While the rising cost of food – and everything else – is enough to get you down, there are plenty of ways to always pay less. Save the Student shares 7 ways to make your own discounts!
1. Get a goal
You can’t save money if you don’t know you’re overspending – so start by comparing how much your weekly shop would cost with another supermarket. You can just vary where you shop each time, but it’ll take a while to see which stores are worth the swap. The quicker way is to get onto comparison site mySupermarket: add items to your virtual basket, and it’ll tell you which store is the best buy (and if there are any offers going).
Then plan meals in advance, shop with a list, and choose items that fit your budget (rather than just hoovering up anything that’s cheap). UK families bin a stonking £700-worth of food every year … so get strategic!
2. Get out of your aisle
Supermarkets use tons of sneaky tricks to get you to spend more than you have to – like discounting exactly the same products in less popular aisles. Drinks in the chilled cabinet tend to cost less on the long-life shelves, for instance, while there are often cheaper alternatives in the ‘world food’ and even ‘baby’ sections. Don’t forget to check the top and bottom shelves, too. Premium brands go at eyeline so you see them first, but downshifting to own-brands (or cheaper buys on other shelves) can save masses over a year.
3. Ignore ‘best before’ dates
While use by dates are there to stop you consuming dodgy stuff, best before dates just show when food is … at its best. Buying something after the best before date may mean the quality isn’t quite as primo as it could be but, it’s still safe to eat – and often, you won’t even notice any difference. Some websites dedicated to best-before bargains sell off branded goods for pennies: try approvedfood.co.uk or clearancexl.co.uk.
4. Get sharing
If you’re ever caught short for sugar (or whatever), Olio is worth a look: it’s an app that lists any food going spare in your area, either from neighbours or local businesses. If you spot something you need, just arrange to pick it up – for free, or with a donation to charity. If you ever over-shop, you can also list items for free, and save them going to waste.
If you’ve more time to devote to scoring freebies, see if your supermarket has a shoppers’ panel (ASDA and Tesco do). Rewards vary from prize draws to products for keeps, in return for answering surveys or being a guinea pig.
5. Claim money back
Cashback apps like CheckoutSmart or Shopitize have a regularly updated list of offers – if you buy any, you can claim whatever the cashback reward is (you usually have to upload a photo or receipt as proof). As with loyalty cards, don’t get carried away and buy stuff just for the rewards: always make sure you only get stuff you really want and can use, or it’ll cost you more in the long run.
The other way to claw back cash is to use market research apps. With Shoppix and Receipt Hog, for instance, you don’t have to buy anything special at all – you just take photos of your receipts and upload them to claim points. What do points make? Amazon vouchers! Well, eventually.
6. Check your discounts
If you don’t check your receipt while you’re in the store, chances are you won’t even realise special offers haven’t been applied (and you’ve paid full whack!). Check the receipt as soon as you can – if you’ve been sold short, get straight back to the customer service desk and ask them to pay the difference on the spot. Being short-changed on specials happens far too often – supposedly ‘by accident’ – so it’s worth staying sharp.
7. Grow your own
You can’t grow a steak – well, not without a lot of land and patient neighbours – but if you regularly bin wilted salads and brown, watery herbs, you need to get your green fingers going! You can grow herbs and salads in plastic pots, bowls and even old wellies for pennies, plus they stay fresher for much longer. Have a look at GrowVeg for windowbox inspiration.
Guest blog written by Ruth Bushi, an editor at Save the Student – the UK’s largest student money advice site.
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