Supermarkets are very clever at getting you to spend your money with bright stickers, tempting smells and well placed items but you can save a lot of money by being supermarket savvy. Smart shopping could save you hundreds of pounds each year and you won’t have to go without. Here is a list of food shopping habits to pay attention to that could be costing you much more than you need:
1. Shop at the right times Most of us don't really think about the time of day that we choose to do our food shopping. However, for the best bargains, you should try to shopping later in the day (ideally an hour or so before closing time, or about 7pm in 24 hour stores). All the items that go out of date the following day will be heavily reduced. The shop just wants to get rid of them before they have to be thrown away, so keep your eyes peeled for the yellow 'reduced' stickers. There's no reason why you can't freeze what you buy if you want to eat it at a later date, and remember that best before dates aren't set in stone.
2. Check out the reduced section The reduced section isn't just for food that's approaching it's best before date. You'll be able to find all kinds of stuff there, like products with damaged packaging or other minor faults. Whatever the issue, if you see the yellow sticker, there's a bargain waiting to be snapped up. This corner of the supermarket is usually best stocked towards the end of the day (when the 'best before date' food migrates over), but there'll almost always be something on the shelves, no matter when you shop. Yellow sticker bargains galore.
3. Do your food shop online Doing your shopping online is one of the best ways to cut your spending. All major supermarkets allow you to order online, and most have discount codes that will get you some cash off your cart. Shopping online also protects you from the dangers of being tempted by fancy product displays in stores, as well as the delicious smells from the in-house bakery that make you want to buy up the entire cake selection.
4. Try own-brand products If you're a bit of a food snob, you've probably never considered buying supermarket own-brand products. If you're a savvy shopper, you'll know how much sense it makes to give this a try. For many branded foods, the contents are often extremely similar to supermarket own-brand alternatives, and in some cases even better! The only difference is the sometimes ludicrous price gap.
5. Look out for online vouchers and deals The web is awash with deals and vouchers for pretty much every store that you can think of, so before you head out to do your shopping. Again, the trick is to not get too carried away with wanting to use all the vouchers that are available – use your common sense. If tins of tuna are less than half price, but you really don't like fish, it's not exactly a saving, is it?
6. Try the underdogs When it comes to food shopping, we tend to be creatures of habit. Or, quite reasonably, you'll go to the supermarket round the corner from where you live, as it's easy to get to (even if it's a Tesco Metro with crazy mark-ups). To guarantee you're making the best savings possible, consider budget chains such as Lidl and Aldi who offer some brilliant deals. The same goes for shopping at local markets when they're on, as well as other small or independent stores.
7. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk is often cheaper, so if you pool your cash for certain items, it could knock a big chunk off your weekly bill. Make sure you always do the maths before buying in bulk though, as sometimes you'll find that you're not actually getting a better deal – despite what the supermarket would like you to think.
8. Don't let your food go to waste If you're just not in the mood for that chicken salad for the third night in a row, you have options. Instead of throwing it away, experiment by adding something new to it, or taking the chicken pieces out and using them for a pasta sauce. Plenty of foods are also good to eat after the best before date has passed, and you can even bring some foods back from the dead.
9. Cook from scratch Last but not least, cooking from scratch is a sure way to save money. Tempting as it may be to buy that ready-made lasagne from the supermarket, it'll work out so much cheaper to buy ingredients and make it from scratch