Following on from my little turn on BBC3CR earlier in the week I'm today going to be looking at five tips for saving money whilst doing your grocery shopping.
1. Never shop on an empty stomach
It may sound obvious, but how many times have you gone round the supermarket whilst a bit peckish and ended up picking up a few extra things as a result? We've all done it, but if you can just try to shop after you've eaten it really will help you cut down on extra things finding their way into your trolley.
2. Write a shopping list and stick to it
Don't go to the shops unless you've got a shopping list and make sure you stick to it!
I've written before about the importance of meal planning and if you're doing this already then it should help to tell you what needs to go on your shopping list that week. In addition to doing this I also have a pad of paper stuck to the side of my fridge so that whenever we're close to running out of something I put it on the list and then next time I go shopping I know what to get. I get the husband to do the same and it helps to ensure we don't run out of things.
3. Shop online
The temptation to put extra things in yout trolley and go "off list" is much less if you're just sat at the kitchen table with your laptop rather than walking down the aisles of your local supermarket.
Many of the main supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Asda) now offer online shopping and if you sign up with them and look around online you can normally find some sort of offer for money off your first shop with them. If you're totally new to online food shopping then it may well be worth signing up with all of them, doing a shop at each (ideally with a discount) before deciding on a favourite. Also, sometimes if you register with them online and don't shop immediately you get emailed offers to try to encourage you to place that first order. The ones that are really keen for your business will also offer you something special after your first shop, to encourage you to do a second one.
As an example right now (21 June 2013) Waitrose have an offer on their website where new customers save a total of £75 over their first five shops with them as long as they spend £75 a week. That's like a week's shopping for free if you spend that amount once a week. Definitely worth giving them a try and look out for other supermarkets doing similar deals.
If you're signed up already with a supermarket's loyalty card scheme check your latest mailings from them as the coupons you are sent often include an extra voucher for money off a first online shop too.
4. Follow the brands you like on social media
If you're active on either Twitter or Facebook it is very worthwhile to follow or like the brands that you like.
Brands love being able to talk directly to their customers and many use social media to tell the public about special offers in certain shops, new products and sometimes they give out discount codes and vouchers. There are also regular competitions to win their products too – so you may end up with something for nothing. Some brands go a step further and actually use social media as a way of getting together focus groups to try out new products.
5. Shop around
One thing that most of us are given in the supermarket is choice – and sometimes too much of it. Next time you're buying something why not look at the other brands on the shelf next to the one you usually reach for and try one of them instead. Some of the own-brand items taste exactly the same as the well known brands, but at a fraction of the cost. Or become a "brand-tart" and just go with the one that's on special offer at the time.
If you have more than one supermarket near you then why not try going to a different one for your weekly shop and seeing how it compares, both in terms of quality and price. Or maybe just go where the best special offers are that week. If you want to know where a specific item is on special offer then head over to Supermarket Special Offers who keep track of all of them so that you don't have to do the leg work.
Another alternative is to head to your local Aldi or Lidl. One of the secrets as to how they are so cheap is that they often only stock one brand of something (often their own brand which may be packaged to look quite like a leading well-known brand) so you don't have as much choice. They also don't spend huge amounts on instore advertising or display, so the whole shopping experience may be somewhat simpler, but if it's saving you money and you're still getting good food then it doesn't matter. Word on the street is that the wine in Aldi is particularly fine, as is the gin, and the tea bags. Just goes to shop that being thrifty doesn't necessarily mean skimping on taste or quality.