Eating cheaply doesn't have to mean eating poorly. Here's our top tips for shopping for food more efficiently without spending a fortune.
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In practice, saving money when you go to buy groceries isn't difficult: it just requires a degree of planning and a modicum of common sense. Unfortunately, racing around a supermarket at the end of a working day tends to mean both quantities are in short supply. In the following list, hit the original post for a detailed discussion on each point.
10. Work with a list
Having a list works on several levels: you don't make impulse purchases, you've (hopefully) got a plan that makes use of food you've already got at home, and if you're aiming for uber-efficiency, you can even list items in supermarket order. For further reduction of impulse buys, try writing your list a day ahead of time and then edit it before shopping. (Original post)
9. Compare prices properly
It's not always easy working out the actual cost of goods sold in different quantities -- but in practice, any large supermarket should now include 'unit pricing' that makes those comparisons easy (and from December, that will be a legal requirement). It's not necessarily as useful as having a multi-store price comparison site, but since we're not getting one of those, it's a start. (Original post)
8. Check the expiry dates
Buying goods that are just about to go out of date can be a waste of money, so make sure you check carefully, and understand the difference between 'use by' and 'best before'. (Original post)
7. Make use of loyalty programs
Spending purely to "get more points" is often a false economy, but so is not signing up for a scheme if you're shopping regularly in a store anyway. Getting something worthwhile from your points can take a while, but occasionally massive savings do appear. For extra discounts, check out coupon aggregators and Perkler to track multiple loyalty programs. (Original post)
6. Bulk buy when it makes sense
Buying in bulk can make sense, provided you can use the quantities involved. That manifestly isn't always the case, but for non-perishable items (and presuming you have the space) it's often a route to major savings. Check out reader advice on the best items to stock up. (Original post)
5. Use everything up properly
Plastic containers aren't always designed to give up every last drop, but getting in the habit of draining contents can add up to a fatter wallet in the long run. (Original post)
4. Embrace your freezer
A well-organised, properly-functioning freezer lets you take advantages of specials, re-use leftovers and generally have a less wasteful approach. The keys? Proper packaging, labelling and a willingness to acknowledge that some stuff probably isn't worth keeping. (Original post)
3. Stage an occasional clearout
Throwing out food is wasteful, but so is keeping expired or never-going-to-be used items that are taking up shelf space you could use more productively. We've recommended a new year clearout in the past, but it's a strategy you can try any time. (Original post)
2. Never shop on an empty stomach
If you shop while you're hungry, you're much more likely to indulge in junk food, or purchase stuff you fancy right now. If you've got time to plan a list, you've got time to eat something before heading out. If you're really in a rush, wolf a couple of bananas.
1. There's nothing new under the sun
In the spirit of that last tip, most of this advice is not a new discovery, or a reaction to the way modern supermarkets are organised. Shopping tips from 1958 are just as useful now as they were then. (Original post)
Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.