9 Things You Should Never Buy at Walgreens or CVS

Just because these stores carry certain products doesn’t make them a smart buy.

man in the supermarket
Updated May 28, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

CVS and Walgreens stores are great places to shop for many reasons. You can find at least one of these drugstores in many cities or towns, which is convenient when you’re in a pinch.

They also carry a reliable supply of merchandise, which adds to their convenience. You can grab a bunch of stuff in one fell swoop.

But there are some things you’re better off purchasing elsewhere. Following are items you should never or rarely buy at CVS and Walgreens. 

Either you can save money by purchasing such items elsewhere, or there are other good reasons not to buy them at these drugstores.

Toilet paper

Stanislav/Adobe woman with a lot of rolls of toilet paper in her hands

We’ve come a long way since the spring of 2020 when products like toilet paper were hard to find anywhere. Fortunately, that’s not an issue anymore, including at CVS and Walgreens.

However, just because you see these items in stock at the drugstore doesn’t mean you should buy them there. You’re often better off hitting up a bulk retailer like Costco, which has seriously good deals on paper products.

Plus, buying toilet paper in bulk means you’ll run out of it far less often. Few things are worse than having to suddenly run out to the store to buy toilet paper in the dead of winter.

Gift cards

New Africa/Adobe women with gift card

If you’ve ever needed to pick up a present for someone quickly, you might have purchased a gift card or two from CVS or Walgreens. They certainly can come in handy if you need to reward an employee or pop something in an envelope during the holidays.

However, if you have the time, you can get much better buys at Costco. The big-box store sells gift cards at a pretty deep discount.

For example, you might pick up a $50 Cinemark gift card for $39.99, or $100 worth of Smashburger gift cards for a mere $79.99. It’s a great Costco hack that can really save you money.

Pet food

FurryFritz/Adobe pet owner holding two food bowls with wet food

If you’re not too picky about what you feed Fido and Fifi, you might have a regular habit of picking up food for your furry friend at CVS or Walgreens. They tend to carry a modest stock of pet food, such as 9Lives or Meow Mix. They also carry some pet toys.

However, your pet may do better with products you can get from Chewy.com, such as Royal Canin or Hill’s brand foods. You can even set up regular deliveries so you don’t have to think about it — a box conveniently shows up on your doorstep exactly when you need it.

Electronics

boumenjapet/Adobe woman using apple laptop in the park

We get it: Both Walgreens and CVS may seem like good places to pick up electronics. Usually, these retailers have a pretty decent selection, too, ranging from phone chargers to headphones and fitness trackers.

Resist the temptation to buy electronics at the drugstore, though. It’s likely that they’re either going to be of poor quality or overpriced — or both.

In the long run, you might get a better deal buying a quality product directly from the manufacturer — such as Fitbit or Apple — even if you pay a bit more.

Cleaning supplies

Studio Romantic/Adobe man in an apron and yellow cleaning gloves

Both CVS and Walgreens offer a decent selection of cleaning products, from disinfecting wipes to toilet-bowl cleaners. If you find yourself with a coupon, it’s perfectly sensible to purchase such items at these stores.

However, without any kind of special discount, you’ll likely pay more for cleaning supplies at Walgreens or CVS than you might at other stores.

Batteries

Srdjan/Adobe man opening the tv remote control to change the dead batteries

If you regularly replenish your battery supply, you may be tempted by the store brand at Walgreens or CVS. They don’t cost an arm and a leg, which makes them appealing when you need to stock up.

However, drugstore batteries don’t always perform well in tests by publications such as Consumer Reports. And if you really don’t mind skimping on the quality of your batteries, you probably can find them cheaper at the dollar store.

Otherwise, save yourself some headaches and buy higher-quality batteries on Amazon or from another retailer.

Toys

very_ulissa/Adobe little girl and boy playing with toys by the home

Anyone who has strolled through the aisles of CVS or Walgreens with a child will tell you that these retailers sell both candy and kid’s toys. You can score some good deals on candy at such places, especially the day after a holiday such as Halloween or Valentine’s Day.

However, skip spending any of your money on toys. The selection at a drugstore is going to be paltry compared to at Target or Walmart. You’re also likely to pay more due to the markup on these items at CVS or Walgreens.

Frozen food

Gorodenkoff/Adobe man pushes shopping cart and chooses frozen vegetables

If you enjoy the convenience of frozen foods, you might be tempted to throw some in your cart the next time you stop by a Walgreens or CVS. These stores carry a modest selection of meals from brands like Lean Cuisine, as well as ice cream and other frozen desserts.

However, you can get better deals on frozen food at other places, such as the grocery store. Even better, stock up on these meals the next time they are on sale at your favorite supermarket.

Seasonal decor

phoenix021/Adobe woman buying Christmas ornaments

It can be fun to wander around Walgreens or CVS, especially during Halloween, Christmas, and other holidays. These outlets stock this kind of seasonal merchandise.

However, you probably would fare better stocking up on wreaths and Christmas lights at places like T.J. Maxx, HomeGoods, and similar stores. Their selection is going to be much larger, for one. The decor is also likely to be cheaper there.

Bottom line

Pixel-Shot/Adobe woman and hands with credit cards

CVS and Walgreens stores are easy to find and offer the convenience of a one-stop shopping trip. However, there is a list of products you should avoid purchasing at these drugstores.

So shop carefully when you visit drugstores. And if you do make a purchase, consider using one of the best cashback credit cards so you can enhance your savings.

Author Details

Cat Lafuente

Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.