/ Food & Drink, Shopping

What influences you to spend more in the supermarket?

Do you ever find yourself stood in a supermarket, staring at the multitude of offers on display, desperately trying to work out whether any of it is value for money? I know I do…

I’d like to think I’m pretty good at grocery shopping – yep, I’m American ;-). I’m on a budget (saving for a wedding isn’t easy!), so I’m trying to eat out less and prepare my own food more.

It’s important to me to get the most for my money when I go to the supermarket. Unfortunately, sometimes that can be easier said than done. I really can’t tell whether those multi-buys are really worth the money.

Deal, or no deal?

I love a good deal, probably more than the next person, but I hate how hard it can be to tell if the “deal” I’m getting is good at all.

Things like ‘buy one, get one free’ offers when the price for one is £3, and I know that just a few weeks ago I could pick it up for only £1.50.

In April last year, we submitted a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority about supermarkets’ pricing tactics.

The super-complaint called for retailers to stop using pricing tactics that mislead consumers and to make special offers just that, special, instead of sneaky tricks designed to make us think we’re getting a deal.

Research from the Money Advice Service this week says consumers typically spend £1,274 more than they intend to each year. Special offers have the biggest influence on shoppers with 76% of people spending an extra £11.14 in their shop due to these deals, whereas pestering children only influence 26% of shoppers but adds the most amount to the bill (£15.50). Hunger influences 59% and adds £10.87 to the shop, not making a list affects 49% with an extra £13.44, and tiredness impacts 22% of shoppers and costs an extra £13.94.

Pricing tactics

Everyone says you shouldn’t shop when you’re hungry, and I definitely believe it. But that’s sometimes hard to avoid.

I know most of the treats I end up buying aren’t on my mind before I start shopping, but it’s hard to resist when you head to the till and are faced with a huge display of Cadbury’s Giant Creme Eggs. Our investigation in 2014 revealed they were £10 in Tesco and Sainsbury’s in February. It was then on offer at £8 and £6.66 from March onwards in the lead-up to Easter.

This week there were changes starting to come through following our and the CMA’s work for consumers when Sainsbury’s, Asda and Tesco all announced they’ll be changing their practices, and we hope we’ll start seeing fewer dodgy offers on their shelves.

I shudder to think of how much money I’ve wasted over the years due to tempting offers. Offers that might have been misleading and ended up costing me more.

So how do you deal with these supermarket offers? What are the things that lead you into temptation at the supermarket? Do you find it hard to navigate special offers and figure out what the cheapest product really is?


Labels for description and weight are written very tiny. This is done on purpose and really anoys me. 😬

They also puting wrong product (different packsize) in the same allocated space with orginaly priced product (generaly with lower price tag) to do mistske by the shopper.

I do not trust most supermarkets to be open and honest as seems to be the norm now with most of the UK business community. I hate trying to compare prices when items are measured in completely different units. I know why they change the layouts but do not they not understand that this action causes frustration and puts customers off returning

To go into a supermarket without a shopping list is fatal. With a list you buy what you want/need. You have thought about shopping at home/away from the shops. To enter without a list means you are open to shop techniques, shop advertising, subliminal efforts etc. In other words you enter the shop giving up your independence, your choosing; you place yourself at their mercy their control. Milk at the far corner of the store, underpriced to encourage shoppers, while at the same time not paying the milk producers the market price. The 4 big supermarkets control over 75% of food production, this is what you call a monoploly. The Govt is to extend Sunday opening or is increasing the monopoly.

I am in my 70’s and live alone. I do enjoy eating healthily, but often am forced to buy large packs of various foodstuffs, as there are never enough smaller ones, which I think is deliberate.
Could something be done about that?

I tend to ignore offers unless they are something I would buy anyway, or are either non perishable or freezable and likely to be used within a few weeks rather than years.
What really annoys me is Waitrose special conditional “member” only offers. They are distracting, mainly irrelevant, and sometimes obscure the actual price tickets.

Waitrose member offers are designed to get you to buy something you wouldn’t normally buy. There was only 1 item in the choice available that I would buy so no use whatsoever. If they offered you discount on things you did buy, then it might be worth having.

Yes for the most part I too ignore “offers” unless they are on something I had in mind to buy anyhow………
We do have a chest freezer thought,,,,,,,,the largest Electrolux did at the time and if something looks attractive I’m up for bringing a few……Particularly silverside…………..
At one point we bought semi skimmed milk on offer and froze it but we now dont use milk and I have my doubts about homogenized milk now anyhow……….

My wife on the other hand never does a list out and this is the girl that can barely remember what shift she works next and unlike me she’s falling over herself for offers……………Fortunately she usually has more mind about what she likes than what I like so she gets herself plenty………….I want something,,I go get it……………….
She really could do with a list but I’m not allowed to mention the word list…………….Neither am I allowed to mention that she runs out of money about week three or worse of every month…………

No offers are not good,,,,,,they are not as good as many think as so much gets wasted because of them and they are not good because the supplier/grower gets to supply the 3 for 2 etc offers including packaging but doesnt get paid for the extra…………..
I have mentioned this before with no one passing comment and I await to see if anyone actually cares about the people who supply the big stores

DeeKay, I have reported above an example of a decent offer from M&S – coffee buy 3, cheapest free. as the ground coffee from different countries and instant coffee were included I don’t think a supplier might have funded it. Anyway, from my viewpoint well worth buying as we drink these coffees and it stores easily.
We also bought a box of assorted chocolate marzipans that were approaching their sell buy date – £1.80 for 200 g.
In my view it is up to us to be selective about offers, decide whether we think they are value for money and whether we want them. If not, don’t buy. Someone else might think they are good value for their needs.

Malcolm what was all that really about? There are other posts prior to my own written by folk who also have said or suggest they dont like or dont often avail of offers for whatever reason. I dont think I said much different.
I have stated clearly that I only buy offers if I need the goods anyhow. Is there anything remotely wrong with that?
At no point did I say I never buy offers.
At no point can I see did I direct others to not buy offers.
And I’ll stand my ground if I am allowed about offers causing waste which has been clearly shown in recent times.
Now if I can also be allowed to comment as I may I’d like to go to SAINSBURY’s as I need some things.
We do have an M&S in our local town and I have used it and will do no doubt in the future but I will not be using it this evening not even for various coffee’s that may be on offer as I like Sainsbury’s instant coffee granules.
I also like marzipan so much so I get told off for eating it right off the block. Most marzipan treats involve chocolate and I cant eat the stuff for health reasons but I dont have a choice.
I will not be walking around all evening on my already sore pegs to see if I can gain a bargain as I have better more enjoyable things to do such as sit on my rear and relax as I’m full of pains.
Good Night

DeeKay, this was no criticism of what you said. On the contrary I was really trying to say that some find offers useful, others don’t. Personal choice. Just gave an example of offers that were acceptable to me! 🙂

The Which? super-complaint gets a mention in this article about Sainsbury and Tesco phasing out multi-buys: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/household-bills/12151067/Supermarkets-face-ban-on-special-offers-that-cost-shoppers-1000-a-year.html

Sainsbury has generated a fair amount of publicity over this move, and here is what the supermarket has to say: http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/media/latest-stories/2016/0211-sainsburys-to-phase-out-multi-buy-promotions-in-favour-of-lower-regular-prices/

For years there has been criticism about the amount of fresh food wasted as a result of multi-buys and they disadvantage single people.

About four years ago, Asda announced that they would end multi-buys but it either did not happen or last long. Hopefully Sainsbury and Tesco will do better.

It is naive to think that supermarkets will do this on “ethical” grounds. They are shrewd marketeers and will simply be looking to how they can increase or maintain market share in the face of competition.

As far as the CMA is concerned there is a distinction to be made between straightforward offers, and those designed to deliberately confuse of mislead.

Will we have a campaign to ban other “special offers” for products in future, like in “sales”. After all, you never know when to buy a product, do you, if it might suddenly become cheaper in someones “special offer”? Why should anyone be allowed to negotiate a discount on anything – like a car for example – when others don’t? Why should some be allowed to buy theme park tickets where one child gets in “free” with one paying adult? Why do supermarkets charge different prices for the same product – whether it is proprietary or generic, like a loaf of bread or a kg of potatoes. Surely they should all charge the same otherwise it is unfair on consumers who can’t get to the cheapest supermarket.

Well, sorry for the tone of my contribution but I do think consumers should have a choice that is genuine, and that commercial businesses should be able to make their offerings available in ways that they choose, providing they are clear and honest. I am, like most people, quite capable of making my own decisions and my freedom to do this should be respected. If the majority feel strongly enough that, say, certain fresh-food multibuys are wasteful then they will stop buying them and retailers will find no point in offering them. If a minority campaign and put pressure on organisations to have their particular views imposed, that is taking away freedom. Not the way I believe society should operate. Don’t use deceitful examples as an argument to attack the honest ones.

I have given two reasons why I and others believe that multi-buy offers should not be used for fresh food. A great deal of resources are used in food production. Use of fertilisers add to environmental damage and land use for agriculture. After sitting through a presentation by the Environment Agency I was made aware of the vast amount of water used in producing some fresh foods. When I mentioned Tesco’s offer of one cucumber for 90p and two for £1 (instead of the usual price of 45 or 49p each) you said to ignore the ridiculous special offer, but what about those who cannot afford to play the silly games? Thankfully Tesco did not play this game last year, maybe having recognised that it’s not a good idea to alienate customers.

I have no problem with multi-buys on items other than fresh foods (though it’s difficult to fit two large packs of toilet rolls in the bathroom cupboard) but with essential rather than luxury items it will be a problem for those on a tight budget.

I like the principle of the open market place where each trader sets out their stall and displays [or shouts] their price so the customer can choose what to buy and from whom to get it. Since the start of the domination of the weekly shop by the supermarkets we have never been closer to being able to replicate that thanks to all the information now on line. From time immemorial merchants have used discounting as a way of clearing overstocks, selling out at the end of the trading day, introducing new products to the public, gaining market share, making way for new lines, off-loading dented tins, and shifting stuff close to its expiry date. I don’t want to see the end of offers, even multi-buy offers on fresh produce, so long as they are fair and genuine and not tricks. We occasionally take advantage of multi-buy offers on fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy produce, and sometimes we ignore them and just buy the single unit because that is enough. Most supermarkets don’t seem to have multi-buy offers on fresh and cooked meat preferring to give a straight discount instead [sometimes a substantial reduction]. If people want to buy two or more packs of sausages or sliced ham that are heavily-discounted and almost on top of their use-by date that is their look-out. The retailer should not feel under any responsibility for such indulgence – the buyer might be planning a barbecue or a picnic. We hardly ever throw away food, either before or after it has been put on the plate, and I think that, overall, the offers counter-balance the prevailing prices for food and make up for the ludicrous situation where half a cucumber costs three-quarters of the price of a whole one just because it has a bit of cling-film round it. The trickery has got to stop, however – confusing us with inconsistent measures and pack-sizes, placement and labelling ‘errors’, false value claims and reduction suggestions, and scammy rebate tickets at the till with more T&C’s than they can fit on the docket. How much longer do we have to wait for electronic shelf-labelling to be introduced with better information and clearer guidance – even interactive with an options menu? The digital technology is ready and waiting and has been for some years now. Meanwhile the staff play around with little bits of coloured cardboard and placards swinging from the light-fittings.

The Which? super-complaint is targeting the deliberate efforts to confuse the public and hopefully they will be consigned to the history book. I have no problem with heavy discounting of goods on their expiry date. They could otherwise be wasted and people who are short of cash sometimes wait for price reductions.

Until recently I would not have considered buying food from Aldi or Lidl but if they can combine their no-nonsense approach to pricing with a bit of what many of us like in other stores their popularity might continue to grow. I prefer to buy food from UK companies if I can.

After approaching 25 years shopping mainly at a well-stocked Tesco store, which is the only nearby supermarket, my impending removal will probably result in me shopping around more than I have for many years. The nearest supermarket is Morrisons and I was dismayed to discover that they play music throughout the store. I am uncertain what will encourage me to spend more in the supermarket but I am quite sure about what drives me away.

I make use of multi-buys, I am single, and use them for non-perishable, tins, frozen and sometimes fresh when I organise other single people to come round to dinner with me. They do serve a purpose if you use them wisely, I have loyalty cards with several, they inform me when they have offers, which I then take up or not, even though I find the system weighted against the single person.
It is the labelling that is the biggest problem, usually in small print and I don’t have my glasses, or as someone pointed out comparing an apple with apples, using different measuring standards. Poundland is good provided you remember that their tins of soup are small ones, not the “normal” size. Confectionery that shrinks over time and comes back as a “new” bigger size. Cigarette packs of 20? or 19 or 18 or even 17, another con, which the EU are putting a stop to, although our government has been, since 2014, dragging its feet over it.
I can accept fresh produce being a, very small, problem but anything else should come in standard, and easy to compare, sizes.
Unfortunately I doubt that any of the large Trotters Independent Trading (London, New York, Paris and Peckham) followers would agree.

This month’s Which? mag has a report on their Supermarket Survey. On M&S it says “Two thirds of customers think it has a good variety of offers……… One said “I never want a three for two offer…..”

So do we ban offers just because a minority says they don’t want them, when two thirds like their offers?

Perhaps it is because the offers at M&S are worthwhile and clear? A model for other supermarkets maybe?

David says:
25 February 2016

We no longer shop at Tesco’s having complained many times regarding misleading practices and we now find Waitrose behave similarly. We have sent for the manager regarding the practice of offers that have sold out but which have been replaced by very similar products but at a higher price. The shelf label still claims the offer; also multi buys that clog up our shelves or which go off before we can eat them, ie clementine’s and the like. When challenged the managers response has been ” our customers want them” to which we have said look at the age profile of your customers, they cannot consume such quantities within their eat life. His response has been ” I do not think we can agree”
We are not persistent complainers but we have been concerned consumers for many years and object to the crude marketing ploys of supermarkets that mislead and add to food waste.

For several years we have felt that Tesco has been expensive, but with the imposition of ‘Buy one, get one free’ or get the other half-price, has been misleading. It’s always reminded me of the Green Shield stamps where stores charged excessively, but paid you back in tiny little stamps for you to redeem later. We’ve recently noticed that Tesco has dropped some high prices, and have actually been quite all right. But I can still get six cans of Dr Pepper for £2 for six cans at our new local Poundland as opposed to their £3.55 (I think) for six cans of Dr. Pepper

Elizabeth Colgan says:
26 February 2016

I went to my local Tesco yesterday and got the shock of my life, the range on the shelves seem to be shrinking, whether that is because they were ready for stocking up or not I couldn’t tell, the biggest difference was at the tills instead of the usual sweets etc, wait for it! fruit and nuts and stationary etc etc… NO SWEET THINGS!. So campaigning in great numbers really does work. GOOD JOB FROM WHICH AND ALL THE MEMBERS

This is not a comment about supermarkets but relates to a massive increase in price for a shredder that I wanted to buy. (I am writing this on 27.2.16.) It was given top marks in my most recent Which magazine – Fellowes MC62 – so I went on to the Currys’ website a couple of days ago where it was priced at £99.99 but my local store didn’t have it available. I double checked the website again next day as I had a “sale” email from Currys to see if the shredder had gone down in price only to find that it had increased now to £149.99!! To say I was flabbergasted would be putting it mildly.

Marian Biggs says:
27 February 2016

The thing that annoys me most is the way that fruit and veg is packaged. A bag of apples is priced by each individual apple but loose apples are so much a kilo so how can you compare prices? What you have to do is hunt for a set of scales which are usually hidden in a corner or up so high it’s impossible to see the dial, let alone work out which is the best buy.

Here’s an interesting website that allows the market share of supermarkets to be compared over the last two years or so: http://www.kantarworldpanel.com/en/grocery-market-share/great-britain

It would be interesting to see information about what proportion of the market is represented by online supermarket shopping. Delivery vans are a very common sight on the roads. I presume there is less opportunity to manipulate what we buy online.

I was amused to see an Ocado delivery van in the car park of my local Tesco this afternoon. Maybe the staff are treating themselves. 🙂

I like what you say Wave Change. We recently gave up our car and found carrying shopping inconvenient. We now shop on line for our groceries – just buying milk and fruit locally. It is so tricky to compare unit / per 100g prices in store, but on-line it is much much simpler (I’ve bacon) and we only pay £1 for delivery!

Lillian Clegg says:
27 February 2016

Just been tricked into taking out a trial period for Which magazine – talk about hypocrisy and double standards – shame on you Which!!

Hello Lillian, I’ve flagged this for our Member Services team who will contact you shortly. Thanks Lauren

I don’t know how I started receiving these emails from Which either. I did sign a 38 Degrees on-line petition then it appeared I needed to Submit again and two or three pages whizzed by. So, IF I am signed up to any payments, that will be getting stopped pronto.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Beth – I imagine either youare a subscriber or at some stage in the past you signed a Which? petition say on “Nuisance Calls” . As you supported them once your email address was held in case you wished to support them again. And they have emailed[?] you.

Am I right? Just like to know.

Hello Beth, I’m going to get in touch with you about this so we can get to the bottom of it. Thank you

Whilst I agree we should work to make supermarkets stop misleading prices and special offers I also think it is worth focusing on the producers who also suffer by having their prices pushed down by the supermarkets.
At a time when everyone is counting the pennies and trying not to spend too much it is difficult to want to look at the bigger issue of the problem supermarkets have created like putting farmers out of business or bullying them into contracts which mean they earn less for their products. Food and food production costs all along the supply chain and by constantly pushing prices down supermarkets have given us false expectations of what these costs are. I would like to see more campaigns to get supermarkets to clean up their act all the way along the supply chain (and for their workers rights) and not just about honesty in the end costs of the products they sell.

We should all be paying a fair price for MILK. It is just plain WRONG that British Farmers are being paid less for their milk than. It cost them to produce the milk. Crazy. So many dairy farmers have gone out of business so our milk must be imported. That’s ridiculous.

One problem seems to be that milk is cheaper from overseas and, like other goods, consumers – also struggling with the pennies – will pay as little as they can.

I would like to see a detailed exposee of all the costs involved in milk production including EU subsidies paid and how the present value of land is factored in. Simply so that I can understand what the real costs of a litre are and decide whether I should be subsidising farmers.

Perhaps the NFU can provide this for different sizes of enterprise. I have heard that the very large dairy enterprises are profitable, but the smaller ones are suffering. I’ve also heard that smaller enterprises can be profitable by converting milk into other products. Is any of this true?

I dont know where your getting your numbers Malcolm. . . They sound a little like “they tell me” type numbers banded around or maybe notions
If your willing to drink milk from anywhere including the US where the cows are injected with everything and fed on everything to keep them in production near all the time then feel free to buy the cheapest. . .
Google Farmgate Milk prices and you’ll get an idea
Dairy.ahdb has the Jan 2016 farm price at 18.50ppl and remember Dairy farmers are not high on the list for big subsidies so no big gains there like the English arable farmers. .
If you can figure how to make money at 16p it’s time you told our dairy farmers no matter what subsidies are available
I cannot quote on the subsidies as they are typical EU over complicated as usual but they were loaded toward beef/meat/grain production as best I remember or understand

I dont know what your reference to factoring in the value of land refers to
Land prices even at today’s deflated prices are such that the payback is very long for farming

While we were friends with Russia they were buying UK milk product by the 1000s of tonnes and that was money into the UK economy not out
We have Cameron and the EU/US to thank for one that too

Listening to the Farming programme on Radio 4 I think provides enough information from authoritative sources. It also turns up in Radio 4 discussions on food.

Land prices do have a bearing on profitability if you have rent to pay as rental may disappera given the large number of companies buying it as an investment. What with tax breaks and buying through off-shore entities land AND property are attractive to both the honest and the dishonest.

Should we pay more for a pint? Of course we should. It is an absurdity that healthy milk is loosing out to pop and energy drinks which of course cost more per pint. I would be happy to support a particular farm for milk, cream and cheeses as cutting out the middle-men would mean I and the farmer would both benefit.

Full-cream milk actually lasts a very long-time in the fridge so visiting a farmshop every fortnight or three weeks would be no problem.

DereKay, I was asking for information, not pretending to make an informed comment.
We do have to ask about the facts to decide whether we should lobby to get “fairer” prices and where, if needed, subsidies should go.
So can someone post the economics for us?
Agricultural land is expensive and I suspect fuelled by the way the EU treats hand outs. So if a long-held landholding is used for dairy, and the current valuation of the land (rent per cow if you like) is part of the cost per litre, as I would expect a business might deal with its overheads, then I think it relevant.
Before getting swept up in more funding for an industry I don’t understand I would be interested to see relevant facts and figures.

DT here, ,here
I’m glad a few might see past the shelf prices
Only thing is I could do with more per acre for the ground I rent here for cutting. .
By the time I pay insurance and everything year on year I’m left with about £800 for 30 odd acres so renting here is much cheaper than buying
Many of the readers here would not suffer the smells for that amount let alone be bothered with accounts etc


I have have quickly scanned it and it may be too detailed and yet not detailed enough in respect of the UK market. SO another source gives these 2016 figures


Pence per litre cash costs show at around 24p with a range of 22p to 27p whilst the sales price has dropped by at least 7p a litre since 2014 to just around 23p in January 2016.

The cash price is actually not a very useful price as that ignores other costs that farms have. I have copied the explanation below.

Cash Only Fixed Costs exclude unpaid family labour and depreciation and include actual rent and finance costs.
Full Economic Fixed Costs include value of unpaid family labour, depreciation, rental value of owner occupied land and imputed finance costs.

Susan says:
29 February 2016

Supermarkets still state some products as pennies or £ per g and other items per kg. It’s,possible to work it out, however at a glance makes it harder to work out.

Agree that supermarkets should not be able to sell an item on a supposed offer, having hiked the price up just beforehand so it looks like a bargain when it isn’t.

Good to see supermarkets starting to have more and better offers on fruit and vegetables – keep it up.

Val says:
2 March 2016

when you shop for one buy one get one free means nothing rather see lower prices all round

Steve says:
3 March 2016

Putting similar things on shelves which are not offer from either the same supplier or another supplier next to offer items is really annoying because you usually don’t spot that you have been had until you get home.