Top Tips for Inspired Supermarket Savings

Supermarkets are alluring spaces. Bright and colourful, with invitingly wide aisles, a feast of seductive aromas, and a soporific atmosphere that invites you to linger, they are designed with your weaknesses in mind, and primed to capitalise on them. The tips below will help you stay on track and save your precious dollars.

* Use cash - it's easier to stay aware of how much you're spending. If not, a debit card or credit card with a very low limit is a good way of curbing overspending.

* Shop in the early evening if possible. Supermarkets often start discounting stock that is nearing its use-by date at this time. Look for discounts on meat, bread and other perishable items.

* Buy fresh fruit and vegetables rather than packaged, processed foods. Choose vegetables that are in season and on sale and and plan your meals around them.

* Avoid the supermarket if you're hungry or tired, as you're more likely to buy food. Of course you can't always do this; if you're hungry, bring along or buy a healthy snack (eg a piece of fruit or a packet of raw cashews).

* Write your shopping list out before you go. Write your list slowly and mindfully. Check your pantry. As you're writing your list, note how you're feeling - perhaps there are some items you think you need when you actually don't. When you get to the supermarket, confine your shopping to what's on the list.

* Be realistic about future plans when you're writing your shopping list. An interesting fact unearthed by Brian Wansink and fellow researchers back in 2000 is that many items that consumers buy at supermarkets but don't end up using are purchased because of overly optimistic plans - eg a party that wasn't held or a dish that was never made. To avoid a pantry full of mouldering obscurities, substitute a more versatile item for one that is specific to the recipe, for instance buying honey instead of molasses.

* Get to know the supermarket layout so that you don't have to go up every aisle, but only to the aisles that have the goods you're planning to buy. Supermarkets have dozens of devious ways to tempt you to buy extra items. To get to the milk, for example, you may have to go to the back of the store, and therefore pass at least one aisle of merchandise. If the store has a written guide to the location of different types of products, use it, or ask a staff member for help.

* Be willing to crane, stoop and search the shelves when you're comparing prices on different products. Supermarkets want you to preference the items that are at eye level, and easy to take from the shelf, so they place the more expensive items on these shelves. Also, we read from left to right, so the more expensive items are positioned on the right - a good reason to focus on the goods positioned on the left-hand side.

* Pay attention to the tricks supermarket use to make you buy.
On your next shopping trip, focus on the way the goods are marketed to encourage you to buy them, and take note of your emotional reactions. Goods at either end of supermarket aisles are displayed in eye-catching ways; the stock bins dotted around the store don't always contain cut-price goods, although they may appear that way; gourmet foods are sometimes displayed in attractive small baskets, while vegetables may appear in display bowls conveniently located at eye level. Staying in the present and being aware of your perceptions means you notice the merchandising aspects of shopping and your reactions to them without being seduced.

* Beware of the shopping 'shoulds'.
If there is an item on your shopping list and something tells you not to buy, obey! This is really difficult when you're planning to entertain, as you're probably terrified of not having enough food. Trust your inner guidance: it knows better than you do how much food you will need.

* Remember that there are alternatives to the supermarkets, and they are often cheaper. Asian groceries sell dried goods such as rice, pulses and spices in bulk. Greengrocers and organic grocers also sell dried goods. Farmers markets are wonderful places to get fresh goods at cheap prices. Vegetable markets are the place for cheap fresh veggies and there's great atmosphere as well.

* If shopping with tired toddlers is unavoidable, plan your strategy in advance. Bring along some toys and healthy snacks, and have distraction plans at the ready for when the inevitable requests for junk food arise. Try not to let your child handle a junk food item because once they've done this it's much more likely you'll end up buying it. Also, once you give in to one tantrum, you're setting a dangerous precedent.

Want to find out how to save money and uncannily locate the groceries and other items that are right for you? Priced at just $6, The Inspired Shopper is your indispensible guide to fabulous budget shopping with soul!

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Until next time

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