During these tough economic times, many consumers are feeling the pinch and struggling to make ends meet. In addition, the cost of living is ever increasing, which is making things even harder for many families. The weekly food grocery bill often contributes a significant proportion of outgoings. As such, food shopping activities is something that needs to be closely monitored and kept under control, especially if cash is a bit tight, as it is all too easy for grocery costs to spiral out of control.

The rising costs of food is something out of our control, however with a bit of planning it is possible to keep the weekly grocery bill at reasonable and consistent levels. Keeping the weekly grocery bill constant is something that is going to require will power, a change in attitude to shopping and, of course, some sacrifices. This does not necessarily mean that you will have to go without it simply means you are going to have to become a smarter shopper.

Take it one step further by reducing your expenditure to save money on groceries, and it is soon becomes clear that smarter shoping is an excellent way to save money.

Organisation is a key aspect of life and this extends to the weekly grocery shop. Going in to a supermarket unprepared is lunacy. Not only will items be forgotten it is also likely to result in an expensive shopping trip, as there is no control over what is being put in to the trolley. There are many times when ‘our eyes are too big for our belly’ and we significantly under estimate quantities. For example, we have all been to the ‘all you can eat buffet’, loaded up our plates and struggled to finish using the excuse “it didn’t look that much”. The same often applies to weekly grocery shopping. A shopping trolley will hold an awful amount of food, often more than we can imagine, however unlike the all you can eat buffet for a set price, a shopping trolley doesn’t work in the same way and the more you fill it up the more it is likely to cost. This is something that should be borne in mind.

To ensure we don’t go mad in the aisles a shopping list is required. Before even entering the supermarket a savvy shopper would have sat down, planned the meals for the next week or so and written down the ingredients used to prepare those meals. In addition, the savvy shopper would have methodically gone through the cupboards for other items, including non-food items, and noted down everything that requires replenishing. Making a list is good practice as it focuses the mind and ensures that we only purchase necessary products.

Devising a list is only the start as it is important that the only items that end up in the trolley and going through the checkout are those on the list. This is where the will power comes in. No matter what your mood or how much you are craving something, if it isn’t on the list don’t buy it. If you are the sort of person that can’t resist a cake or a pastry, or the sort of person that just has to buy chocolate then avoid those aisles to ensure you don’t become tempted.

Devising a shopping list doesn’t necessarily mean we will keep grocery costs under control nor does it mean we will save money, it simply stops us from spending money on products and items that we do not necessarily need. In order to keep costs as low as possible there are many other things we should do. 

There are no doubts that buying premium branded products is going to be expensive. Rather than purchase one of the established and well-known premium brands why not try a brand that is one or even two levels lower than premium brands. Many supermarkets and stores have their own label equivalents to compete against the premium brands and whilst the packaging may not look so attractive, the contents are more often than not just as good as the premium brands. In fact, there are times when the cheaper brands taste that much better.

Walk around any supermarket or store and you will see the premium brands stacked at eye level, making them easily accessible and very noticeable. The lower branded items are usually stacked on shelves nearer ground level therefore consumers not only have to look that much closer to identify them, but also move that much further to reach them.

Straying away from the premium brands and choosing lower brand, or even supermarket own brands, can save a lot of money over time, therefore it is well worth scouring the lower shelves down every aisle and shopping smarter. 

The whole concept behind organically grown produce is great and there appears to be many benefits. However, since organic products demand premium prices organically grown produce is definitely not the best choice when cash is tight and you are on a budget.

Rather than buy organic produce it is advisable to stick to the ‘normal’ loose items. Whilst the loose items may not be ready packed and ready to go, or as colourful and pretty as organically grown and branded products, they won’t taste that much different. Besides, there is always the option of adding some herbs and spices, or some other condiments to the food once back at home. 

When different types of vegetables are in season, they are plentiful and found in abundance. Many supermarkets will offer these vegetables at extremely low prices just to get them out of the door. The fact that vegetables, by their very nature are perishable means supermarkets have to move them even quicker therefore, prices will drop as the shelf life decreases. This is a situation whereby smart shoppers can take advantage and make some huge savings.

Whilst ready meals are convenient, they are expensive and do not represent good value for money. Ready meals are often full of salt, sugar and fats, as well as high in calories, all of which makes them bad. A cheaper alternative is to buy the ingredients fresh as it is possible o make more meals for the money. If the recipes require seasonal produce, the savings made can be even greater.

Cooking meals from scratch allows consumers to regulate the ‘bad’ items, which will lead to health benefits. Many consumers stray away from cooking, however it can be a relaxing pastime that provides much satisfaction when the family are well fed. 

Pasta and rice are two ingredients that are cheap, filling and very versatile. These two ingredients can be used in many different recipes and, being staple foods, should be ingredients that are kept in the cupboards of all households.

Many consumers are led in to believing that buying items on special offer are a way of saving money. In some respects they are, but these types of offer, such as the “buy one get one free” or “any three for £5” etc often results in bulk buying and actually throwing some of the items away. In these instances it is often the case that it would have been better buying just one of the product.

These offers also encourage consumers to buy items that are not on their shopping list, which leads them to spend more than they actually intended to. There would only have been a saving if the item on special offer was actually included on the shopping list. If this is the case, then go for it and take full advantage of the special offer.

So what are the key points to remember in these household money saving tips? There's not that much to it and when doing the weekly grocery shop it is important that;

i) You go in prepared and armed with a shopping list

ii) The only items put in the trolley are those on the list

iii) You substitute premium branded items for lower brands as far as possible

iv) You stay away from the ready meals aisles

v) You keep away from organic produce and buy the loose items instead

vi) You bulk up on staple foods, such as pasta and rice

An alternative to actually going to a shop to buy your groceries is to buy yourgroceries online. There are many supermarkets now offering this service, and it is highly likely your favourite supermarket does too.

vii) Treat special offers with care