Fans of the discounters will never shop anywhere else, and boast enormous savings. If you're open to trying new things, and have a flexible diet, then joining them could be the biggest boost to your household finances for years.
If you're not sure however, there are seven routes in, so you can pop in for a smaller shop, and guarantee a huge discount on some brilliant products.
1. Start with the basics
The discounters will usually undercut the big four on the basics, where it's impossible to tell the produce from one shop from another. It means it's the only sensible place to buy things like milk, eggs, salt, and pepper.
2. Check out the weekly 'fresh' deals
Aldi has a 'super 6' in the fruit and vegetable aisle and the meat department, while Lidl has the Pick of the Week. You can get some huge bargains on seasonal produce, which can dramatically undercut the big four. Of course, if they have a glut, the big four will make price cuts too, so check mysupermarket.com to be on the safe side.
3. Try the 'posh ranges'
Aldi has 'Specially Selected' and Lidl has the 'Delux' range. They include everything from smoked salmon to lobster and Parma ham to hand-cooked crisps, and have been designed to offer high-end food at a knock-down price. They're a great entry point for anyone who is worried that the discounters might be a bit low brow for their gastronomic needs.
4. Consider the bakery
The stores with in-store bakeries should be your early morning destination for breakfast in bed. Fancy croissants from the high street can set you back £1 each, from Tesco the freshly baked ones will cost 70p, but in Lidl they are 35p - and are still warm and fresh. Likewise a fresh sandwich baguette will cost 45p from Tesco, and while you can currently get four for £1 - they're just 19p in Lidl.
5. Keep an eye on awards
Aldi in particular has been winning a raft of awards for everything from whisky and gin to Nespresso compatible coffee pods. This year's Grocer own-brand awards produced wins for everything from bacon and cheddar to fudge and pizza. If you want to start by trying one or two items, these would be the best place to start.
6. Pick up your booze
The discounters regularly win awards for their own-brand booze, but the wine in general is worth checking out at the discounters too. As part of their drive to appeal to posher shoppers, they stock a range of wines at all sorts of different price points, which have won a number of high end awards and plaudits from wine writers.
If you don't know where to start, look out for the Decanter and International Wine Challenge rosettes on the bottles.
7. Stay on top of the 'Special Buys'
Aldi and Lidl both offer these: the random non-grocery items that come and go a couple of times a week. It's worth checking online or in the in-store magazines for forthcoming deals, because some of the brilliant buys fly off the shelves incredibly fast. The £29.99 inflatable pool, for example, was the hit of the summer, and went in seconds.
Of course, once you have come for the bargains, nobody will blame you for trying a handful of other items while you're there. Who knows, within a few months, you too might become a die-hard fan, sacrificing brands, accepting an element of compromise over choice, and counting the fortune you have saved from your new frugal shopping habits.
Supermarket shopping mistakes
Supermarket shopping mistakes
The supermarkets invest in enormous shopping trolleys, and then put bulky special offers by the door - like packs of beer or enormous cereal boxes.
The idea is to tempt you into taking a big trolley, because tests have shown that it’s likely to make us buy more. Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed, found that by doubling the size of trolleys, customers would buy 19% more.
This is a disaster for a couple of reasons. The first is that you’ll end up buying things you don’t need - because you already have plenty in the fridge or the cupboard. You’d be surprised how many people come home with tomatoes every week, then throw out the ones that have gone rotten in the fridge. They'll do this every single week without ever spotting that they don’t eat as many tomatoes as they think they do.
The other problem is that you’ll end up forgetting things, and have to go back to the store, which will leave you susceptible to the next common mistake.
Apparently we’re giving up the weekly grocery shop in favour of a number of trips to different stores to pick up bargains.
If you do this right, it can be a great way to save. However, if you don’t plan it properly, you’re just giving yourself more opportunities to buy on impulse.
In the book ‘America’s Cheapest Family’ the authors claim that more than 50% of what we buy in store is on impulse. The authors actually only go to the supermarket once a month to cut back on impulse purchases.
If you browse at eye-level using your peripheral vision, that’s where you’ll find the expensive brands.
Look around at the top and bottom of the shelves for the own-brand versions or the cheaper brands - and try out the cheaper versions of your usual shopping.
Aside from Christmas, stores will play quiet and relaxing music, with a slow tempo. This is designed to make you shop more slowly, and take the time to spot the impulse buys.
If you put headphones on and play something with a faster tempo (it doesn't have to be any particular type of music), then you’ll pick up the tempo, and studies have shown you’ll buy around 29% less.
On the one hand, if you do the maths, you might find that buying a larger pack means that each packet of crisps or can of coke costs less. However, Vestcom, a retail services company, has found that when we buy bigger packets, we consume more.
It means that when you’re buying things like toilet rolls and washing powder, straightforward maths will tell you the cheapest size to buy. When it comes to crisps and drinks, consider carefully whether you will just end up eating and drinking more.
Sometimes that big red sticker is a great discount on something you need: usually its not.
Don’t let special offers tempt you into buying things you don’t need, and don't assume that anything with a big red sticker is a bargain. It’s worth taking your receipt from your previous shop with you when you go shopping, so you can easily compare whether the new price is a good discount or not.
The end of the aisle gets more of our attention, because it's where we need to turn the trolley, so we’re going slower.
However, this isn’t always where the stores put the incredible bargains. They often sell these positions to companies trying to promote a particular product. When the company has the budget to spend on this sort of promotion, it means they may not necessarily be the cheapest option.
If your cheese has been grated, your salad washed, or your carrots chopped, then you’ll pay the price for it.
Not only will you pay significantly more for your shopping, but in many cases you'll get an inferior product too. Grated cheese has additives to stop it sticking, for example, while bagged salad will go brown significantly faster than a head of lettuce.
Frozen food is often far cheaper, so people assume it’s likely to be inferior. However, the fresh fish at the counter has often been frozen, so you’re gaining nothing for paying more here - in fact you're losing out because you have to use it up more quickly.
The other things that are well worth considering are frozen vegetables. These are much cheaper than fresh vegetables, and are often frozen at the peak of their freshness, so are better for you too.