Things Not to Buy at the Pharmacy

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Convenience, at a Price

You run into a local pharmacy to pick up a prescription and, in the interest of saving time, decide to buy some nail polish, a birthday card for your sister, a box of cereal, and a package of toilet paper. Expect to gasp when the purchases get tallied up. When not on sale, these items can cost quite a bit more than at the grocery store, beauty supply outlet, dollar store, club savings warehouse, or even online. We take a look at items found readily in your local pharmacy, but quite often at prices that will have you wishing you waited.

Related: What Not to Buy at the Dollar Store

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Sensodyne toothpaste


It’s rare that you need toothpaste immediately, so resist the urge to grab your preferred brand. Wait for the supermarket — especially when toothpaste is on sale. A random check of two local stores found the same Sensodyne toothpaste selling for 30% more at the pharmacy than the supermarket.

Related: Things Not to Buy at Costco, Sam's, or BJ's

Dove bar


Soap, from bars to liquid, is another item you should stock up on to make impulse buys unnecessary. The pharmacy’s limited selection, led by Dove, could end up costing you close to $1 more per bar of soap than at the grocer’s.

Related: Things You Should Never Buy on Amazon

Argan Oil Morocco Shampoo


Name shampoo brands seem to rise in price regularly. Add the convenience of buying in a pharmacy and you’ll likely walk away paying a whopping premium. Our spot check found the same OGX bottle of shampoo at $10.29 in a pharmacy versus $7 in the grocery store.

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CoverGirl mascara


Luxury brands are found readily in department and specialty shops, but for everyday brands ranging from L’Oreal to CoverGirl to Maybelline, skip the pharmacy aisles and head to the supermarket to save an average of $2 or more per tube.


Nail Polish

Salon-favorite brands such as OPI and Essie may not be found in the supermarket, but we have literally gasped when checking them out at the local pharmacy — a bottle can easily top $10. Savvy shoppers can buy online or check out a local beauty supply store (ours has an ongoing offer on these brands at three bottles for $16).

Happy Anniversary card

Greeting Cards

Paying close to $10 for a greeting card is possible in a pharmacy. Take a walk to a dollar store, where you might pay that dollar or even get two cards for $1. For the unsentimental recipients, these cards you would splurge on might end up in the garbage anyway.

Blue Moon Belgian
Sam's Club


Direct your beer run to a supermarket or beverage outlet for prices that’ll save money to put toward chips and dip. A random check of a 12-pack of Blue Moon Belgian ale sold for nearly $3 more at a pharmacy than the supermarket.


Hair Accessories

Headbands are good to have on hand as party-bag additions for little girls and as a must for the new school year. But they can top $5 in the pharmacy; you can get several for that price at the dollar store.



When you don’t want to cook, a can of soup might look appetizing. But we spotted a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle at a national pharmacy for $2.69. Not bad for a meal, but a trip to the grocery would save you at least one-third off that cost.



With Halloween coming up fast and a potential candy shortage looming, you may find yourself scouring pharmacy aisles in search of goodies for trick-or-treaters. Again, plan ahead and buy in bulk at savings clubs or check out supermarket sales.


Toilet Paper

We all got used to grabbing toilet paper whenever we saw it during the pandemic. Curb that impulse in the pharmacy. We spotted the same Charmin four-pack for $8.79 in a pharmacy as was selling for $6.49 in the supermarket.


First Aid Goods

Sometimes you need a bandage or first-aid cream and head to the pharmacy. You’ll pay a premium. Why not kit out a home first-aid kit with items bought at the grocery store? You’ll have what you need on hand, saving at least a dollar per item.

Reynolds Wrap

Kitchen Wraps

For those who rarely cook, it’s tempting to grab aluminum foil or plastic wrap at the pharmacy. But this is another item that sells for at least $1 to $2 more than at the grocery store (or $6 more than at the dollar store).



Scarves, beach cover-ups, leggings … whoever thought a pharmacy would be the place to expand your wardrobe? Sure, sometimes items can be on sale, but probably not at the quality you usually seek out. With a national pharmacy chain selling leggings for $8 to $16, you might be tempted; you also may very well be disappointed (I was!) in the product once purchased.



Vitamins can be a boost to your health, but drain your pocketbook if they’re not on sale. Consider buying online in bulk to save big bucks.



Sometimes, you’ll need to run to the closest store to grab extra diapers. Be prepared for a limited selection at a premium. Prices can climb toward $50 for smaller-size boxes than are found in other outlets.

Corn Flakes


A box of cereal shouldn’t be a major purchase. We found Corn Flakes selling at $6.29 for the smallest option at the pharmacy; the jumbo, family-size box was just $5 at the grocery nearby.


Office Supplies

Staples, paper clips, tape, pens … all necessary items for back-to-school and home offices. When there’s no sale, why are you laying out the big bucks? A two-pack of Sharpie markers was $4.19 in the pharmacy, $2.49 in the grocery.



Razors are pricey. That’s a fact. But you don’t need to blow your budget on them at the pharmacy, where we spotted an eight-pack of Venus razors for women for $31.49. A four-pack of the same brand was $8 at the supermarket.

Garlic Salt

Pantry Staples

Avoid the temptation to buy pantry staples at the pharmacy, where they are likely not bestsellers (keep an eye on those expiration dates) and most definitely priced more than the supermarket. Garlic salt was $2.39 at the pharmacy versus $1.79 at the grocery, or one-third less.


Pain Relief

Don’t be surprised if your headache grows another notch when you see the price of relief at the pharmacy. Supermarkets have various brands averaging $2 to $3 less per box at everyday prices.

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Toys and Gifts for Kids

Put some thought into a child’s gift to avoid a last-minute grab. When not on sale, stuffed animals, toys, and the like can really give sticker shock at the pharmacy, where you can easily drop $15 to $20 on the most basic toy or game. Buy what you want instead of settling for the limited (and expensive) choices of drugstore desperation.

Tropicana Orange Juice


Again, you pay for convenience: Orange juice from the pharmacy might put the finishing touch on breakfast, but you’ll have no change for those eggs. Our price check found the pharmacy charging 40% more than the grocery store for the same gallon of Tropicana.

Tyson Chicken

Frozen Foods

You don’t think, “Oh, I’ll head to the pharmacy for a quick dinner,” but in the rush to put a meal on the table, you might find yourself grabbing a frozen dinner. Stock your freezer with selections in advance so you don’t drop $5.79 on a Stouffer meal that’s $4 in the grocery.

Laundry Detergent

Laundry Detergent

Laundry detergent selections are limited in a pharmacy. You may find not only a less desirable brand, but also a price you’d rather not pay. A small bottle of All detergent was $8.69 in a pharmacy compared with $6 at the grocery.

Dog Toy

Pet Toys

A toss of a pet toy into your basket might make your pup happy — but at more than $10, you might think again. Dollar stores, pet specialty shops and even supermarkets offer much more economical options. The pet won’t know the difference, but your wallet will.

Duracell AAA


You can never have enough batteries, and you pay for that need, as batteries are pricey. Stock up at the hardware store, warehouse club, or even the supermarket when batteries go on sale. A random check of Duracell AAA batteries shows they cost 25% more in the pharmacy than at the grocery store.