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How to save money on the family food shop bill with advice from Step Change, Money Saving Expert and Which?

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With barbecues, meet-ups, play-dates and family celebrations now back on as restrictions ease we may all be spending a bit more money this summer entertaining our loved ones.

But the biggest ever investigation into supermarket prices released by Which? last week, revealed shoppers risk paying a staggering four times as much for branded items depending on the day they shop and supermarket they choose.

While footfall figures for April suggest more of us are now making more trips to the supermarket in person - with lower numbers of coronavirus deaths and growing vaccination rates both possibly contributing to an increase in confidence among shoppers to spend in person.

Have you found yourself making more frequent trips to the supermarket?
Have you found yourself making more frequent trips to the supermarket?

But if you're keen to keep a lid on the costs of the family shopping bill this summer, perhaps in order to save a few extra pennies for other treats, here's 11 hints and tips to hopefully help prevent you - and the rest of the family - from going wild in the aisles...

1. Set a budget

While we'd always like to pick up every food and treat we fancy it's sometimes better to work out how much you'd like to or can afford to spend on the family food shop and then purchase accordingly. Money Saving Expert has an online budget calculator available that can help. Find it here.

2. Take the downshift challenge

Premium, branded, own-brand and value - shoppers are spoilt for choice when it comes to picking their grocery products. Experts in saving pounds and pennies on shopping bills suggest trying the downshift challenge, which is to swap one of everything to one brand lower than you would normally choose to enable you to compare. So if you ordinarily buy four tins of Heinz Beans, next time you're in the aisles purchase three Heinz and one supermarket own-brand and see how they compare.

Prioritise eating the fresh food that will expire first
Prioritise eating the fresh food that will expire first

3. Fresh before frozen?

If your shop is a mixture of fresh food and cupboard/frozen items always be aware of which items need to be eaten first and plan meals around that. Paying attention to what needs eating up and the dates on food and groceries will mean you can stretch your weekly food shop further and not be in a position where you're throwing food away and having to buy more.

4. Don’t pay full price

If your family does have a preference for some branded products and you regularly buy non-perishable branded groceries such as crisps, cereal and tinned goods, make sure you stock up when they’re discounted and avoid paying full price for them.

Buy branded items when they are on offer and store them to avoid paying full price
Buy branded items when they are on offer and store them to avoid paying full price

5. Eat first!

It sounds obvious but research has shown those who head to the supermarket when hungry will often buy more or things they don't need. To avoid impulse purchases try to not shop right on top of needing lunch or dinner.

6. Can you carry it?

If you're nipping into the corner store for a loaf or pint of milk don't grab a basket. It can tempt you to drop items in you didn't come in for, where as carrying the milk or bread by hand cuts down your ability to go on a quick shopping spree!

7. Visit less

The more times you go in a shop the more you'll spend. If you can meal plan at least a week at a time in order to cut down the number of times you need to visit it will be easier on the purse strings. Debt charity Step Change also suggests, when planning meals to factor in some batch cooking to help keep costs down and cut down on food waste while also encouraging the family to eat more healthy meals instead of relying on convenience foods in a hurry which are often higher in salts and sugars.

Would you like to try and save money on the family food shop?
Would you like to try and save money on the family food shop?

8. Watch those pricing tricks

Discounts are great but don’t be manipulated by other pricing tricks says Which?. The strawberries may be on offer but what about the price of the premium-range pouring cream temptingly positioned next to it? Keep a watchful eye on the display items or those at the ends of aisles designed to draw you in.

9. Know your weight

Different sized packets and packaging can often suggest we're getting a good deal when we're not. The Happy Home project, an organisation which has grown out of the pandemic to help support households, advises always comparing items by weight. Every price label will have the price per weight, often in grams or kilograms, in the smaller text under the packet price. This will help you compare products accurately.

10. Scrutinise price-matching claims

Which? says shoppers should always carefully investigate price matching examples. For example Sainsbury’s and Tesco both advertise Aldi price-matching schemes but they often only cover a limited range of products, says the consumer champion, so the total cost of shopping when other items are added in could still be higher than it would be at a budget supermarket.

It is worth investigating supermarket loyalty schemes
It is worth investigating supermarket loyalty schemes

11. Investigate loyalty schemes

Lidl Plus, Sainsbury's Nectar and Tesco Clubcard are some examples of supermarket loyalty schemes offering exclusive discounts to members. If you regularly shop in one store, investigate whether there is a loyalty scheme worth signing up for. However don't shop at a supermarket just because you have a card - as savings could be cancelled out if you're paying more for your goods than you'd like to or have budgeted for. But if you do already shop there regularly it can be a way to save a little extra.

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