I am so glad she did! Very insightful and definitely something I am going to begin to implement in my house. My husband and I are about to have our first child and I feel like getting on the right track with food now will be easier before she gets here. Some great ideas here that I can’t wait to read and re-post. I may even have to link to this post one Friday on my blog. Thanks again!

  7. I do grow what food that I can.And eat pretty much what I want. But for others , to each his own.. I had two Grandfathers who ate fat from meats , (with no teeth) chewed tobacco since childhood (not promoting either of these). And they both died at young ages (95 and 99). So my philosophy has been. Pray before meals, work hard, and never neglect those in need.i am 100 % in agreement for saving money..Enjoy life to its fullest..

  8. The only 2 things on this list I still buy are yogurt and mayo. I do know how to make yogurt, but we use powdered milk to save money and it really doesn’t make great yogurt due to the lack of fat. I also know how to make mayo, but it’s really a convenience thing. I guess I know what I need to work on going into the new year. Thanks for the inspiration, Elsie!

  9. The deli cheese here is slightly cheaper than pre sliced or block purely based on size and amt you get. I’m in tx. But there’s not much difference. I only use butter and coconut oil. We also use olive oil or a mix Evo and butter. Though in our house we buy juice. There isn’t enough time w kids and things to do to make my own wo a juicer. They’re quicker to drink juice than eat fruit which doesn’t actually give you much juice.

  10. I’ve been a missionary living overseas for over 30 years, in a place which is only just beginning to get mixes and the nasty things the West has to offer. I always look at links like yours to learn new ways to make do here. (Of course, when I first arrived it was all word-of-mouth from old-timers, or your grandma’s old cookbook. Joy of Cooking also a great resource, b/c it tells how to do some many things from scratch).
    I’m proud to say that I learned Nothing from your post — that’s a good thing! Proud of me for learning to cope so well, and proud of you that even tho you have access to all the time saving stuff, you choose healthier alternatives.
    (I have to confess that when I’m in the States I “cheat” a lot for the fun of it and b/c we are always on the run, but I hope that whenever I retire I will keep using what I’ve learned to keep life healthy and simple).

  11. What an amazing list – I feel a little guilty right now for what I recently purchased. Way to inspire!

    1. I’m glad you found it inspiring! I hope it wasn’t also discouraging…we didn’t cut all of this at once! It definitely took time and practice to be comfortable with eliminating so many mainstream items.

  12. Just came across your site. Love this list, if I can just get my family on board. Getting older (45) and starting to realize that being past the half way point in life (most likely), I want the next phase of my life and my family’s to last as long as possible and in the best possible health. Scary to look around and realize how many people are living at less than optimal. If I can change it to make it better, I want to. Guess if I do the shopping and cooking, they won’t have much choice ;). I used your list and wrote down a number next to each with the amount we spend in each category. It represents more than half of our food spending per month! I guess if I can either eliminate something completely or substitute a homemade version it will far outweigh the costs for some of the other higher priced changes. Not even counting health savings.

    1. Hi Laurie! I’m glad you found it helpful. That is a good idea to count up the cost of the items! There are so many healthier options we wouldn’t be able to afford if we didn’t cut other foods out!

  13. Excellent tips. I stopped buying a lot of these things too. Hardest thing to give up was orange juice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *