Founded in Chicago more than a century ago by Charles R. Walgreen Sr., Walgreens is now at the top of the drugstore food chain with more than 8,200 U.S. locations.
Not everything in the drugstore giant's aisles is healthy for your wallet. To find out how to make the most of your next trip to Walgreens, GOBankingRates asked savings experts to clue us in on the best and worst Walgreens deals.
Read on to discover which items you should grab on your next visit, and which you should not.
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Want to look your best but don't want to pay top dollar to do it? "Be on the lookout for designer makeup swaps at Walgreens," said Kerry Sherin, a senior content manager at savings site Offers.com.
Here are a few favorites she found: Wet N' Wild Pinkerbell ($2 at Walgreens) vs. Mac Viva Glam Nicki ($15); Wet N' Wild Sugar Plum Fairy ($2 at Walgreens) vs. Mac Rebel ($15); and L'Oreal Paris Extra-Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner ($5.99) instead of Lancôme Artliner Precision Point EyeLiner ($30.50).
Best: Over-the-counter medications
Got a headache? Don't make it worse with high-priced aspirin. Teri Gault, savings expert and CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, said that Walgreens is a great choice for over-the-counter medications. And the generic counterparts of the name brands are even better deals. "They often run buy-one-get-one-free sales on them," she said.
Best: Paper products
Saving money on paper towels, napkins, tissue and more can be really nice. Perhaps that's why the Walgreens brand of these products is called Nice! and is a great deal, said Gault. "Nice! brand paper products are good quality and frequently go on sale for 99 cents," she said. Examples include Nice! storage, freezer or sandwich bags, paper plates, napkins and facial tissue.
Best: Photo printing
If you want to print a few photos, create photo books and more, Gault recommended Walgreens as way of getting top quality at a great price.
"Walgreens has my personal favorite photo services," she said. "I've ordered prints online super cheap and picked them up within an hour. I also used their online tools to design books and photo albums at great savings, and I'm always happy with the result."
Best: Holiday gifts
Sure, your spouse and kids get big holiday gifts, but what about all those clients, office mates and friends you have to get gifts for? Try Walgreens. Gault said the drugstore has some good deals on those and stocking stuffers.
Her finds include: 50 percent savings on Halston and Stetson colognes, as well as Liz Claiborne and Vera Wang fragrances; 18-ounce jar candles for only $5; and Royal Dansk Cookies in a 12-ounce tin for $2.25 to $2.50 Also, "find sales for 50 percent to 70 percent off boxes of Russell Stover or Whitman's chocolates," she said.
Best: Contact lenses
Seeing clearly is important, but it doesn't have to be painfully expensive if you shop at Walgreens, said savings expert Jeanette Pavini of Coupons.com. "Walgreens has extremely competitive prices on contact lenses, especially when you combine it with a coupon code from Coupons.com," she said. "We found 20 percent off and free shipping good thru Dec. 21."
Best: Canned foods
Stocking up on canned foods when they're a good deal is smart, and Walgreens is a good spot for it, said Pavini. "The key is to check out Walgreens' weekly ad and shop for what's on sale," she said. "For example, Progresso soup was on sale for four for $5. We combined it with a $1 off coupon on four cans from Coupons.com to bring the price down to $1 per can."
Other notable deals in a recent weekly ad included 69 cent tuna and 99 cent black olives, Pavini added.
Best: Vitamins and supplements
If you do your homework, shopping Walgreens' vitamins and supplements can keep your wallet as healthy as your body. "Look for buy-one-get-one-free deals on vitamins," said Pavini. The drugstore also has a rewards program with a lot of earning potential, she added. "For example, spend $25 on certain prenatal supplements and get 10,000 rewards points. That's $10 in rewards you can use on your next purchase," she said.
Best: Laundry detergent
The cost of washing can pile up as fast as the laundry itself, so it helps to catch a break on laundry detergent, and Gault said Walgreens is a good place for that. Specifically, she said to wait for rebates and in-store Walgreens coupons, along with checking TheGroceryGame.com and other sites for coupons. "I also prefer the smaller [laundry detergent] containers over club store size, because they're easier to handle and store," said Gault.
Batteries are pricey, and Pavini said you won't get much relief at Walgreens. "Though Walgreens had several battery deals on ad, the price was still significantly more than when you bought batteries at a warehouse club," she said. So, try Costco or Sam's Club for more powerful savings.
Worst: Gift wrap
Spend the money on the gift, not the bag or wrapping that it comes in. To do that, you might want to avoid Walgreens, said Pavini. According to her, you will typically pay a premium for gift bags, bows and wrapping paper at Walgreens. "You don't want a $10 gift to turn into a $20 one simply because of wrapping supplies," she said. "One of the best places to find a bargain on wrapping paper is at designer discount stores."
Looking for some new stemware for that big holiday party? Or maybe some Tupperware for the leftovers? Don't look to Walgreens, said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews.com. She said most housewares found at Walgreens will be much more expensive than at stores like Target or Walmart.
"As Seen On TV" items
You know these: the products where the cheesy voice says, "Wait, there's more! Buy in the next 10 seconds, and you'll get not one, but 52 hairdryers for the same price!" Well, you might see some of these "As Seen on TV" items at Walgreens, but don't be tempted to purchase them without comparing prices at Amazon first. According to Sakraida, the online retailer is more likely to offer a slight discount on these types of items.
Just like those expensive batteries that power them, most electronics found at Walgreens are going to be pricey, said Sakraida. As an added insult, they'll likely be low quality, too. So, unless you have to need one of these items right away, she suggested going online to find much better deals on anything tech.
Worst: Cleaning products
Everything from Clorox to Simple Green is likely going to cost you more at Walgreens, said Sherin of Offers.com. "Drug stores consistently charge more for items like these, and you will be paying more for these than at the big box stores," she said.
You're better off quenching your thirst for Coke, Sprite and the rest of the sugary drinks at the grocery store than at Walgreens, said Gault. Walgreens and other drugstores rarely have deals, and supermarkets have better regular prices and run specials all the time. So, they're virtually always a better bet.
Worst: Holiday decorations
Walgreens might not be the best place to get your home into the holiday spirit, said Gault. You could score some deals on holiday decorations after the holiday, but not right before when drugstores like Walgreens will be more expensive than stores like Kmart, TJMaxx, and Ross, she explained.
Worst: Small appliances
When it's time for a new mixer or coffee maker, Walgreens might be convenient, but it likely won't be a great deal maker, said Regina Conway, consumer expert for SlickDeals.net. She said rather than hit drugstores for these and other small appliances, try Walmart or Target -- especially during Black Friday.