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Supermarket hacks: How to make your weekly shop cheaper

4 min read

Supermarket hacks: How to make your weekly shop cheaper
Does your weekly shop seem to get more expensive every week? Unfortunately, food prices aren't going to fall any time soon, so here are some supermarket hacks to cut your costs
Every time I go to the supermarket, it’s as if I’m in a fever dream. Surely butter isn’t that expensive? It’s how much for a block of cheddar? Sadly, the harsh reality is food prices are high and they’re not going to fall. 
"Everytime I go to the supermarket, it’s as if I’m in a fever dream"
And even when things don’t appear to have increased in price, it could be we’re being hoodwinked by shrinkflation and its cousin scrimpflation. The former is when packaging gets smaller but not by enough for us to immediately realise we’re getting less for our money. The latter is when products are changed to make the production cost less but charge us the same. Perhaps there’s less meat in a pie, or premium ingredients are swapped for a cheaper alternative. 
But we don’t have to just accept this bashing of our budgets. A few changes to how we shop could help us bring down the bill at the checkout to something a little more manageable. 

Plan ahead

First up, plan your trip. At its most simple, it’s writing a list of what you actually need (and sticking to it) so you don’t get tempted by offers you don’t need.  
Ideally you’ll work this all out before you leave home, but if you’re pushed for time, take a snap of the inside of your fridge and main cupboards with your phone. A quick glance at this photo when walking the aisles will let you know if you’ve already got milk. Cutting out food waste will also be a big money saver. 
Woman checking her shopping list in supermarket - how to make your weekly shop cheaper
You can reduce what you throw away further by working out exactly what your meals will be over the coming week (and putting all the ingredients on the list). Perhaps even include recipes you can batch cook so they’ll cover dinner one night and lunch the next, or be added to the freezer ready to defrost at a later date. 

Shop around

Armed with your list, don’t just head to your usual supermarket. A quick look at a comparison site such as Trolley.co.uk will help you assess if switching to a different shop could save you money. Just don’t go out of your way to save just a few pennies—remember your time (and petrol) aren’t free. 
You can try own-label products too, often cheaper than the big name brand equivalents. Though you might have some favourites you really want to stick with, it might be that you don’t actually notice any difference. And if you do, you can just switch back next time. Similarly you can drop down levels to basic ranges within most supermarkets, which will generally be cheaper again. 
"Own-label products are often cheaper than the big name brand equivalents"
When you’re checking the shelves, it can pay to look up and down as cheaper alternatives might be out of your natural eye-line. Be careful too of anything at the end of an aisle—there might be better alternatives elsewhere. 
In fact, some items might even be cheaper depending which aisle you add them to your trolley. The big ones are things you find in the world food sections, such as spices or coconut milk, and on the baby shelves, such as cotton buds. It’s easier to spot these if you’re shopping online, but you’ll need to hunt them down in-store.
You can also cut costs, and decipher deals, by checking the price per unit. You’ll find this on the shelf label, below the price, and it’ll say how much something costs per gram, litre and so on. Though these can sometimes be a little misleading (grams on one item, kilograms on another), it’ll still help you work out when faced with different sizes which pack is cheaper. Of course, don’t buy one that’s too big that you’ll end up wasting some of it, even if it does cost less. 

Look for discounts and loyalty schemes

Make room in your freezer, not just for those leftovers, but to allow you to take advantage of anything reduced to clear. Be sure to check the item can be frozen (some meat or fish may have been pre-frozen and defrosted), and of course only buy something you will actually use. But this can be a great way to buy premium products at a lower price. 
Most of the big supermarkets have been adding in member prices, activated when you swipe their loyalty card at the till. Without these you’ll be paying over the odds, so make sure you’re signed up. However, don’t buy something just because it’s on offer. If it’s not on the list, you don’t need it. 
Discounted fruit at supermarket - how to make your weekly shop cheaper
There are other discounts linked to these loyalty schemes, though you might need to delve into the app to find them. It could be coupons you need to activate then scan at the till, or bonus points linked to specific products. Be sure to check what’s on there while you plan your list. 
You can still get coupons in magazines, but more and more now they’re via cashback apps. However you take advantage, watch out that you’re not just buying the item simply because of the money off. 

Change how you pay

Finally, change how you pay. A good start is to get a decent cashback credit or debit card—but don’t assume the supermarket’s own card is the best bet. Though the Asda (1% back) and John Lewis (1.25% back at Waitrose) ones are decent to use in their own stores, the others can easily be beaten. And in fact, a different brand might be better for all your spending, not just on groceries. Look at the Chase debit card or American Express Nectar card to earn a solid 1% back on all your spending.
Perhaps better is to buy gift cards from the likes of TopGiftcards or HyperJar and earn cashback on that purchase. If you’re able to get 3% back on a £100 supermarket card, it’s only £3 back. But if you do this every couple of weeks, it will add up over 12 months. You might also be able to buy these at a low price from any work perk scheme offered by your employer.
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