We spend a significant share of our salary in supermarkets, across small baskets of essentials and regular bulk buys. Savvy shoppers apply easy steps to make shopping quicker and cheaper.
Shop at Quiet Times
Avoid times when everyone wants to shop, and you will avoid the crowded aisles, queues and empty shelves. This reduces stress, and your purchasing decisions are more considered. Weekday mornings and nights are the best slots but avoid the night before public holidays or big events.
Shop on a Full Stomach
Some supermarkets will pump the smell of freshly baked produce around the store to get your mouth watering. If you have gone to the store hungry, you will not only find it difficult to focus, but you will be tempted by expensive snacks and ready to eat, pre-packed food, all of which can be low value, and unhealthy. If you have not had a chance to eat in advance, grab a small snack on the way in. It could save you a lot of money.
Reuse your Bags
Some supermarkets now charge for their larger, stronger bags, so why not use your own, more sturdy tote bags that will protect the environment and save your money, especially as some stores will offer savings or loyalty points for every one of your own bags that you use.
Do not go MAD too early
Meat and Dairy products (or MAD for short) spoil easy. If they stay out of the refrigerator for too long or get crushed at the bottom of a shopping trolley, you may have wasted your money before you get home. Shop for these items on your way out of the store. The same applies to baked goods and produce. Whilst refrigeration is not a problem for these, they are easily damaged, so keep them at the top of your trolley.
Let Value drive your Decisions, not Cost
With so many offers in-store, ranging from simple discounts to multibuys, it can be easy to jump on what looks like a good deal. However, compare those deals to other products in the same store, or even the same product in other stores, and you may be surprised to find the deals are not your best choice. Use online catalogues to compare prices for the same product across different stores. Consider the grams per rand, and do not shy away from the own-brand products.
Make a List
Unless you have superhuman memory skills, you are bound to forget something without a shopping list. However, going to the supermarket armed with a clear plan of what you need also prevents you from buying too much. The list will keep your stress levels down in crowded stores, and it also helps you to plan ahead for a healthy diet with ideas for mealtimes throughout the week. If you go to the same store on a regular basis, group the items on your list to match their location in the store. Shopping will be a breeze. Use catalogues and promotional inserts to get inspiration for your list. There is no need to clutter your home with marketing material, just use online catalogues.
Remember Date Rotation
Supermarket shelf-stackers will place newer, fresher stock at the back of the shelf so that those of us in a hurry will take the older produce first. Just take a few extra seconds to see if the items at the back of the shelf are more recent, with a longer use-by-date. This will help your meal plan to absorb any unforeseen changes and reduce the amount of food that you might throw away.
Take up Memberships and Loyalty Programs
It is easy to view subscribing to a Loyalty card as an added hassle you could do without. But if you work with the system, sign up and use the card every time you shop, the supermarket will thank you with extra promotions and savings that can make a real difference.
Shop the Freshest Produce
Supermarkets are typically at their busiest during lunchtime. They call this time the “power hours,” and they make sure that everyone is on hand to serve customers. That means no deliveries in the hours before or just after lunchtime, which in turn means lunchtime produce has been sat on the shelf for half a day, handled by a good few hundred shoppers, and certainly not at its optimal freshness. Deliveries come in the morning and late afternoon. Keep your eyes open for when the shelf-stackers are most active and time your regular shops for just after that time. Do not overdo it though – remember that produce will soon turn and any overstocks on your part will end up in the garbage.
Let Assistants take the strain
If you have just dashed to the supermarket for a last-minute top-up, or a bottle of wine on the way to a party, self-checkout kiosks are a fantastic way to skip the formalities and be in and out in seconds. However, do not fool yourself into thinking you can rack up the same scan rate as someone that works for the store when it comes to a trolley-load of shopping, especially if you have the kids in tow. Go through the regular checkouts when you have a full load so you can focus on packing while they scan. It will be quicker.
Check for Sales, Offers, Coupons and Vouchers in Advance
Getting home to discover you could have saved yourself some money on the shop you just unpacked is demoralising at best. Make sure you keep a lookout for sales in top brands like Checkers, Shoprite and more. Make sure you take full advantage and bulk buy when you see a good deal.