Savvy supermarket shopping


Stewart Walker

As convenient as supermarkets are at providing us with pretty much a weekly food shop in one place, they're also good at making us spend our money. It is very common to go to the supermarket with one thing in mind to buy and end up leaving with twenty other things, often forgetting the very item you originally went in for! Overspending on seemingly normal items like food may be the reason we experience a cash shortfall towards the end of the month and where payday lenders may be an appropriate solution. Our hope is that by the time you get to the end of this guide you're able to avoid common traps that lead to overspending at supermarkets. We know there's a savvy supermarket shopper inside of you waiting to save tons on food and household items.

Write a list

It is so easy to conveniently pop into the supermarket whenever you need something. This, however, is the easiest way to leave with more things than you need. Before going to the supermarket, write out a list of things that you need. Take a trip around the house and see what's running low or completely finished. Only write down the things you need to eliminate impulse shopping. Meal plans may also be of great assistance to help with food item purchases. You'll know exactly what you want to buy instead of guessing down each aisle and picking up random things.

Avoid shopping hungry

Have you ever been to the supermarket hungry? The scents of bread and other baked delicacies will make just about everything look inviting. Being hungry may lead to you irrationally buying three boxes of cereal and 5 doughnuts when you only needed one of each. Try and eat before leaving the house to help you focus on the goal at hand which is buying things you need.

Shopping basket full of veg

Pay with cash

The danger of taking your card with you to the supermarket is in how easy it is to go over budget. Having easy access to your funds means it's easier to go over the budget you set before leaving home. For instance, you may end up with a total that exceeds what's currently in your account and end up needing to dip into your overdraft or use a credit card. Taking cash, however, means you'd be forced to stay within your budget as there would be no plan B if you picked one too many items. You could bring out a little extra in case of emergencies, but try sticking to your decided amount.

Kitchen cupboard essentials

  • Salt and pepper
  • Mixed dried herbs
  • Cooking oil
  • Rice and pasta
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Baked beans
  • Stock cubes

Use comparison apps

If you are going to pay in cash, you are going to need to know how much your shopping will come to. A comparison app is a fantastic way of doing this. It will show you how much each item is across different supermarkets. This not only will help you budget, but it'll also show you whose selling it cheapest. Most of the prices are updated at least once a day and also show cheaper alternatives.

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Use coupons and vouchers

Collecting coupons will help you get organized with your shopping. As well as getting more for less, they'll also help you buy things in multiples or bulk. This could equate to fewer trips to the supermarket. Hunt for vouchers in newspapers, online and also in emails sent by stores. If you're new to vouchers, look out for introductory ones that can be found online for new customers. They usually offer something like £15 or £20 off of your first purchase.

Be careful to only use the vouchers when you actually need them in order to avoid impulse buying. Most of them tend to have long expiry dates, so you can collect them in a safe place until you actually need them. Just make sure you don't forget that you have the vouchers tucked away so they don't expire and go to waste. Be careful with special offer ads as sometimes the prices work out more expensive than products that aren't actually on sale.

Shopping trolleys packed together

Avoid buying products near tills

Tills may arguably be the most tempting part of the entire supermarket. They seem to have strategically been set up to make us buy a few extra items that we probably don't need. Aside from the fact that you're more likely to engage with the items because you're waiting for your turn, the items on display tend to be tempting buys. If you have children with you, it can be even worse as they're likely to see more than a few things that they'll convince you to buy.

Whether chocolates, magazines, beverages, toy cars or dolls, if truly you needed them, they would have already been in the basket. Try and keep yourself engaged in other things when you're in the queue to distract your attention. Additionally, products on display at tills may not give you the best deals for what you're getting whereas the aisles might have better offers.

Avoid frequent visits

Try and pick a specific day that you want to go supermarket shopping. The fewer trips that you take, the less likely you are to pick up unnecessary items. Taking fewer trips might require you to be more organised and pay more attention to what you have at home. If you don't mind the hassle, counting stock at home weekly will help.

There will be days where you have an emergency item you need to pick up, however, try and keep this to a minimum. Avoiding trolleys and baskets on these specific trips may also help significantly. Learning to budget when you go supermarket shopping could lead to big savings.

Try online shopping

Shopping online is becoming the norm and is also a very convenient way of going about it. Most major supermarkets have a website where you can purchase your items and offer to deliver as well. One of the advantages of shopping online is that they have discount codes that will give you discounts on some of your purchases. It is also a great way to apply some of the tips mentioned earlier such as comparing prices between stores and avoiding tills at the checkout. Shopping online is a way to help make a noticeable difference in your disposable income and ensure stick to your budget.

Bulk buy

Buying in bulk is a great way to save when you're shopping as you'll get more for less in the long-run. It's advisable that you stick to buying non-perishable items or ones you use frequently so that they don't sit in storage unused. If you happen to share accommodation with other people, going halves on supermarket shopping will go a long way. Like we mentioned earlier, still, bear in mind that buying in bulk isn't always cheaper. On that note, ensure you look around and compare prices beforehand.

More savvy tips

The tips keep on coming, check out this lot to save big at the supermarket:

Many of us are taught to believe that if something costs more, it means it's better quality. This theory certainly isn't always true. Store brands or other cheaper versions sometimes offer the same quality, if not better than more expensive items. You'll have to do your research, check product reviews, and look at the contents of the items to truly know. Additionally, actually testing the products is a good idea too. Every item usually has a premium, branded, own brand, and value version. Consider going down a level on items you usually buy to see the difference in quality. If there isn't much of one, you can stick to the cheaper version and save. Don't forget to include cleaning products and toiletries in your cost-saving experiment. The more items you save on, the merrier.

Often times when you're out shopping, they will ask you if already have or want a loyalty card before you pay. These cards are usually easy to forget at home or disregard but they can save you money if you use them often. Most loyalty cards work using a point system. This means the more points you get, the more discounts you have available. Stores often convert the points you've acquired to pounds that can be used on future purchases. Remember to get loyalty cards from different supermarkets. It will ensure more savings so don't feel bound to a single store.

Want to buy cheap food? You can if you buy from local caf├ęs, bakeries or restaurants who are selling instead of disposing of left-over food at the end of the day. This is a major way to save money on food that might usually cost a lot more as they apparently offer discounts of up to %50. It is also ideal if you want a discounted meal or food to consume the same day.

Some supermarkets have policies that guarantee a refund for the difference if their rival supermarkets are selling the same products cheaper. This may not seem like a lot, but consider using this on every trolley full of shopping over a month? The key would be to separate items that are discounted from those that are full-price when you're shopping. This is because the offers are usually given by basket or trolley as opposed to individual items. You'll also need to pay separately and keep the receipt in a safe place. Hopefully, the basket filled with full-priced items will get you a price match discount or voucher and you will have ended up saving.

Have you ever gone inside of the supermarket and come across a clearance section? This is a goldmine if you're looking to save money. Apparently, most major supermarkets put items on clearance in the evenings, but it varies for each store. Popping in the store an hour or two before closing time should do the trick. You will usually find items for up to %75 off or more which is awesome. Beware of close sell-by dates and ensure you don't end up picking up items that will go to waste as they're about to expire. Sometimes goods may also be damaged so ensure it's worth the buy as well.

Item not up to scratch? Then return it and get a refund or swap it for a replacement. Do not just throw it away.

Reduce your food wastage

Have you ever wondered what the difference between the use-by date, the best before date and the display-until and sell by date is? Knowing the difference could help significantly reduce your level of food wastage.

Best before

Best before simply put means that the manufacturer feels the product is at it's best quality before this date. It however, doesn't mean that the item cannot still be consumed.

Use by

The use-by date should be adhered to as there's a risk of eating it beyond that day. This is food that is best disposed of after the stated date has passed. It usually consists of perishable.

Display until

Display-until and sell by dates aren't usually something to worry about as they don't pertain to you. They're instructions for staff regarding when products need to be removed from shelves.


Supermarkets are a necessary part of our daily lives and add value to them as well. We find just about everything we need to manage ourselves and our homes inside. However, it is important you try and monitor just how much you're spending to avoid blowing a hole in your finances.

Pre-planning your trips and applying some of the tips mentioned should help in your bid to reduce your spending. It may take some time and self-control before you see significant changes, however, with determination you'll be savvier about your supermarket shopping in no time. What tends to make you overspend when you got the supermarket? What measures do you put in place to avoid overspending? Let us know on our social media pages. See the NHS " eat for cheap" campaign for more great ideas here.