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Can you spot a supermarket 'bargain'

You go to the store with a list of what you are going to get, yet every week you come out with more than you expected to buy. Don't fret you are not alone.
The Money Advice Service (MAS) found that three-quarters (76%) of people regularly spend more than they meant to in the supermarket due to special offers and bogof - or buy one get one free - multi-buy deals.

Sale prices make it harder for people to assess if they are truly getting a better price. Seeing a special offer makes us impulse buy, we think its a great option and worry about missing out. This means on average people spend £11.14 more per shop MAS calculated that this could amount to an overspending of £1274 a year. 

Though these tactics my supermarkets are currently under scrutiny by consumer watchdogs. In particular multi-buy offers where there is no saving (or even increased cost). 

Tips for avoiding overspending at the supermarket

  • Avoid shopping on an empty stomach. 59% said that shopping whilst hungry meant that they spent more and often on sweet treats and snacks. 
  • Avoid shopping when you  are tired, bored or with children. You are less likely to focus on buying what is on your list and easily become distracted by the impact of offers. 
  • Create a meal plan and an associated shopping list. Working off a shopping list is the most effective way to avoid overspending at the store. Using a list means you are 3x less likely to overspend.
  • When looking at offers relating to items on your list, think carefully about whether the offer is better value. If its a bulk buy (so the price per KG/L is less) consider whether you will use up all of it or will some of the product go to waste. Take the time to consider if an offer is worth it, most consumers spend 0.4s deciding what to buy at the shelves. Taking a little more time to look at the price per weight (this is usually on the price ticket in smaller print) will help you assess whether it is a better value option. But if in doubt buy the product with the lowest price. 
The Money Advice Service used this quiz to see how good people are at picking out the best deal. Give at go and see how bargain savvy you are.

Can you spot the best deal?

The Money Advice Service (MAS) asked more than 2,000 people to select the best-value options when presented with four sets off offers.
Just 2% correctly identified the best-value deals in all four cases.
See how you get on….

Of the following options for milk, which represents the best deal?

  1. Six pints of milk for £1.80
  2. Four pints of milk for £1.40
  3. Two four-pint cartons of milk on offer for £2
  4. Two six-pint cartons of milk on offer for £3.50

Of the following options for buying 500g of lemons, which represents the best deal?

  1. One 500g pack of lemons costing £1.20
  2. 500g of loose lemons at £2.50 per kilo
  3. Buy two get the third free deal on 200g packs of lemons costing 70p each
  4. Buy one get one half-price deal on 250g packs of lemons costing 70p each

Of the following options for buying tomato ketchup, which represents the best deal?

  1. One 460g bottle on offer at £1.50
  2. One 910g bottle costing £2.49
  3. Buy one get one half-price deal on 700g bottles costing £2.29 each
  4. One 1.35kg bottle costing £3.50

Of the following options for buying eggs, which represents the best deal?

  1. Six medium eggs for £1.10
  2. Ten medium eggs on offer for £1.50
  3. Fifteen medium eggs for £2.10
  4. Two packs of six medium eggs on offer for £2.00
  5. Buy one get one free offer on packs of 10 medium eggs priced at £2.20

The answers…

Milk – number 3
Lemons – number 4
Tomato Ketchup – number 3
Eggs – number 5

How did you do in the quiz?

MAS is a free and impartial government money advice service  who have conducted the research which informs this article. We thank them for the important work they continue to do. 

Disease Called Debt


  1. Great post - One of my weekly treats is a spinach and ricotta pizza from sainsburys and because I (quite sadly!) buy it so frequently, I've noticed the price range from £3.00 to £4.50 and it fluctuates frequently. The shocking part is that when its at £4.00, it has a bright red savings label on it to make it look like its on sale even though I know you can sometimes buy it for £3.00. What I'm getting at is that bright ticket labels are clever marketing tools and we should try and become a bit more unresponsive to them.

  2. I "love" it when my husband comes home proudly displaying his 2/1 find (which has a marked price twice as high as what it should be)/

  3. Good tips! Especially the part on shopping with children. You might be tempted to throw in the cart whatever is within reach, just to get it over with :-)

    Also, I always double check my cart before I leave the store and put back whatever I do not really need. That's a 100% discount right there, and you probably won't even miss it.