I’ve been keeping a much closer eye on my spending these days. Speaking frankly, I’ve taken a sharp intake of breath at some of the prices I’ve encountered at the supermarkets.
Prices are rising for a wide range of reasons – none of which are going away any time soon. Inflation dropped to 10.1% this week, yet food price inflation – the price an average basket of groceries costs – is up to a whopping 16.9%. Some of the biggest increases seen recently are in the cost of essentials like milk, margarine and pasta.
Lots of things are affecting the price of the goods in our supermarket trolleys. Yes, the war in Ukraine has indeed had an effect, with obvious shortages caused in things like flour and bread along with sunflower oil. But other factors affect different products. A poor season (or rather, an exceptionally hot one) affected the production of olive oil, which is why prices are rocketing – there’s simply less of it. In addition, it remains expensive to source and deliver much of the food we import in to the country. Which all adds up to big costs.
As a consumer rights campaigner, it breaks my heart to have to be giving tips on saving money on the food shop in 2023. But for now, we are going to have to get savvy with our shop and maybe jettison some of the products and dishes we loved. But there are lots of things you can do to save money.
My top tips for saving cash on grocery shopping
Apply some shopping psychology
Supermarkets are masters at getting you to part with your cash. Just think of the multi-pack or BOGOF deals that are less of a bargain than they look. Everything from the layout of the store to the smells that sometimes waft past are designed to get you spending. So follow a few simple rules before you set out. Avoid doing a shop just after payday. Your subconscious knows you have money and will nudge you to splash out. Set a budget and stick to it. Simple things like taking a set number of bags to carry the shopping help you fix in your mind what you want to buy. And never, ever go food shopping hungry.
Bring back the shopping list
The shopping list is an old staple from our youth, but now is the time to bring it back. Making a list helps you work out what you need, rather than what distracts you when browsing without an agenda. More importantly, you can actually price up items online first so you have a good idea of what you are spending. Doing a bit of shopping research can save you a packet and you can also spot the obvious poor value deals. I’m regularly told by supermarkets that their customers are using lists more and sticking to budgets, often paying by cash and returning items that take them over – so don’t be afraid to return things at the till.
Go to the back of the store
From the moment you walk through the door, temptation awaits in the supermarket. But rather than pick up items on the aisles closest to the tills and entrance, head to the back of the store. That’s where the cheaper variants of many products are lurking. Pricier and branded goods often fill up the closer aisles as supermarkets know people in a rush are likely to sweep around the store grabbing the first things they see. But at the back you’ll often find much cheaper options. For example, smaller bags of nuts or flour may be priced at a premium when prominently displayed in the store, but head to the ‘world’ or ‘baking’ sections and you’ll find much bigger bags at a cheaper price. And look down too. The cheapest options are often on the bottom of the shelves as opposed to the goods at eye level.
Snip a voucher, save a code
There are loads of good deals advertised in newspapers and magazines or on the website of shops. So make like your mum and snip out a few vouchers to take with you to the store. There are also loads of discount codes, offers and seasonal deals available from the supermarket too. If you haven’t got time to hunt them all down, my good mates over at MoneySavingExpert have a whole page devoted to supermarket deals here.
Stock up the cupboards
We throw away so much food in the UK. So try to purchase key kitchen essentials that last – past and rice, spices, tins and dried goods. These items can be used in countless meal options and will last so you won’t have any waste. If you are not a fan of cooking (like me), there are tons of tins containing various meals that you can eat with rice or pasta that cost less combined than a single ready meal. And now is the time to ditch those brands. Yes, I know you might love a particular brand of ketchup or salted butter, but the fact of the matter is supermarket own brands are much cheaper and you’ll be surprised how quickly you adapt.
Get loyalty benefits
Supermarket loyalty schemes have upped their game a bit recently. I was always reluctant to recommend them as they basically handed businesses a huge amount of information about you, your shopping habits, even your financial situation. But what the hell, there’s a cost-of-living crisis and you can save quite a bit of money and cut your costs – though some of the deals have become a bit stingier recently. Recent research by Which? found that you could save between 50p and a tenner for every £100 you spend. You could save on petrol too. Why not have a scoot about in your drawers to see if you can find old cards that already have points on them? And don’t forget you can also get points when buying things like train tickets too.
Work with your community
Forums and local social media groups came in to their own over the pandemic. I guarantee that in your local area there will be groups recommending bargains and local discounts, often with produces of goods in your area. There are also food sharing groups where you can give away or get items that are approaching their sell by date so there is no waste. Can’t find one? Apps like Olio can also help you find free food options. Neighbour pooling is a great way to save on food if you have limited storage space – particularly in the fridge/freezer. This works by buying the extra-large packs of items like fishfingers, then splitting the pack between people you know. Speak to neighbours and family, find out what they’d buy with you then split the item you’ve bulk bought along with the cash. And make friends with someone who has a warehouse cash and carry membership!
Featured in Mirror – Martyn James