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10 ways to save on supermarket shopping

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As grocery price inflation hits a record high and even the lowest-priced staples seem to come with 'luxury' price tags, a consumer champion has compiled a list of 10 ways to save on your weekly supermarket shop.

Just last week, reported that the prices paid at the supermarket for groceries have jumped by 14.7%, compared with the same period a year ago. Research group Kantar noted that if shoppers continue to buy the same items they face a jump in their annual grocery bill of £682.

Meanwhile, in a separate story, we highlighted the fact that some of the lowest priced food staples have risen by more than 50% at a time when the cost-of-living crisis is already squeezing affordability.

With figures such as those in mind, consumer group Which? has launched an Affordable Food For All campaign calling on supermarkets to step up and help all households keep food on the table. And it has also compiled 10 top tips that could save shoppers hundreds of pounds on their grocery bills.

1) Shop at the cheapest supermarket

It’s worth shopping around at all the outlets especially the likes of Lidl and Aldi. Which? analysis found there were huge differences between stores. For example, in October 2022, Aldi was the cheapest supermarket, with a basket of 48 groceries costing an average of £75.79. The same or equivalent items from the priciest supermarket in the analysis, Waitrose, cost £101.17 – that’s a £25.38 saving.

2) Choose supermarket-own brands

Shoppers can also make significant savings by opting for supermarket own-brand products over more expensive branded items. In a series of blind taste tests, Which? found that many supermarket own-brands are not only cheaper, but sometimes they also taste better than their well-known branded counterparts.

3) Avoid supermarket convenience stores

While it isn’t an option for everyone, avoiding supermarket convenience stores could save shoppers hundreds of pounds each year. In a February 2021 investigation, Which? research found that customers can end up spending 9.5% more each year shopping at a Sainsbury’s Local rather than a regular Sainsbury’s supermarket. Meanwhile, a basket of groceries from Tesco Express costs on average £279 more than a Tesco supermarket store over the course of a year.

4) Stock up when you can

Grocery prices can vary from week to week, fluctuating by up to 284%. In an investigation, the consumer champion exposed a number of supermarket pricing secrets. It found that price fluctuations mean that it is often worth shoppers stocking up when items they buy regularly are discounted. This approach can work particularly well for store-cupboard items and frozen produce.

5) Get rewarded for your spending

Shoppers can sign up for supermarket loyalty schemes to earn points and save money on their shopping. Many schemes offer exclusive discounts, rewards, charity donations and competitions to loyal customers. Shoppers can save between 50p (with Sainsbury’s Nectar) and £5 (Iceland) for every £100 spent when using a supermarket loyalty scheme.

6) Don’t be duped by discounts

Supermarkets often place vertical signs with offers on them in the middle of the aisle, with the intention of catching shoppers’ eyes. While special offers can be helpful, they can also encourage shoppers to purchase items they hadn’t intended on buying. When working out whether the price is actually a bargain, the consumer group suggests that shoppers look at the unit or ‘per 100g’ cost rather than the overall pack price – this makes it much easier to compare the product against alternatives.

7) Write a list and stick to it

Supermarkets can purposely spread different types of groceries across different sections of the shop to make sure customers walk past as many shelves as possible, even if they’re only there for a few basic items. Taking the simple step of making a list and trying not to be distracted by other products is an easy way for shoppers to save money.

8) Search different aisles

Shoppers can save by looking around the supermarket more carefully for the best value items. Which? found that some products, including rice, sauces, and baking ingredients, can be found in several supermarket aisles at different prices. For example, rice and chickpeas can be cheaper in the world foods aisle than they are in other parts of the shop.

9) Try shifting down a range

Supermarkets usually offer a number of different ranges of own-label products, from basic and value brands to premium, for example, Tesco Finest. There are decent savings to be had by moving down a tier – and often the budget option tastes just as good.

10) Be flexible with best-before dates

Food with a use-by date must be used by midnight of its expiry date, or it could be unsafe. However, best-before dates are far more flexible and don’t have the same safety issues. Food near or even after its best-before date is usually perfectly fine to eat – and often supermarkets will mark it up with a yellow sticker in store, where you can get it for a heavily discounted price.

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