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Tips for shopping smartly during lockdown

Thanks to lockdown supermarkets have never been busier, with prices creeping up. Here’s how to shop around safely and keep your weekly costs lower.
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As things change rapidly during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, this guide will be updated regularly to reflect changes in rules and regulations.

Supermarkets have increased prices and stopped promotions like ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ offers on some items to reduce stockpiling.

This has meant that the cost of a weekly shop has risen on average by £7, according to research last month. With many households living on reduced incomes, here are some ways to keep down your costs.

Make a budget

Sounds obvious, but having a good idea of how much you can afford to spend on your weekly shop helps you plan for your household needs. 

We have a free budget planner tool to put you in control of your spending. You keep track of your pay, benefits and your regular outgoings in one place. You can save your budget plan and return to it at any time. 

Find more tips for budgeting during coronavirus. 

Compare prices online

Buying your groceries online for delivery can be a great way to shop when on a budget. But with most people stuck indoors right now, getting a delivery slot can be tricky.

However, there are easy ways to see where your weekly shopping budget goes the furthest.

Some websites and apps can help you compare prices of items on your shopping list from the comfort and safety of your own home. 

  • ShelfScraper.co.uk allows you to compare the ‘price per unit’ of a range of products. Simply type in the name of the item you want and you’ll be able to compare prices from leading chains like Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco

  • LatestDeals.co.uk offers a smartphone app that includes a supermarket comparison function. You can use this to compare prices on products from Asda, Iceland, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose

Loyalty cards and smartphone apps

Speaking of apps, many supermarkets now offer smartphone apps to help you keep track of your loyalty points and discounts.

Both Tesco Clubcard and Nectar card holders can use smartphone apps to collect points at the till. You can then redeem these points for discounts on shopping and other benefits. 

Your household may be eligible for supermarket vouchers

If you care for a child who is eligible for free school meals, but they are currently staying home, there is a national scheme that can help.

Schools can provide every eligible child with a weekly shopping voucher worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus. 

The government has said that these vouchers can be spent on food at supermarket chains including Aldi, Asda, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Contact your child’s school to see how to get the vouchers. They are typically sent to parents and carers via a code which you can show on your phone at the till, or as a gift card for use in store.

Edenred, the firm which manages the scheme for the Department for Education, has full details on how it works.

Don’t be a brand snob

In their heyday, shops like Waitrose and M&S were the market leaders for quality food. These days, you can get good quality groceries much cheaper from places like Lidl and Aldi.

It’s also easier than ever to get the same quality product by shifting away from premium brands to stores’ own-brand products. In some cases, both the branded and supermarket own-brand versions of the same product are made in the same factory!

Find the best time to bag yellow sticker reductions

 Many shops will reduce the price of some products, like sandwiches, a few hours before closing time to shift them quickly. So, it’s worth doing a little bit of snooping to find out when the yellow stickers come out at your local branch.

Stores will also slap discounts on food items that are about to go off, so the ‘reduced’ or ‘clearance’ aisles can be a great place to find items you would otherwise buy for full price.

Obviously it’s difficult to plan your shopping list based on these items, but it’s always worth a look for these items each time you’re in store.

Bigger is better

Larger supermarket branches tend to be cheaper than ‘metro’ or ‘local’ branches on the high street. 

 You will pay more if you shop at local convenience stores like Tesco Express and Sainsburys Local. Plan ahead and visit the full-size supermarkets to avoid paying a premium on your shop.

Don’t shop on an empty stomach

 Shopping while hungry can be expensive. You’re more likely to grab impulse purchases, like convenience foods. 

 Find out about more ways to cut the cost of your weekly shop.

About James Andrews 

James is our senior personal finance editor and has spent the past 15 years writing and editing personal finance news. He has previously written for ReachPLC, was money editor of Mirror Online and Yahoo Finance UK, and has recently been quoted in City AM, Liverpool Echo and Daily Record as well as featured on national radio shows TalkRadio and the BBC

View James Andrews’ full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.

About Nick Renaud-Komiya

View Nick Renaud-Komiya's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.