By Jenny | Edited by Martin Updated 19 Jan 2015
Supermarkets are brilliant at making us spend our hard-earned cash, yet with a few focused techniques you could save Ј1,000s a year.
30 supermarket shopping tips, including.
- 3 Take the Downshift Challenge
- 4 Watch the Downshift Challenge video
- 8 Hunt for disguised own brands
- 11 Max your coupons
- 13 Track if it's really a bargain
- 18 Know when to BOGOF
- 20 Reclaim old Clubcard vouchers
- 21 Exploit price match policies
- 25 Buy beyond best-befores at big discounts
- 28 Nifty tools to use up leftovers
A supermarket's job is to make us spend
Supermarkets are cathedrals of consumerism. They're perfectly honed marketing environments, benefiting from millions of pounds of research into how to encourage and seduce us into buying and spending more than we should. This means as consumers, we must learn counter moves.
If you want to teach an eight-year-old about money, the best place to start is a supermarket. Ask them what they can smell. It'll usually be bread or a bakery, as the scent makes us hungry and likely to buy more food, so the supermarket profits.
Supermarkets' other tactics include the following:
Sweets and magazines placed by the till. These are impulse buys, so putting them near the till gives stores one last attempt to grab our cash.
Store layouts make us walk the whole distance. Regularly bought items tend to be spread around the store, so we need to pass many other tempting goodies to complete our shopping.
Eye-level products are the profitable ones. The most profitable stock is placed at eye-level (or children’s eye-level if it's targeted at them), yet profitable goods tend not to be the best deals for shoppers. The age-old adage "look high and low for something" really does apply.
Sales-type signage for non-sales items. Seedless grapes and other attractive treats are usually near the store entrance, often below cost price, to entice us in. Similar signs and displays are used elsewhere to promote deals, even when they're not on sale.
Bright colours and the words "discount" and "sale" make us feel good, yet the reduction may be pennies and cheaper equivalents hidden elsewhere.
Steer your own trolley
For those on a strict budget, it's important to get into the right mindset. Don't ask: "What's the cheapest way to get all the goodies I want?". Instead ask: “On my ЈXYZ budget, what can I afford?”
Of course, a budget is part of a wider strategy and how much to prioritise food shopping depends on your other expenditure. Use our free Budget Planner tool to help.
Take the Downshift Challenge
Don't believe the brand hypnosis. Whether it's bacon, biscuits, baked beans or bolognese sauce, if something costs more it's got to
be better, right? Wrong.
The phrasing and promotional language used in shops hypnotises us into thinking most costly is best. While the packaging looks more opulent, look beneath to the actual product you're getting and sometimes you won't be able to tell the difference.
Supermarkets separate their products into different categories, using loaded language to give you the choice of how 'luxury' or 'basic' you want to be.
As you move up the brand level costs increase, as do presentation and sometimes ingredients. Often a manufacturers' brand and own brand may well be made in the same factory by the same people (though it's tough to prove with specific products).
Premium. Words like 'finest' or 'extra special' imply it's a treat.
Branded. Products like McVitie's Jaffa Cakes or Kellogg's cereal.
Own brand. These tend to be presented in a similar way to manufacturers' brands, but with the supermarket's own take on it.
Value. With names like 'basic' or 'savers', the presentation is deliberately stark to imply it's cut back to the bones.
Take the Downshift Challenge
To fight back and save big, try the Downshift Challenge. The theory is simple:
Try dropping one brand level on everything. Then see if you can tell the difference. If not, stick with the cheaper one.
The next time you shop, swap one of everything to something just one brand level lower. So if you usually buy four cartons of Tesco's own-brand orange juice, this time buy three of those and one Tesco Everyday Value. If you use branded aloe vera shower cream, drop to Asda's own brand.
The point of this system isn't to force you to drop down a brand level on everything, but to ensure you're not spending money for no reason. If you can't tell the difference between the lower brand level goods, then why pay more for it.
It's far better to taste with your mouth than your eyes, so try giving family members a blind taste test with no packaging to ensure it's fair. Of course, let's not go extreme on this. If there's a 2for1 on a higher brand (and you'd use both packs) making it cheaper than downshifting, stick with the higher brand.
Try the Downshift Challenge tool
To inspire you, try our fun Downshift Challenge tool. Tell it where you shop, how much you spend and the proportion of each brand you buy (premium, manufacturers', own brand or basic) and it'll crunch the numbers.
Many can save Ј1,000s. Drop a brand level on everything you buy and you'll usually cut the bill by 30%. For a family's Ј100 shop that's Ј1,750 a year. Even if you only drop half the brands because you can tell the difference on others, that's still a saving of Ј875 a year.
It's worth noting the biggest downshift savings aren't from premium brands to manufacturer brands, but for those already lower down the brand chain to begin with.
Watch the Downshift Challenge video