Nine items you should never buy at the supermarket

Items you should definitely leave out of your trolley at the supermarket.

Leave these items on the shelf

Your supermarket may be an in expensive source of ‘fresh’ produce and other goods, but there are good arguments for leaving some commonly purchased items out of your trolley. 

If we boil it down, supermarkets over package, freeze ‘fresh’ produce for weeks or months on end, and some may not have the best rack records when it comes to hygiene, either by their own doing or the fact that hundreds of customers each day breathe, touch and fondle the food.

But it’s not just these issues that should prevent purchases. Some shelf and fridge stock is easily made or prepared at home at a fraction of the cost of the store-bought versions.

Let’s cut to the chase and check out the items you should avoid.

1. Shredded cheese
If you compare the cost of a block of cheese and its shredded counterpart, the block will often be half the price. Also, some companies add filler to shredded cheese and other unhealthy ingredients to the cheese. If you have a grater, by the block and shred it yourself. If you don’t have a grater, buy one. It will pay for itself in two blocks of cheese.

2. Anything unpackaged
Your shopping trolley is, put plainly, a petri dish of bacteria and germs. Research suggests that around 72 per cent of US trolleys contain traces of faeces, vomit and other filthy microbes. If you must use a trolley, wipe it down with anti-bacterial wipes or take your own fabric bags and put your unwrapped products inside. Otherwise, make sure you wash any unpackaged goods when you get home.

3. Pre-sliced, store packaged meats
Deli meats that have been sliced and packaged in house and out in the fridge aisle are quite often the sliced goods that haven’t sold from the deli counter. Two factors that should deter your purchase are the store designated use-by date placed on the package (it can be arbitrary) and that the meats have often been handled and possibly contaminated before being put into packages. If you want sliced meat, go to the deli and ask them to slice it in front of you. All good delis should do this anyway.

4. Pre-made deli salads and soups
These are often made from the salad produce that is close to going off. You’ll often find they include pungent products such as feta cheese, olives and dressings that are there to mask the smell of dying spinach leaves and questionable veggies. And they’ll charge you a premium price for it, too. Best to buy your own salad and soup ingredients and make them yourself.

5. Salad dressing
While we’re on salads, how about leaving the salad dressing on the shelf? Most of these bottled dressings contains a bunch of ingredients that are unhealthy, fattening and unnecessary. You can make a salad dressing with olive oil, some form of vinegar, a pinch of sugar and a couple of herbs. It’s much healthier, will cost you next to nothing and you can customise it to suit your tastes using jams, chutneys and other sauces.

6. Dips
Same goes for dips. Most dips can be made with a few fresh ingredients. You’ll also save heaps making them at home. Need some inspiration? Here are a few that are simple to prepare, most with ingredients you may already have in your kitchen:

7. Out of season fruit and veg

If it’s out of season but on the shelves, it’s been frozen for weeks or months. Or it has travelled from the other side of the world, frozen, and has lost nutrients and flavour. Stick to in-season produce and, when possible, buy Australian grown fruits and veg – it supports our farmers and is much better for you.

8. Products placed near checkouts
Any products placed near the checkout are usually items that have been around for weeks or months in the aisles and haven’t sold. The store is just trying to shift old goods, many bordering on being out of date. Sometimes you’ll find a bargain, but mostly you should steer clear of these items.

9. Pre-packaged bean sprouts
Bean sprouts like to grow in warm, humid conditions. So too, does bacteria. If you must buy bean sprouts, look for the loose ones and stay away from pre-packaged product.

(Author note: Rosemary reckons you should also avoid any produce grown in China, because their rules are very lax, bordering on non-existent.)

Can you recommend any other products that are best bought elsewhere?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    21st Mar 2018
    Buy your fruit and veges from a local fruiterer ... Is there such a word? Your local fruit & veges shop.
    21st Mar 2018
    Wasn’t there that comic “Con the fruiterer”? I can’t remember whose character he was but he was funny.
    21st Mar 2018
    Con the fruiterer was on a TV series called the Comedy Company. About late 1980's
    almost a grey hair
    21st Mar 2018
    I always thought con the fruiterer was a greengrocer LOL
    21st Mar 2018
    I was astounded reading this article. Frozen fruit and veg thawed and then put on shelves? Doubt it. Added mystery stuff in our grated cheese? Not in Australia. I'm not sure where this person got her info from.
    21st Mar 2018
    Sandy, there was a item on the TV a year or so ago re: supermarkets, and mainly focusing on the "Fresh food people" that do store their fruit for months prior to putting them on display.
    21st Mar 2018
    Grated cheese is cheese with cellulose added to stop it from clumping. The cellulose can be made in a laboratory or is derived from wood pulp.
    Fruit is not frozen - it is specially stored to extend its life.
    Bananas are picked green and stored at controlled temperatures. "Then they go into pressurized rooms which force air through the banana boxes for consistent ripening. The temperature of the room can be controlled to quicken or slow the ripening process. Ethylene is used to ripen the bananas. Tree-ripened bananas taste much better than artificially-ripened bananas."
    Even if the fruit is in season sadly it is still not ripened on the tree and bought to you. Its just more abundant and cheaper.
    21st Mar 2018
    I like the California Navel oranges but they try to keep them too long..
    Some have been great, but others have dry patches in the middle.
    Been getting some from Woolworths that have just about reached the end of their shelf life from the dryness in the middle and ageing of the juice and bruising.
    21st Mar 2018
    We never buy fruit from Woolworths, if we can help it. It is going off within two days of getting home, and some of it is tasteless. And IF I need to buy any fruit, I pick it from the top and back of the display, where peoples dirty hands haven't been touching it, because it is easier to touch those in front of you rather than reach out to the top.
    21st Mar 2018
    FrankC its sounds very snobbish - but don't buy fruit from a low socio-economic supermarket because the fruit is more likely to be old or going off.
    It may because they don't have the turn over - I don't know - but it is an observation.
    21st Mar 2018
    I worked at a major Australian university for years and a Professor in horticulture was quite open about the growth of fruit and vegetables in untreated human waste in China where this practice is endemic. I will not purchase any edible item known to have come from China because their hygiene cannot be trusted. I no longer purchase frozen food items from New Zealand because they import food from China and other Asian countries with unsavoury hygiene and package it as their own, so you never know what is truly grown in NZ and what was grown elsewhere.
    In addition, we need to be aware of cosmetics, toothpastes and skin care products that are manufactured in China because their standard of what is acceptable as far as content and manufacturing methodology is vastly different from ours. I stopped using Avon Products when I found that many of them are manufactured in China. I spoke to Avon about this, because they do have excellent skin care products which are manufactured in China; and they told me that these products are made in Avon factories in China, so therefore there is not a problem. I disagree. These products are manufactured to Chinese standards because they have to be. China insists on testing on live animals for a start. It also allows untested animal tissue to be used in the manufacture of cosmetics and skin care products. It allows both manufactured chemicals and naturally existing ingredients to be used that would not be permitted to be used in Australia. Therefore you really don't know what you are putting on your skin.
    A colleague's friend was involved in the Australian clothing industry and she and her co-workers were continually ill when handling Chinese-made fabrics. Turned out that they were all soaked in formaldehyde before leaving China and I have been led to believe that this practice continues to this day with both raw fabric and clothing imported from China into Australia. So always, without exception, wash all clothing before wearing it but goodness knows what we can do about footwear because virtually all of it is now imported from China. No wonder more people are being diagnosed with Cancer these days.
    Finally, I remember the incident of a Chinese-made prize-winning kids toy from some years ago. I think it contained bead-like items in some sort of framework. Some young kids bit some of these beads and nearly died because they contained a banned chemical akin to the drug Ectascy. So, everyone, please beware of Chinese-made products.
    21st Mar 2018
    To add to your concern, Colgate Toothpaste is clearly marked, in fine print "Product of Thailand".
    I have immediate family who have married into Chinese and done business at low levels with China. Integrity is not a strong point among Chinese businesses. China is not a simple homogeneous society and is made up of numerous disparate cultures that are held together by their central Government. The food standards that they apply to food for export may be different to what they apply to produce destined for local consumption. Though judging by their appetite for Australian made baby formula, there is a high level of distrust for their own products.
    21st Mar 2018
    The best stuff to grow Veges in is manure, I even grow my own Veges in sheep manure I get from a local farmer. So get over it and treat all Veges like they have been dipped in sheep sh*t because it probably has.
    22nd Mar 2018
    There is a vast differences between vegetables grown in human faeces and those grown in animal poo. The problem with growing vegetables in human sewerage (as opposed to animal fertilizers) is that major human diseases such as Hepatitis can be carried with the vegetables. These vegetables may also carry traces of drugs, both legal and illegal etc which have been metabolised in the body and excreted in metabolite form. There are many, many health issues that arise when growing vegetables in human waste as opposed to animal waste and the two cannot be compared.
    As far as washing vegetable is concerned, you won't wash human disease off of fresh vegetables and if you soak the vegetables, you soak the goodness out of them. A major problem lies with supermarket frozen vegetables grown in human faeces. These vegetables become soft and unpalatable when they are washed.
    I don't have a problem with Australian-grown vegetables grown in Animal poo - most of it is - but it is generally dried out before being applied so it doesn't burn the plants and is applied as a fertilizer, rather than plants being grown in it as occurs in China. Also, the manure used is from non-carnivores such as horses, cows, sheep etc.. Would you grow your vegetables in a bed of dog poo?
    22nd Mar 2018
    I didn't suggest growing vegetables in human faeces. Read my comment to parlance. But even animal poo needs to be cleaned off and wiping down my shopping trolley before washing my vegetables seems unnecessary.
    21st Mar 2018
    I agree with Tib. I grow some of my own veggies organically, and no way would I eat them without washing them thoroughly. I don't use human faeces, because that's against the law and I don't know how to make it safe. I don't use dog poo, either, but I do know that in the future we're going to have to figure out how to use resources like these. I'm confident that technology could make them safe to use. Also, I've been told by a Chinese friend that in Chinese recipes veggies are always cooked, not eaten raw, in order to make sure they are safe.
    21st Mar 2018
    My grandfather alway emptied his dunny can from his outdoor toilet between his veggie rows. I expect people have been doing that for generations but if use your own poo you won't catch anything you don't already have. He didn't need to do it as everybody was going past his house to church but what can I say , he liked to make a point. Ha ha.
    3rd Apr 2018
    I have always wondered Parlance, When growing home veg, what about snail bait. It all breaks down into the soil is that bad for you. I grow a few things myself
    6th Aug 2018
    Avoid using poisons in your garden, johnboy, at least near the edible garden. The great thing about growing your own food is that you KNOW what's in the soil & what has been sprayed on it. For this reason, I have a rainwater tank & use it on my edible garden, while the rest of the garden has to cop the poison-laden tap water.

    I only use certified organic garden products on my food, as the garden is only a small plot & not a mono-culture (like commercially farmed food is), so pests aren't such a problem. Use natural snail traps instead of poisonous pellets (that can also kill your beloved pets) - there are plenty of simple methods on the internet, from coffee grounds to beer traps.
    21st Mar 2018
    I’m not sure about wiping down the trolley. It’s the same with everything you touch. I always wash my hands thoroughly when I come home from being out. Soak all fruit and veggies in water with vinegar added and rinse thoroughly. As for clothes made in China, unless you pay a fortune or buy vintage there aren’t many options. Bangladesh?
    21st Mar 2018
    Well that's turned me off going to the supermarket ever again so I guess I will be eating out of a can from now on
    21st Mar 2018
    Leon, your concern about pre-made deli products, salad dressings and dips may be over done as the kitchens producing these items are strictly licensed under State Government and local authority regulations. The moment that there is a hint of any breach of these standards you would've noticed that there is an immediate recall of all potentially unsafe, contaminated or defective products.
    One of the greatest risk areas with any of the products that you will not be cooking further before consumption is the route from chiller cabinet in the store to your point of consumption. They must not be allowed to come up to room temperature for more than a few minutes from when you picked them out to when they pass your gullet.
    A recipe for social disaster is having the dips sitting uncovered on the table for the couple of hours during the afternoon barbecue while everyone mills around. The bacteria that grows then is as likely to be your own home grown species as one imported from the supermarket deli.
    6th Aug 2018
    My partner refers to supermarket pre-made salads as "salmonella salads". Just make your own from scratch & then you know what's in them. This is the problem with all processed foods - they're often full of crap ingredients like sugar, salt & trans fats.

    Here's a simple SALAD DRESSING RECIPE that we never tire of:
    - 3 parts red wine vinegar
    - 1 part Tamari (soy sauce)
    - 1 part olive oil
    - 1 part toasted sesame oil
    - pure, untreated honey to taste.

    Pour each ingredient into a glass bottle or jar that has a secure lid. Shake vigorously before use. We use 2 tablespoons per large salad. Store the bottle in the pantry, placed inside an old sugar bowl (as it always seems to leak a tiny bit).

    We use certified organic ingredients but they are more expensive. You don't need to add salt because the Tamari is already salty. We often add freshly ground black pepper.

    Here are some ingredients for a yummy salad:
    Avocado chopped into 1-2cm cubes, finely sliced red onion & celery, lebo cucumber, red capsicum, real tomato, lettuce, baby spinach & fresh green herbs from the garden. My favourite salad herb is sweet marjoram, but anything fresh-picked is great: mint, basil, rocket, parsley, lemon-thyme, bitter leafy greens - they really "lift" any salad.
    22nd Mar 2018
    Nobody has mentioned those rock melons !!!. It has been said they came from two properties, so what fertilisers were being used there? And IF as was suggested at one point, the contamination is on the skin via those nylon net bags, can this cause cross contamination in other produce coming in contact ???
    3rd Apr 2018
    8th Apr 2018
    7. Obviously you aren't aware that a some growers have large cool rooms that they store fruit and vegetables in, including pumpkins for several months.
    6th Aug 2018
    Wonderful Avos. They R a family business & really try . Ok. some things R dearer but if the quality is good or better It saves driving 15 - 25 kilometers 2 Supermarkets .I rarely eat pre cooked or prepared vegies. I Am healthy 2 .
    6th Aug 2018
    hoohoo, I did get something off the net a few weeks ago and it works very well, My raised garden did not have any worms even though i berried all the scraps in the garden,So what i did was brought a small garbage bin from shiploads cut the bottom off and drill a few big holes around the sides.Get a bin like a lid on it like a garbage bin, then bury the bin down into the garden leaving just the lid sticking out,Put all scraps into the bin and the worms will come from everywhere, they will eat then go out into the garden and do their thing but will stay around because the food is there. Now i have lots of worms ,it works well.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles