/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Are you a ‘professional’ supermarket shopper?

Supermarket shelves full of offers

You know the type, they use and abuse special offers, shop in different stores and swap brands for budget ranges. According to Morrisons, there’s a growing trend towards shopping like this, but is it just PR hype?

Trying to get around the supermarket without being sidetracked by yellow stickers and special offers is no easy task. You go in with a list of items you need, and come out with a whole lot more besides.

At least, that’s how it always feels to me. Despite working at Which? and therefore having a heightened awareness for the fact that these offers aren’t always as good as they seem, I often fall for them regardless.

A professional approach to shopping

We know from many previous Conversations that shoppers are wising up to these ‘special’ offers. Lots of you say you don’t trust ‘buy one get one free’ offers because you think the prices may be inflated just before the reduction is made.

So could Morrisons’ assertion, that consumers are becoming so savvy that they’re becoming ‘professional shoppers’ really be true? According to Dalton Philips, the supermarket’s Chief Executive, people are hunting down price promotions, switching to own label products and group buying – all in a bid to save money on their weekly shop.

‘There is a growing professionalism in people’s approach to shopping. We are seeing it across the country, this phenomenon of checking all the prices and, in many cases, leaving the credit card at home, buying in bulk packs – splitting them with friends or freezing.’

It all sounds sensible, but also like a lot of work. I don’t have the organisation skills to plan my own meals in advance, let alone plan them ahead with friends!

Beat the supermarket

But a quick look back over some previous discussions shows that there are people out there who spend the time and effort beating the supermarkets at their own game.

When we compared the Asda and Tesco price match commenter Buyer showed real ‘professionalism’:

‘It is in fact a good offer… I bought the following: Hovis Medium Sliced Soft White Bread, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Snickers Bars and Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausages. [There was a] difference of £3.34 and I got a £6.68 voucher… with the voucher I then brought things on offer. So if you are clever you can make some nice savings.’

But how many of us really have the time to do this, even if we have the inclination?

Perhaps the easiest of Morrisons’ suggestions is to swap brand for budget lines. 67% voted in our poll to say you buy store cupboard essentials from budget ranges and we’ve also found a fair few Which? Best Buys in budget stores like Aldi and Lidl.

So, just how professional are you when it comes to your weekly shopping? Is Morrisons using this as a convenient excuse to justify its price rises or is there really a trend in the making?


Today in Morrisons there was a “NEW!” shelf label on 160-packs of Tetley tea bags at a price of £2.25. It did not say “reduced” or “special” price but that was clearly the implication. In fact, an 80-pack was £1.12 so buy two of those and save a penny [“Every little hel . . . No, never mind]. i try to be a canny shopper and I can usually afford [and have the storage space] to buy products on offer if they are my usual purchase [or as good as]. I don’t normally trade down to take advantage of offers. We buy a mix of main brands and own-label products selected according to our preferences developed over many years of experience. Some own-label goods are superior to, or at least equivalent to, the pricier branded goods but for some items there can be no compromise – there are other ways to economise if necessary [like eating less, even!].
Supermarkets usually stack the special offer products at the ends of aisles [duplicating the offers in the regular positions] so it’s worth taking a look and seeing if there is something you normally use and will keep or which you will probably need in the near future even if it means going outside your list. As Hannah suggests, smart shopping does require organisational skills; when spotting a new promotion we have to remember what we already have in stock or you end up with gallons of bleach scattered around the house and start consuming at an increased rate just to see it go. There’s nothing like a stock shortage to make you more economical [the last quarter of a toothpaste tube lasts as long as the first 50%!] and there’s nothing like a surplus to make you wasteful. I think supermarkets are alert to that psychology so, whereas – in theory – they should not sell more bleach overall, in practice they achieve a small increase in sales over time which more than compensates for any discount offered under the deal [which is part-funded by the manufacturer anyway]. I think bogof deals are generally worth going for even allowing for a bit of price-hiking but, again, you need to be certain you want it and are not just being seduced by the offer. A good way to curb a tendency to buy too many things is to leave the car at home and shop with a basket not a trolley; a full basket is probably as much you can carry home and you will be naturally restrained from picking up the two giant boxes of detergent that might otherwise have tempted you. Mind you, with washing powders and liquids having reached such astronomical prices now, any offer is worth considering; we try not to buy any unless it is on offer. Strangely, we never seem to be able to get as many washes done with the concentrated products as they tell you on the packs; psychology at work again! And then, having done all this canny shopping, I go and blow the saving on some pathetic indulgence like a DVD I never get around to watching!.


Hi John, you make some great points, especially the one about using more when you have more and saving when you’re running out. I’d never thought like that before but it’s very true!

And yes, I think psychology has a lot to do with saving. I’ve been buying concentrated squash and have made a concerted effort to use the smallest amount – it tastes fine and lasts ages, but it easy to assume you need to use as much as the non-concentrated!


Supermarkets are easier to beat (for want of a better word) than most people realise. They are not your friend, they do not have your best interests at heart and should be viewed with contempt.

As much shopping as possible should be done BEFORE going to the supermarket. Supermarket shopping should only be for a last few bits each week.

Visit local markets for fruit, veg, fish (from an actual fishmonger!) and pick up toiletries etc, cheaper in price, negotiate discounts if you buy say 5 of a product, it may only be 10p per item, better in your pocket.
Call in at your butchers (an actual butcher!) longer lasting, cheaper, often locally produced and fresher meat than any supermarket shelf, less packaging/waste as well. Whilst you’re there, pick up fresh eggs (if you don’t have a milkman), often locally made cheeses, even locally made sauces are available at our butchers.

Shopping this way BEFORE arriving at the supermarket, means I can walk right past whole departments, I can get around fast so I’m in and out quickly, grabbing the few remaining bits of shopping I need for the week.
This way always saves my household money.

Supermarkets are not the customer’s friend at all, many branded goods can be bought cheaper at the local corner shop – who buy in 12 tins at a time – than a supermarket which buys in by the pallet load, how is this possible? Huge profits every six months shows what the big four are doing.

One example of supermarket’s utter contempt for the people of Britain, for me, came as times started to get difficult back in Sept/Oct 2008 – with reports all over the news of desperate times for households to come and people would significantly need to cut back their spending – two of the big four supermarkets in my area, slapped an extra 20% – 30% on the prices of most of their branded tinned goods, the exact products that people were starting to buy to save a bit of money.

Over the past 12 months, our house has been working on eliminating the need to visit any supermarket for our weekly shop, we are almost there, just a few bits to source elsewhere and we’ll be there. The money we have saved each week has been significant, eye waterwing when added up over a month/year.
We have an abundance of fresh seasonal fruit and veg always on hand, our recycling bins have never been more than half full each fortnight. It is even quicker to visit a neighbouring town and back than it is to do a shop at the supermarket.

I may paint a rosey picture, that’s because it is, other than carrying the shopping back to the car I cannot find any other negative point about shopping locally. The added bonus of course, is that I am not lining supermarket shareholder’s pockets, I am putting money back into my local economy which can only be a good thing.

Gimcrack says:
16 September 2011

I roughly know what shops to go in for the cheapest products. Go to the market/Turkish supermarket for cheap fruit and veg, Lidl for cheese and ham, the butchers for meat and I make my own bread. I order online for bulky stuff and make sure I buy in bulk if, say, dishwasher liquid is on special offer.

If you don’t have any local shops and don’t/can’t order online, then you are at the mercy of your nearest supermarket. I wonder if local councils take this into consideration when they give permission for yet another large out of town supermarket to open up.


hate supermarket shopping. I dislike the lighting the checkout, and the fact that you often find items have been moved round to different aisles on different visits. It feels to me as if I am in some sort of maze like psychology experiment – which I probably am, for the interest of marketing people.

Since I live on my own, many of the special offers are irrelevant anyway, as there is too much for one person. Why don’t they offer half price, instead of bogofs? Doesn’t it come to the same thing?

I buy an organic veg box which is locally produced, and transported, and that saves me having to think about what veggies to buy and I can spend less time in supermarkets.

I purchase bulky and heavy items from supermarkets. And also lemons/oranges/avocados, which obviously can’t be locally produced. But I always make sure I have made a list and buy only what is on it. The advantage for the supermarkets is that they usually provide free and easy parking, which does encourage people in.

Of course, there is the fact that some people just love shopping – they love the whole experience of seeing everything before them on the shelves and “finding” a bargain.

As to Morrisons – like Tesco – however much they manipulate shoppers, they don’t like it when people play them at their own game do they?


Agree with many of the previous comments. I would add that there are all sorts of ecologically-sound & economical ways to avoid or at least reduce the amount of time/energy wasted on supermarket shopping. Online & local shopping are good examples; alternatively, invest in greener ways of living, e.g. instead of spending money on endless packs of washing powder all year round, use eco-balls in your washing machine (a set will last up to 3 years for a one off purchase), or try to grow fresh herbs on your windowsill – they smell & taste much better than the dried stuff & are so much cheaper if grown from seed! With such tough economic conditions facing many families, maybe we need to re-consider not just our shopping habits, but our whole value system? Smart shopping is just the beginning…smart living should be the goal.


Don’t waste your money on eco-balls. They don’t work.

Money Maker says:
21 September 2011

Why do Asda always have offers where the total cost of 2 individual items are cheaper than if you purchased a bigger items with the same volume? As an example – very often 2 packs of 6 eggs costs £2 on offer whereas a single box (of the same egg’s on the same shelf!) cost nearly £3? – Very frustrating!