How to Shop Cheaply in London Supermarkets

By Joshua Neil from London’s survival guide

The products you need to live and survive day-to-day in London can be expensive no matter where you go: supermarkets, shops, or markets. Most guides for finding cheap food in London will say that the cheapest produce can be found in the markets, and this might well be true. But for most of us, these markets may either be too far away or inconveniently located- or maybe it’s just that, in this busy modern world, many of us simply don’t have time to travel out of our way and wander round the markets till we find the cheapest apples anywhere in London! For most Londoners, the simplest, easiest and least time-consuming way of getting anything is in the supermarkets, and the most useful tips are how to save money while doing that.

#1 Supermarket Tricks

The most important thing to remember when out shopping is that while you’re using tricks to save yourself the most money, the supermarkets are using them too, to take it back! Always be aware of the tricks supermarkets use, whether it’s putting the most impulsive buys right next to the tills, putting up sales-type signs for things that aren’t actually sales, or putting the most profitable brands and goods at eye level, where you’re most likely to spot and take them.

A cardinal rule to defeat these sneaky tricks is never to shop when you’re hungry- even if that’s the time you feel like going out, it’ll only keep your stomach full, not your wallet. That way it’ll stop any impulse buys, and make you think with a clear head when choosing brands- more on that later.

When faced with those 2 for 1 deals or similar offers to buy a larger amount for a discount, the general rule is never to fall for them- unless it’s something that you’ll absolutely use, such as toothpaste or your favourite food. Wasting food is wasting money, and for those broke in London that’s something they absolutely can’t afford to do.

#2 Value Range Products

Another vital tip is to always match your food to your budget, not the other way round- don’t waste precious pennies on the posher stuff when there are cheaper products just waiting to be tried. For those of you who are turning their noses up at the more value end products, we’ve already covered how it’s been scientifically proven that most people can’t taste the difference between branded products and value ones, which will in turn save you hundreds every year simply by switching to the cheaper end of the spectrum.

So next time you’re in the supermarket and thinking of buying those pricey Heinz beans or McVities Jaffa Cakes, why not try the value or own brands? With most products you can save at least a pound per item going cheaper, and with 64% of consumers agreeing that brand names aren’t necessarily better quality or taste, you might just find something you like.

Every supermarket has its own brands to choose from, and it’s a great idea to shop around all your locals to see which has the best price on the foods you eat- Tesco Everyday Value foods are very cheap (especially their biscuits), and the Aldi and Lidl own brands are worth checking out.

#3 Supermarket Price-Matching

While there is something to be said for never picking a shop and sticking with it- if you do you’ll miss out on all the better offers from its competitors, whereas otherwise you can pick and choose between them all, getting the best deals on everything you like- finding a favourite supermarket can give you some good benefits: many supermarkets, such as Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, all offer price-match deals, meaning you can get money back from Asda if your shopping was 10% more expensive than rivals, or vouchers from Tesco if they’re cheaper elsewhere.

Bear in mind, however, that some of these price-matching systems can be a little confusing, with prices changing wildly between products. Always do the maths yourself, and use for help- this is an invaluable tool for any shopper, comparing thousands of prices across a wide range of stores, including offers in each store. With this site, you can make sure that those price matches really are giving you the best deals anywhere, and save a lot of money in the process.

Another benefit of sticking with a supermarket is the ability to use loyalty points in-store: while these are often designed to get you to stick with a store and spend more money, they can be very useful if you’re already doing that! It’s an important point to remember that you should never spend money just to get loyalty points, as the items with extra loyalty points are often inflated to account for that: rather, shop for what you’d get anyway, and save up loyalty points as you do. The same goes for Nectar points in Sainsbury’s- while they can give some great rewards if you save up points regularly, they’re best used with regular purchases, not deals.

#4 Online Shopping

Shopping online is becoming more popular with every month, and this too has some good tricks to it. Again, MySupermarket is invaluable for buying online- it checks every online store against its competitors, making sure that you never lose out on the things you want to buy. Many supermarkets give out online vouchers for first-time buyers, which can save you a load of money off produce, so look out for these.

For those looking to be super-frugal, Approved Food is an online site that brings you only ‘best before’ foods, just after they’ve passed that date- meaning legally they’re still okay to eat, and you can get them for only a fraction of the cost! This is a great way to get loads of things for a tiny sum, as long as you’re okay to eat it quickly, and not too fussy about how it tastes.

#5 Other Tips

There are a few more tips to help you save hundreds every year. Buy in bulk the things you use a ton of- if you’re an obsessive tea drinker, buying the larger cartons can save you pennies every single time you buy- the same goes for things you’ll absolutely need like toilet rolls or soap. Choosing fresh and in-seasons produce also helps to lower costs, as the supermarkets will have a ton of these, and be able to sell them more cheaply- shop seasonally, as they say, and you’ll save a lot.

Look out for when your supermarkets put out there latest reductions- different places put out their out-of-date foods at different times, so it pays to be observant, but generally the best prices come after 7 or 8 o’clock, when most shops give their yellow-label products up to 75% reductions!

Also, be aware of location- supermarkets in better areas are going to be more expensive, but even beyond that, generally supermarkets further out from London will be cheaper than the centre- so wherever you live, it might pay to do a little travelling to get that weekly or monthly shop, to save you big bucks- and don’t shop in smaller chains, like Tesco Express: these are almost always more expensive than the regular supermarkets!

While markets and smaller shops might seem the better option when shopping in London, the fact is that for convenience, speed, and in many cases, price too- supermarkets can’t be beaten. With these tips, you can save hundreds every year, and still take the stress out of shopping.

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