I’m not suggesting you go all Extreme Couponer on me, but even if you follow just a couple of these cheap food tricks, you should be able to cut your supermarket bills each time you shop.
I wrote a few months back about how to avoid getting caught out by special offers and deals at the supermarket which aren’t really any better value.
There’s plenty more to say on one of our biggest weekly expenses, so here’s a follow-up detailing the ways you can find cheaper food and save some cash.
Cheap food tricks: get the same for less
Sometimes the food and drink you want to buy isn’t part of a special offer, or the deal isn’t really best value, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shave off the pounds. Here are a few ways you can bring down the cost of a food and drink shop.
Consider changing brands
This doesn’t mean buying the value range, but there will be some products where you won’t notice the different between own brand and someone like Kellogs, Heinz and McVities. Give it a try. You can always swap back if you don’t like it.
Check out the reduced section
I’m a little addicted to “yellow stickers” and have been known to go a little crazy in the reduced aisle. Fortunately, I’ve learnt over the years to reign it in and only buy reduced food I actually want to eat!
But the savings you make can be huge, with discounts as high as 90% off available if you’re lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
You can also buy food that’s close to or past its sell-by-date, but still ok to eat, through the website Approved Foods. They also sell products with outdated branding or where someone has too much stock. The average saving is around 70%, though don’t get carried away and buy more than you can eat!
Try different supermarkets
We all know discount chains Lidl and Aldi are the cheapest, but don’t rule out the premium supermarkets – I’ve found some great offers and reductions at M&S and Waitrose.
The website mySupermarket is pretty good for identifying if you can pick up products for less elsewhere.
Buy discounted gift cards
Since I discovered the gift card resale app Zeek I’ve been topping up with Tesco, John Lewis, M&S and Sainsburys gift cards. To be fair the discounts are often only a couple of percent, but with the average household spending more than £3,000 a year on food and drink at the supermarket (ONS Family Spending Report 2015), a 3% discount represents a saving of £90 a year.
Use coupons – but only on things you need
Stories in the papers of people getting a massive shop for nothing through coupons are misleading. These aren’t normal shopping trolley – the couponers have often bought things they don’t really want, stocked up on dozens of the same thing, or have been given special coupons by the manufacturer.
I rarely find coupons for the items I normally buy, and I’m not going to buy something just because there’s 30p off. If I’m honest I rarely bother looking for these as I know I can make a better use of my time.
However, I do take advantage of ones for money off whole shops, such as the ones sent most months by Tesco, and it’s worth keeping an eye on papers and magazines you read as you never know what you might find.
Before you go shopping, see what products the apps have offers for, check which shop the offer is in, then buy the item in store as normal. You then take a photo of your receipt and get given some money back.
Join loyalty schemes
It’s not worth going to a specific supermarket just to earn points, but while you’re there it’s worth having them added to your account.
Once you’ve got points you can usually use them in-store to cut the overall bill – though that’s not always the way to get the best value.
Don’t forget, anyone even non-student can get an NUS Extra student card, which gives 10% off at Co-op.
Check your receipts
There are people out there who “womble” for receipts left behind at checkouts, in trolleys and on the ground in the carpark. The reason? They often contain money off coupons and bonus point vouchers, so don’t just throw yours in the bin.
Another reason to check it to make sure you haven’t been overcharged, especially on reduced items. Many supermarkets will not only refund the extra you’ve been charged, but give you a bit more for the inconvenience.
Compare the price per unit
This won’t work every time (hello bananas priced loose by weight, but priced by banana in a bag), but it’ll help you make a few decisions on what represents the best value.