How to save money at the supermarket

With the cost of basic foods rising, here are our seven top tips to help you save money when supermarket shopping.

1. Make a shopping list

Supermarkets are experts at enticing you to buy products on the spur of the moment.

Have you noticed that basic foodstuffs such as bread and milk are often displayed at opposite ends of the supermarket?

To buy a loaf of bread in our local Sainsbury’s means that you have to walk all the way through the store, past umpteen tempting end of isle displays. It’s so easy to pick up items here and there on the spur of the moment.

To then buy milk, say, means another journey to the other end of the store, again giving you the opportunity to make further spur of the moment purchases.

The key to saving money is to spend time making a shopping list before you leave home and, most importantly, sticking to it.

Diane Ray comments: “I allow myself some flexibility with my shopping list so that I can take advantage of things on offer.

For example, if I list 3 * fruit as the requirement on the shopping list, I know I need 3 different types of fruit. Exactly what I buy will be determined by what’s best value, what time of year it is, what’s on special offer etc.

I wouldn’t want my shopping list to actually work against me saving money!”

2. Buy some ‘Basics’ and ‘Value’ products.

Sainsbury's Basics carrots

Some of the Sainsbury’s ‘Basics’ products and ‘Value’ or ‘Wonky’ ranges in other supermarkets, offer excellent value for money.

If you are not worried about whether your carrot is exactly the right shape or perhaps your strawberry is exactly the standard size, then  well worth a buy.

You can absolutely save money without sacrificing quality.

Take the Morrison’s ‘Wonky’ range for example.

To buy 1Kg of wonky carrots, the cost is currently 35p. The normal price for 1Kg of carrots is 60p, albeit they’re currently on offer at 47p.

In Tescos the equivalent ‘Basics’ carrots cost 40p. The normal price for 1Kg of carrots here is 60p.

Diane Ray comments: ‘The key is to save money and if that means we have a slightly misshapen piece of fruit or wonky piece of vegetable then so be it, they all taste the same!

I look out for the short life discounted products too. Often when I pop in to Morrison’s for example first thing after the school drop-off there’ll be fruit and veg at a discount because it has a sell by date of that day. Of course the product needs to be checked, but invariably it’s fine and it goes into my shopping trolley ready for the evening meal.

3. Buy own label products wherever possible

Supermarket own label products are often cheaper than similar branded products. A straightforward own brand may be a mid price between the ‘Value’ range and the branded product.

Red Kidney Beans

For example, take red kidney beans. (Of which we buy a lot in our household!)

In Morrison’s you can currently buy kidney beans in water as

  • Morrison’s Savers Red Kidney beans for 30p
  • Morrison’s Red Kidney beans for 55p
  • Napolina Red kidney beans for 90p

What would you choose?

Diane Ray comments: “Currently we use the Morrison’s own brand at 55p which, in my opinion, are absolutely fine. I plan to try the Savers version soon – I will let you know how I get on!”

And be aware, own label products are often, but not always, made by the same company that manufactures the branded alternative.

There may be slight changes to the recipes of own label and branded products, however any differences in quality are often very small.

Own label products often come in bigger quantities at lower prices than the branded alternative and therefore represent excellent value for money.

You really do have to experiment to find which own label, rather than branded, products suit your family, but you can then save money week in, week out from then on.

Diane Ray, MoneyHighStreet comments: “We’ve been experimenting with breakfast cereals.

Kellogg's Just Right

“Taking Kellog’ Just Right, a 500g packet is usually about £3.14.

“Interesting though that they are on offer in Tesco at the moment at just £1.14. This just shows you need to keep on top of discounts and snap them up when you see them to save money!

“The equivalent own brand Morrison’s product is Right Balance at a cost of £1.58. And in Tesco it’s their Multigrain Flake Fruit at £1.19.

“Having tried all of these cereals, I have to say all are perfectly fine, albeit in my opinion the Morrison’s Right Balance has the edge over the Tesco’s version.

“Obviously whilst the offer is on, you’re best bet is to take a box of the Just Right and save money!

“Be careful to pick up the right packet if you are looking for an own brand – the colouring and design can often look remarkably similar to the branded product.

Kellog's Fruit n Fibre

“We did a similar exercise, comparing Kellogg’s Fruit ‘n’ Fibre with equivalent own brands.

“However, for this cereal, whilst a lot more expensive the verdict in our household is very much it’s worth paying as the other supermarket own branded equivalent aren’t as good.”

4. Buy fewer preprepared meals

Supermarkets make more money when they are “adding value” to basic foodstuffs.

The hundreds of preprepared meals lining the shelves in your supermarket represent huge profits to the stores, as well as more convenience to you.

That convenience comes at a high price, though.

Not only can you save money by cooking meals from the raw ingredients yourself, you may actually enjoy the cooking process and feel a sense of fulfillment from feeding your family using you skills and flare.

Perhaps some of cooking programs on TV are inspiring you to do more home cooking. If they are then there is the added benefit that you will save money whilst providing more healthy and fresher meals.

Diane Ray comments: “For some months now, we’ve made a concerted effort to reduce our reliance on prepared meals and to cook all from raw ingredients.

“I batch cook things like tomato sauce for pasta, chilli con carne, bolognese, shepherds pie, cottage pie and freeze portions so that I can bring out 1 or more portions as I need them.

“This has proved not to be very time consuming to make the batches and fantastic to be able to eat such high quality food when we want it, all the time knowing that we’re saving money overall.”

5. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry

Don't shop when you're hungry

A large supermarket is a tempting place when you are hungry. It’s so easy to put a few items into your trolley that tempt you now and will satisfy that hunger.

The trouble is that those tempting items are often the higher priced foods such as sweets and cakes that are neither good for your waistline or purse.

Supermarket shopping is best done on a full stomach when you are better prepared to make rational purchases and are less tempted by all those cleverly placed spur of the moment items.

6. Look for Discounts and Products on offer

It goes without saying (I hope) that it really pays to look for the products that your supermarket has on offer.

Be careful not to be sucked into Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) or Buy One Get one Half price type offers unless you really are going to use or eat both products.

7. Make use of a Loyalty Card

Many of the supermarkets offer their own loyalty card.

It can really pay to use these. Whether that be through discounts you receive off certain products, cash back or vouchers that you can turn into cash or use at partner venues, it varies.

The downside, if there is any, is the supermarket collects data about your shopping habits which means they can target their marketing to you – is that a bad thing though?

Diane Ray comments: “Obviously not all supermarkets have a loyalty card. I have to say though I do sign-up to all those that have one and feel I really do benefit.

“This benefit is not only with discounts and cash back to use on my shopping but also on converting some of the ‘cash’ vouchers from Tesco for example for multiple times their face value to be used when eating out in selected restaurants with the family.”

So these are our top tips to help you save money when shopping at the supermarket.

Do you agree with them?

Have you any others to add? We’d love to hear them if you have more you can share with our readers.

One comment

  1. Another good idea is to buy produce at produce markets, where that is all or nearly all they carry. Produce is usually much cheaper there. Even better, buy an organic farm share – thats’ what we’ve done and it’s been great. They deliver a box to a drop off location every week of a variety of vegetables.

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