Cheap Supermarket Shopping Tips

My top money-saving tips for supermarket shopping:

1. Write a generic list of everything you want in a typical 2-3 month period, and save it on your computer. Before you go to the supermarket, print out a copy of the list, then check the cupboards, fridge and freezer and cross off everything you haven't run out of (or circle the things you have run out of). For example, you might not need to buy shampoo or bin liners every week, but you'll probably need it at least once or twice every 2-3 months, so put it on the list. Do NOT try to write a list from scratch half an hour before each shopping trip.

2. Put seven blank lines on your saved list. Either in advance, or as you go around the supermarket, or a combination of the two, write down what you're going to eat on what days. When the blank lines are full - STOP BUYING FOOD.

3. Set yourself a budget for non-list items.

4. Always go alone. Never go with children, spouses, housemates, friends and especially not anyone you are trying to impress. If you absolutely must go with children, agree in advance what their treat will be (with mine, we usually agree one packet of their choice of biscuits, and I make them carry the biscuits in their hands as they go round; if they misbehave, I march them back to the biscuit aisle just before we check out, and have them put the biscuits back - you only need to carry that out once for it to be remembered forever).

5. Once a month, go to a low-end supermarket that's much cheaper than your regular supermarket, and stock up on the long-life basics in bulk - but still use your saved list. In particular, think about the things you tend to run out of and have to go to the expensive late-night convenience store for. Loo roll, sunflower margarine, biscuits, dried pasta, all the cupboard stuff. Have a reserve pack of cheap UHT milk and a poor-quality mini loaf of bread in the freezer (or even just 3 slices of bread)- it'll do until you visit the proper supermarket.

6. Be honest about whether you really are going to have the time to make packed lunches, and whether they really will be eaten. Better to just eat out for lunch than to pay/prepare a packed lunch AND eat out anyway. Consider having a packed lunch only 3 or 4 times a week, so you can look forward to a lunch out, rather than throwing packed lunches away five days a week.

7. Supermarket loyalty is for chumps. Shop at 2-3 different supermarkets over a period of 2-3 months, and learn which supermarkets are good at what. For example, I find that Morrisons is good for fish, Sainsburys is good for frozen and Tesco is good for meat, but that may be because of the types of fish, meat and frozen goods I buy. By all means have a loyalty card - ideally, have several - but don't try to chase a particular goal of credits or tokens. Any big offers in the tokens catalogue can probably be found elsewhere online anyway.

8. If you're going to freeze something in bulk that isn't yet frozen, consider dividing or chopping it up into smaller individual chunks before you freeze it. Use a cheap tin tray to separate out the items. For example, lay out sausages on a tin tray, freeze them overnight, then the next day, remove the tray and transfer the frozen sausages to a bag. That way, you can take them out of the freezer in only the small quantities you need. If I see a large joint of beef, pork or lamb on special offer, then I'll divide it into two or three smaller Sunday Roast lumps and freeze them individually. Also butter - I tend to use marg on bread, but nothing beats proper butter on jacket potatoes. So I chop up a pat of butter into hotel-sized individual portions, freeze them on a tin tray, then bag them up.

Public Domain - Andrew Oakley - 2013-09-24

Top - More Tips Articles - Article Index -