Tue, 05 Mar 2013 15:39:00 GMT | By Halifax

Tricks supermarkets play to help you part with your money - and how to avoid them

Follow our guide to supermarket shopping if you want to buy more for less next time you shop.

Beware of the tricks supermarkets play to make you pay more (© Getty Images)

We’ve all been there – you pop to the supermarket for a pint of milk and leave with a trolley full of BOGOFs and a receipt as long as your downtrodden face. And guess what? Supermarkets want you to part with as much money as possible, and they use lots of sneaky tricks to help you do so… here are some to look out for.

Boo to bulk and special offers

You might assume that bulk buying family-sized products is the cheapest option. That’s not always the case, but it’s an assumption that supermarkets love. Beware the sneakily promoted gallon of mayonnaise, or ‘star buy’ industrial-sized box of crisps; they may work out as the same price as – or more expensive than – smaller equivalents. Likewise, we’ve learnt to automatically think that multibuy, 3-for-£2 type offers will work out cheaper, too: they might not!

Do the maths: all supermarkets display a ‘price per unit’ for comparison (‘per 100g’ for example), normally in the small print on the label. Shopping online? mySupermarket.co.uk will find you the best value for money on individual items, as well as comparing prices across the leading online stores.

And if the offers are cheaper, do you really need them? Will you be able to eat three loaves in a week, for example? Probably not –special offers on perishable goods can be a false economy, especially once they’re in the bin!

Avoid commuter prices

If you work 9-til-5, it’s tempting to rely on the express supermarkets that you find in train and petrol stations… but beware: these stores may be part of a supermarket chain, but have a smaller (pricier) selection to choose from, and may even be more expensive for exactly the same items, just because of where they are.

Make time for an old-fashioned BIG SHOP for cupboard essentials – and if that simply isn’t an option, get all your day-to-day must-haves online and delivered to your door.

Parents: be savvy when shopping with kids (© Getty Images)


Next time you’re in the cereal aisle, check out what’s at eye level… we guarantee you’ll spot a well-known crowing cockerel rather than a cheap own-brand. This eye-level placement is a trick used throughout most supermarkets, with expensive items stacked at the most conveniently spottable height. Throw a glance up and down to the other shelves to seek out the cheaper alternatives.

Parents – the same applies to kid-eye height, too. Avoid tantrums and have some distractions handy for when junior spots that strategically placed sweetie.

Resist impulse

Supermarkets love impulse buyers – hence why you’ll always find expensive chocolate bars and magazines next to the checkout, or glitzy offers on attention-grabbing end-aisle displays. Don’t be fooled by them. Make a shopping list… and stick to it.

If you can’t resist the urge to splurge, use the self-checkout to avoid the tempting wait. And never go supermarket-shopping hungry – you’re bound to pick up a pricey snack you didn’t plan to buy.

Never. Slow. Down.

From understaffed tills to narrow, over-crowded aisles, supermarkets love to slow down your trip. Why? The longer you’re in the shop, the more you’ll buy. Find a 24-hour supermarket and go first thing in the morning or in the dead of night, thus avoiding human-shaped traffic jams. Or better still, shop online at your own pace.

Sensory overload

Most supermarkets will tempt you by tickling all your senses. From the second you arrive you’ll be hit with colourful, scented flowers and bright, fresh fruit. And round the corner, take a deep breath and you’ll get a lung full of freshly baked bread or cakes; not long and you’ll be drooling your way to the checkout. Avoid the urge to satisfy your tingling senses and stick to your list – go on, you can do it!

Plan an essential route

Often, you’ll find shopping essentials like dairy products on the back wall of the store. Why? The more of the supermarket you have to walk through, the more chance you’ll be attracted by one of the non-essential, high cost displays. Keep your eye on the prize, intrepid shopper. Put your head down and focus on your shopping list.

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New research has found that families are spending an average of £180 on back-to-school supplies for their kids. Does this tally with your experience?

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    14 %
    Yes, that sounds about right to me
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    20 %
    Yes, but I think school supplies are getting more expensive every year
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    29 %
    No, the cost of new uniforms, stationery and sports kit takes us well past the £200 mark
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