There's a good reason why you spend more than you mean to every time you pop to the supermarket - going in for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread and somehow spending £15 on biscuits and cheese. It's because everything about your local supermarket is designed to get you to spend more money. So before you set foot inside one, it's worth being wise to the most common tricks of the trade.
We reveal ten sneaky tricks all supermarkets will use to make you spend more.
1. Bulky items by the door
There's a reason why those enormous boxes of cereals, and cases of beer are on special offer by the front door. It's designed to persuade you to put your basket down and get a trolley - which will automatically get you ready to spend more money.
2. Bigger shopping trolleys
We tend to fill whatever we have, and as a result trolleys have been getting bigger. Make sure you get the smaller trolley or you'll find yourself throwing things in a huge trolley, and vastly underestimating what you spend.
3. Fruit and vegetables at the front
The vegetable and fruit aisles are usually the first ones you reach for two reasons. First, the bright colours and fresh fruit and vegetables are designed to lift your mood and get you ready to shop. The second is to hit you with the healthy stuff before your resolve has been weakened by the chocolate biscuit aisle - so you shop for the diet you wish you had as well as the one you actually do.
4. Special offers on the ends of aisles
Manufacturers will pay extra to have their items there, because we spend longer at the ends of the aisles while we try to turn the trolley. You may find 'special offers' here, but it's always worth checking the price against the full price of the own-brand alternative.
5. Milk and bread at the back of the shop
Milk and bread will be right at the back of the store - and separate. It means that even if you only want to pick up a couple of essentials, you'll have to walk round up to half the store - passing plenty of temptations.
6. Moveable feasts
It's no coincidence that the essentials will be moved on a regular basis - including things like eggs, pasta and rice. The idea is to stop you from learning where everything is, and being able to target those items and leave without browsing.
7. Sweets in the checkout aisle
These are designed for when your resolve has weakened and you give into pester power in the dying seconds of your shop. If you're going to buy sweets, it's vital to get it from the confectionary aisle - where it's much cheaper.
8. Lovely deli displays
The produce may be laid out to look far more tempting than the blocks of cheese stacked in the fridge, but the pre-cut blocks are often around half the price
9. Tempting fishmongers
The traditional-looking fishmonger displays shouldn't tempt you to forget that the fish here has been stored on ice, so is no fresher than the frozen fish for a fraction of the price in the freezer section.
10. Pricey items at eye level
If you're in a hurry, you tend to swipe the items at eye-level. It's why the supermarkets stock the priciest items at this level. Only the canny bargain hunters who are willing to take the time hunting high and low will find the cheaper alternatives.
Save money on shopping: ten great tricks
Save money on shopping: ten great tricks
The more work you are prepared to put in, the more you stand to save. If you put your shopping list into mysupermarket.com, you can identify where each individual items is cheapest, and can technically buy every single item at its lowest possible price.
If that sounds a bit too much like hard work, a reasonable compromise is to shop at two supermarkets: once at the weekend and once mid-week. You can buy each item at the cheapest of the two shops, and save money without devoting hours to shopping.
There are several deal-sharing sites, including hotukdeals.com and latestdeals.co.uk. Most of them have a ‘freebies’ section, where you can get items completely free, and all have a section where they post fantastic deals that are well worth taking advantage of.
They will often point the way to coupons for brilliant discounts too.
The more time you have spare to spend looking for these, the more you can save.
It’s worth following your favourite brands on Facebook or Twitter. It’s also important to pick up in-house magazines, try your free local paper, and check any letters from supermarket loyalty schemes for your vouchers. If you have a Nectar card, visit the website before you shop, so you can upload the latest deals to your card.
While you’re in-store, keep your eyes peeled for promotions on packets, and on receipts. Often the deal-hunting websites will offer a short cut to many of these, but if you have the opportunity to do some legwork, you will find plenty of others.
Compare the price of your branded goods (after you use the coupon) with the cheapest supermarket alternative. If the discount makes it the cheapest option, then feel free to use it immediately.
However, if it doesn’t bring the price down below the own brand price, then don't throw it away. Hang onto the coupon, and check Mysuupermarket.com every few days to see if there’s an offer running on the brand at any time before the coupon expires. A deal plus a coupon is often the cheapest option.
Prices change all the time, but it pays to have a shopping list annotated with the usual price - or an old receipt - on hand when you are shopping. When something is on sale, compare it to the usual selling price from your list, to decide if it’s really as good value as it purports to be.
The frugal experts have decent storage areas at home, so if there’s a very special deal on washing powder or toilet paper, tins or toiletries, they can stock up for a few months at a knock-down price. It’s not generally worth doing on fresh produce, or packets with a short shelf life though, because throwing something away that’s out of date will undo all of your good work.
There can be some incredible bargains in the ‘yellow sticker’ sections of the supermarket. Most stores will have a spot for fruit and vegetable reductions, somewhere for chilled food price cuts, one for bakery products, and a final one for those with a longer shelf life that may be a bit battered, or separated from the outer packaging. Check them all for a possible discount.
The ’yellow sticker’ items will usually be reduced at least twice a day: once in the afternoon and once later in the evening. If you can wait to shop at around 7.30pm or 8pm you can get astonishing discounts.
If you want to time your shop exactly, then your best bet is to ask in store when they do their final reductions - don't be shy!
Get to know the rules around freezing ‘yellow sticker’ items, so you can buy when they are cheapest and use over the following weeks and months.
Don't assume something is perishable without checking. Everything from cheese to beansprouts is fine to freeze as long as you treat them correctly (beansprouts need blanching, chilling in ice water, and freezing immediately).
It’s never worth buying something just because it’s cheap: you also have to be able to factor it into your life. If you can't immediately think how you would use that over-ripe avocado, a pack of cut-price tongue or kippers, then don't buy them.