Making our money go further is everyone’s aim in these straitened times. With less cash in our pockets and more demands on our finances it makes more sense than ever to get the best value when we shop.
Budgeting plays a major role in home management. It is all too easy to overspend especially if you do not know the price of individual items.
Many people interviewed for a UK survey on food prices did not know the price of everyday items. Two out of three people surveyed were unsure of the price of individual food products while two fifths even gave higher prices than the goods actually cost.
Grocery shopping accounts for up to one third of family expenditure. Despite the recession some people still continue to buy-as-they-go as regards eating - they buy coffee on the way to work, get a sandwich or roll from a local shop for lunch and pick up something else for tea on the way home. Individually these items may not cost very much but when added up on a daily or weekly basis they can mount up.
Keeping a detailed record of how much you spend on food (include everything from the smoothie at lunchtime to the banana in the afternoon) is guaranteed to give you a shock unless you are an utterly disciplined, sensible shopper who never deviates from your shopping list.
There are a number of ways in which you can reduce your food spend significantly. Planning ahead is one of the keys to success. We waste enormous amounts of food and hard earned cash because we shop without checking what we need before leaving the house. Hence we return home with potatoes when we already have some or bread when we have enough in the freezer to feed a small army. Aim not to buy food unless you are sure when and how you are going to use it.
Shopping around is the best way to find out what’s on offer and to discover where the best bargains are to be had. By comparing items and costs you will not only become price savvy but save yourself a fortune in the long term.
Here are some tips to help you get the most for your money:
1. Make a list. Research shows that two-thirds of shoppers who do not use a list overspend while two-thirds of the ones who do actually spend less.
2. Do your main shopping once a week to cut out unnecessary trips and impulse buying.
3. Decide how much you want to spend before going out and stay within that limit. If you are using cash do not take more than you need.
4. Leave the family at home if you can. You will spend more if they are with you.
5.Try not to shop when you are tired, hungry or in a hurry. You will overspend in these situations.
6. Do not pick up things unless you want them. Shopping surveys indicate if you pick up an item you will buy it - five times out of 10 - whether you need it or not.
7. Check the higher and lower shelves. Good merchandisers display the particularly profitable items they most want you to buy at eye level.
8. Not all special offers are bargains. If the item is on your list and the price is right...buy it. But if you do not need it in the first place it is not a bargain no matter how good the price is.
9. Buying big is not always the reliable rule-of-thumb it used to be. Check different sizes and prices. Buy bigger packs if one big one is cheaper than two small ones and you know you will use it. But do not forget the more you have got, the more you’ll use.
10. Cut out coupons for foods you really need. Put these in a small box or envelope so you can easily check them before shopping. But be careful, sometimes one brand, even with money off, may be more expensive than another equally acceptable brand.
11. Look at local food advertisements to determine best buys.
12. Buy food in quantity, particularly staples, like bread, cereals, rice and pasta if you have the storage space and the cash.
13. Stock up on canned and frozen products when they are on special offer.
14. Watch out for packs that only look like better value but actually contain less. Check prices and compare the contents and weights.
15. Limit the purchase of perishable food to the amount that your family will use before it goes off. Always check the “best before” date on perishable products to judge the food’s freshness.
16. Change your shopping habits to match the seasons. Do not buy a lot of soup during summer or too much ice-cream in winter.
17. Do not presume that you will always get the best bargains in supermarkets. Research indicates that fruit and vegetable shops may be an average of 30 per cent cheaper than the multiples on similar products.
18. Check when you shop if the store offers a free delivery service.
19. You can make savings by looking for own brands or thrift pack foods, whether packet, tinned or frozen. Buying larger quantities may work out cheaper.
20. Unsweetened breakfast cereals are often less expensive than presweetened and you can control the amount of sugar you add.
21. Put any leftover wine into ice cube trays and freeze it to add later to sauces and casseroles.
22. Take a packed lunch to work instead of buying sandwiches or takeaway food. It will save you a lot of money during the year.
23. Watch out for special offers for eating out in newspapers and online.
24. When shopping in supermarkets aim to do one big shop once a week or once a month and stock up on all non-perishable foods. Make sure you buy enough so that if you run out of fresh food you will have sufficient canned options available. Resist the temptation to buy some unnecessary items which are not on your list or within your budget.