Top5 Best Drugstore Buys

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Best Drugstore Buys

By Kelli B. Grant,
Senior Consumer Reporter,

THE NEXT TIME you head to the drugstore to pick up a prescription, bring your shopping list. From big chains to mom-and-pop pharmacies, drugstores now offer the convenience of one-stop shopping with plenty of great deals thrown in.

Here are five drugstore bargains you shouldn't pass up:

1. Milk

Supermarkets are typically not the best place to buy this fridge staple -- there are rarely coupons or in-store sales on milk. Drugstores, on the other hand, regularly price it to entice consumers who are en route to the checkout counter, says Mary Hunt, founder of money management site Walgreens in San Francisco, for example, offers a half-gallon of skim milk for $2.49. At Safeway in San Francisco, it's $2.99. Read our story for more grocery-savings advice.

2. Makeup

Some of magazine beauty editors' favorite products come from the drugstore. "There's so much innovation there," raves Kari Molvar, beauty director for Cosmopolitan. (Cosmopolitan is published by Hearst Corp. is a joint venture of Hearst and Dow Jones.) Not only are prices cheap for trendy shades you'll wear for just a month or two (black nail polish and aquamarine eyeliner, anyone?), but the quality of many products is comparable to pricier versions found at the department store and other beauty retailers.

Some of Molvar's favorites: Maybelline Define-A-Lash ($7.95) and CoverGirl LashBlast ($8.69) mascaras, which rival $25 department-store brands in making eyelashes appear thicker. Another top pick: CoverGirl TruBlend ($9.29) and Revlon Custom Creation ($13.99) liquid foundations, which use advanced formulas to match your skin tones when you apply it. Best of all, most drugstores offer testers for in-store experimentation and a generous no-questions-asked return policy.

3. Skin- and Hair-Care Products

Big beauty companies have plenty of cash for research, which results in some highly-advanced products that give pricier salon versions a run for their money. "You would be shocked at the identical ingredients used in all price ranges," says Paula Begoun, author of "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me." Her favorite drugstore hair care brands include Got2Be, L'Oreal, Garnier Fructis and Pantene.

Jergen's Daily Glow moisturizer ($7.20) remains the standout bestseller in skin care. "Years after it first came out, this stuff still sells out," says Molvar. "You can't find it." Molvar and Begoun also like the Olay Regenerist line for its effective yet inexpensive moisturizers. (Its UV Defense Regenerating Lotion SPF 15, for example, is $19.87. Clinique's Repairwear Day SPF 15 Intensive Lotion is $48.50 at Sephora.)

4. Over-the-Counter Medications

"Store-brand over-the-counter medications with the same active ingredient have to be just as effective as the brand-name products," says Tod Marks, senior editor for Consumer Reports. Not only is the quality of such generics the same, but they're also typically 20% to 50% cheaper. A 60-tablet box of Claritin 24-Hour is $29.99, twice the price of the Rite Aid version at $14.99.

There's just one catch: "Read the label carefully to make sure it's the same percentage of active ingredient," says Marks. The 12-ounce bottle of store-brand cough syrup you need to take once every six hours won't be as good of a deal as a brand-name one needed every 12.

For more tips on reducing your health-care-related costs, read our story here.

5. Seasonal Items

Truly savvy shoppers know to shop for holiday wrapping paper and gift bags on Dec. 26, and grab beach chairs and bug spray as soon as the kids go back to school. But while end-of-season sales tend to be good everywhere, space constrictions make them phenomenal at the drugstore, says Hunt. "They have to bring in a whole bunch of stuff and then have to get rid of it just as quickly," she says. Hunt's favorite buy: 50-cent bags of brand-name mini candy bars after Halloween, which she uses as party favors through the end of the year.

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