How to save money on your weekly food shop – according to a finance expert

How to save money on your food shopping (Alamy/PA)
How to save money on your food shopping (Alamy/PA)

Shoppers face an extra £788 on their annual grocery bill because of grocery price inflation, retail analysts Kantar reported this week.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Households will now face an extra £788 on their annual shopping bills if they don’t change their behaviour to cut costs.”

So, how can we change our behaviour to save money while food shopping? Financial journalist Paul Lewis, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Money Box and author of the new tie-in book, offers the following tips…

1. Be aware of psychological ploys

Supermarkets know psychologically how we shop. So they will put the things they want to sell roughly at eye level,” says Lewis.

“If you want cheaper things, look at the lowest shelf or the higher shelf and see if there’s a cheaper alternative that isn’t at eye level. Things at eye level are also items that they hope you’ll buy when you didn’t really need them.”

2. Make a list

“Always make a list and try to stick to it,” he advises. “If you see something that isn’t on your list but looks really nice, ask yourself, ‘Can I really afford that?’ – and if you can’t, don’t buy it. Spontaneous purchases don’t always get eaten and are generally more expensive.”

3. Avoid food shopping when you’re hungry

We’ve all heard this before – and it really can make a big difference to what ends up in our trolley or basket.

As Lewis says simply: “If you food shop when you’re hungry you’ll buy too much.”

4. Use a small trolley

“Go for a small trolley or even just a basket,” Lewis advises. If you have a huge trolley there’s plenty of room to put stuff in and that may include things you don’t need, he adds.

5. Avoid aisle surfing

“Don’t go all the way round, up one aisle and down the next, because you’ll be going past all those things they are trying to make you buy,” Lewis says. “Go to the things you need, assuming you know where they are and it’s a supermarket you’re used to.”

6. Time yourself

“There was some research by Bangor University which found that after 40 minutes of walking around a supermarket, your brain starts making irrational decisions and you start putting things in that you shouldn’t put in.

“Also, do your shopping towards the end of the day, when supermarkets are more likely to reduce items, but be aware that the things they mark down are the things they can’t sell tomorrow.”

7. Make your own bargains

“Supermarkets will try to sell you stuff they want to get rid of, or they are making the most profit on. But own brand [items] such as beans and frozen peas are often as good and are cheaper. Wean yourself off expensive brands and on to own brands and cheaper brands.

“You’ll also find that unwrapped fruit and vegetables are cheaper than ones in plastic wrappers, normally. Look at the price of items per 100 grams, per weight, or per unit. With dishwasher tablets, for example, don’t look at the price of the box, look at the price per unit, which they all list,” Lewis adds.

“Some can be twice as much per unit as others. Buy the cheapest, which might not always be the biggest. It might be a smaller one that they want to get rid of. Never go for a two-for-one offer, because chances are that number two will never be eaten or will go off.”

8. Consider scanning

If you scan your items as you go round, that will help you keep a tally of how much you’re spending before you get to the checkout, and give you an easier opportunity to put things back, Lewis observes.

9. Do you really need fresh bread?

“We all love fresh bread, but it can be dearer. Of course, the smell of the bread is there because it tempts you to buy more than you need,” says Lewis. “If you buy two loaves when you only need one, put one in the freezer because it will keep for quite a long time.”

10. Watch out for catches when shopping online

“With online supermarket shopping, they still try to tempt you to buy things with offers, you can’t always find what you want and they aren’t cheaper.” He also agrees that fresh items you haven’t selected yourself may be closer to their sell-by date than they might be had you picked them personally.

11. Choose supermarkets wisely

“There is a huge difference between supermarkets and the cheapest are much cheaper than the most expensive,” says Lewis. “The problem is that it’s a long way to some supermarkets and if you have to get a bus, you can outweigh any possible savings by going to a supermarket closer to home. But if you do have that choice, it’s worth thinking about.”

Money Box by Paul Lewis is published by BBC Books, priced £16.99. Available now.