Former supermarket worker reveals ‘secrets’ to making your grocery shop go further

A former supermarket worker has shared some of the top insider ‘secrets’ on how to save money on your weekly shop.

Al Baker, 48, from Aldershot, Hampshire, made headlines after sharing how he lived on yellow sticker bargains after his £300,000 debt forced him into bankruptcy – and saved £10,000 over two years as a result.

Now, the dad-of-two – who previously worked in his local supermarket for more than two years – has shared his top secrets for savings some pennies on your food shop.

From which pre-made products to avoid to the best parts of the aisle to hit up, Al has revealed everything you need to know to help you save that extra cash.

“I started working in the store during the first lockdown when I was put on furlough, and this is how I managed to earn some extra money to help keep the bills paid,” Al, who shares money saving tips on his blog The Penny Pincher, said.

“It’s a very different world, shopping in a supermarket as it is working in a supermarket, and I learned a great deal about the supermarket’s inner workings during my time as an employee.”

For Al, it comes down to five top tips.

Know where to look

According to the former supermarket worker, the aisles are set out with an agenda: make you buy the priciest item.

This is allegedly achieved by having the expensive items at eye level, while cheaper alternatives lurk on the lower shelves.

Al said: “Supermarkets are a bit crafty, and you will generally find that products on the shelf, at eye level, are generally the higher-margin products that the supermarkets want you to buy.

“You will find that if you look down a few shelves, you will find similar products, only cheaper.

“They may not be the big brands, but generally of a decent enough quality, and every penny not spent is a penny saved.”

Speaking of big brands…

Names aren’t everything

We are all prone to sticking to our favourite brands – whether that means only buying a particular type of baked bean, or big name frozen pizzas.

However, Al claims all may not be as it seems when it comes to the most popular brands.

He said: “I heard how a worker in a cheese factory would cut up large pieces of cheese, and this same cheese would then be split into different packages for different supermarkets.

“The same cheese was going into the value range bags, as was going into the premium cheese bags, which is why I will never not buy the value range cheese again.

“Needless to say, it’s not just cheese this happens with, which is why value ranges are, on the whole, well worth considering switching to in order to save money.”

No cutting corners

As much as it may hurt to admit, convenience comes at a cost.

While many of us are tempted by the pre-grated cheese, sliced meats and chopped vegetables, Al believes it is time to break the lazy habits.

He said: “I know it’s handy to have it grated/sliced for you, but is it worth the extra money? The extra cost is often well hidden as well – if you don’t look at the price per kilo information on the price ticket, you will often find that the pack price is similar.

“All the packs are around £2, so the supermarket hopes you will think it’s the same price, so I might as well buy it already grated, but you are getting less cheese, so losing out while the supermarket is raking it in.

“Sliced chicken breast is the same chicken as the whole chicken breasts, so cut your own – it’s on average around £1.50 a kilo cheaper to slice it yourself!

“Pre-prepared vegetables and marinated meats are cheaper by buying the products un-processed and preparing and/or marinating them yourself.

“I’ve come across meat with a marinade, nearly £3 more expensive per pack, purely because it has spices added to it.

“Invest in a value brand spice jar or a packet mix, and it will work out cheaper to spend five minutes marinading it yourself.”

Shop smart online

Over the last few years, online supermarket delivery has become more and more common, and Al has come up with some sneaky hacks to help you get the best bargain.

According to the super saver, timing is everything when it comes to your online order.

He said: “If you place a supermarket delivery order, avoid the early morning delivery time slots.

“This is because the stores will have pickers come in to grab your order off the shelves very early in the morning.

“The issue is that they are generally trying to pick your order before that night’s delivery has been put on the shelves, meaning that many of the shorter life products may not be on the shelf yet, so the picker may not be able to find what you ordered.

“Therefore, you are far more likely to get a substituted item or an out of stock on your order.

“Book a later delivery slot if you can, as generally, the products are then available on the shelf, and you shouldn’t get as many substitutions or out of stock issues.”

If the supermarket doesn’t have the item you want in stock, they will often substitute it with something else – but Al recommends avoiding removing this option in case you get an odd alternative.

Al said: “I remember once getting a Pot Noodle suggested as a substitution for a bag of flour.

“Although many pickers wouldn’t actually pick that, you may get a picker who picks it, mainly because the pickers have time targets to pick an order by.”

Shop yellow but don’t go crazy

Everyone loves a snoop around the reduced section, and sometimes you can find some incredible bargains.

But Al has warned that going overboard on yellow sticker purchases can cause more problems than they solve.

He said: “Most supermarkets will discount a product twice; once in the morning, at between 10% and 25% off and then again in the evening.

“On which items haven’t been sold during the day, and price them at up to 90% off, depending on the supermarket’s reduction policy.

“But regarding yellow stickers, try not to get too over-excited with the bargains. Remember, they have a short shelf life, so only buy what you know you can store or use.

“I’ve certainly been someone who’s gone a bit discount crazy, and got home, had nowhere to keep it and ended up throwing things away, which is a waste of money and adds to the food waste problem.

“Try and have a plan in your head when buying the bargains, and if you know that actually, you may not be able to use it, put it back.”