Cut your grocery shopping bill in half
Here's my first tip for you. Cut out and keep this page next to your keys or folded away in your purse with your store loyalty cards. Because next time you do your shopping at a supermarket, the ideas you find here will save you money.
These are some of the methods I have used to halve my shopping bill and, best of all, they require little or no extra effort on your part.
I honed my supermarket shopping strategies a few years ago when money was extremely tight. I was able to reduce my monthly grocery bill from £120 to £60, without having to recycle teabags or settle for beans on toast. These days I spend £80 for a family of three. My blog readers often ask how I do it but, in truth, it isn't difficult.
Supermarkets are carefully designed to induce maximum expenditure. So work out what the supermarket bosses want you to do, then do the opposite.
Shop back to front
When you walk through the doors, into the fresh fruit and veg aisle, don't stop. This is the most attractive aisle in the supermarket - but also one of the most expensive. Instead, walk to the most distant corner of the store. In most supermarkets this will be the freezer section, where I always stock up on all the veg I can, from bags of frozen broccoli to bags of frozen parsnips.
These cost a fraction of their 'fresh' equivalents. The flash-freezing process means that the produce is often fresher and it lasts longer and reduces food waste. So start here and work your way back through the store, coming to the fresh fruit and veg last.
Nip in before closing
A habitué of supermarket clearance sections, I recommend that you shop last thing on a Sunday, when even the 24-hour supermarkets are preparing to shut and lots of fresh food products are steeply discounted. I regularly pick up loaves of bread, deli items, joints of meat and even rotisserie chickens for pennies. You can't eat them all at once, so make the most of your freezer. I freeze everything from meat, dairy products and sliced bread to herbs, ready-made stock and sun-dried tomatoes.
Those seeking to slash their shopping bills are frequently advised to "step down" a brand level. In other words, if you usually buy premium range, buy the supermarket's own brand. If you usually buy own-brand, swap to the value range. To this, I would add two simple words: look down. The cheapest deals and items can often be found tucked away where the shopper's gaze tends not to linger.
When shopping for fresh foods, I often find the freshest items – the products with the most distant best-before and use-by dates - on the bottom shelf or hidden at the back. These will last longer and are less likely to end up on your compost heap.
Hit the baking aisle
One section worthy of your attention, even if you don't have a sweet tooth, is home baking. Why? Well, home baking products are not subject to VAT. So if you like to snack on nuts and dried fruit, from pine nuts to dates and raisins, pick them up here as they are often cheaper. Incidentally, if you really can't avoid the crisps aisle, be sure to plump for the tortilla chips: these, too, are VAT-free.
It doesn't matter where you shop or what your budget is: if you take up my recommendations and don't save money, I'll eat my purse.
Karyn Fleeting is author of the award-winning blog Miss-Thrifty.co.uk
Invented by a Frenchman in 1954 and ironically introduced in the UK on 1 April 1973, VAT is an indirect tax levied on the value added in the production of goods and services, from primary production to final consumption and is paid by the buyer. Its levying is complex, with a number of exemptions and exclusions. For example, in the UK, VAT is payable on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on chocolate-covered cakes and the non-VAT status of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes was challenged in a UK court case to determine whether Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit. The judge ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake, McVitie’s won the case and VAT is not paid on Jaffa Cakes in the UK.