It's no wonder we have fallen out of love with supermarkets. These temples to consumerism employ every trick in the book to get us to spend more than we intended, buying things we don't need, for reasons we don't understand.
It's not that supermarkets are terrible places: they have brought us convenience and incredible diversity that we couldn't have dreamed of 70 years ago. It's just that in order to get the best out of them, you need to employ these ten tips for getting the best deals.
1. Don't go out without checking the fridge
Many of us get caught up in habitual behaviour, pulling the same things from the shelves each week, with no real idea of what we are going to do with them , or whether we really need them at all. It's no wonder that so much food gets thrown away. The best way to make sure you only buy what you need is to actually open the cupboard and the fridge before you leave the house and make a note of what you have.
2. Consider what you are actually going to eat
In an ideal world this means drawing up a meal plan for the week, with a cunning plan for leftovers. You can then work out what you need, and because you know what you already have in the kitchen, the shopping trip is purely designed to fill the gaps.
Even if you're not organised enough to have a comprehensive meal plan, at the very least drawing up a list will stop you adding things to the trolley 'just in case' and then returning home to discover you now have seven tins of beans in the cupboard.
3. Stick to the list
This has to be the hardest advice to follow, because most of us start with good intentions, and then suddenly spot things we love to eat, and end up adding them to the trolley too. Some people find the easiest way to avoid this is to do all their grocery shopping online, so there's far less chance of being distracted by colourful bags of crisps and piles of chocolates.
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4. Close your eyes at the end of the aisle
The supermarkets know that we take much longer turning our trolley at the end of the aisle than we do when we're nipping down a row of shelves. This is why they'll put attractive offers on display at the end.
In many cases these are advertising things that aren't on your list and you don't need. In other instances they are deals on brands which are more expensive than your usual choice. Of course, you'll need to move carefully if you close your eyes, but the potential humiliation is worth the certain savings.
5. Take a calculator
Even if your mental arithmetic is up to the task of working out whether two for the price of one is better than three for the price of two, once you factor in the different packet sizes and try to compare it to the 3 for £4 deal, you'll be grateful for a calculator.
6. Take last week's receipt
It can be hard to keep track of prices and know whether the cheap brand you usually buy has gone up in price. If you carry a receipt with you, it gives you a simple way to check if prices are rising, and whether you need to shop around again for a better value option.
7. Drop brand loyalty
If you have tended always to buy the same brand out of habit, then you could save 10% on your shopping by experimenting with a bit of disloyalty. Take the time to check the shelves around your favourite brands. The expensive versions tend to be displayed at eye level, so check above and below for the own brand and the cheaper versions.
If you have being buying top end, trade down to mid-range for a week. If you notice the difference in your tinned tomatoes or sweetcorn you can always trade up again. If not, you can try trading down to the economy brands. A few weeks of trial and error will show you those things you appreciate spending a bit more on, and those which end up being a waste of money.
8. Drop supermarket loyalty
One of the biggest savings you can make is to move to a cheaper supermarket altogether. Despite all the brand matching schemes in the world, Aldi and Lidl remain astonishingly cheap places to buy your groceries. So it's worth taking a chance, doing your shopping with one of the discounters, and deciding for yourself whether it suits you.
9. Ditch the weekly shop
If you have the time, then there are even more savings to be had from dropping the idea of going to one shop for everything, and considering the option of doing two or three shops a week, so you can pick up everything at the best possible price.
10. Do your research online
If you move to doing a few shops a week, then the best way to decide what to buy in each is to check online before you go. Mysupermarket.co.uk is a huge boon to the bargain-hunter. You can put your shopping list into the search engine, and quickly reveal the cheapest shop for each of the things on the list. It means that instead of hitting the shops with a huge list and an air of panic, you know exactly what you are going to buy from each store.
Dedicated bargain hunters will add to the online research with their own experience of local pound shops and markets, but the list of retailers on mysupermarket is an excellent place to start.
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