How to save money on your food shop
Last updated 5th May 2023
7 min read
Knowing how to save money on your food shop can help save your hard earned cash as the cost of living increases. It can also help you worry less about your overall finances. We surveyed 1,000 people in the UK on what worries were keeping them awake at night and 37% of people said the cost of their food shop was one of their biggest concerns.
So, we've created a list of 10 ways you can save money on your food shop in the UK.
- Have a budget and stick to it
- Don't shop on an empty stomach
- Take advantage of supermarket loyalty schemes
- Be wary of 'special offers'
- Yellow Sticker Discounts
- Plan your meals
- Shop around
- Bulk buying when it makes sense
- Food-saving apps
- Avoid eye-level products
10 tips to save money on your food shopping
1. Have a budget and stick to it
Food shopping on a budget can help you limit your spending and keep you from buying unnecessary items. You can use Money Helper's free budget planner(www.moneyhelper.org.uk opens in a new tab) to track your budget and manage your spending.
Once you have an overview of your total budget you can set aside a budget just for your food shopping. This can be adjusted based on how frequently you shop, whether it's weekly, biweekly or monthly.
Start by budgeting all the items that are essentials to your food shop, but remember to set aside some money for items to treat yourself too. It's important not to be so strict with yourself that you don't want to use your food budget!
2. Don't shop on an empty stomach
Although an odd tip, this one can be very effective. Doing your food shop on an empty stomach can be a dangerous game. The treats and impulse buys that you come across in the supermarket aisles will be even more difficult to resist.
If you're hungry, you're more likely to be tempted to buy something you don't need and go beyond your food shopping budget, so make sure to have something to eat before you go.
3. Take advantage of supermarket loyalty schemes
It's likely that wherever you shop they use some sort of loyalty scheme that can reward you with discounts or vouchers on items in your food shop. By signing up you can often get discounts on common food items or be rewarded with vouchers to use in the future. Some loyalty schemes include:
Tesco's Clubcard(www.tesco.com opens in a new tab) is a prime example of a supermarket loyalty scheme. Keep an eye out for the big yellow circles that show cheaper prices for Clubcard members.
On top of these cheaper prices, every time you shop and scan your membership card you can earn Clubcard points. These build up over time and can be exchanged for vouchers to spend on a future food shop, or to put towards discounts on restaurants and days out.
Sainsbury's Nectar(www.nectar.com opens in a new tab) works similarly to the Clubcard in the sense that for every pound you spend, you'll earn 1 point which can be spent on a range of brands and products. Also, Sainsbury's has special offers available just for Nectar members.
Lidl Plus(www.lidl.co.uk opens in a new tab) offers exclusive discounts on certain items to its members. As you shop you'll build up vouchers and coupons like £2 off your next shop. According to a Which? survey, Lidl was the second cheapest supermarket in 2022(www.which.co.uk opens in a new tab), so these discounts are an added bonus.
Unlike other supermarket loyalty schemes, the My Morrisons scheme(www.mymorrisons.com opens in a new tab) will track what you shop the most and offer personalised offers based on this. Also, the 'basket bonus' means you have a chance to win a reward every time you scan your card at the checkout.
4. Be wary of 'special offers'
Sometimes the 'special' offers in supermarkets aren't as special as they may seem. Often supermarkets will raise the prices of products in multibuys(www.which.co.uk opens in a new tab) to make the offer seem more valuable.
The multibuy discount might be good if it's a product you use regularly anyway. But, if you think you're being swayed more by the 'saving' than the product itself, maybe reconsider. You might find an alternate product that is cheaper even without any discount.
5. Yellow Sticker Discounts
If you're planning to eat the food on the day you buy it or store it in your freezer, then the yellow sticker discounts at supermarkets can be a great way to save on everyday items.
Most supermarkets will reduce the price of items that are nearing their 'best before' or 'use by' date. These are usually marked with a bright yellow sticker showing the new price. They might have a dedicated 'reduced section' where all these items will be placed, but it's not uncommon to see yellow stickers on items elsewhere in the supermarket, so keep your eyes peeled!
Below are the usual times that items start to be reduced, according to supermarket employees(forums.moneysavingexpert.com opens in a new tab). The later you go, the cheaper the discounts will be, but there might not be much left.
|Supermarket||Yellow Sticker Discount Start Times|
|Tesco||Around 8 pm|
|Morrisons||Varies but around late morning|
6. Plan your meals
Planning your weekly meals before you get to the supermarket can help you stick to your budget and ensure nothing goes to waste.
Going in with a list of exactly what you need can help you reduce spending money on unnecessary items. It will also help you get in and out of the supermarket quicker as you'll know exactly where you need to go once you get in there, but be aware of supermarkets changing the layout(bettermarketing.pub opens in a new tab) to slow you down.
7. Shop around
If you always shop at one supermarket you could be missing out on cheaper alternatives. By switching supermarkets, you might be able to save on your average shop. But remember to factor in any additional fuel or bus fare that it might cost to travel to a cheaper store to make sure it's worth the savings.
Which? Have done a price comparison of supermarkets in the UK(www.which.co.uk opens in a new tab) meaning you can see which is cheapest. They found that, as you might expect, the cheapest supermarket was Aldi, followed closely by Lidl. It might only save you a small amount per shop, but over a year this saving will add up.
8. Bulk buying when it makes sense
Bulk buying can help you save money on certain basic non-perishable food items such as pasta and rice. This could mean buying the biggest size of the product such as the 3kg bag of pasta available in most large supermarkets, or shopping for these items at wholesalers such as Costco. However, it might not make sense to bulk buy if you don't think you'll use up the whole lot, or if it will take up too much storage space in your kitchen.
9. Food-saving apps
Some food-saving apps can help you reduce the cost of your food shop by showing discounted food in your area. Too Good To Go and Karma will show food available from restaurants, cafes and shops, whilst Olio focuses on neighbours sharing unwanted food with their community.
Too Good To Go
Rather than restaurants and cafes throwing away any leftover food, Too Good To Go(www.toogoodtogo.com opens in a new tab) gives them a platform to list their unwanted food at a discounted price. You can regularly check the app and keep an eye out for delicious deals in your area.
With Olio(olioapp.com opens in a new tab), neighbours can share items including food for free on the app. This can reduce food going to waste in households. Give it a try and you could even share some of your own food that might otherwise go to waste.
Karma(old.karma.life opens in a new tab) works similarly to Too Good To Go. Restaurants, bakeries and other food shops will share their leftover food on to the app at a discounted price. Keeping an eye on these apps is a great way to get a cheap meal or some veg you can pop in the blender for a quick, freezable soup.
10. Avoid eye-level products
One of the sneaky tricks that supermarkets deploy is keeping their most profitable products at eye level, whilst the better deals are often placed at the bottom of the shelves out of sight. This is also referred to as 'eye level is buy level'.
When you're doing your next food shop, don't forget to look down and see what deals might be hiding out of sight. Keeping an eye out for these deals could help you save money with brands you might have been missing out on before.
Get hundreds of free Mini Money Tips
There is no limit to the number of small changes we can make to save money here and there. That's why SunLife has launched Mini Money Tips – a hub containing over a hundred small ways to save some money – from making food last longer to saving on your energy bills.
Take a look at our other articles to find ways to help you save money and enjoy your life in retirement: