Want to save money on groceries? Here's a little secret

‘The cost of living’ is a phrase that’s returned to prominence with a vengeance in recent months. The inflation rate is reaching a level not seen for years and the official interest rate has awoken from its decade-long slumber and seems determined to make up for lost time.

And let’s not forget the price of petrol and energy.

Confronted by this avalanche of price rises, any saving tips are most welcome.

One tip is to pay close attention to the labels on supermarket items that are on special. You’re no doubt well aware of the savings that can be made on discounted items, but there’s a bit of extra information on the yellow ‘on special’ labels at major supermarkets that can help you plan for longer-term savings.

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In the bottom right-hand (or left-hand, depending on your supermarket) corner you will see a shortform date, something like ‘07/06′. This refers to the date on which the discount will end. Given you are already at the supermarket when you see this and can take advantage of the special while you’re there, this might seem of little help.

But it can help you in a couple of ways. If you have dropped in to do a ‘little’ shop for an item or two, you can make note of the date the special ends and make sure you do your ‘big’ shop before the discount’s expiry date.

And these dates can help you with longer-term savings, too. In many cases, these items are discounted on a rotational basis, say six weeks. This means you can potentially bulk buy the item in question, putting six weeks’ worth in the pantry before the price drops again.

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Now it’s fair to say that this plan has several prerequisites for success. First, to kick off the plan you might need to spend more than usual to stock up on the items in question. For those on very tight budgets, this can be a real issue. If you can manage to do it, though, there are genuine savings to be had down the track.

Second, you will need to have a space to store larger amounts. If you have a tiny pantry, that could be a problem. I live in a small house with my adult son and space is an issue for us. On the other hand, when I was growing up as one of six kids, we had what I would call a tower of full cornflakes packets abutting our fridge. It would gradually shrink and then return to full fridge height when cornflakes were on special again.

Of course, the success of this plan also requires a certain amount of organisation and record keeping. If the special ends on 7 June, you’ll need to note that date down and keep an eye out for when the item is next discounted so you can work out the cycle length.

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There are other little tricks that can help you save on your shopping. For instance, different supermarkets will have an item on special at different times. If you are a regular user of two different supermarkets, this could help you to shorten your ‘rotation’ cycle, saving pantry space.

Also, an item on special may still work out to be not as cheap as buying a larger size of the same product. Sometimes it does, though. I’ve seen small bottles of a particular brand of dishwashing liquid discounted to the point where it’s cheaper to buy two small bottles than one large one. It seems ridiculous that you will pay less simply for more plastic packaging – not to mention doing nothing to help the planet – but it does happen.

Savings are out there to be had, dear shoppers! But to glean the full benefits, you’ll need to do a bit of ‘shopping reconnaissance’. Are you up for the challenge?

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