8 Ways to Save Money at the Supermarket in 2013
A lot of people are being savvier shoppers than ever in today's economy, and think that there are no more savings that can be made, thanks to their new ways of shopping. The vast majority of us can make some easy changes to the way we shop at the supermarket, that will save us lots of money in the long run.
Although this guide is written from a UK perspective, it should apply to many other countries as well.
1. Don't go shopping when you're hungry
This may seem like an odd piece of advice, but it's good advice.
If you go to the supermarket hungry, you are more likely to make impulse purchases of food, and you are also more likely to buy more food than you need for the week. Everyone wants to go shopping with a logical mind, so be savvy and make sure you have a meal before you pop to the supermarket!
Top tip: don't bother with the supermarket café, as they're overpriced!
2. Trade down your purchases
You may have convinced yourself that you will only ever eat Heinz beans, that no other baked bean will do, that every other baked bean is an impostor.
However, the truth is that supermarket brand baked beans aren't all that different to your preferred brand. You can save yourself significant amounts of money if you forget brand loyalty, and try something a little more cost effective. In fact, in the case of tomato ketchup, the supermarket brand often has more tomatoes per gramme than the brand.
If you are willing to forget about the supposed embarrassment of buying value products, value fruit and veg is just as nutritious when it's Tesco Value as when it's Del Monte. It might look a little less picture-perfect, but the main benefit - the healthiness - is still there. Often, the same is true with meat - you might not have perfect slices, and you might have to trim the fat yourself, but it saves you a lot of money.
Top tip: Supermarket own brand "Wheat Biscuits" are exactly the same as normal Weetabix - they're made in the same factory, and have tiny alterations to the recipe to make them a different product; however, they taste the same!
3. Take advantage of coupons and vouchers
Although here in the UK coupons are a much smaller thing than in the US - where "couponing" is almost a full time job for some, and can lead to many hundreds of dollars in savings - it is still worth taking advantage of any you can get your hands on. If there are limits to the number of times you can take advantage of a coupon in one transaction, don't be afraid to do them separately.
A word of warning though - if you weren't going to buy the product in the first place, don't use it yourself, give it to somebody who might use it. What is the point of saving money on a product that you didn't want? If it's a different brand to one you usually buy, take advantage if it saves you money.
General money off vouchers are more useful - just don't buy more stuff simply because you've got £5 off, for example.
Top tip: If you notice as you're going into a supermarket that a particular newspaper is offering a money-off voucher, buy the newspaper first, cut out the voucher, and continue on with the shop. If you're particularly ambitious, separate out the transactions and save even more!
4. Always check the price per weight/volume
So many offers look enticing, especially when concerning large quantities. Whilst it's always good practice not to overstock, it is sometimes a good idea to buy the big quantities.
However, even when the packaging is emblazoned with "SAVE!" and "EXTRA VALUE!", it's sometimes cheaper to buy the smaller packets, and more of them if necessary. By checking the price per kilo, litre, or whatever unit is used, you can make sure.
Top tip: make sure you look closely at the "price per" on the label, as sometimes different units are used to hide a huge saving - or lack of! Usually metric units are used, so conversion should be easy.
5. Shop around
Shopping around is another good way to save you money - if you can take advantage of all the different offers in the supermarkets you can get to, you can save a good amount of money - especially at Christmas. You don't know what items you're paying too much for until you see it anywhere else!
Be careful, though - don't go out of your way to go to another store. If you're spending £20 in petrol to save £5, then it's not worth doing. Shop around sensibly, and don't be afraid to try smaller local supermarkets or freezer centres.
Top tip: If you are planning a trip to a shopping centre, why not integrate a supermarket trip into it if there is a different supermarket nearby. It will save you on petrol in any case, even if it's the store you usually visit.
6. Don't buy what you don't need
If you're taking advantage of bulk buy offers, it's often easy to forget that food doesn't last forever. 7,200,000 tonnes of food and drink is thrown away each year in the UK, and that can be down to buying too much perishable food, having to throw away forgotten food in the freezer, or having to get rid of leftovers. All of these situations can be avoided by being savvy in the supermarket, and not being tempted into buying more than you'll use.
Love Food Hate Waste is a charity in the UK that gives handy tips on reducing food wastage - a great way to save money.
Top tip: If an offer is far too enticing for you to resist, consider getting some for friends and family (especially if they can't get to the big supermarket too often). Just make sure they need it before you buy!
7. Discount stickers
Have you ever seen the reduced to clear sections in your local supermarket? If you haven't, I don't blame you. Often, they're hidden in the least visited part of the supermarket, and they can hide some real bargains - usually, the items have a short date, are cosmetically damaged, or are multipack missing a bit.
Some of the items with a short date are freezable, so can be real bargains if you know that you're going to use something when you defrost it. They're also worth getting if you know you're going to use an item that day, or are not scared of use by dates.
If you don't mind a dent in a tin, then you can save easy money if you find any in the reduced section.
Be careful, however. Sometimes discounts are at the expense of an offer - a 20p saving is no good on two items if there is a buy one get one free offer on the non-discounted items. Sometimes, the discounts are applied before offers come into effect, so you could end up paying more for multipacks with a pack missing!
Top tip: sometimes, items are stickered if they're unlikely to sell, even with a discount. If you're often buying unusual items, keep an eye on the reduced sections
Another top tip: Sometimes, stickered items aren't put into the reduced section - keep an eye out so you don't lose out on a potential discount!
Have you even eaten something past its use by date?
8: Reduced to Clear
If you shop at smaller supermarkets, you could be missing out on excellent offers on Reduced to Clear items! Ranges at smaller supermarkets are often rejigged, so at the start of a new shopping season, many items will be reduced to clear at a store level to make way for the new stock.
This means that the shelf-edge labels themselves will show the discount. At a glance, you might not notice them, as they are often quite innocuous, and are never advertised. At Tesco, for example, the label has either Reduced to Clear or RTC in very small text to show it needs to go. The discounts are often 50% or 75% off the normal price, and often on items that would never get discounted so heavily.
If you see such an item, don't expect the items to stay around forever. Savvy shoppers will often grab large quantities of the item, so make sure you decide there and then whether you need it, and how much if you do.
Top tip: discontinued items - i.e. items that are discontinued at a chain-wide level - are often not discounted. If you don't see a crossed-through price, it's likely not a better deal than usual.
The above are great ways to save money at the supermarket, but there are other little things that you can do that can save you a lot of money.
- Don't bother using Coinstar machines at supermarkets that take a percentage of the change you put in - you can do the same at some banks, or you can pour your money into the change sorter hole in newer self-service checkouts (some supermarkets have added converters to prevent coins being added at speed - however, if you're patient, and you're good at lining up coins in your hand, you can still get a good speed going!)
- Many supermarkets have recycling facilities - bring along your recycling to save yourself a trip.
- Supermarkets will often let you take empty packaging away if you ask - it might come in handy, and may save some plastic bags.
- Check whether a product is freezable or not - you will be surprised the amount of things that are! Milk, cheese, and bread - three staples that are all freezable.
- Some deals are hidden - If an item has not been at a higher price for a certain amount of time, supermarkets are not allowed to show the price has been discounted. Sometimes this means that good deals are not indicated - this often happens with soft drinks, so keep your eye out!
How many different supermarket chains do you visit on a regular basis?
Do you have any of your own suggestions? Have you tried any of the above? Leave a comment below!