There are two ways you can look at the weekly shop.
- It’s an expensive and tedious task that takes hours
- A quick and efficient operation that saves you money
Most parents are firmly in the first camp. Whether your child’s a baby, a toddler, at school or a teen, they can cause havoc with your plans to do a quick, military-style run about the shop. They nag, cry, whine and usually throw a complete tantrum because they aren’t allowed to have xyz toy that is either shiny or the latest must-have in their friendship circle. It’s easy to understand why most of us end up buying headache tablets and another Iggle Piggle instead of the much needed oven cleaner or milk.
Here are three top tips on how to make your shopping gauntlet into a fun experience that takes it easy on your finances.
1. Eat before you leave
Yes, you heard me. Don’t even think of doing your shop if anyone in your family is heading towards the hunger zone. I know that usually (well certainly in my family) you are off to the shops because the entire cupboard is bare but try and scrape a sandwich together before you head off. Most people, be they adults or kids, get grumpy and unpleasant when their stomach starts growling and you are far more likely to buy stuff you don’t need when you’re hungry.
In fact, supermarkets take advantage of our body’s basic responses to yummy smells and tasty sights by placing fruit and veg in the most appealing ways and filling the air with the scent of baking bread. Your body is designed to cave in, get hungry and grab the available food. If you’ve eaten your fill at home you’ll be less likely to buy things that you don’t need or want (that will also affect your waistline!) and your kids will be more inclined to relax and enjoy the trip.
2. Make a shopping list
This does seem stunningly obvious but there are many people who go off to the shops with a mental list of the things they need. This puts them in a very vulnerable position when it comes to falling for cunning supermarket plans and impulse buying. If you have a set budget and list before you even set foot in the door you’re far less likely to end up buying a bunch of things you don’t need.
Many supermarket offers like “Buy 3 for 2” or “Buy 1 get 1 free” are actually not quite as magical as they seem. If you take a little time to work out the actual price differences, you may not end up saving as much money as you thought. And you may end up throwing away those two extra packets/boxes you bought because they are right on their expiry date. You end up disposing of the supermarket’s junk for them, and paying for the privilege! If you are a large family then consider going to shops that let you buy in bulk rather than relying on these offers.
However, that said, if you are going to use that specific product before it expires and you save some cash by taking advantage of the offer then by all means go ahead. But, again, before you do why not look at the other brands around the offer first. You may discover that buying three of the tins one shelf down works out to £2 cheaper rather than 20p cheaper. If you know that your little one’s will want a treat or you like to give them one, say you’re a monthly rather than weekly shopper, just include the cost of their treats into your list. It’s also a good way to teach them money values as they hunt down their daily treat and remain distracted while you ponder the shelves.
3. Curb your impulses
Superstores want your impulse buys. They design their acres of shelves and products to capture your attention and make you grab that extra “something” you don’t want or need. If you’re just popping in to grab some rubbish bags or cat food you’ll have to wander past shelves of goods before you get to your destination. Expensive goods are usually the ones sitting exactly at eye level so you’re more likely to nab them as you go past.
When doing your shop it’s a good idea to look up or down while choosing your products, the cheaper items will probably be the ones that force you onto your toes or down on your knees.
It’s not surprising that when you’ve done all this hard work you’re then going to feel like you deserve those chocolates, magazines or DVDs so kindly placed in the checkout queue. This is where you can harness the exuberant energy of your kids. They can rapidly become bored while you scour each shelf for the best offers. Be they tall or small, why not get them to help you find the best deals. If they’re too small to understand money this is a great game – they love to help mummy and daddy so ask them to pick up the products at the bottom of the shelves for you to look at or to help you find the items you want.