Sometimes, it can seem like supermarkets are the enemy. Despite their occasional bargains and loyalty schemes, they want every penny of yours they can get.
It’s understandable that they need to make a profit, but when they appear to be wilfully misleading shoppers it’s harder to forgive.
So I was disappointed to read a new report from Which? that showed almost three-quarters of Brits feel that supermarkets are trying to mislead them by using confusing pricing practices.
Because we’ve all seen it done, in every supermarket. The law requires that retailers provide both a selling price and a unit price, to help customers compare the true cost of a product.
So, if you’re trying to work out whether the bigger packet is better value for money, there should be an easily comparable unit price on the shelf.
But all too often these comparisons are misleading or difficult to work out, often when the larger packet isn’t better value. One is priced per tin, the other per 100g, for example.
Which? has been encouraging people to tweet photos of misleading labels – MP Thomas Brake found beer advertised at £1.26 a metre. Another irate customer found tins priced at £1.03, or four for £1. What a great bargain!
There are more examples of confusing ‘deals’ here.
One of the most frustrating tricks is when a supermarket advertises a price as though it’s a bargain when actually it’s the same cost as elsewhere or even a price hike.
But there’s a great new way to keep on top of such supermarket swindles. The website mysupermarket.com is a good way to compare your basket of shopping in different supermarkets to find the cheapest deal.
In fact, it claims that customers save an average of £17 every single time they use the site to compare shopping. And it just got even more useful.
Thanks to the website’s newest tool, customers can see the price of an item over the previous year.
If you look at the graph in the bottom right of the screen, it shows that these beans are a genuinely good deal from this supermarket, the price has actually fallen. You can also compare the prices to other shops, to see if the product is cheaper elsewhere.
This allows customers to see the real value of an offer, and avoid getting ripped off. Mysupermarket.com has also launched a ‘Savvy Buys’ section of the website, which highlights products that are at least 30% lower than average.
Getting wise to the tricks
Sadly, supermarkets will continue to encourage extra spending in their stores, using tricks as varied as enticing smells to special offers that see you buying more than you need.
You can read about some of the biggest scams out there in our article ‘The seven biggest supermarket scams’.
But there are ways to overcome these money-making methods, such as buying your fruit, veg and meat at your local market and only visiting the aisles you need.
You can read more about ways to beat their manipulating tricks in our article ‘A fanatic’s guide to supermarket savings’.
Planning healthy meals cheaply
One of the reasons it’s so hard to keep the cost of food down is that most people want to feed their families the best they can afford.
But by cooking from ingredients rather than buying ready-made items, it’s possible to keep the food bill down without sacrificing quality.
My favourite tool for this is the NHS’ Change 4 Life meal planner. If you need some inspiration for cheap, tasty recipes, this is incredibly useful.
It’s full of recipes that cost around £5 to make but feed four adults, and you can plan a week’s worth of meals in one go.
Once you’ve chosen your meals for the week, it will even email you a shopping list, so you don’t buy more than you need.
Do you think supermarkets repay customer loyalty or are they exploiting broke Brits? How do you keep the cost of your shopping down? Share your thoughts and experiences with other readers in the comments below.