Tip 16: Be wary of supermarket offers

When it comes to saving money on your weekly shop, supermarket offers can seem like the smart choice. By buying what’s on sale, you should be getting the best price. Sadly, this is not always the case, and many supermarkets actually use special offers to entice us to spend more! This means that if you want to save money, you need to be wary of supermarket offers.

Once again we come back to the problem with big brands. You’ll notice that the big offers prominently displayed on end caps tend to be for big brand processed foods. Clearly their usual price is higher than for supermarket own brands. However, this is often true even when they go on sale. For example, Tesco currently have Sharwoods Tikka Masala cooking sauce on sale for half price – £0.92 for a 420g jar instead of £1.85. But Tesco own brand Tikka Masala cooking sauce is only £0.75 for a 500g jar – and it’s lower in fat!

Grocery stores will often have multi-buy deals (3 for 2 offers, or 2 for £5) which makes it even harder to tell if you are getting a good deal. The only way to know which product is actually cheaper is to compare prices by weight. Supermarkets usually list the price per 100g or per Kg on the label on the shelf, just under the unit price (the price for one jar, one box, one loaf, etc.). Once you get used to checking prices this way, you quickly realise that the unit price hardly matters. Let’s take two jars of strawberry jam. One is £1.60 for 340g, while the second is £2.00 for 370g. You may think buying a bigger jar is a better deal. But actually, the 340g jar works out to £0.47/100g, while the second is £0.54/100g. All other things being equal, the smaller jar is actually the better deal.

Another reason big brand products are the most likely to go on sale, is that the supermarket is hoping you’ll make a permanent switch. The supermarkets are betting that, having bought the product at the sale price, you will like it so much you continue to buy it at the higher price. Plus, humans tend to lazy – most of us buy the same things every week without thinking about it. Having bought the product once, we’re much more likely to buy it again.

One area where offers are useful is in helping you identify in season fruit and vegetables. You’ll often find that when things are in season, they go on sale. As discussed previously, buying what’s in season can save you money and help the environment. It also encourages you to change up your diet regularly. For example, I use offers to vary my protein sources. I really enjoy prawns, but they can be expensive, even if you buy frozen ones. Rather than buy them every week, I wait until they are on sale and then get some. This helps me rotate what meat and fish are in my freezer and ensures I have a varied diet.

So, if staple items you usually buy, like rice or toilet paper, are on sale, go ahead and get extra. Use offers to guide your choice of in season produce and protein. But if the offer is for something you don’t usually buy, especially junk foods like crisps and ice cream, it should make no difference if they are on sale. And whatever you buy, remember to check the price per weight to make sure it really is a good deal!

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*All prices from the Tesco.com website and are correct as of 22/01/2020

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