The seven biggest supermarket scams

Updated on 25 July 2011 | 62 Comments

Find out how to fight back against supermarket scams and rising food prices so you can beat the grocery stores at their own game...

Believe it or not, recent figures suggest that over the past few years, the wholesale price of basic food essentials, such as bread and butter, has plummeted almost 50%.

No, I'm not making this up. And yet, I can't say I've noticed. In fact, every time I'm at the checkout I'm continually amazed at how much money I manage to spend on food each week.

So why are my food bills continuing to spiral upwards? Well, apparently, supermarkets simply haven't been lowering their prices in line with the wholesale declines. And in fact, prices have still been going up.

If you ask me, this is a bit sneaky. Unfortunately, however, it's not the only trick adopted by many supermarkets. In fact, there are lots of them. So here are seven supermarket scams to avoid at all costs...

Size matters

You might think you'll save yourself some pennies if you buy larger packs of goods. After all, generally speaking, buying in bulk is supposed to be cheaper.

But this isn't always the case. For example, if you bought a 600g jar of Hellmann's Light Mayonnaise it would cost 33.3p per 100g from Sainsbury's. Meanwhile, a 800g jar of exactly the same product costs 39.9p per 100g. Now where's the logic in that?

The best way to avoid this is to always check product details before buying - it's a really good idea to check the price per weight. Although this may sound like a lot of hassle - particularly if you're walking around the supermarket in a bit of a hurry - if you shop online using, you will find it much easier.

That's because this nifty website allows you to track how much your shopping would cost at each of the UK's four major supermarkets (Sainsbury's, Tesco, ASDA and Ocado/Waitrose). It also means you can easily see how much you'll be paying per gram/kilogramme, so it's easy to check which is the cheapest option, no matter how big or small the packet.

What's more, it will also tell you when you can 'swap and save' by substituting a bag of grapes for a box of grapes, for example. The savings soon stack up!

Rachel Robson rounds up five ways to cut your food bills.

Special offers

Special offers such as 'buy one get one free' deals can be very tempting. But while in some cases, these can help to slash your food bills, they don't always provide the best value for money.

Often, you'll find the very best deals are on perishable items such as fruit and vegetables. So unless you can guarantee you'll eat two bags of satsumas in a few days, you may find you end up throwing a lot of food away.

What's more, if you head down to your local greengrocers or market, you will probably find you can buy the same product even cheaper. Or simply grow your own!

Similarly, be wary of deals such as 'buy one get one half price' and 'two for £3' - if you don't actually need to buy two, don't get too sucked in. Some supermarkets cunningly raise prices one week and then reduce them the next so that they can claim a discount. So don't buy more simply because you can.

Delicious smells

I have to confess that I fall for this one on a regular basis. I just can't resist the smell of freshly baked bread as I walk down the bakery aisle. Usually this trick works its magic and I find myself loading up my trolley with hot, fresh bread.

But try not to let yummy smells tempt you into buying items you really don't need or didn't intend to buy in the first place. Stick to your shopping list!

Relaxing coffee shops

These days it seems that supermarkets are determined for you to spend hours and hours wandering around their aisles.

As a result, coffee shops such as Starbucks and Costa have started springing up in supermarkets, allowing you to wile away the hours, enjoying a cup of coffee and a spot of lunch, before continuing to amble along the aisle.

After all, what better way to spend your day than in the supermarket? And the longer you spend in the supermarket, the more you are likely to spend on your food bill! Don't get sucked in - walk in, stick to your shopping list, get out!

Related blog post

Product placement

Do you ever find yourself wondering what's at the top of the supermarket shelf? The one you can't quite reach? Supermarkets will often put the most profitable items at eye level so they are easy to find, while the cheapest items will be at the very top or very bottom of the shelf. This means you may need to be prepared to do some hunting if you want the best bargains.

Similarly, you might find the most expensive products, such as electrical goods, are placed near the entrance to the supermarket. Meanwhile, the cheaper basic foods will be towards the exit - so you'll have to pass the tempting electrical products to get to them.

Changing layout

It drives me mad when I walk into my local supermarket to find that everything has been moved around.

This is another cunning ploy adopted by supermarkets and means that however well you thought you knew the layout, you can guarantee you won't know where anything is anymore, and you'll be forced to traipse around the supermarket looking for everything on your shopping list.

As a result, you'll pass other tempting items which you're more likely to throw into your trolley. So again, stick to your shopping list!

Location, location

If you often run into your local supermarket at the train station to pick up a few bits on your way home from work - be careful. That's because prices can change depending on the store location - even if it's the same chain.

Very large stores are likely to be the cheapest, while convenience stores, those in petrol stations and at motorway service stations will be more expensive. So try to avoid doing a big shop in the more expensive stores.

The more aware you are of these supermarket scams, the more you're likely to save on your food bills.

This is a classic article which has been updated.

More: Throw a posh dinner party on a budget | Beat the food VAT hike


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