'Don't assume bulk is best': top tips from savvy shoppers

Two friends out shopping for the day, paying for some clothes at a clothing store checkout.

Smart shoppers earn money back on their purchases by using the right card.
Photograph: Tom Werner/Getty Images

For many of us, the big shop is a weekly trundle around the same supermarket, picking up the usual array of items and plonking them in the trolley without too much thought. But Lisa Garwood-Cross, 28, from Bury, has revolutionised her approach to it – by refusing to go more than twice a month and being mindful about what she picks off the shelves.

“Shopping is one of those things you often do on autopilot,” says Garwood-Cross. “But simply switching on to what you need – taking 10 minutes to stocktake what’s in the cupboard before you leave the house – and then really thinking about what you put in the trolley, can save you a lot of money.”

Mindset aside, Garwood-Cross has several tried and tested strategies for wiping off pounds at the checkout. “My number one tip is to check the price per 100g on what you’re buying,” she says. “We’re programmed to think that the biggest pack will be the best value but that’s not always the case. Look for the information on the shelf label and don’t assume bulk is best.”

Side view of woman buying food in supermarket.

Check the ‘price per 100g’ during your grocery shop to check whether bulk-buying is actually cheaper. Photograph: Santi Nunez/Stocksy United

Garwood-Cross’s second tip is to be more flexible in your shopping and try some own brands. Often, we go for the market-leading brand through habit, but it may be that you won’t even taste the difference, she says.

“I never thought I’d be able to ditch my favourite fizzy drink but actually, I really like a supermarket version – that’s 39p a bottle, compared with £1.50 for two litres. You don’t have to switch everything – my wife won’t ever change her ketchup brand – but just making some swaps will save money.”

Finally, Garwood-Cross suggests filling your freezer with frozen vegetables and yellow sticker (reduced) meat and fish, and setting yourself a “pantry challenge” once a month to use up all the food in the house before heading out for another big shop.

“I picked up a lot of this when I was young, as I was raised by a single mum on benefits,” says Garwood-Cross. Now studying for a PhD in digital health, Garwood-Cross’s savvy ways have enabled her to buy a two-bedroom house and enjoy two to three foreign holidays a year.

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For Kevin Egan, 49, from Chelmsford in Essex, being smart with his shopping takes barely any effort as he has an American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card. This means Egan earns money back on all his purchases just by using his card, and he estimates having earned more than £1,000 since he got it in 2009.

“We use the card for anything and everything – the weekly shop, dining out, house and car insurance, family holidays,” he says. “Putting all our expenses on my American Express card increases the cashback earnings. I’ve recently used the card to purchase my annual rail season ticket, which is more than £4,000. With just one transaction, I’ve almost reached the £5,000 threshold where the cashback rate doubles from 0.5% to 1% on purchases.”

Egan says he keeps track of his spending using the handy Amex App.

Indeed, these days your smartphone is your best friend when it comes to budgeting, moving money around and making savings. Clair Byrne, 31, from Greater Manchester is evangelical about the benefits of cashback shopping apps.

“They offer money back on a huge range of products, from groceries and toiletries to cleaning products and pet food,” says Byrne. “They have offers on selected products such as 50% cashback, buy-one-get-one-free and, best of all, try for free. The apps are so easy to use. You buy the products as normal, upload a picture of your receipt to the app, and then the cashback is usually processed and paid into your account within a couple of days.”

Byrne says she easily knocks 10-20% off every food shop using cashback apps and coupons. With the latter, she recommends going for manufacturer coupons as they’re much easier to redeem, which many companies offer via social media or with free product samples.

With so many fun and effective tricks of the trade, it’s not difficult to see why a growing number of people get such satisfaction from being savvy with their spending. “I get a kick out of knowing that I’ve saved some money that can be put towards the things that really matter to me – such as experiences and holidays,” says Garwood-Cross. Now, who’s with her?

Important information

Applicants must be UK residents, aged 18 years or older. Approval subject to status. Terms and exclusions apply to earning cashback. See for more information. 5% cashback on your purchases made in the first 3 months up to £100. Cardmembership begins from Card approval. Introductory offers are not available to anyone who currently holds or has held any other American Express personal Card in the past 24 months. Cashback will be payable at a rate of 0.5% on spend up to £5,000; 1% on spend more than £5,000. There is a minimum annual spend of £3,000 to receive cashback. Cashback is not earned on non-purchase transactions.

American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 9AX, UK. It is registered in England and Wales with company number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.


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