Nine items you should never buy at the supermarket

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Your supermarket may be an inexpensive 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 have over-packaged items, ‘fresh’ produce that may have been frozen months ago and some may not have the best track records when it comes to hygiene, either by their own doing or the fact that hundreds of customers breathe on and touch the produce daily.

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, buy 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, to put it plainly, a petri dish of bacteria and germs – even after a quick wipedown with sanitiser. 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 yourself 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 are 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 vegies. 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 in cold storage 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.

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

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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17 Comments

Total Comments: 17
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    Thanks a million – that makes me feel a whole lot better. Not.

    It would be good to have known all this PRE the virus – ie while we were all relaxed and comfortable!

    But at this time we’re all freaking out, and need the extra stress like a hole in head!

    • 0
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      PS Is there any evidence that people are catching Covid from their groceries?

    • 0
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      It’s just plain old commonsense, Muttonbird. There’s absolutely no need to get stressed over it, unless, of course, you’re a stress junky, in which case good luck with that.

    • 0
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      Muttonbird…If you never caught the flu (various forms of coronavirus) in your evolving past, from your groceries…it is highly unlikely you will catch Covid-19 from the groceries…It all depends on people’s immune system whether it strong enough to fight it off or not. ‘use disposable gloves, wash your hands and wash the washable groceries at home. Cook at right temperatures…If you get symptoms of a sore throat, 2x panadols, hot tea, honey, lemon and a dash of brandy…or just try Lemsip…every 4 hours.

    • 0
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      None Muttonbird. None at all.

    • 0
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      Is there evidence? There are hundreds of virus cases everyday in Melbourne where they don’t know how the person got it….maybe this is one way it could happen.

  2. 0
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    How about the fruit packaged as ‘small’ for children. I looked at the price per weight on the package and saw that it was the same as buying individual pieces of the fruit. So if you only wanted a couple of pieces of the fruit it would cost you less than being forced into buy more than you wanted in the packages of fruit as a so-called special.
    I recommend that you always check the price per weight on things you can buy as either individual items or packaged. There will be no difference in price and you won’t buy more than you need.

  3. 0
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    Than tell us “Where It Is Safe To Purchase Groceries” that is safe” with Hygiene,Food Preparation, Meat Products, Deli etc.
    All places that sell food suppose to have “Safe Food Handling” and Use By/ Best by Date on Prepackaged Items.
    If not clearly not Following “Safe Food Handling Procedures”
    {;-(o)

  4. 0
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    Have a good look at the produced and package location.

    Basa fish is one to keep an eye on. While on the Mekong River 15 years ago there are many houses on floats that are anchored in the river. Netting is around the floats. It is what is inside the netting . On advice from a Vietnamese guide he advised Basa fish.
    Noticed the boat person sending the food scraps from the house plus human waste into the fish enclosure. I questioned the guide to what was being going to the River. “Everything including Human waste”
    It may have changed in the 15 years. I don’t go near Basa fish and only select caught in cold seas. Can’t come from Vietnam too hot. Think twice on fish purchase. I had a supermarket and would not stock Basa in my store

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      I would not touch anything but Aussie wild-caught fish –and would never have farmed fish/prawns/or Salmon– they are so unhealthy and fed God knows what

      Even then they have been eating plastic and been ingesting who knows what for years

  5. 0
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    Another click bait article to make you more paranoid, shop as normal, buy wholefoods, packaged food is laden with salt, sugar and unhealthy fats, make your own not to just save money but be healthier. Just wash your fresh produce as you normally would before use.

  6. 0
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    Out of season fruit and vegetables have often been in cool rooms NOT frozen. I know for a fact that many vegetable growers have their own atmospheric controlled cool rooms and their products are not frozen at all. Apples are stored in special buildings – they definitely are not frozen.

  7. 0
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    But no matter what you buy it should be washed thoughly before it is put away — and dried

  8. 0
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    Cheese shredded is cheaper than blocks at Aldi

  9. 0
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    I was interested in the homemade Tatziki dip recipe. Unfortunately, your recipe was for 4-6 people. I live on my own, so I found a recipe for 2 people online and tinkered with both recipes to come up with a smaller amount. I can also use mini pita breads.

  10. 0
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    Covid-19. What does one do when the shopper in front of you, picks up every piece of fruit on the tray, tomatoes, avo’s, etcetera. Just hope yhey don’t have the virus.


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