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Would you pay $30 a pound for Cheerios?

Some "convenience" items come with a shocking markup. Even a minimal amount of prep work can help you get the most from your shopping dollars.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 10, 2014 11:51AM

This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIt's no secret that we pay for "convenience" at the supermarket. But have you ever done the math?

Shopping carts © Claus Christensen, PhotographerI ran the numbers on some of those "value-added" items while researching a magazine article. My favorite grocery gouge was the "toddler pack" of Cheerios, a 1-ounce plastic container that sold for $1.89.

That's more than $30 per pound! Elsewhere in the store you could buy the O-shaped cereal for as little as $1.95 per pound.

Anytime somebody sells cereal by the cup or puts a pre-measured amount of detergent into a "pod," expect markups that range from shocking to ridiculous. That's a shame, because even a small amount of prep work could keep you from falling back on, say, precooked rice in a microwavable cup.

Yes, that's a real product -- and it worked out to almost five times as much as the bags of uncooked swamp seed on the shelf below. If you want to have ready-to-eat rice on hand at all times, cook up a batch and freeze it in you-sized portions. Problem solved.

(This also works for dried beans. Cook and freeze some of them and you'll always have the underpinnings of the frugalist's favorite meal.)

Pod people?

A blogger who posts at Bargain Babe commented recently about dishwasher detergent pods. In "How Much of a Ripoff Are Detergent Pods?," she notes that the pods cost up to three times as much as powder or liquid products.

"Stick to regular liquid or powder dishwasher detergent," she concluded.

Another potential pod issue is that small children can mistake them for candy. Injuries and deaths from ingested detergent pods have gone up rapidly in the past two years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

If you do decide to go with pods, keep them where kids can't reach. Don't let kids handle them, either; one child suffered serious eye injuries when he squeezed a laundry pod and it burst in his face.

Incidentally: When using liquid or powder, you don't have to fill both dishwasher cups. You might not even have to fill one of the cups all the way, according to The New York Times. Today's appliances are more efficient and the detergents are more concentrated.

The same holds true for washing machines. While heavily soiled clothes might need the full recommended amount, try using half as much detergent as the manufacturer suggests. You might be able to get by with one-third to one-fourth of the recommended amount. (I do.)

Breakfasts that cost a bundle

A few more "value-added" (read: subtracted) products:

  • Coffee pods. Single-serve coffees can run 50 cents to $1.50 or more apiece. Consumers who’d otherwise spend several dollars per cup at a coffee shop might think that’s a pretty good deal. However, this translates to anywhere from $22 to $124 per pound of java. The moral of the story: Buy a regular coffee maker and a decent Thermos, then carry your savings off to work each day.
  • Cereal cups. Those kiddie Cheerios are a worst-case scenario but other gouges abound. One cereal cup I saw cost $16 per pound, vs. $5.33 per pound when bought by the box. Why not pour boxed cereal into lidded bowls for a week’s worth of grab-and-go breakfasts?
  • Instant oatmeal. A cup of fancy instant oatmeal retails for about a dollar. Merissa Alink of the Little House Living blog packages quick-cooking organic oats plus powdered milk, dried fruit and a bit of sugar for a total cost of 18 cents per serving. (Just FYI: Quick-cooking oatmeal bought in the health food/bulk buy section of the supermarket can cost as little as 99 cents per pound.)

Can't you make your own PBJs?

  • Pre-washed potatoes. Wrapped in plastic and ready to microwave -- and almost twice the cost of a naked spud. Here’s a clue: Buy the cheaper potato, wash it and cook it.
  • Gelatin cups. Half a cup costs about 76 cents. Made from a box, it's 20 cents. Surely you can boil up some water.
  • Frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A 2-ounce sandwich for about a dollar -- really? Try this instead: Some weekend afternoon, take 20 minutes to turn a loaf of bread into PBJs, then freeze them. (Tip: Put peanut butter on both slices of bread to keep the jelly from soaking through before lunchtime.)

Look, I know you're busy. Most of us are. But "groceries" is the budget category with the most wiggle room. As the costs for rent and utilities keep inching up, one way to offset the price increases is to cut back at the supermarket.

Remember: If someone is selling "convenience," you're probably going to pay through the nose. Sometimes it might be worth it. Most of the time it isn't.

More on Money Talks News:

Mar 10, 2014 1:47PM
I quote Animal House:  "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son".  Lazy and stupid people buy this stuff because they can't do basic math, and then they complain they have been taken advantage of.  A fool is born every second.  It's not everyone else's fault if you are said fool.
Mar 10, 2014 2:44PM

Ok lets see .. 535 members of Congress, a President and Vice President .. lets just round it off to 200 lbs a person .. that would be 102,030lbs. Natioanl Debt is 17trillion 465 billion dollars ... That equals

$171,175,145.00 a pound .... Talk about getting screwed.

Mar 10, 2014 4:23PM
The only luxury/indulgence/whatever I buy is coffee in "pod" form, and only since I was widowed.  Nowadays, without my husband around, I drink one cup of coffee daily, and sometimes I go 2-3 days without coffee.  Even grinding my own beans, by the time I finished up a bag, the stuff was kinda stale.  The kids got me a Keurig brewer for Christmas, which is very handy.  I am frugal in my other grocery shopping, but like the K-cup system.  For those who drink more coffee than I do, there's a system called "my K-cup," where one uses ones own coffee in a K-cup container.  And I don't eat Cheerios or instant oatmeal, so gotta live it up somewhere.
Mar 10, 2014 12:42PM
I have a friend who used to pay $330 a pound back in the early Eighties but those weren't Cheerios that he was importing.
Mar 10, 2014 2:31PM
It is like PT Barnum once said; "There is a sucker born every minute."
Mar 10, 2014 1:03PM
"Cereal cups. Those kiddie Cheerios are a worst-case scenario but other gouges abound. One cereal cup I saw cost $16 per pound, vs. $5.33 per pound when bought by the box. Why not pour boxed cereal into lidded bowls for a week’s worth of grab-and-go breakfasts?"


$5.33 a pound is still outrageous! an apple instead.

Mar 10, 2014 12:51PM
Just buy the store brand cheerios.  They are the same exact thing.
Mar 10, 2014 4:25PM
I live alone, and cooking for one is difficult.  I always buy store brands to save money, but I do buy some convenience items to make preparation easier and eliminate leftovers.  I realize I pay for convenience, but I also have zero waste and don't eat much anyway.
Mar 11, 2014 10:34AM
This is just another **** non story.   The companies only produce what people will buy.  The manufacturer is not ripping anyone off.  The consumer is ripping himself off.
Mar 10, 2014 5:37PM
Just look at bottled water.
It's $0.89 for a one gallon jug, and $1.49 to $1.69 for a refrigerated, 20 oz. bottle.

Mar 11, 2014 2:41PM

GEEZ!!! What's wrong with all of you people?

Why the heck are so many of you bent on trashing others based on what they spend their money on? If you want to be frugal, FINE, be frugal, if you like to splurge than SPLURGE. What the heck is the big deal?

It's 1:40 pm and I haven't had lunch yet, but as soon as the inspector from the Gas & Electric company is finished with his inspection, I'm going to drive (not walk!) around the corner to the small, yet superb locally owned family restaurant and have them cook me up a nice big steak and egg Linner (Linner = Lunch & Dinner, the other Brunch).

You only get to go around once in this life, and I plan on and have been enjoying it as much as possible!!! Now, with that said, are there any ladies that have that same sort of outlook on life that would like to have Dinner? I'm buying!!!

Mar 10, 2014 2:49PM

There is a Chump born every minute.  If I don't take him someone else will.


Cereal Maker

Mar 11, 2014 12:55AM

I see people pay $16.00 a gallon for plain water everyday.

Mar 10, 2014 4:45PM

I buy everything in Bulk, and portion it out and store it, its the only way to shop. But then again I cook most of my meals from raw ingredients, something that seems to be lacking in America today.


Mar 10, 2014 3:53PM
When I was a kid  the round  oak breakfast food was the breakfast  of my Hero, The Lone Ranger! Don't know if Tonto ate it to. LOL Hi ooooo Silver away
Mar 10, 2014 5:13PM

Do we remember when the Gov  made food stores post right on the price labels the exact "price per LB or per OZ

   try reading it ,it will tell you every thing you need to KNOW. When it says $19.99 an OZ  DERR...

Mar 10, 2014 4:38PM
If you are willing enough to be lazy enough or just don`t care and just buy them, then it can be hundreds a pound. But for those of us that have to make it stretch then, that`s why you buy bulk and break it down for your own needs. Once again, those that can and those that don`t care, that is the best customer for all these companies. It must be working because it has been going on for decades.
Mar 10, 2014 2:18PM

30 bucks for Cheetos > No Way

Now Doritos is another issue

Mar 10, 2014 4:11PM

You're buying the packages, people.....and the labels, and the printing, and the additional machinery, etc.

My daughter is one of the worst.

I took a Consolidated Plastics catalog home for her to see how much money is but EMPTY un-labeled bottles, tubs, jars, packing peanuts, boxes, and pallets.

ZERO PRODUCT, just packages.




Do you think she gets it ??

HA !  

Mar 11, 2014 10:36AM
I buy store brand products whenever possible and I buy something that is quick and easy and convenient. But, very economic. I very rarely eat any kind of cereal and have learned eating a protein bar is quick and easy every morning. I buy store band dish washing powders and other cleaning items. I am very careful about the price I pay, also. Just call me el cheapo.
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