11 Supermarket Shopping Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

11 Supermarket Shopping Mistakes That Are Costing You Money

Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in August 2018 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in January 2020.

You've been supermarket shopping for years, but are you doing it right?

There are so many costly mistakes to be made in the supermarket which will soon hike up your bill. Worst of all, the supermarkets know exactly how to get you to buy and spend more, and will do almost anything to make it happen.

No more! We're sharing 11 common shopping mistakes to help you get clued up with the supermarket's sneaky strategies and start saving money today!

1. You're a brand snob

More expensive doesn't always mean better!

Heinz, Persil, Kellogs - are the big brands really the best?

Most people don't know, but many products from different brands are actually made in the same factory with the same produce, it's just the recipes and labels that differ.

It's always worth trying out the stores-own products. In the case of toiletries, sweet treats and tinned foods, you could save a fortune by making the switch.

2. You're not buying frozen

Don't turn your nose up at frozen food.

Studies have shown that frozen food is just as healthy as fresh, and not only that but it lasts longer so its nutrition is preserved!

Most people don't know, but most packages of meat and fish are actually frozen before they arrive on our shelves. This means buying frozen could actually be better - as it's not already been defrosted before you purchase it.

Best of all, frozen food costs considerably less than fresh! Just be sure to check the ingredients when buying meat and veg as it can contain added water.

3. You don't look at the price per kilo

When you are buying fresh produce, a good indicator of value for money is the price per kilo on the shelf label.

Don't always presume loose produce is the best option - sometimes packaged fruit and veg will be cheaper. Get into the habit of comparing loose versus packaged and also different packaging sizes to ensure you get the best deal every time you shop.

 4. You're buying out of season

We've grown used to getting whatever produce we want, whenever we want, but the truth of the matter is that fruits and vegetables are seasonal, and shouldn't be available all year round.

Different vegetables, fruits and even varieties are less-available during certain times of the year. The shortage of supply pitted against the high demand hikes up the price, and means you'll be paying more in the shop.

Keep track of what's in season and what isn't and try to stick to it. Not only will produce be tastier, but cheaper too!

5. You're listless

shopping list
Never go without one.

One word: lists.

Making a list before you set out will mean you only buy what you need. Be sure to look in the cupboards and fridge to see what you already have before you start planning what you're going to bring home.

Making a rough meal plan for the week will help you make your list and reduce waste too.

We have a whole Meal Prep Guide that will help you get organised and start saving money on your shopping every week.

6. Not buying a variety of protein

Chicken breasts are often hailed to be the 'healthiest' choice of protein, but there are many other options out there worth considering. Other cuts of chicken, such as the thighs, are much cheaper and often tastier too!

If you have a big family or are particularly into white meat, why not buy a whole chicken to cook on a Sunday and eat it throughout the week with salads and thrown into other meals - it's a quick solution and will really save you a lot of money.

Additionally, consider tinned fish such as sardines - which are usually less than 50p per tin - and cheaper cuts of red meat than your usual choice.

If you really want to cut down, why not try going meat-free a few days a week? Beans and pulses contain loads of protein and will work out much cheaper than your normal meaty meals.

7. Falling for offers

I'm on offer look at me!

Just because something's on offer, it doesn't automatically make it a good deal. If you weren't going to buy that half-priced pack of cookies or 2-for-1 ice cream originally, buying it at its reduced price is still an extra expenditure.

When buying things on your list, by all means, look for offers and deals. However, be aware of the offers at the end of aisles that are ideally placed to attract you.

If it's not on your list, give it a miss!

8. You don't have a rewards card

supermarket loyalty cards
Collect them all!

Rewards cards might seem like a bit of a scam, but we've saved loads using them over the years and would definitely recommend trying them.

Supermarket loyalty cards will usually allow you to collect points which equate to money off your shops, give you access to exclusive offers, or even get you free perks such as magazines or tea and coffee.

Get cards for wherever you shop regularly and start getting rewarded every time you shop.

9. Your trolley is too big

It's always better to have an overflowing small trolley than a half-empty big one.

Why? All that space will cry out to be filled. What you've already put in will look like less, and you'll be more tempted to impulse buy and fall for those brightly-coloured offers.

Always opt for a trolley that's in line with your budget or list - if you're only doing a 'quick shop', a basket is fine!

10. You don't self-checkout

Self-checkouts may not be practical for the big, weekly shop, but they're seriously useful for smaller ones.

Checking out all your items individually and watching the total slowly rise will make you much more aware of what you're spending, and why. It will help you to really reevaluate the cost of things, whether you need them, and how you could spend less next time.

11. You shop when you're hungry

Don't let your rumbly tummy dictate your shop!

Rumbling stomach? Step. Away. From. The. Shops.

Just as it's never a good idea to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet when you're hungry, supermarkets should be off-limits too.

When you're running on empty, eating pretty much anything seems like a good idea. You'll be much less likely to stick to the task at hand - getting everything on your list - and instead focus on feeding your stomach.

Before you know it, you'll end up with a range of sweet and savoury treats in your trolley as a result of your uncontrollable cravings.

From now on, time your shop so that it's on a full stomach - after breakfast, lunch or dinner is best.

Next up, read our energy-saving tips to find more ways to slash your spending. 

Avoid these common shopping mistakes and you'll be able to save more money than ever on your supermarket shop!

Stephanie C


Lover of all things fashion & foodie...I look to satisfy my tastes without obliterating my budget. Wannabe interior designer, I'm an avid cushion cover maker and charity shop hunter.

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  1. Author christine on August 18, 2018 at 8:30 am

    I hate self checkouts. Elderly people find them difficult and they take jobs away from people who need them. I always refuse to use them and if in the evening there are no manned checkouts available I abandon my shopping at the[probably empty] customer service desk.

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:21 pm

      Hi Christine. Thanks for sharing your opinion! Sorry to hear that.

    2. Author Rose Smith on September 13, 2019 at 3:55 pm

      A lof of elderly people use them with no problem in the store that I work in. It is the in a hurry younger people that have trouble and the men that think they know better.

    3. Author Carol on March 5, 2024 at 2:06 pm

      I totally agree with Christine. Bring back real people. I’m not employed by the supermarket so why should I do their job?

    4. Author Joanne A on April 15, 2024 at 10:46 am

      That's a fair point!

  2. Author Sara Bellisio on August 18, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Awesome advice for rookie money-savers! :) The article (and the email I received with the link to the article) did have a few spelling mistakes in it,though.This made good advice look less professional.Maybe you could use a spell-checker or Grammarly? :) Thanks, Sara x

    1. Author Joanne A on August 21, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      Hi Sara! Thanks for the great feedback. We've now reviewed the article for spelling. We do check thoroughly, but sometimes small mistakes can slip through. We apologise for this.

  3. Author Jood Evans on August 18, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Smaller packets of such things as flavoured rice or couscous are horribly expensive. Much cheaper to buy a bag of plain rice and add the flavours or veggies you want. Some brand names are better than own brands, but I wait until they're on offer; also it depends what I'm using it for. For instance own brand mayo is fine for home-made coleslaw, but branded is better for dressing a salad. Which brings me to things such as buying ready made food. It's so much cheaper to make your own coleslaw, soups, and various other things - and, more importantly, you know exactly what has gone into food you have prepared.

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:16 pm

      That's very true, Jood! We love cooking from scratch for so many reasons.

  4. Author Josie Rowell on August 18, 2018 at 10:33 am

    There's some really useful tips here. Thank you :-)

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      You're welcome, Josie!

  5. Author Annie G on August 18, 2018 at 10:38 am

    I agree with most of the points you raise, but if the offers are for products you normally use, why wouldn’t you buy them when they’re on offer and not have to buy them full price when you need them? Also, I have loyalty cards for all the major supermarkets, in case it happens to be more convenient to shop at a different store and will happily shop at Lidl and Aldi, neither of which offer loyalty cards, because they are so much cheaper. That way I don’t feel obliged to shop at only one store and I get a nice surprises more often!!

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      Hello Annie! Thanks for reaching out to us. We definitely think you should make use of offers, just watch out for promotions on items that are unnecessary. If you don't need ice cream, snacks etc then don't buy them just because they are on offer. You'll end up spending way more than any savings could make up for! That said, if you see a bargain pack of your favourite laundry detergent, but you don't necessarily need it that week, you should still buy it. No harm in stocking up! It's a fab idea to have loyalty cards for all the supermarkets, and we're a big fan of Lidl and Aldi too!

    2. Author Carole Carter on November 25, 2020 at 11:53 am

      Hi Annie G just thought I would let you know that Lidl does have a loyalty card now. You get it on your smart phone. It gives you different vouchers each week and also at the end of the month depending on how much you have spent you get money off your shopping too.

    3. Author Jennie Weston on October 14, 2021 at 1:09 pm

      Hi I have loyalty cards too!, Even some charity shops have them. You get a stamp and once full you get 20 percent of shopping. I believe Lidl have an app which I'm yet to try. The app gives discount in store. I will use my points in Sainsbury's when short on cash ( even £2.50 off shopping ) can be a God send. I always cook enough for a large family and freeze for another day.

    4. Author Joanne A on October 11, 2022 at 9:22 am

      Great suggestions, Jennie!

    5. Author Joanne A on February 14, 2023 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. Author Lesley Bound on August 18, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Check the multi pack offers, sometimes it's cheaper to buy single items than a multi pack! We get drawn in by assuming it's a better deal.

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:15 pm

      We agree, Lesley! Always check the price per X on the shelf ticket.

  7. Author heather on August 18, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Why not pop your basket into a shallow trolley if you are doing a small shop so easier if it gets heavy, then unload at a basket or small items aisle?! Also useful if your basket overflows so the shallow trolley will give some extra space.

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      That's a wonderful tip, Heather.

  8. Author Bet on August 18, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    What a load of old nonsense. Most intelligent people have known this for years. Be original. Or to put it another way. Does your grandmother know how to suck eggs?

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Bet! It's great to hear that you know all of this already, you must be a master shopper! We'd love to hear your tips on how to save money on your supermarket shop!

    2. Author Penny on November 14, 2019 at 12:21 pm

      There will be lots of people just starting out maybe who don't know all this too! I must admit I already do most of this however I have lots of years experience but a good reminder and good read anyway and lots of useful advice in there :-)

    3. Author Joanne A on November 18, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Thanks for the kind words, Penny! :-)

  9. Author Helen Blackburn on August 18, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    I don't like self-checkouts. They are making profits for the supermarkets because they can employ less staff.

  10. Author Trevor G Jones on August 18, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    I always buy lidl's shortcake biscuits as there is more butter in them than the original maker's.

    1. Author Joanne A on August 20, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Hi Trevor, what a great tip!

  11. Author Helena Buchanan on August 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    I think it is wrong to use self checkout because you would be saving the company money by doing someone out of a job.

  12. Author Brian Goodspeed on August 21, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    I am a great believer in stocking up on items I will use anyway but only things that will keep and never perishables because as a D.O.A.P. I never know when I may end up in the N.H.S. People garage. Beware also of buying multi-packs that contain smaller items than the normal size. Always check the size/weight of the multi-pack against the originals. The "D"? Oh that stands for decrepit.

    1. Author Joanne A on August 22, 2018 at 12:30 pm

      Bless you, Brian! Your sense of humour has brightened our day. Checking multi-packs is a great tip. I'm always getting caught out by that one, especially with beer bottles!

  13. Author miss hall on November 13, 2019 at 8:57 am

    the self checkouts are ok if your doing a basket shop or smaller, but try doing a large shop n it turns into a nightmare as usually the space for packing you're items in bags is tiny and the machines just shout at you. and tha'ts even if the machine are actually working properly, as i've had times where self checkouts are scales broken, turned off, wont accept cards/cash or doesn't scan the item( no matter how many time s you try) and the lonely attendent in the area is either buisy with another machine or customer or non existant so your left standing around for ages waiting for said attendent/shop assistant. do prefer staffed checkouts as you get done so much quicker and you dont have to wait for some one if there is a problem with item as the checkout assistant will sort it out faster than what you could. self checkouts should be scrapped and all back to staffed checkouts.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 13, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      Very true! Have you tried scan as you shop? Could be a better alternative for you.

  14. Author Jo on November 14, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Suggest looking at the reduced section and finding out the time supermarkets do it. Aldi do it ready for opening and fresh fish, meat, bread etc can always be frozen to use. Products with the same day date on are reduced to half price.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 14, 2019 at 11:08 am

      Great suggestion!

  15. Author Judi McCafferty on November 14, 2019 at 8:59 am

    If I need spices, or Chinese ingredients, I go to our local Indian and Chinese supermarkets. They sell large sizes for the same price of the small ones in the main supermarkets, and have a far greater range. Also , if you have the room to store it, huge bags of rice which work out very cheap in the long run.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 14, 2019 at 10:58 am

      Great idea, Judi!

  16. Author Charlie on November 14, 2019 at 8:53 pm

    I love the scan as you shop at Asda. It's easier, you can pack on the way round, it gives you a running total and when you get to check out takes about 30 seconds when you get use to it. It is so easy to scan a barcode and pack it in the bags.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 18, 2019 at 11:48 am

      I love doing this too! The only nuisance is the occasional audit, especially when you start out. It's worth it in the long run though and you might even find some bargains as you shop that haven't been labelled up properly.

  17. Author Trevor G Jones on November 14, 2019 at 11:37 pm

    The reason I do not buy more frozen foods as I know in a lot of cases they are fresher but you cannot get organic and I buy as much organic as possible as I do not like the thought of being poisoned or having cancer through pesticides. I also will not use self checkouts, Waitrose have a nasty habit of putting one person on the basket checkout so you will wander over to the self checkout because of the number of people waiting, at least I do not get that trouble at Lidl as they do not have them.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 18, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      That's very true, Trevor. I try to shop organic where possible. I wish there was more variety.

  18. Author Liam Farrell on December 15, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Excellent advice learned things I would never normally have considered

    1. Author Joanne A on December 17, 2019 at 12:38 pm

      That's great to hear, Liam!

  19. Author Blessing on January 31, 2020 at 7:31 am

    Oh yeah, still relevant even in 2020. A good reminder is always useful anytime

    1. Author Joanne A on January 31, 2020 at 12:14 pm

      They are the tricks of the trade, and are likely to be relevant for many years to come!

    2. Author Blessing on February 1, 2020 at 9:32 am

      Yeah, of course. Great job, Joanne

  20. Author Janie on May 26, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    I loathe self-checkouts with a passion; as a wheelchair-user with severely arthritic hands, I just can't cope with them. Under normal conditions, my husband shops with me, as I need him.to push my wheelchair, and I have a basket on my lap rather than a trolley - though since lockdown, I'm having to send him shopping on his own and pray that he sticks to the list I give him.

    1. Author Joanne A on June 2, 2020 at 11:39 am

      Sending well wishes to you and your husband at this time!

  21. Author Dave Stuttle on October 17, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    Another good tip is to walk to the shops. That way you only buy what you can carry home. This helps prevent impulse buying or buying more than you need.

    1. Author Joanne A on November 3, 2020 at 11:51 am

      Great idea!

  22. Author David Gough on September 15, 2021 at 10:10 am

    Always check your receipt before leaving the store. Common errors include scanning an item more than once and reduced (short-dated) items being charged at full price.

    1. Author Joanne A on October 12, 2022 at 9:58 am

      Always do this! Great tip.

  23. Author Norman Howe on September 19, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    Self checkout don’t cost people jobs as these people who would be on the checkout can be on the floor restocking shelves so we can get the goods we want. When staff aren’t on a checkout they out in the store and have to be recalled from the store to man checkout. The stores won’t pay people to sit around on a checkout waiting for customers. Self checkout reduce the cues. Would you rather waste your time in cue waiting to checkout or would you rather be using the time saved for something else? If you don’t like self checkout then use scan as you shop. During lockdown while people were waiting in a long cue having to wait for a checkout I used scan as you shop I bypassed the cue and straight to checkout. Don’t be fooled by the price check or price match labels as often the prices were the same before the labels were added and people think they are getting a deal as the price is reduced but it doesn’t mean that. It just means that the price is the same as another store locally. It is just an incentive of the stores to get you buy thinking your getting a deal. Your not as prices stay the same with just a fancy label often more expensive.

    1. Author Joanne A on October 12, 2022 at 9:55 am

      Thanks for sharing!

  24. Author Rowena Wood on November 21, 2021 at 6:13 am

    Thank you for these tips, I am aware of the supermarkets scheme to make you pay more but still fall for the shiny offers sometimes 😂 so it is good to get a refresh on the advice. I am trying to go vegan and supermarkets are getting a lot better but I often find that vegan versions of products can be really expensive, and I don't know why?

    1. Author Joanne A on September 14, 2022 at 5:09 pm

      It's all about spotting the good deals from the bad! We've also noticed the higher costs of vegan alternatives. Hopefully, this will reduce the growing demand for the products.

  25. Author Tim on October 3, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    Another tip - always check your receipt. The number of times a special deal or reduced price has not scanned correctly is incredible. It's best to check before leaving the store. Saved myself well over £30 so far this year by going back to customer services and getting the relevant refund.

    1. Author Joanne A on October 6, 2022 at 4:24 pm

      That's a great idea! Shopping online can be easier for this reason - much more transparent!

  26. Author Amber on June 9, 2023 at 10:44 am

    I hate self check outs I prefer the human face to face option. I'm dyslexic and have mobility issues which super markets don't take on board. I love your ideas many I have adopted for many years but now I'm on a special diet due to health and it's costing me alot...so at times I've had to eat what I'm not meant to have...not alot of help so it's interesting reading this

    1. Author Joanne A on June 19, 2023 at 10:08 am

      I'm sorry to hear about the challenges you face at supermarkets and their impact on your dietary needs. It can be frustrating when accessibility and understanding are lacking. In such situations, it might be helpful to communicate your specific needs to store managers or explore alternative shopping options like online grocery delivery services that provide a more convenient and accommodating experience. Additionally, contacting local support groups or organizations catering to people with dyslexia or mobility issues might provide resources and guidance tailored to your needs.

  27. Author Sandra Strachan on July 8, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Hate self check out stress me out

    1. Author Joanne A on July 13, 2023 at 5:28 pm

      It's not for everyone!


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