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Top 12 Grocery Shopping Hacks That Save You Money

Grocery shopping hacks
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Grocery shopping can feel like a constant battle against rising prices. Luckily, we’ve cracked the code with the top 10 grocery shopping hacks that can seriously boost your savings without sacrificing delicious meals. From best shopping times and mastering meal planning to decoding supermarket tricks, these tips will transform you into a grocery shopping pro.

Best grocery shopping hacks to save money

1. Switch to own-brand

A food shopping hack that could help you save up to a third on your weekly food shop is switching from premium or branded products to supermarket own-brand or value products.

The main difference between premium/branded items and supermarket own brands is usually the price. Many supermarket own-brand products often match branded items in taste tests, so it’s worth trying them to see if they measure up. By opting for these cheaper items, you can consistently save money. If you find they don’t meet your taste expectations, you’ve still spent less and can try another budget-friendly alternative.

2. Time your shopping trip right

A great way to save money at the supermarket is to time your shopping trip right and look for the reduction stickers on items nearing their sell-by date. Supermarkets often apply these reductions at specific times of day, so it can be useful to learn when this happens at your preferred store. Here’s a quick rundown of yellow sticker timings across popular supermarkets:

  • Aldi: Red clearance stickers from 8am, offering up to 50% off, increasing to 75% near use-by date.
  • Asda: Initial reductions start in the morning, with possible further discounts from 7pm.
  • Co-Op: Yellow clearance labels used, with discount times varying by store. Final reductions can reach up to 75% off.
  • Iceland: Yellow stickers mark reduced items, with discounts applied in the morning.
  • Lidl: Orange stickers usually indicate a 30% discount from the morning. Occasionally, green “waste not!” stickers are priced at 20p or 70p.
  • Marks & Spencer: Yellow stickers applied in the morning, offering substantial discounts due to higher original prices.
  • Morrisons: Best reductions are in the evening. For £3.49 you can also get Magic Boxes through the Too Good To Go app which offer about £10 worth of food.
  • Sainsbury’s: Discounts start at 25% off at 1pm, increase to 50% at 5pm, and reach 75% by 8pm.
  • Tesco: Yellow sticker reductions occur in the afternoons, focusing on fresh meat, fish, fruit, veg, and bakery items.
  • Waitrose: Discount times vary by store, with markdowns generally occurring in the afternoon and increasing towards closing time.

To avoid waste, plan your meals around the discounts or bulk-buy and freeze the discounted items (especially meat, fish, and veg) for later. By following these tips, you can turn yellow sticker shopping into a win-win situation, saving money and reducing food waste.

3. Bring your own bags

Forgetting your reusable bags at the supermarket can mean extra charges and plastic waste. To opt for a more budget-friendly and sustainable habit, keep spares in your car, by the front door, or near your keys to make sure you don’t forget them. Writing “bags” at the top of your shopping list can also be a helpful reminder.

Drivers can take it a step further by keeping storage baskets in their car’s boot. This allows for quick packing and unpacking, letting you transfer groceries straight from the trolley and minimising trips back and forth from the car.

4. Choose loose over packed products

Purchasing loose fruit and vegetables instead of pre-packed options offers a double win: saving money and reducing plastic consumption. Plus, pre-packaged items often contain a set quantity you might not need. Opting for loose produce allows you to choose the exact amount, size, and quality you desire, preventing food waste and potentially lowering your grocery bill.

Related: 17 simple and eco-friendly ways to save money

5. Shop online

Another clever grocery shopping hack suggests switching to online shopping. This can significantly reduce impulse buys, especially if you shop when hungry. Cravings can lead to grabbing way more than you need, but online shopping allows you to browse with a clear head and stick to your list.

Plus, online grocery shopping offers 24/7 availability, letting you shop at your convenience. Many supermarkets even have free shipping over a certain amount and loyalty programs for extra savings on future purchases. Many online grocery stores also offer special discounts or coupons for first-time users. Look for these codes before placing your first order and potentially snag a significant saving on your initial online grocery shop.

However, it is worth noting that when shopping for groceries online, you can’t choose items based on their freshness like you can in-store. So, plan to use the fresh items you order quickly to avoid waste.

6. Avoid baskets and trolleys where possible

If you’re only grabbing a few items, skipping the basket or trolley is a great grocery shopping hack to save money. But why?

This simple strategy reduces the temptation to fill extra space with unplanned purchases. Studies have even shown that using a larger trolley can lead you to spend up to 40% more than planned! Avoiding baskets and trolleys therefore helps you stick to your list and only buy what you came for, especially if you’re just grabbing a few forgotten ingredients. Once you have what you need, limiting yourself to what you can carry keeps your budget in check and minimises impulse buys triggered by in-store deals.

7. Join a supermarket loyalty program

Loyalty or rewards cards are a handy way to rack up points for future discounts on groceries. These cards offer perks like birthday treats, early access to new products, and exclusive deals. Popular programs include Clubcard (Tesco), Nectar (Sainsbury’s), and the Lidl Plus app.

While loyalty programs can lead to substantial savings, remember not to restrict your shopping to just one store because of a points scheme. Focus your spending at stores where you save on the items you typically buy. Some loyalty cards, like those with points-based systems, might incentivise spending that could be avoided. So be mindful not to get swayed into unnecessary purchases just to reach a reward tier.

8. Pick items from the back of the shelf

We all aim to choose food products with the longest possible shelf life, ensuring our bread stays fresh for days to come. A clever trick for securing the best dates is to opt for items positioned further back on the shelf.

Supermarket staff often place products with the earliest “best before” dates at the front when restocking shelves. This tactic entices customers to grab the closest item. However, by reaching past the front row, you’re more likely to discover products with superior expiration dates tucked in the back.

Since these items are likely fresher, they’ll last longer, reducing the risk of food waste. So next time you’re grocery shopping, don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper for the freshest finds!

9. Don't shop at eye level

Supermarkets are masters of product placement. They strategically arrange items, often placing premium options at eye level to catch your gaze and encourage you to pick them over cheaper alternatives. In fact, many brands will pay for premium eye level placement in supermarkets, as people will habitually buy, or try, their products if they are at eye level.

But savvy shoppers know how to decode these tactics. Here are two clever grocery shopping hacks from to help you find the best deals:

  • Scan high and low: Don’t be fooled by eye level! Many stores stock cheaper generic or own-brand products on lower shelves or higher shelves. Give the entire shelf a quick scan from top to bottom to uncover hidden gems.

  • Save with long-life items: Fresh produce can be more expensive. Consider exploring the longer-life aisles for canned or frozen options that offer similar nutritional value at a fraction of the cost. Just be sure to check the expiry dates and factor in any additional preparation time needed.

10. Don't shop when you're hungry (or caffeinated!)

This might be obvious but is also the golden rule of grocery shopping: Never shop when you’re hungry or thirsty. Cravings and thirst can cloud your judgement and lead to impulse purchases that bust your budget. 

Interestingly, research even shows that drinking coffee before shopping can make you spend more as it increases the likelihood of impulse purchases. So it’s better to avoid a caffeinated drink before grocery shopping!

11. Download food waste apps

UK households throw away a staggering 6.6 million tonnes of food waste every year. This alarming statistic highlights the importance of tackling food waste, and thankfully, technology offers a helping hand.

Over the past few years, innovative food waste apps have emerged, making it easier than ever to do your part in reducing waste – all from your phone! These apps connect you with businesses like cafes, restaurants, and shops that have surplus food nearing its expiry date. Instead of going to waste, this food becomes a delicious bargain for you, while businesses gain additional revenue and avoid throwing away perfectly good produce.

Apps like Too Good To Go are a prime example. They allow you to rescue meals and groceries at discounted prices. But that’s not the only option! Olio, for instance, takes a slightly different approach by connecting you with neighbors and local businesses to share unwanted food that would otherwise be thrown away.

12. Scan your grocery receipts for money

In addition to the grocery shopping hacks you’ve already mastered, there’s another way to stretch your budget: receipt scanning apps. These clever apps turn your grocery receipts into valuable rewards. Simply upload a picture of your receipt after your shopping trip, and watch the cash back, gift cards, or even PayPal money roll in.

Some popular options in the UK include Shopmium and Storewards. Shopmium focuses on specific products and offers cash back when you buy them at participating stores. Storewards, on the other hand, rewards you for every receipt you scan, regardless of the items.

Conclusion

Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a budget-draining chore. By incorporating the grocery shopping hacks you’ve learned here, you can become a master of saving money and minimising waste.

From planning your meals around sales to shopping online, these tips help you to make smart choices throughout the shopping process. Additionally, don’t forget the power of technology. Explore cash-back apps that reward you for simply scanning your receipts, turning everyday purchases into opportunities for extra savings.

Remember, a little planning and some clever strategies can help you save money on grocery shopping.

Best grocery shopping hacks to save money

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