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Taming the trolley

Taming the trolley.

Does your supermarket bill seem to keep mysteriously rising? Here are 10 clues to help you trace the possible culprits.

Have you ever got to the checkout after a shop and got a bit
of “sticker shock” – surprise at just how much you spent on the week’s shopping? Along with utilities, like heating and gas, the weekly shop is a big drag on our retirement savings, so here are some things to beware of when buying groceries.

Entering the premises without a list

We’ve all experienced getting home from the supermarket and realising we’ve forgotten something. Next most likely behaviour: we get it at the local convenience store where prices are higher.

Going gourmet

Supermarkets are being designed to be more like visiting market stalls, rather than just a series of aisles. You may find yourself buying the olive sourdough at the bakery instead of a loaf of sliced bread, or a wedge of brie at the deli instead of the homebrand cheddar.

Shopping more than once a week

The more often we visit the supermarket, the more likely we are to pick up a few unplanned extras. If we’re diving into the supermarket every night just before dinner, we’re likely to pick up whatever we feel like at that moment regardless of cost. If we plan a week of meals before we shop, it’s more likely we’ll balance some more expensive meals with some lower cost meals.

There may be a beautiful display of oranges in summer, but they’re not likely to be local, so they’ll be more expensive. Stick to what’s in season; it can be cheaper and also have less food miles, so you’ll be saving both money and the planet.

Not buying seasonal

There may be a beautiful display of oranges in summer, but they’re not likely to be local and that means they’ll be more expensive. If you stick to buying what’s in season it can be cheaper, and also have less food miles, so you will be saving money and the planet.

Overlooking specials and marked-down items

Buying meat when it’s on special and putting some in the freezer can reduce your grocery bill overall. So can looking for items that have been marked down, because they are close to their use-by date. If it’s on sale and has plenty of shelf life left then stock up, and you’ll save money down the line.

The freezer is your frenemy

Ignore the pre-made meals and frozen pizzas – they will jack up your supermarket bill – and target frozen fruit and vegetables instead. If you’re only cooking for one or two, it can be a great way to ensure you always have the required number of fruit and veg on your plate without having to throw out something that’s gone off.

Neglecting unit pricing

Unit pricing is a great way to cut through the packaging and size differences so you can compare like with like. According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), unit pricing allows consumers to compare different sizes within the same brand as well as other brands. Often, a larger pack of a product will have a lower unit price than a small or medium pack. However, it advises people to only buy the larger pack if it is not going to go to waste. Also, if you eat a larger pack in the same amount of time, it’s not necessarily going to be good value.

The ACCC also suggests comparing the unit price of loose and packaged versions of the same product. People generally assume the loose version is cheaper, but that’s not always the case.

Filling your trolley with brand names

Some people baulk at homebrand products, claiming they’re not the same quality as brand name products. But stocking up on homebrand basics can help keep a lid on grocery bills.

Buying the first thing you see

Often the shelves at eye-level carry the most expensive items of a particular type – you may remember the saying; “eye level is buy level.” Look at the lower or higher shelves, as that’s where the lower-priced items are likely to be found.

Buying the same products for years

Product manufacturers have a few tricks up their sleeves.
The shrinking chocolate bar with the price that remains the same; the cereal box that has a smaller package inside; the soap that is redesigned with a concave so there’s less of it. While brand loyalty is great, if you’re getting less product for the same amount of money, it’s time to shop around.

You don’t have to enter the supermarket like you are going into combat, but with a few tricks of your own you can ward off the supermarket marketing and, ultimately, save some cash.