The supermarket is like a den of deception. Let your guard down and you end up leaving with $300 worth of frozen pizza and a stack of magazines about home improvement. Here’s how to beat the supermarket at its own game and make big savings on your grocery bill.
1. Don’t Buy the First Thing You See
Nothing you see in the supermarket is there by chance. If you’re looking for milk, the first carton you see, placed at eye-level, is usually the most expensive. Cheaper brands are placed on shelves so high you need to throw rocks at them to get them down, or so low you have to crawl on your belly like a snake.
And if you end up loading up on tooth-decaying sweets while waiting in line at the check-out counter, know that you didn’t “just happen” to see them there.
2. Avoid Processed Foods, Even on Sale
Processed foods like instant curry powder, breakfast cereal and pre-made salad dressing tend to be more expensive than the DIY version, so even if they’re on sale they can still increase your costs. Making a simple salad dressing out of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice is cheaper than anything sold by Heinz.
3. Make a List and Stick to It
The supermarket is not a bookstore, so don’t go in hoping to browse. The only recipe that is good for is a recipe for disaster (and overspending). Make a list beforehand and then make a beeline for what you need. That way, if you enter with the intention of buying tomatoes you exit with tomatoes instead of tomato-flavoured chewing gum and magazines for tomato lovers.
The only reason you should deviate from what’s on your list is if you find a genuine deal. For example, if you want to get broccoli but cauliflower is on sale, get whatever’s cheaper.
4. Use a Basket Instead of a ShoppingCcart
This may seem a little weird, but psychology plays a huge factor even when it comes to grocery shopping. A basket can contain fewer unnecessary purchases and gets heavy so quickly you are forced to just take what you need and leave or risk getting rushed to the hospital with a hernia.
5. Buy in Bulk When There’s a Sale
Sales items can be tricky, as you could later find yourself sitting at home wondering how you feel about eating Frosties every day for the rest of your life. But if toilet paper goes on sale, buying in bulk can help you lock in that price for the next couple of months.
6. Remember That Not All Supermarkets are Created Equal
If you’re a truly obsessive saver, make a note of all the prices of the products you usually buy at different supermarkets in your neighbourhood so you know what’s cheapest where. Or you could just make the effort to travel an extra 2 minutes to ValueDollar, which as we discovered some time back on Moneysmart is cheaper than virtually everywhere else.
7. Use the Right Credit Card
Many credit cards offer cash rebates on grocery spend at selected supermarkets, however there is often a minimum amount you must spend each month to qualify for the rebates. If your credit card requires you to spend at least $500 each month to qualify for the rebates but you only spend $300 in a month, buy $300 worth of vouchers before the month is up and then use them the next month. If you’re having trouble finding out which credit card suits your lifestyle best, we’ve done the hard work for you at MoneySmart’s Credit Cards section.
8. Buy at the Right Time
There are certain items that regularly and predictably go on sale, so it makes more sense to buy them when they are cheaper. If you buy sushi or fresh bread at the supermarket, wait until they go on sale at night before buying. Certain non-perishable items like pasta and canned tuna go on sale periodically, so wait until they do and then stock up.
How do you save money at the supermarket? Let us know in the comments!