I’m looking for a term to cover the kinds of things that we frequently buy at the grocery store but that are not actually groceries.

The term needs to include things like: toilet paper, kitchen napkins, band aids, detergents (laundry, dish), cleansers, bath soap and shampoo, paper towels, trash bags, hand cream, tooth paste, sun block, hair spray, bug spray, deodorant, batteries, matches.

But it should not include things like: clothing, furniture, appliances, cookware.

Someone suggested to me “household goods,” but I think that includes things like furniture and home appliances, and so is too broad.

Any suggestions?

  • 9
    In India, they are simply called household utilities or household products. But I think "utilities" imply something totally different in the US/UK, stuff like running water, electricity, air conditioning etc..
    – BiscuitBoy
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 5:32
  • 3
    In a typical large UK supermarket nowadays you can buy virtually anything from a mobile phone to brussel-sprouts.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 8:04
  • 3
    In Norwegian we have a word that means "daily goods", meaning the stuff you buy almost every day. (In reality they should be called "weekly goods", but when did reality ever matter) Maybe English has something similar? Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 11:40
  • 2
    In Catalan and Spanish a 'drogueria' is a shop that basically sells what you describe. The word apparently comes from the Dutch droge vate meaning 'dry vats' - as opposed, presumably, to wet ones. So one might argue that drugs is a valid term. Or at least one might try.
    – Jeremy
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:25
  • 2
    There is the term "dry goods" in the US, but it mostly means clothing and the like.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:39

14 Answers 14


You might go with sundries

Various items not important enough to be mentioned individually (here)

While this meaning is a bit broader than what you describe, there is a convention of using sundries for exactly the types of items you list (toiletries, etc.). This is evinced by the sample phrase Oxford Dictionary Online uses in the link, "a drugstore selling newspapers, magazines, and sundries."

Further, Vocabulary.com writes:

Most people associate the word sundry with the old-fashioned drugstore in their neighborhood that used to sell all sorts of odds and ends, from magazines to hairbrushes (here).

Lastly, here is a sign from an old general store contrasting groceries with sundries.

  • 12
    It's a bit playful and old-fashioned; not a word most people would typically use.
    – J...
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 11:44
  • 4
    @SuperBiasedMan I lived in the UK for five years and don't think I ever heard it once. That said, Tesco Ireland has a section called "household sundries" while Tesco UK calls them "household goods". Seems at least to be an Irish Isle word, if not a British Isles word. (If we're happy using Tesco as the common-man's OED ;D )
    – J...
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 12:21
  • 3
    I don't hear many people say it, but I see it on receipts in the US. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 14:53
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    Sundries are *small articles of a miscellaneous kind; esp. small items lumped together in an account as not needing individual mention*(OED). they are not clearly anything. They are what's left after the big items have been listed. This is not what the OP is asking for. When did you last hear anyone say they were off to buy some 'sundries'?
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:40
  • 2
    @Dan, I mention in my answer that the dictionary definition is broader than what the OP asks for, but point out that there is a pretty robust convention of using "sundries" for exactly the items he/she wants, as others have confirmed with their comments.
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:44

I would definitely go with household items.

The apartment we rented was completely empty. We had to buy a whole bunch of household items ourselves.

Household items differ from furniture etc, in that they are expendables, things you use up -- like all of your examples, but unlike a vase, decorations, furniture, curtains, rugs etc. A cloth is a grey area, depending on its durability.

  • 1
    the best answer.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 14:33
  • Or household goods
    – spacetyper
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 18:45

This may not be what you are after, but all of the things you can buy at a grocery store are called groceries (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/grocery).

"Household Supplies" may be an alternative?

  • 1
    ...or "Household Items". Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:44
  • 2
    Or "household goods"
    – keshlam
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:36

The answer here differs greatly by country, at least in terms of common usage in a supermarket context.

In Canada we often call them "Household Supplies", but "Household Products" and "Household items" are also not uncommon.

In the UK, Aus, and NZ it's mostly "Household Products", Aus. South Africa as well, but "Household Items" also seems to be used.

Ireland seems to use "Household Sundries"

"Household goods" and "Household items" seem variously interchangeable to mean sometimes food and non-food items, but generally the latter especially in sentences which contrast the term specifically with food:

Brand X produces a range of food and household items...


All these items are rightly called groceries.

A Grocer is someone who buys and sells in the gross, i.e. in large quantities, a wholesale dealer or merchant; also with mention of the article dealt in, e.g. fish(OED). All goods sold by a grocer are called groceries. There is no limitation on what a grocer may sell.

If you want to indicate a grocer's particular specialty then you can qualify with the product-type of your choice. In the UK, for example, there is a sub-group of grocers called greengrocers, who sell fresh fruit and vegetables.

In general food 'grocers' have special names - butcher, baker, er... candle-stick maker, fishmonger ... . 'Grocer' is the name for what nobody else specialises in (i.e. most of the things on the OP list!)

There does seem to be a difference of opinion about whether groceries can be used for non-food items. I checked a few online dictionaries and found the following:

  • Merriam-Webster

    plural : commodities sold by a grocer —usually singular in British usage

    And they define grocer as (emphasis mine):

    a person who sells food and other supplies for people's houses.

  • Dictionary.com (emphasis mine)

    food and other commodities sold by a grocer.

  • The Free Dictionary

    1. A store selling foodstuffs and various household supplies. Also called grocery store.

    2. groceries Commodities sold by a grocer.

  • Online Oxford Dictionary

    (groceries) Items of food sold in a grocery or supermarket.

So, 3 out of 4 suggest the term can be used for non-food items bought at a grocery store and only one limits the word to foodstuff alone.

  • 17
    Even if technically correct, I think "groceries" strongly connotes food (in the US at least) and probably isn't what the OP wants. That is, I think using "groceries" in his/her context would lead to confusion.
    – JKillian
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:50
  • 6
    @dan sure, if you want to sound like a robot. a better course would be to choose a word that is actually commonly used to describe what you want to describe. that's how language works.
    – user428517
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 17:23
  • 6
    @sgroves , Maybe this is a regional thing in the US. I've seen the term groceries used in this sense in the Midwest; I found the original question odd. Groceries is technically correct (the best kind of correct), and in regular use in many areas.
    – Shadow503
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 19:03
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    @Dan "Inedible groceries" sounds like expired meat or something.
    – David
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 22:04
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    @dan i think it's not just op, but rather most people who would not consider non-edible items to be "groceries". because of that, even though "groceries" may be technically correct, it is probably not the best word to use if you actually want to be understood without having to clarify. do you see what i mean? groceries, while technically correct, is NOT the best choice here. being technically correct only matters in, well, technical writing.
    – user428517
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:20

This may be jargon used in the (UK) retail industry, but "non-food" is sometimes used in supermarkets.

  • 3
    I think by non-food Tesco, Sainsbury etc mean the things in the non-food part of the shop - clothing, appliances, TVs etc. My guess is that toilet rolls, and toothbrushes would be included under food in that particular nomenclature. You hear things like Tesco's problem arose by expanding too much into non-food. I don't think they mean things like washing-powder when they say that.
    – WS2
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 7:58
  • I think non-food groceries might just work.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 8:51
  • 1
    Washing powder is food?
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:53
  • 2
    Now that my head's started aching, where does paracetamol belong? Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 15:54
  • 2
    @gerrit obviously not ... but who said it was? i believe ws2 meant that while items such as washing powder are not food, they are nonetheless NOT included in the specific jargon term "non-food" used by supermarkets. the actual meaning of "non-food" is probably closer to "non-food-or-popular-household-items-that-people-would-expect-to-find-at-any-supermarket".
    – user428517
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:41

Perhaps "staples" would suit your needs.

4 a : a commodity for which the demand is constant (MW)

It might be more fitting as an adjective.

Examples of staple in a sentence such staple items as flour and sugar

  • The question is clearly asking for a word to describe inedible items.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:06
  • 1
    How does that relate to my answer? This term often does describe inedible items. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:10
  • 3
    Staples includes edible items so it does not answer the question, which seems to seek a term that denotes only inedible items.
    – phoog
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:15
  • 1
    If a storm were coming and I went to the store for "staples" in the US, that would include bread, milk and toilet paper. Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 18:45
  • 1
    BUT I've never heard anyone say they are offf to buy some 'sundries'. Sundries are *small articles of a miscellaneous kind; esp. small items lumped together in an account as not needing individual mention*(OED). they are not clearly anything. They are what's left after the big items have been listed. This is not what the OP is asking for.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:39

The word "consumables" might also be appropriate.

"Before the storm hit we decided to go to the grocery store to get food and other consumables."

  • I know I use this for anything in that zone, but that's as an artifact of playing video games...
    – Vogie
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 17:07

If you want a jargonistic industry term, I would say "non-food fast-moving consumer goods" or "non-food FMCG".

Some definitions of FMCG:

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fastmoving-consumer-goods-fmcg.asp https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast-moving_consumer_goods


They would all fit under the definition of consumables. Unfortunately food would as well, so how about "non-food consumables?"

  • And have you ever heard anyone say that? Requests on ELU usually mean "What phrase do people use for X?" not "Could you please invent a phrase for X?" Commented Feb 27, 2016 at 19:04

I categorize items such those as, Misc. Essentials. A catch-all for items I buy frequently though not necessarily at the same time.


Here are some close misses which might be useful.

Most, but not all, of those things would be toiletries. From the Free Dictionary:

n. pl. toi·let·ries An article, such as toothpaste or a hairbrush, used in personal grooming or dressing.

Another option would be necessities, but that could include food. From the Free Dictionary:

n, pl -ties 1. (sometimes plural) something needed for a desired result; prerequisite: necessities of life.


All of the goods you described are Commodities in the sense that they are products and have some value or utility as per http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/commodity

By this definition all the food items you bought are also commodities.


I nominate "non-comestibles."

co·mes·ti·ble kəˈmestəbəl
noun 1. an item of food. "a fridge groaning with comestibles"

  • 2
    just because a word exists doesn't mean you should ever use it.
    – user428517
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 23:45
  • Probably because "not food", which is the literal meaning of your suggestion, doesn't actually suggest the set of items the OP is talking about. A car isn't food. A brick isn't food. A television isn't food. The question specifically requires "it should not include things like: clothing, furniture, appliances, cookware." and your answer fails in this respect.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Feb 26, 2016 at 15:05

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