Top Five Grocery Money Wasters

18 October 2010

carro-colgado5-edited-1You know what a false economy is right? It is where you buy something cheap thinking you're going to save cash, but actually it turns out to be so rubbish you end up spending more overall. Here's a classic example. When trading down to a small push-chair, my friend Rachel got a stroller that only cost £20. Except that the wheels didn't turn to the left or right! They only went straight ahead. After two weeks of fighting with it, trying to insist it was all OK, she finally agreed that it had to go into the bin. And bought one that did turn for £40. So overall that supposed £20 saving turned out to be a total waste of cash.

I can't laugh at Rachel though, becuase I know I've made plenty of mistakes like that myself. When it comes to my weekly grocery shopping though it feels like this is a pitfall I'm constantly facing. Is that Basics or no-brand version a money saver or a false economy? I went to all my PlayPennies parents and asked them - what were the biggest wastes of money that they'd fallen for? I expected to get a huge range of answers but actually, everyone came up with pretty much the same five items. So, if you've not already been tempted, here's what you should avoid if you want to save the pennies. To complete our money saving tips for grocery buying you should also have a read of Tamsin's feature Don't Let Your Supermarket Fool You.

1. Washing Up Liquid

FairyLooking at that bargain basement bottle for 60p? Well just don't. Walk away now. I've been there, done that, and bought the bottle. It was the same size as a Fairy liquid bottle, but lasted me just a week. Yes that's right, one week. You know how that advert goes? "I hardly ever buy Fairy liquid"? Well, it is a rare instance of marketing truth and not hype. Every now and again, I'm totally cash strapped and lacking in washing up liquid and bought one. Frankly now I would rather save the 60p and do the washing up for a couple of days in biological washing powder or shampoo!

PlayPennies mum Fiona would also add fabric conditioner to the list of pet hates when it comes to money wasting groceries. "Concentrated fabric softener, that comes with the unhelpful direction 'One capful is more than enough'. It's so thick that if you pour half a capful, most of it stays in the cap. So you pour more into the drawer, and it stays there."

2. Bin Bags

Those rolls of super cheap bin bags also turn out to be super thin. PlayPennies dad of three David is particularly tired of the ones for tall bins. "Maybe it is OK if you just have a little rubbish bin, but I have just chucked a roll of these out! It just seemed easier - in the end I was lining the bin with three of them. Otherwise it was like they just exploded as I pulled them out. The mess! Slimy potato peelings everywhere, and where does that scungy brown sludge come from? I don't remember eating that!"

3. Cheap Shoes

shoesI'm not talking about school shoes here. I would hope that no-one would scrimp on the shoes that children spend most of the day in. But what about for yourself? Or maybe some cheap children's sandals or sparkly shoes for going out? A month ago I was going to a wedding and didn't want to splurge on shoes. I spotted a pair in a bargain bin at one of those el cheapo shoe shops (in the bargain bin at a shoe shop that already at sold bargain basement prices? What WAS I thinking?) for a fiver and thought, they'll do. Low heels, with a strap at the back, and plain black. Couldn't really go wrong, right? They utterly crippled me and that was just walking to the car, and from the car to the door of the venue! I had a pair of flat boots with me for the trip home and ended up wearing them with my lovely dress. Really, really not worth it. The shoes went straight in the bin without being worn. It might only be £5, but would you throw a fiver straight in the bin? Effectively, that's pretty much what I did.

4. Dishwashing sponges

spongesI do this time and time again. I just can't seem to learn! Maybe you can get ten sponges for a pound at the PoundWorld shop. But if those sponges only last a day or two it really doesn't work out cheaper than buying a pack of three for a pound at Sainsburys where they'll last a week each, and still won't be worn out so when they're not hygenic enough for washing dishes, you can still use them for cleaning the bath, and finally for the loo.

"I bought some cheap sponges, and they just disintegrated! One of them actually fell apart in my hands as I was washing the dishes," complains PlayPennies mum Joanna.

5. Paper towels

paper towelsThis category also includes cheap toilet paper and boxes of tissues. I very nearly didn't put paper towels on here actually, as I don't use them myself. Instead I use jay-cloths and old muslin cloths for cleaning, mopping up liquids, and soaking up the grease from fatty foods like bacon. However, every single parent I talked to cited cheap paper towels as a false economy mistake.

Mum to two boys (and lots and lots of spills) Lisa put it like this "Paper towels - the cheap ones don't work and you use a ton to do the work of one good one. Same for cheap toilet paper and kleenex-style tissues."

6. What's Yours?

What should we put in the sixth spot? What have you spent money on when grocery shopping that turned out to be a huge fat waste of dosh, or worse, ended up costing you more in the long run? We want to know!

TOPICS:   Banking   Fitness and Diet


  • Nickie C.
    Toothbrushes, the ones you get at Poundland in a pack of 10 or whatever. They are useless for actual teeth cleaning - they poke your gums and splay and are horrid. They are great for cleaning grout or for applying hair dye when you're highlighting though....!
  • Lynley O.
    Great tip! I have often looked at those packs and wondered as it feels like I spend a fortune on toothbrushes. As you're supposed to change them what, every six months? Or is it three monhts? Good idea for toothbrushes for household cleaning though!
  • Emma K.
    I was thinking that diluting juice could be added to the list. With the cheap stuff, you end up using about 3 times as much juice to make the same amount of liquid. I actually buy Tesco hi-juice, and it's very concentrated, so you don't need to put much in your glass at all. A bottle lasts a long time.
  • Lynley O.
    What would you class as the cheap juice then? I buy the Sainsburys equivalent and love it. Especially the Apple and Mango one.
  • Donatella
    I'd say that any food you buy in Poundland is a waste of a good pound. There's a massive Poundland in Bromley, where I've bought packs of pasta that were absolutely revolting when cooked. I ended up throwing it all out - it was pap and had a peculiar flavour. I've bought flourescent tins of baked beans that were inedible, jam that was runny and sickly sweet, ketchup that was salty, runny and revolting, and bags of croutons that tasted like mouldy cardboard. In fact, most of the things available in Poundland are worthless and a waste of money - apart from the tools. The latex gloves are such inferior quality they tear after one use and so are the art supplies - paint brushes namely, whose bristles fall out. I don't step foot into Poundland or Netto any longer. I've learned my lesson the expensive way...
  • mahamri
    I pay 3.97ish for that giant roll of paper towel at wilkos and it lasts ages. This was a tip off from one of the super mums and I thank her to date.
  • Emma K.
    Tesco Value juice :)
  • Lynley O.
    that's interesting! Were they familiar brands, or ones that you'd never seen before?
  • Lynley O.
    top tip! we should do a top five grocery savers article next!

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