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How to Save Money on your Food Shop

Rebecca BebbingtonRebecca Bebbington · Oct 21, 2021

If you’re fed up with spending over the odds on your food shop each and every week, it’s time to wise up! Supermarkets know exactly how to make you spend your cash and their clever marketing tactics could be having the wool over your eyes.

If you’ve ever bought 3 of the same item because they were on offer, or mindlessly thrown items into your trolley because they had an attractive sale tag, you’re certainly not alone.

What we don’t realise is that supermarkets have perfected their advertising, so well that we consumers fall victim to up to £1000 in extra groceries every year. Ouch.

We’ve compiled 23 ways you can outsmart the supermarkets and save on your food shop. Let’s delve in…

1) Use the World Food Aisle

You’ve probably overlooked it or never even noticed it, but the World Food Aisle is a great place to pick up some value for money items. You’ll find them in all the big supermarkets including Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

Products such as rice, sauces and spices are far cheaper here and you will get a hell of a lot more for your money too compared with UK brands like Shwartz or Uncle Bens.

Another place to check out is the baby aisle! You’ll often see products such as baby wipes or cotton buds for half the price here compared with the beauty section.

2) Search ‘High and Low’

The saying ‘search high and low’ should apply to your next food shop. Supermarkets are clever, they strategically place their most profitable items at eye level. Even items targeted at children will be at their eye level.

However, profitable items cost more for you, the consumer. Our top tip is to browse through all the shelves, both high and low! Make sure you check for deals down low and up high and in all corners of the aisles as these are where the deals will be.

3) ‘Value Packs’ aren’t always the best value

You have probably come across items in your supermarket where they’re stated to be a ‘value pack’ or contain ‘50% extra’. Don’t be fooled as this isn’t always the case.

You should always check the price against the sizes as you will often find that for example, 2 smaller packs can be cheaper than the ‘value pack’ (which claim to contain extra).

Our top tip is to always check the price per 100g/ml – this way you can work out the cheapest item gram for gram.

4) Buying loose is cheaper

We all know how easy it is to buy a bag of carrots or a pack of apples when we need them! However, buying them loose is often much more affordable. Always cross-check the prices as you may find that buying 4 individual apples, for example, is cheaper than buying them pre-packed.

As well, buying loose is a great way to avoid waste of food going off as you’re only buying the amount you need or will use.

5) Beware of ‘Thin’ or ‘Mini packs

You’ve probably seen the term ‘Thins’ or ‘Mini’ on the biscuit and cracker aisle. These are typically smaller or thinner versions of common household snacks like digestives.

While you may assume they cost less because they’re smaller, you’re wrong. You will actually be paying more than buying the full-size version. Always check the prices to see which is better value.

6) Shop with a Budget in mind

Supermarkets know how to trigger your impulses! Ever noticed that delicious smell of the bakery or fresh food counter as soon as you walk in? Or delicious goodies gathered at the entrance of the store? This is where a good old list comes in handy.

When you head to the checkout, you will find magazines, sweets, chocolates and drinks close to the till as a last-minute bid to get you to spend.

You will also notice that supermarkets make you walk the distance to find what you need! For example, staple items like bread and milk are conveniently placed at the back of the store, meaning you have to pass many tempting goodies to get what you need.

Planning what you need before heading to the shops is the easiest way to avoid the urge of going over budget and buying things you don’t need.

7) More Expensive products aren’t always better

It’s a common misconception that we’re conditioned to believe as humans that if something is more expensive, it must be of better quality.

Often a manufacturers’ brand and own branded products may have even been made in the same factory, by the same people!

Try not to fall trap to this ‘brand hypnosis’. While the packaging may be more attractive, the actual product you’re getting is most likely the exact same as its cheaper counterparts.

Supermarkets categorise their products into ‘luxury’ and ‘basic’ displays using specific jargon to make you believe the most expensive items are better.

What to look out for:-

  • Words like ‘Finest’ or ‘Extra Special’ imply the product is luxurious and often the most expensive.
  • Branded products like Heinz, Kellogg’s or McVities often have attractive packaging with big advertisements campaigns.
  • Own branded products will usually mimic known brands, adding their own spin on them.
  • ‘Value’ items will usually be labelled ‘basic’ or ‘savers’ implying that they are stripped back and portray a stark difference between premium branded items.

8) Try the Downshift Challenge

If you’re serious about saving, why not take the Downshift Challenge? It’s super simple and could save you some serious cash.

All you have to do is drop one brand level with everything you buy, and if you can’t tell any difference, stick with the cheaper brand. This is a great way to test whether or not you’re spending more for the exact same quality. After all, why pay more for something that is the same?

So, if you usually pick up a 4-pack of Heinz Beans, drop down to a cheaper brand or a supermarket own brand.

For example swapping from branded cola to non-branded cola can save you a whopping £158 a year alone – the savings really add up.

For more #SimpleWaysToSave follow @NetVoucherCodes on Twitter

You could have fun with it and do some blind tasting with family members to really put your food shop to the test!

9) Buy own branded toiletries & cleaning products

You probably haven’t considered switching down from branded toiletries, but you would be surprised how much you could save when downshifting brands.

Washing powders, shower gels and other cleaning products are just a few examples of where you can downshift! And unlike food, no taste test is needed.

10) Never shop when you’re hungry!

It goes without saying that if you’re hungry while food shopping, you’re likely to buy more food that you don’t need.

If you’re heading out for something simple like some milk or a loaf of bread, try not to pick up a basket or trolley as this will encourage you to fill it up!

11) Use your local shop

If you’re shopping for something specific, like a pint of milk or some bread, head down to the local shop instead of the supermarket. This way, you will be least tempted to buy things you don’t need and can save both time, money and petrol!

12) Collect Coupons

Coupons are a great way to save £100s on your shopping bills. You can find coupons for selected stores online or they may even be on food packaging or on the receipt.

Where to find coupons:-

  • Magazines and newspapers are great places to check for coupons as well as your mailbox.
  • Signing up for supermarket newsletters or joining loyalty schemes – Farmfoods in particular is well known for sending coupons direct to your inbox!
  • Apps like Shopmium or the Lidl Plus app are great places to look for bargains and even cashback.
  • Search online – here are a few online sites you can sign up to that offer daily coupons:-

13) Don’t fall for misleading ‘discounts’

We all know how tempting it is to throw discounted items into our trolley because it’s such a good deal. But is it? The sole purpose of the supermarket is to encourage you to spend, which you’re likely to do more of if you believe something is on sale – even if you don’t need it.

However, what we need to realise is that supermarkets are using misleading discounts which don’t represent the bargains they claim to be.

Often, they will increase the original prices of items when they are on a multi-buy offer and exaggerate the original price to make the special offer seem like a better deal. A great way to check this is to whip out your phone and check the price on a rival supermarkets website.

Another tactic they use is having ‘sale’ signage against items that are not actually on sale. You will most often find these near the entrance of the shop like in the fruit section. Bright words like ‘discount’ and ‘sale’ will, of course, entice us in, but the discount itself might be just pennies and you can often find the same items cheaper elsewhere in the store.

14) Shop at cheaper stores

Discounters like Aldi, Lidl, B&M Bargains, Home Bargains and Farmfoods are great places to shop for affordable goods. These can often prove a lot cheaper than the bigger supermarkets. Many consumers visit just once a month to stock up on staples like store cupboard goods.

B&M and Home Bargains are also great for picking up toiletries and cleaning products at much cheaper prices.

Having started out with just a few stores, Oops! Clearance Frozen Foods are now seen all over the North of England and have soared in popularity due to their incredible prices on branded goods. Plus a well stocked freezer is great for dipping into when cash is tight.

15) Be aware of BOGOF deals

We all love a Buy One Get One Free deal, right? But what we don’t know is this tactic is essentially used to force consumers to buy more.

On some occasions, these deals can be great, especially on items you get through a lot. But keep in mind if the items are perishable and unlike to get eaten or used, you’re probably best buying just 1.

Toilet rolls, toothpaste and items you regularly use are the best types of products to snap up when they’re on a buy one get one free deal.

16) Use your leftovers!

Have food in your fridge going out of date or have cooked food leftover from last night’s dinner? There are many great websites out there with hundreds of recipes for your leftover goods. Tools like Supercook and BigOven can even come up with recipes for you. All you have to do is tell them what ingredients you have.

17) Write a meal plan

Meal plans are great if you’re looking to save on your food shop. If you know exactly what you’re buying and what meals you plan to cook, it’s easier to avoid spending money on the things you don’t need. Plus, you may even have a lot of the ingredients already in your fridge or cupboards – like pasta, rice or seasoning!

18) Buy after ‘Best Before’ dates

People often get confused between ‘Best Before’ and ‘Used By’ labels and it’s important to know the difference!

‘Used-by’ dates mean you should eat the goods or throw them away after the date has passed. But ‘best before’ means they are best eaten before the given date but are still edible from the date stated.

Supermarkets may often sell foods that have passed their ‘Best Before’ dates at a highly discounted price. Try to snap these up if you know they will get used!

19) Abandon your online shopping

If you’re an online food shopper, it’s possible to grab a big discount simply by abandoning your online shop.

Simply add a few items to your online basket then exit the site. They often email you with a discount to entice you back! Make sure you’re signed in to your account while shopping, so they know who you are.

Very rarely discount codes become available for stores like Marks & Spencer and Iceland frequently offer £5 off your first online shop so it’s most definitely worth checking NetVoucherCodes before you submit your order online – just check out our food & drink category for the latest discount codes.

20) Time your shopping trip wisely

If you’re a savvy food shopper, you’ll know all about yellow sticker discounts. But for those of you who don’t, we’re here to dish the goods!

Supermarkets label up their reduced to clear items with yellow stickers, typically at the same time every day! These items are usually reduced on their used-by dates and are often found on fruits and fresh goods like sandwiches or meats.

You will see yellow stickers first dished out around mid-morning but the real bargains are to be had during the early evening. At this time, some items are discounted by up to 75%. Reductions times vary from each supermarket so keep your eyes peeled at your local store and be sure to snap up some real bargains!

21) Reclaim old Clubcard vouchers

If you’re a Tesco shopper, you will know how great Clubcards are! Not only for grabbing huge savings in-store but earning points with every spend to later redeem.

However, many of us forget about the points we have accumulated (possibly over years). And what many people don’t know is that there is an easy way to get your points back.

Simply log into your account on the Tesco website and head over to the ‘Your Vouchers’ page. This will show your voucher history, including the points that haven’t been redeemed.

22) Bulk Buy

Bulk Buying can be a great way to save money on items of food you use a lot of. For example, rice, pasta, coffee and other store cupboard staples that are non-perishable. Often, buying in bulk is more cost-effective as opposed to buying items individually and can save you time on heading to the shop each time you run out.

23) Claim Cashback on your Big Shop

Shopping online? Make the most of it by using a Cashback site! Simply use their link to buy items online and they will reimburse you a percentage of the sale. Quidco and Topcashback are great places to look online.

There are also mobile apps you can download to get cashback on your supermarket purchases. Quidco ClickSnap, Shopmium and CheckoutSmart are just a few examples free to download.

Most apps work with all big supermarkets and allow you to check the eligibility of an item by scanning the barcode.

You could even grab 100% cashback on select items!

If you’re eager to start cutting down the cost of your food shop, try using our handy guide as a checklist! Or, take up the downshift challenge as a fun way to try new and more affordable brands. Incorporating some of these tips into your weekly food shop could help you save some serious cash over the year.

For more money-saving tips and hacks make sure you follow our social channels.

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