Money Wellness
A woman with a shopping basket standing in a supermarket aisle reading the label of a food item she is holding in her hand
category iconcost of living
category iconmanaging your money
calendar icon23 Mar 2023

How to cut the cost of your supermarket shop

The cost of our grocery shop is on the rise. In February, it was up 16.5% on the same month last year, according to the Which? monthly food inflation tracker. And budget supermarkets Lidl and Aldi saw the biggest proportional price rises, at 24.4% and 22.7% respectively.

It’s important to remember, however, that inflation is a measure of how quickly prices are going up or down, not overall price. This means supermarkets with the highest inflation may still be cheapest – just not by as much.

Butters and spreads were found to be the worst hit foods, with cheese and milk not far behind.

And the prices of own-label items were revealed to be going up more quickly than branded products, with a 22.9% year-on-year rise compared to 13.3%.

So, with many household budgets already stretched to breaking point, how can you keep the cost of your grocery shop as low as possible?

Follow the yellow stick(er) road…

Try and shop when your supermarket of choice starts adding yellow-sticker discounts to products that are nearing their sell-by date. The first stickers tend to appear mid-morning, but the really big discounts are more likely to be found between 6pm and 9pm – with reductions of as much as 75%.

When stickers start appearing in different shops

Tesco and Lidl – the first ones may appear as early as 8am but the big discounts kick in from the early evening.

Asda – the big price drops start around 7pm.

Morrisons – reductions get going around lunchtime.

Co-op – 8pm is the best time for the big 75% discounts.

M&S – final reductions are made half-an-hour to an hour before closing.

Sainsbury’s – discounts tend to start at about 7pm.

Waitrose – the best discounts can be found in the half hour to closing.

Aldi – half-price stickers start appearing at 8pm. And just to be different, their stickers are usually red.

Take advantage of loyalty schemes

Loyalty schemes can help you reduce the cost of your shop. Just make sure they don’t encourage you to buy things you wouldn’t ordinarily pick up. Check out the Sun’s guide to the best and worst loyalty schemes.

Avoid impulse buys

Plan your meals in advance and then make a list. This will help you avoid impulse buys, reduce the amount of food you waste, balance your diet, and avoid expensive top-up shops and takeaways. Also, don’t shop when hungry as you’re much more likely to make unnecessary purchases.

Swerve the pre-prepared fruit and veg, and go wonky

Pre-prepared fruit and veg is more expensive. Try wonky fruit and veg instead – it may not be as pretty, but it should taste just as good and it’s noticeably cheaper. You can get a 5kg Waste Not box of fruit and veg from Lidl for just £1.50.

Bulk buying and batch cooking

For items with a long shelf life, bulk buying can definitely end up saving you money. And if you batch cook and freeze meals, it may also make financial sense to bulk buy fresh produce too.

Store food properly

By storing food properly, you can make it last longer and cut down on waste. Some fruit and veg, such as oranges, are better off in the fridge. And eggs last longer when kept in their box. Love Food Hate Waste’s A-Z food guide includes information on how to store items properly to extend their shelf life.

Buy frozen

Frozen food is often significantly cheaper than fresh and, contrary to what many people think, can be just as nutritious.

Cut down on meat

Meat is expensive and livestock production contributes more greenhouse emissions and uses more resources than the majority of plant-based foods. So - by cutting down - you’ll be helping your bank balance and the planet. Even cutting out meat for just one day a week can make a difference.

Buy own brands

Although they’re increasing in price faster than their branded equivalents, own-label products can still save you money. So, if the family can’t taste the difference, why pay more?

Shop around

If you’ve got time, you could save money by using different supermarkets for different products. You may also find local markets, butchers and greengrocers are cheaper than supermarkets. While non-food items like cleaning products may be cheaper from a pound shop or another discount store.

Download apps offering free or cheap food

Supermarkets and café chains give unsold fresh food to Olio at the end of the day. This is listed on the app for locals to pick up. While the Too Good to Go app offers unsold food at about a third of its original price.

Don’t be a slave to best-before dates (but pay attention to use-by dates)

You can reduce waste by using best-before dates as a guide rather than an absolute rule. If something smells okay it may still be absolutely fine to eat. On the other hand, you should stick to use-by dates, as these foods may pose a health risk.

Avatar of Rebecca Routledge

Rebecca Routledge

A qualified journalist for over 15 years with a background in financial services. Rebecca is Money Wellness’s consumer champion, helping you improve your financial wellbeing by providing information on everything from income maximisation to budgeting and saving tips.

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