A student who has been nicknamed the ‘coupon kid’ for his money-saving skills has shared 10 ways households can reduce their food bills – including the shelves to avoid at the supermarket.
Savvy Jordon Cox says shoppers need not fall for supermarket ‘tricks’ designed to tempt them out of their hard-earned money.
Aside from the obvious, such as browsing the reduced aisles and avoiding the supermarket when you’re hungry, he’s shared some helpful advice for anyone on a tight budget.
It comes as Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show the average household spends £3,224 a year on food alone.
“Most people spend more time in supermarkets than any other shop – but over the years the grocery giants have mastered the tricks to getting customers to spend more,” Jordon said.
“Buying groceries is essential for us all – so it’s not like we can cut it out to save money. However there are ways to drop that sky high food price down a little bit. Because supermarkets have been at it for so many years – they know how to get you to spend the most money.
“Once you know the tricks of the trade, you can try to avoid them, and potentially save thousands on your annual shopping,” he adds.
From downshifting to switching aisles and even shopping at the right time – here are his tips to reducing your supermarket bill.
1) Downshift your brands
Sticking to brands you recognise can be an expensive habit, especially when cheaper alternatives – which often contain the same ingredients – are available.
“You could be paying up to 70% extra just for having a recognisable name on the box,” Jordon told money-saving website NHS Offers.
Downshifting is the practice of shifting down one brand level when shopping to see if you like a cheaper alternative.
So if you buy the ‘finest’ or ‘taste the difference’ range, drop down to branded. If you buy branded, drop to the supermarket own brand. And, if you buy the supermarket own brand, buy the ‘value’ range.
2) Shop international
It’s a common misconception that world food products are overpriced because they’ve been subject to import costs – but thanks to competition, this is often not the case.
“If you’re shopping in that aisle for Twinkies or Marshmallow Fluff – yes, you’ll pay a premium. But items such as rice, sauces and spices can actually end up far cheaper,” Jordon said.
“When searching in my local Sainsbury’s, one of the best examples I found was a 100g bag of Natco Paprika Power for 80p.
“If you wanted a comparable jar from the spice aisle – the cheapest was Sainsbury’s own brand at 85p… but for 44g (less than half). If you bought the name brand of Schwartz – you’d be paying even more.
“The difference in price and size meant the world food item was 8p per 10g – and the cheapest spice aisle was 19.8p per 10g.”
3) Stand your ground
If there is something genuinely wrong with an item, report it to the brand or supermarket you purchased it from.
“It’s perfectly reasonable under the consumer rights act to ask for a refund on faulty goods – but more often than not, as a gesture of goodwill, supermarkets and brands send you coupons or gift cards for more than the item is worth,” he said.
“I once complained to Mars chocolates that a tub of Celebrations didn’t have a single Malteasers chocolate in it.
“I emailed in, gave the batch number, and got sent £10 worth of coupons in the post for more chocolate – so actually made a profit. It pays to complain!”
4) Shop in the baby aisle
Items such as face wipes and cotton wool fall into several categories, so you’re likely to find them scattered around different aisles. However, the baby department is often the cheapest place to look.
“On occasions, they may change the packaging and price to make it look like a different product, despite it being nearly identical.
“If you were looking for some cosmetic cotton buds in the beauty aisle – you could pay nearly double the price of a pack of 200 baby cotton buds. When in fact they are the same item with different packaging,” Jordon said.
5) Avoid eye contact
The most expensive items are always at eye level, explains Jordon, “so gaze up and down a shelf for a bargain”.
Supermarkets want your eyes to naturally gravitate towards the items where they’ll make the most money.
“Quite often you’ll find the best deals tucked away either down low, up high or the corners of aisles – as these aren’t places shoppers tend to look the most,” he said.
6) The 100 grams test
Savvy mum gets £630 supermarket shop for just £3 with extreme couponing
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“Just because a pack of something says ‘value pack’ or ‘50% extra’, doesn’t make it the cheapest,” Jordon explains.
“It’s not unusual that buying two smaller packs is cheaper and more cost effective than buying the larger ‘value packs’.
“Something you should always do is check the price per 100ml/g when you buy anything. It’ll tell you which one works out cheapest gram for gram – so you can get a measure for how good of a deal things actually are.”
7) Are minis worth your money?
‘Thins’ and ‘mini’ packs have become a craze lately – but are you actually getting value for money?
They may be great for variety, but they’re often not great if you’re looking for value.
These ‘offers’ can be found mostly on biscuits and crackers, and it can cost you twice as much to have the thinner variety.
8) Bargain hour
Yellow stickers have become the guilty pleasure of food shopping – and, if you time it right, the savings can be substantial.
Each supermarket starts reducing products at different times, but on the whole, discounts start from 12pm, with the largest discounts (up to 90% off) at around an hour before closing time, according to Jordon’s findings.
“You can usually find yellow sticker discounts in the chilled aisles and the bakery sections – but keep an eye out wherever you walk for the yellow glint.”
9) Overbuying isn’t a bad thing
Supermarket offers can be a great deal from time to time – and if you see one, there’s nothing to stop you buying more than one.
“This is especially true for non-perishables like toothpaste, toilet paper and shampoo. If you have room for them,” Jordon explains.
“It makes sense that if you see a price on something that is low (and you’re likely to buy again in the coming weeks), then grab a few.
“The last thing you want to do is buy something at full price (if you can help it), so the more you can buy at the cheapest price – the better.”
10) Man flu? Go cheaper
Branded or unbranded, medicines tend to share the same active ingredient – with branded cold, flu and hayfever tablets some of the biggest money spinners.
“You can check the ingredients on each pack, and as long as the active ingredient is the same – it’s totally fine to buy the cheaper one.
“The difference can be huge too. Buying the standard Ibuprofen instead of Nurofen can save you £1.50 per box – and both contain 200mg of ibuprofen with extra ingredients for the coating.
“A few different medicines also share the same ‘PL number’, which is given to a certain drug made by a certain company. Don’t be surprised if your Gaviscon shares the same PL number as a cheaper brand – and that’ll mean it’s the same medicine instead with ingredients exactly the same,” he concludes.