Shopping

Food shopping for the bargain savvy

With food prices continuing to rise, people are discovering innovative ways to keep costs down. A recent study by “Which?” concluded that nearly 80% of people are concerned about the cost of food. More worryingly, nearly 30% of respondents said feeding themselves or family was proving a real struggle. If you’re feeling squeezed, try some of the tips below. The list is not exhaustive but should provide valuable insight into how others have begun tackling the issue.

Supermarket own brands

If you regularly purchase a market-leading brand, it could be worthwhile trying supermarket “own brands” instead. There’s a common misconception that more expensive brands are tastier and better quality, but this is not a universal truth. The fact is, many supermarket brands exist that are equally as good as their more expensive counterparts. Of course, there are exceptions, but sizable savings can be made by cutting down on market-leading brands and purchasing cheaper options.

Grow your own

Do you have access to an allotment, or space in the garden to grow food? More and more people are choosing to grow their own - and with good reason. Growing fruit and vegetables at home means you’ll know exactly what production methods were involved, and you’ll save money in the process. Apple and pear trees are very popular, as are growing tomatoes in greenhouses. Some people even grow their own potatoes in specially designed potato planter bags. It is recommended to do some research either online or by purchasing gardening magazines to ensure you get the best results.

Discount supermarkets

There is no doubting the rise in popularity of discount supermarkets over the past few years. As demand increases, the quality of their offering has also increased. In fact, many people now do all or the majority of their “big shop” at a discount supermarkets. Retailers like Aldi, Lidl and Iceland are popular places to bag a bargain. Some great deals can still be found at larger retailers (especially the case with just-released products), so be sure to keep an eye out for those, too.

Stick to your list and budget

Remember, it is in the interest of retailers to make as much money as possible. As such, store advertisements and promotions are all designed to entice customers to empty their wallets. A routine shopping trip can easily result in an over spend if you’re not careful. To avoid these circumstances, try writing out a shopping list with a clear budget - then stick to it. Adhering to a weekly budget for food shopping is a great way to keep on top of spending. Likewise, creating a food plan is also a good idea (see below).

Make a weekly food plan

A food plan is an excellent way to save money on food bills, and planning ahead for next week’s meals has a number of key benefits. First, it will help you achieve a varied diet and reduce the temptation for ordering expensive takeaways. Second, it will force you to stick to a pre-determined budget. Thirdly, it will reduce any temptation to buy more than is necessary, so wastage will be significantly reduced. Try it for a few weeks and see what you can save.

Buying in bulk

Food packaged in large bags like pasta and rice can feed more people at less cost than purchasing meals outright for each individual. Think about how you can make each meal go further. By adding additional ingredients and cutting back on waste, valuable money can be saved. Additionally, bulk buying products from wholesalers like cash and carry outlets can also be a great way to save. Although some may charge a membership fee, this is certainly worth looking into. Also, don’t forget to check the expiry dates and work these into your food plan.

Eat out less

Do you find yourself eating out during the week? Chances are you’re spending more money than necessary. To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with eating out and it can be a nice treat, especially on weekends after a long working week. However, if you’re the kind of person who eats out in restaurants more than once a week, or is purchasing lunch from a fast food outlet every day, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

Are you hungry?

If you’re feeling hungry and need to do a spot of shopping, try and resist the temptation (or at least eat something beforehand). It is a well-known fact that shopping while hungry results in additional impulse purchases. Supermarkets in particular are a haven for impulse buys and purposely geared to entice customers to buy. The smell of freshly baked bread, the exciting colours of freshly baked salads, not to mention store layout all play a vital role - so be on your guard.

Vouchers

Discount vouchers are a well-established method for saving on food. Newspapers, magazines, official product sites, and dedicated voucher sites are often the best places to find money-off deals. This is especially the case if a product is new to market and the producer is running a launch promotion, although on occasions, you may still find vouchers for established products. Some popular stores will also offer discounts on your next shop (as an incentive to return). Also be on the lookout for partnership deals, where you can earn discounts for spending money elsewhere.

In-store promotions

Promotions like “2 for 1” and “buy one get one half price” can be found in many a food store, but to get maximum benefit from these deals, be sure to select items carefully. The benefits can vary depending on your individual circumstances. On one hand they are worthwhile for products you tend to purchase on a regular basis. On the other, they often lead to impulse purchases and consequently, a costlier shopping bill. It is important to consider the actual savings on offer and weigh these up against your needs/wants.

Local farm shops/grocers

If you are lucky enough to live near a local farm shop, purchasing food from here could be more cost effective than heading into town. This is especially the case for fresh produce, like fruit and vegetables. Furthermore, it will likely be better quality and healthier. Traditional green grocers are also worth visiting and provide a friendly, traditional approach, plus buy from a grocer and you’ll be giving small business a helping hand. And while you’re at it, don’t forget markets - these are excellent places to get your hands on cheap, interesting foods, including world foods!

Loyalty cards

Loyalty cards let you collect “points”, redeemable for money-off future shopping trips. Some consider them to be disadvantageous, preferring to get the best price at the time of sale, rather than points for a future purchase. Cards like these may be worth applying for if you find yourself regularly shopping in a particular store. A number of downsides exist: namely, to get maximum benefit, you’ll be tied to a particular store and could consequently miss out on better deals elsewhere. Having said that, some cards provide points when you use other services (such as filling up with fuel at the supermarket petrol station), so don’t completely dismiss them. Popular cards include the Nectar card (use in Sainsbury’s and other retailers), Boots Advantage Card, and the Tesco Club Card.

Use price match guarantees

A number of large supermarkets now operate a “price match” promise. If you could have paid less at a competing store, you can recoup the difference. In most cases this will be in the form of a voucher, which can be used on a future shopping trip. Popular examples include ASDA’s Price Guarantee, Sainsbury’s Brand Match and Tesco Price Promise. There are some limitations to be aware of. A price match will not apply to all available products, and it is often only useful for grocery shopping - such as popular food items. Depending on the store, a price match may or may not include sale items (although some of them do). Keeping the receipt is key, since proof of purchase is required. Online tools exist to assist with the comparison and are regularly updated with the latest price data.