10 Foods NOT to Buy at the Grocery Store - Don't Mess with Mama

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10 Foods NOT to Buy at the Grocery Store

10 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - DontMesswithMama.com

I just returned from a month-long vacation with my family and came back to an empty refrigerator – except for some fruit, meat and make-ahead meals in my freezer. And while I went out to buy food to replenish our frig, it occurred to me that there are certain foods I haven’t bought from the grocery store in years because these foods are usually loaded with artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, sugar (or worse sugar substitutes), GMOs and other ingredients that I avoid for my family. Find out what foods not to buy at the store.

10 Foods NOT to Buy at the Grocery Store

1. Frozen waffles and pancakes

It’s so easy to opt for pre-packaged frozen waffles or pancakes to pop in the toaster, but if you take a look at the ingredient list you’ll see a laundry list of additives and sugar. You can easily make your own (check out my gluten-free buttermilk pancake recipe and adapt for waffles too) ahead of time and make double or triple batches to freeze. We usually make bulk batches over the weekend and use them for breakfast or packing in our kids’ lunches.

Gluten-Free Bacon Buttermilk Pancakes

2. Non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut or rice)

I usually opt out of soy milk, but I do love almond and coconut milk for my smoothies. But have you ever checked out the ingredient list? Most of the store-bought non-dairy milks have an ingredient called carrageenan – an additive that can cause gastrointestinal inflammation and other health issues. Plus, soy has other anti-nutrients you should avoid. Read about the dangers of soy. And it’s actually pretty easy to make your own coconut milk or almond milk (or buy it from a reputable source – here’s where I buy coconut milk).

3. Trail mix or trail mix bars

Buying trail mix or snack bars may seem like an easier option, but again many brands are loaded with sugar (or worse high fructose corn syrup) and other additives. Again, it’s easier to make your own and make a big batch to use for the week.

This Paleo Trail Mix is great on its own or it can be formed into bars – which works well for a kid’s lunch. It’s packed with healthy nuts, shredded coconut, and raisins to deliver a healthy mix of carbs and protein – and lightly sweetened with real maple syrup.

Paleo Maple Nut Trail Mix #paleo #glutenfree #grainfree - DontMesswithMama.com

4. Salad dressing

I see it all the time. Shopper grazing over the salad dressing aisle in stores, and I’m always amazed when people buy dressings that are just as easy to make at home. Plus, it’s easy to accommodate those with food allergies with homemade dressings. Many store-bought dressings contain gluten, soy and other allergens that my family has to avoid.

Italian dressing can be made with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, garlic, sea salt and a touch of Italian spices (like basil, thyme, parsley and oregano). Sometimes I even add a few squeezes of lemon juice for a citrus flavor. Another favorite in my house is homemade garlic buttermilk ranch dressing.

5. Canned soups and vegetables

We avoid canned soups, vegetables and pretty much anything in a can to eliminate potential exposure to BPA-lined cans. In addition, we prefer fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as homemade broths and soups to cut down on salt and other additives. I usually make a batch of homemade broth and store extra in mason jars in the freezer.

6. Coffee creamer

Take a look at the label for your favorite coffee creamer. Chances are you’re checking out a long list of ingredients you can barely pronounce. I know, you can’t live without your pumpkin spice coffee in the morning. But it’s actually pretty easy to make your own. This pumpkin spice creamer contains only 5 ingredients that you probably already have in your kitchen.

7. Table salt

In a nutshell, there’s no nutritional value in refined table salt. Opt for Himalayan Pink salt or Celtic sea salt instead. Both contain more trace elements for your body.

8. Margarine

I’ve long given up on margarine. Years ago, I thought margarine was the healthier choice. It was lower in fat and made from vegetables oils rather than high-fat butter. Boy was I wrong. The reality is that margarine is a man-made product. It’s like hydrogenated oil. It’s a food-like substance that isn’t made with real food. Find out more about what’s wrong with canola and other vegetable oils.

Real butter from pastured cows, on the other hand, is a real food that has been produced for centuries. It’s packed with fat-soluble vitamins (which doesn’t make you fat, actually it nourishes your body), vitamin K2 and conjugated linoleic acid.

9. Canola and vegetable oils

And while we’re talking about canola and vegetable oils (this includes corn, soybean, sunflower, safflower, peanut, grapeseed, rapeseed and cottonseed oils), I should note that these oils should be avoided too since they are refined, usually made from GMO rapeseeds and treated with chemicals to get the desired color. They’re also high in polyunsaturated fats and omega-6 fats (which are not the same as healthy omega-3 fats). Read more on why you should avoid soybean and other vegetable oils.

Instead opt for monounsaturated fats like unrefined, virgin coconut oil (which work well for stir fry, deep fry and so much more), organic ghee or pastured butter. Extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil are great for salads and other dishes that don’t require heat.

10. Boxed cereal

I have vivid memories of eating a box of Honey Nut Cheerios and Fruit Loops in the morning as a kid. Little did I (or my mom) know that those cereals were loaded with artificial colors and flavors and packed with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Read more on 8 unhealthy truths about breakfast cereal.

Now as a mom myself, I opt out of sugary boxed cereal. My kids have seen commercials on TV for boxed cereal but haven’t tried any of them yet. Even those touted as healthier alternatives without artificial colors or preservatives are still high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. I usually make the kids a quick frittata or scrambled eggs with fruit for breakfast instead. They love these kid-friendly egg breakfast burritos (which we now make a gluten free tortilla) and gluten-free mini quiches (great for making ahead).

But I admit I do let my kids indulge from time to time on a box of cereal but we usually opt for a puffed brown rice cereal or organic corn flakes. These still give the kids a bit of crunch but without the added artificial colors or sugar. They’re not perfect options but I find that my kids just like to have a little treat now and then.

What food have you stopped buying at the grocery store?

10 Foods Not to Buy at the Grocery Store - DontMesswithMama.com


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About Tracey Black

Hi, I’m Tracey. Welcome to Don’t Mess with Mama. Join me to stand up against junk food, processed food, and anything artificial. I’ll show you how to cook wholesome, gluten free (and grain free) meals with real food ingredients to nourish your family. Plus, learn how to get the toxins and chemicals out of your home for good with my favorite DIY and homemade recipes for beauty, personal care and cleaning products.


  1. You could use fresh coconut milk or make your own as well. I prefer to do that.

  2. I’ve read a few articles saying that going gluten free is not a good health choice unless you truly are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. Are you gluten intolerant? I’ve heard gluten free referred to as a fad just like Paleo diet and Mediterranean diet. Just curious if you’ve done any research on going gluten free as a health choice?

    • My husband is celiac and my oldest son is gluten intolerant. The problem with gluten is that it’s GMO and so different compared with what our ancestors ate. If you try Einkorn wheat (ancient wheat), you may be able to tolerate it. That’s the only wheat we have in our house. I make homemade pancakes with it.

  3. Angie Johnson says:

    When I clicked the link for where author buys coconut milk – Village Green Network, I see empty space. There doesn’t appear to be any products in there. Am I missing something?

  4. I already do some of these…yay! I am always looking for more ways to make my own healthy foods. I make peanut butter with the food processor: unsalted nuts, honey and a bit of coconut oil. Every now and then I’ll add a small amount of molasses. My husband loves it and eats it plain on a tablespoon. I keep it in the refrigerator too. 🙂

  5. No fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, etc!
    No dry onion soup packets. Make it homemade!
    No boxed Mac n cheese!
    Nothing with HFCS.

  6. Dorian Ferrari says:

    I found this very interesting. I am guilty of the almond milk as I use it every day and I have to pick battles. I will try the cashew milk option. Next, Salad dressing and as a corollary mayo. I’ve tried every combination/recipe and oil option and I just cannot stand the taste. The closest thing I’ve found to being semi-ok is the horizon expeller pressed organic canola. The closest I’ve made that was slightly palatable was using avocado oil. So for salads I’ve had to go back to plain vinegar and oil. Mayo, not often used here, just doesn’t seem to do anything for me but waste expensive oil 🙂 The rest I’m on board with. Buy a quarter cow once a year from a renown grass fed ranch. Most of our cans are stuff in our emergency kit 🙂

  7. Gloriluz Alonso says:

    Awesome informatiin.

  8. My tip is make cashew milk instead of almond milk – just as yummy & way easier. No pulp!

  9. just want to clarify, omega 3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fats which is not clear in your post. You mention the listed oils as being rich in polyunsaturated AND omega 6 fats. Canola oil has a higher percentage of omega 3 fats from ALA than omega 6. Perhaps listing oils such as flaxseed, hemp seed, nuts (almond, ..) and olive oils would be helpful for readers to know of healthier alternative. We know that oils are not only one type of fatty acid but a mixture and it is the percentage of its composition of each fat that deems it healthy, not healthy or the healthiest.

  10. I really love this article. I wanted to let you know that you now can purchase Silk unsweetened almond milk without the yucky stuff.

  11. I had a hard time with the boxed cereals, too. Even the healthier options, like you’ve said, aren’t the best choice. I just recently discovered One Degree Organic Foods and they have some nice cereal options, and they are good. 🙂 Just thought I’d share that info. along with you! 🙂

  12. Time will probably come when all prepared food has to be avoided.

  13. I couldn’t agree more and I have a few to add to this list!
    – Grain-Fed Beef Products (or any red meat for that matter)
    – Farmed Fish
    – Anything with Trans Fatty Acids
    – Mayo
    – Pork Products (should be free-ranged)

    I never venture into the middle aisles, all I need are veggies and fish and I am good to go! Okay, no I definitely purchase extra virgin olive oil 😉

  14. I was very happy to find that Rice Dream now has organic rice milk without Carageenan. All ingredients are listed organic.

  15. Great ideas! Thanks for including my coffee creamer!

  16. Hi, I had a couple questions from reading your post. We have been making our own dressing for a while, some spices and vinegar and olive oil. Is there any trick to getting it to stay mixed? We shake it before putting it on our salad but it still separates quickly and we never get any spices out of it. When you make broth and freeze it, do you can it with a pressure cooker or just pop it in a mason jar and put it in the freezer? Have you ever tried making your own cream of something soup and canning? I have been debating that one for a while. Just wondering if canning the broth or the cream of soup is possible so I don’t have to freeze and I can have it ready to open when I need it.

    • There’s no trick that I know of to keep it mixed. I believe additives like soy lecithin will keep dressings from separating, but it just takes a second to shake it up. I’d prefer not to put any additives in it. As far as broth, I put it in mason jars and freeze them (no pressure cooking). When I’m ready to use the broth, I take it out of the freezer and put it in the frig to defrost. And here’s an easy cream of mushroom soup (you can adapt to any creamy soup) that freezes really well: http://thenourishingcook.com/cream-of-mushroom-soup-recipe/.

    • I use an immersion blender to make my salad dressings – really helps with the separation problem. I still have to shake it after it’s in the fridge for awhile, but it doesn’t separate after pouring.

    • A ;little trick too is to freeze it in ice cube trays, then transfer it to a bag or other container. It takes less time to thaw out that way. 🙂

    • Find emulsifying ingredients to put in your dressing. A great flavorful emulsifier is mustard. You don’t need much.

    • Please don’t just pop your stock into a mason jar and put it in the freezer. Liquid EXPANDS, you’ll have glass in your stock if you don’t leave at least an inch of space at the top, 2 inches might even be better.

      Emulsification is what the salad dressing needs and you don’t need mustard or anything else – you need vigorous movement. The lady who uses the blender is right on. There was a guest a a part I brought dressing to who thought that I had used egg or milk to emulsify – nope just the blender (immersion or little 2 cup, I even use a whisk – but that takes some arm power – if you can whip egg whites with a whisk you can emulsify dressing).

      I caution your canning of “cream of” soups. If you are an expert canner and have a pressure canner, test kits etc – then by all means – go for it, but these have a shelf life and I recommend researching it before you do it.

  17. My only quibble with this list is the salt. I prefer sea salt myself, but table salt has iodine added, and iodine deficiency can impact fertility. I had trouble getting pregnant, even timing things perfectly, when I ate only sea salt. I switched to iodized and got pregnant the next month. (I’ve since switched back to sea salt, but I just wanted to point out that table salt does, in fact, serve a nutritional purpose.)

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree sea salt is fantastic. I believe you’re right – sea salt and Himalayan Crystal Salt doesn’t have ADDED iodine like table salt but you can still get iodine through supplements. I would prefer to go that route than use table salt. But to each their own. Thanks for visiting.

  18. Brittany A says:

    I totally agree with everything on this list. Homemade is always best.

  19. What a wonderful post! Thank so much for sharing my almond milk recipe. So appreciated!

  20. Ree Battis says:

    Good list but I disagree with number 2…not all almond milk has carrageenan (I switched to Silk brand because it doesn’t have it). I make 90% of our food from scratch and because we drink so little milk, I don’t have time to mess with making it, so I buy it.

    • That’s fantastic you make 90% of your food at home. You’re right some non-dairy milks don’t have carrageenan, but I prefer to make my own when I can (if I have time. If you can find a version without carrageenan then that’s great!

      • Buying in bulk is the key. I would set aside a day where you can make your milk for the week so you don’t have to worry about it everyday. Good luck!

  21. Love this Tracey!

  22. Christina Hauri says:

    Great post!!! I cringe every time I buy coffee creamer at the grocery store because I know how bad it is… but I simply cannot find a replacement for French Vanilla Coffeemate – I have tried various recipes with vanilla extract to no avail 🙁 I may just have to give up coffee instead….

    I am also guilty of #1 at times (though its rare) and definitely guilty of #2 – I’m about to go check my labels on my coconut and almond milks right now! yikes!

    Great list and great post – thanks so much! 🙂

    • I’m guilty of these every once in a while too. I think it’s good to know what we can do and then take baby steps to change. Thanks for visiting!

    • Hi. Thought I’d share these with you. I’ve only tried one but it was great!
      Homemade coffee creamer (Cinnamon Strudel)
      1 ½ and ½ Whisk together and keep refridgerated
      2 Tbl. Maple syrup
      1 tsp. cinnamon
      1 tsp. vanilla 1 tsp. almond extract

      Chocolate Almond Coffee Creamer
      1 cup ½ and ½ Whisk together and keep refridgerated
      1 Tbl. Cocoa powder
      2 Tbl. Maple syrup
      ½ tsp. almond extract

      Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer
      1 cup ½ and ½ Whisk together and keep refridgerated
      2 TBL. Pureed pumpkin
      1 tsp. pumpkin Spice
      2 TBL. Maple syrup
      1 tsp. vanilla

      From- (deliciouslyorganic.net)

  23. Jouko Ofverberg says:

    Having your refrigerator on one month and only these foodstuff in has not been a good idea. During the summer period when the outside temperature is higher the electricity consumption is also higher. If you are thinking healthy ,think also that if every family in the world is having their refrigerators on during their vacations, it is lot of energy, atmospheric pollution and CO2 gases.

  24. I wont buy grocery store gelatin, but I do special order it so that I can make sure I am getting a really high quality gelatin. The same with coconut oil.

    I also have to go to a specialty store to buy local bee pollen and local raw honey. I am also able to get my raw dairy and grass fed meats there. So I guess its sort of like a grocery store, only its not. LOL!

    • High-quality gelatin is always best. I’m working on making my own marshmallows soon. I’ll post a recipe in the coming weeks. Thanks for visiting.

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