Living Life On a Budget – Supermarkets

The weekly grocery shop for is often one of the biggest expenses for households. It can be hard to balance the budget while still trying to eat reasonably healthily!

As someone who has been financially tested for a while now, I have developed ways to ensure each week I do and buy the best I possibly can with the money I have to spend.

My top tips for making sure you stretch that pound as much as you can:

Hawkin Bazaar


1.   The importance of this tip cannot be underestimated (of course in a small town with one supermarket you are somewhat limited) – HAVE NO SUPERMARKET OR SHOP LOYALTY – going to the same supermarket week after week will mean you end up buying the same stuff for the same prices. Be prepared to go to any of the big supermarkets (Tesco's, Sainsburys, Asda, Morrisons), but also keep a very very keen eye on the budget supermarkets (Aldi, Lidl etc). Each weekall of the supermarkets advertise, if not on the TV, in newspapers and online, with special offers and money-off promotions. Keep an eye out for these, and be aware of special offers that will benefit you and what you buy. For example if like me you buy a lot of fresh food and vegetables, look out for promotions on these, a lot of the supermarkets are at the time of writing doing £1.00 offers on fruit and vegetables, Aldi the budget supermarket also each week has selected fruit and vegetables on offer for 69p – this is a hard act to top!

Holland & Barrett

2.    Forget the loyalty cards and look out for vouchers – since Tesco stopped their double Clubcard points, I don’t think there has been a lot of advantage in shopping at any one supermarket; other loyalty cards generally require you to spend so much before they give anything meaningful, which means there is definitely no reason for the loyalty card to engender loyalty! Sign up for them, keep them in your purse and use them, but never make them a deciding factor for where you shop. However vouchers, printed in newspapers and magazines, and online on voucher websites are worthwhile (I currently have nestling in my bag a £5 off a £35 shop at Aldi voucher). All of the big supermarkets regularly give out money off vouchers (all requiring a differing minimum spend), and these can save you a decent amount of money, as long as you remember the golden rule of not allowing that voucher to create any loyalty, use the voucher and then next week start again!

3.    Along with never having any supermarket loyalty, just as important is to NEVER HAVE ANY BRAND LOYALTY, to savemoney, you have to be prepared to buy different products each week, supermarkets run special offers on products purely so consumers continue to buy that product once it is back at full price – to save money, you need to not give into this temptation, every week there will be a variety of different brands and products which will fulfil your shopping list, including those on special offer, and there will no doubt be others on special offer which you have never tried before. Remember that a few factories make most of the goods sold in supermarkets, and supermarket own brands especially simply have their own packaging placed on the same products as most of the others! Have a shopping list – yes – but each week search out the bargains, and have no brand loyalty.

4.    Don’t trust Supermarket offers without doing the sums yourself! 3 for 2's and 'x number for £x', etc. can sometimes not be a bargain at all, check out the single item price and add it up. More than once I have found the offer prices are actually more than buying a single item (for example this week spotted in Tescos box of chocolates on special offer at £2 each or £6 for two boxes – do the maths yourself). If you only need one item, don’t feel you have to buy two just because they are on offer, you haven’t saved any money if you end up throwing away a unused out of date product.

5.    If you are a online supermarket shopper the above golden rule of having no loyalty still applies, each week before you start your online shop, check how much the delivery will be the big three (Tesco, Asda and Sainsbuys) can sometimes be as much as £5 adrift of each other. Make yourself an account with each online supermarket, and wait for them to send you emails with special offers – for example, I only ever shop at Waitrose (online via Ocado), when they send me a money-off voucher, and these can be considerable, I have received 20% off my shopping, and for completing a online survey with them, I received £25 off my shopping.

6.    Do make use of the supermarket price comparison websites, and never believe supermarket claims that they are cheapest!

7.    Finally there has been a huge surge recently in the number of 99p and £1 shops, with a few chains emerging as the market leaders. All have a food department, where you can purchase branded food items and sometimes the savings can be really quite impressive, you cannot do a “proper shop”, and the presence of these shops in town centres means you are limited by what you can carry! But for items such as tea, coffee, biscuits, rice, pasta and confectionary real savings can be made, the items are very often brands you will recognise, but also you will also find European brands,Polish, German, Italian etc, which can be rather nice (my local 99p shop sells Polish hot chocolate that knocks the socks off most brands). So next time you are pootling about town, if you don’t already, pop in your local £1 shop, you may well be surprised at what you find and how much you can save!

Food shopping is not likely to get any cheaper in the coming years, but by following the golden rule of never developing any shop or brand loyalties, you can play the supermarkets a little at their own games, and hopefully save a little money. 

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