Supermarkets make food shopping very convenient, but boy can you end up spending a lot! It’s almost impossible to duck in for a ‘couple of things’ without coming home with a bulging shopping bag (or two).
At this time of year, when you are often adding plenty of extras to your trolley, here are a few tips.
Bigger isn’t always better
We have been conditioned to think that buying in bulk saves money. While this is sometimes the case, it does pay to check. On the price stickers, look for the price per kilo, or price per unit and compare it with other quantities. Furthermore, consider how much you are likely to use and if you have adequate storage for bulk purchases. Specials such as ’3 for the price of 2′ type offers may not necessarily be good value either.
Tricks of the eye
Did you know that, while you slowly peruse the aisles looking for something for dinner, supermarkets are subtly selling extraneous items to you? Items that the supermarkets want us to buy are placed at eye level, while better value items are often placed above or below average eye level. They will also display complimentary goods beside each other, such as biscuits near the coffee and tea, subliminally encouraging you to buy both.
Take a walk
Staple items such as milk and butter are often at the opposite end of the shop compared to other essentials like bread, in the hope we’ll fill our trolleys with non-essentials en route.
Shop regularly not frequently
Studies have shown that the more often we shop (dropping in every few days with a small basket instead of one big shop each week), the more we spend on unplanned purchases. It saves time and hassle to make a list of what you’ll eat each week and shop all at once.
Where is your weakness?
Are you a sucker for an in store demonstration? Just because you take a sample and the salesperson is lovely, does not necessarily mean you have to make a purchase. All those $5 treats add up at the check out, try and keep to your list and avoid aisles of temptation altogether if you are easily led astray.
While supermarket loyalty cards can reward you, they sometimes discourage you from shopping cost-effectively. Rewards can be minimal compared to what you need to spend to earn them. They shouldn’t dictate where you shop. Remember that if you drive 20 minutes out of your way for a voucher saving 10c per litre, you may not actually be saving anything. Loyalty cards track your spending habits, enabling supermarkets to create databases that are used to direct market to customers. It’s called data mining. They may be getting more from the deal that you are.
Buying unpackaged food often works out more cheaply – it’s also much better for the environment. Take a look at the ham in the deli vs the prepackaged ham for example; the savings can be significant and you can actually buy the quantity you will use. Some vegetables that are past their best are packaged in bulk, so beware!
Timing is everything
Retail surveys show the two days for the cheapest supermarket prices are Mondays and Thursdays. Stores often offer specials toilet paper, nappies and laundry powder on Mondays to tempt shoppers into the store. A second round of specials happens each Thursday, with meat and fresh produce mark-downs often taking place on Friday. Then drop by on any weekday evening and you should see cut-price yoghurts, fruit and bread. Perishable items are more likely to be discounted towards the end of the shopping day, as supermarkets mark down stock to get it off their shelves.