How to Be a Savvy Supermarket Shopper


Supermarket shopping – what a drain on our household budgets! We wander around aimlessly, for what feels like hours, filling up our shopping trolleys under the mutant white glare of the overhead lights while inoffensive pop songs drift through the aisles – available to buy in the entertainment department, of course.

And by the end of it, we’ve spent far more than we thought. We glare at the receipt, trying to figure out which purchases wasn’t really essential, and how one shop has broken the bank. Time to start some savvier shopping habits.

Switch supermarkets

Just because one supermarket is your ‘local’, sometimes it pays to go further afield – or even buy online – and see what deals the competition are offering.

Plan your shop

There’s a reason that supermarkets only have one or two ’10 Items or Less’ checkouts: They’re literally designed to keep you in there as long as possible. The lights aren’t too bright and the music’s not overpowering, so you relax. All the necessities like milk and bread are placed at the back of the store, while fruit and veg are placed at the front to give it a clean, energetic atmosphere so you feel comfortable and keep shopping. And aisle layouts are psychologically designed to keep you meandering, so you see more items that you pop in your basket, even if you don’t really need them.

The only way to beat this is to plan. That means not just jotting stuff down on a list as and when you run out of items – you need to go one step further. Make a list that mirrors the departments in the store. Fresh food, freezer food, household goods, and so on. This means you can keep track of exactly what you need and where you can find it, without racing back and forth around the store.

Try ‘own brand’ items

Ok, so you love one particular brands, but you can make serious savings by switching to supermarket own-brand items, particular for goods where differences are immaterial or non-existent.

Check those so-called ‘deals’

We all love to bag a bargain – and the supermarkets know this. That’s why, at the end of every aisle, and by the checkouts, you’ll see fantastic deals. 50% off. Buy one, get one free. Two for £2. We’re suckers for those sort of easy-to-assess deals, but they’re not always the best deal. In fact, sometimes, they’re the very worst.

Plenty of cynical stores showcase that familiar ‘Two for £2’ offer, but what they don’t heavily advertise is the fact that, separately, each item costs £1 anyway. Often, you’ll also find that by not buying the ‘deal’ brand and choosing another make, you’ll make additional savings. Not all deals are bad, but double-check to see if you really need it, first.

No shopping while hungry

Just don’t do it. We only end up buying more when we’re hungry. We all know it.

Buy in bulk, beware the false economy

Buying in bulk is often a great way to save money. You get more for less. What’s not to love? Well, you will need to consider whether shopping in bulk is a false economy for you. See, you may initially see savings – usually you spend £2 on four toilet rolls; now you spend £5 for 9 – but over time, the savings you make become a loss. You know, you thought you’d get through that cheap sack of apples in two weeks, but all you ate were 6. Would’ve been cheaper just to buy a small bag, right?

So, when bulk-buying in supermarkets (or even dedicated bulk shopping outlets), check the use-by-dates if it’s food because it’s only going to cost you more in the long-run if you don’t get through it all. And be realistic about what you’re actually going to use over that period of time, rather than looking at it as an immediate or short-term financial gain.

Know when stores discount items

Supermarkets don’t like to waste items any more than we do, so at set times each day, certain items – particularly fresh food and ‘packet-damaged’ goods – will be discounted to ensure a sale. You can spot these pretty easily. They’re the ones with red or yellow stickers on them, trumpeting massive savings. Discount times vary from store to store, but they’re typically late in the evening, once the hordes have died down and sales of the items become more difficult.

Sign up for loyalty cards

No matter which supermarket you shop at (or how many of them you use), sign up for a loyalty card. That way, every time you make a purchase, big or small, you’ll earn a little something back, from saving money on fuel to discounts on in-store items. Some supermarkets even offer rewards when using their store-brand banking services, which may also help you save a little money on your shop. Or as one supermarket likes to tell us: Every little helps.

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