But the good news is there are ways you can get your own back when you do your grocery shop. Paul, one of our DOSH money mentors, has some tips to help you shop savvy and save yourself thousands of pounds a year.
1. Go in with a plan
There’s a reason Santa makes his list and checks it twice – he knows he has a limited amount of time and resources to produce and deliver toys to all the children of the world. He can’t afford to be making extra stops or over-producing, and making a shopping list and sticking to it is the same concept.
A list helps you know exactly what you need, which means it’s easier to avoid unnecessary impulse buys. It’ll also help you keep track of where the best places are to shop to get the items you need. There’s no need to be loyal to one supermarket over another, so take your Tesco bags for life to Sainsbury’s proudly!
It also means you won’t have to make unnecessary trips to the shops to get items you’ve forgotten. How often do you go to the shop to get one thing and come out with five – sometimes forgetting the one thing you went there for?
Knowing what your budget is for each shopping trip will also help you control your impulse spending. By planning ahead, you can make sure you stretch your pounds as far as possible.
2. Watch out for ‘deals’ that aren’t deals
Differently-coloured shelf labels can make items seem like they are on sale when they aren’t. There’s no need to go wild and buy things you don’t need just because it looks like they’re on special when they’re actually a permanent lower price.
Other deals like “buy two, get one free” might seem like they’re good value, but if you only want one item, you’ve bought a second for now reason. Multi-buy deals are great for non-perishable items like toothpaste, toilet paper and cleaning products, but can be a trap for items with a short shelf life.
Unit pricing is an easy way tell if a deal is good value or not. Supermarkets are legally required to provide an item’s unit price to make it easier for you to assess them like-for-like. It’ll usually be on the item’s price tag and will be a cost per item/weight/volume. By comparing unit prices, you can see whether a marked down item is really better value.
3. Yellow stickers are your best friend
Keep an eye out for yellow stickers when you’re shopping to save even more on items that are close to their expiry date. Meat, filled pasta and ready meals tend to attract the yellow stickers and you can save over 50% on these items – most of which can go in the freezer if you don’t want to use them straight away.
Or, to mix up your dinner plans, you can let the yellow sticker items dictate your meal that night like your own personal game of Iron Chef. Larger items can even help you save over multiple lunches and dinners!
Finding out when your local shops tend to mark things down tends to happen by trial and error. Some larger supermarkets will make smaller reductions earlier in the day, before marking the products down again just before close. Try shopping at different times to find out when you can get the best bargains.
4. Don’t be a brand label slave
Just like not being loyal to one supermarket brand over another, there’s no need to be loyal to one label of product compared to another.
Did you know, for example, that all digestive biscuits come out of the McVitie’s factory whether they’ve got the McVitie’s label or not? The amount you save on buying own-brand items really starts to add up over the course of the year, and you could save yourself hundreds of pounds. If you’re really concerned about your ‘biscuit image’, you could put them in a trendy container, so no one knows the difference!
Did you also know that ibuprofen and paracetamol are legally required to be made to certain specifications? That means the 45p generic headache pills work in the same way as the name brand product.
Next time you’re buying multiple branded items, swap one out for a cheaper brand and see if you can notice the difference. Of course, there is the occasional item where you are better off paying slightly more, but most of the time you won’t even notice the difference.
We’ll be putting this to the test over the next month as we do some blind product testing to see whether you really can taste the difference between home brand and name brand items in the lead up to your big Christmas grocery shop.
5. Use natural cleaning products
Even the most dedicated of non-brand shoppers have said they still fall into the brand label trap when it comes to buying cleaning products. After all, it’s only natural to assume the more expensive products will do a better job of cleaning, right?
Get yourself a bottle of vinegar, a packet of soda crystals (bicarbonate of soda) and spray bottle and you’re just about ready to conquer any household cleaning chore.
Not only will these natural remedies save you money, they’re better for the environment too!
6. Make the most of your spending
Signing up for in-store loyalty programmes is an easy way to get the most out of your shopping. All the major supermarket chains have their own version, and even if it seems like you’re collecting points slowly, they all add up. And from time-to-time you’ll get offers to help you save even more on the items you buy regularly. These programmes cost nothing and they’re usually as simple as scanning an app or loyalty card at the checkout.
Quidco and other cashback websites can help you save even more on all sorts of purchases – not just your groceries. Although 2% and 3% cashback don’t seem like much, these savings add up at the end of the year.
So it’s that simple – shop smart and you’ll be surprised how your savings start to add up. Supermarkets will do their best to make you spend more money, and making them work harder for it is the name of the game.