Grocery shopping
Prices appear to be the lowest, and the range the greatest, at hypermarkets. Image Credit: Stock image

Dubai: Ever noticed how much of your overall budget you spend on groceries? Grocery shopping is a significant expense for most families and households, but there are ways to make it more affordable.

Tip #1: Regionally-sourced items is more cost-effective than overseas products

When it comes to opting for regional products over those that are sourced abroad, historical statistics indicate how UAE residents have most often preferred the former over the latter for everyday grocery items. However, consumer sentiments does vary with categories when it comes to other segments.

UAE residents prefer regional brands for dairy products such as milk and yogurt, and healthier beverage categories such as juices and water, but in personal and beauty care products, global brands are consumers' preferred choice.

Seven out of 10 respondents perceive that global brands are generally more expensive than UAE brands. This is based on a compilation of polls of more than 30,000 online respondents in 60-plus countries to gauge consumer sentiment about product origin across 40 categories, from consumables to durables.

It’s interesting to note that when asked to select the top three decision factors for selecting a product, respondents say that a sale or promotion on the brand, better product benefits and positive experience with the brand are among the important factors when deciding to buy a product.

Regionally-sourced items is more cost-effective than overseas products

Tip #2: Switch to ‘own label’ products over posher brands, it’s cheaper!

More people are adding own label products to their shopping trolleys, mostly because they're cheaper. Global research by Australia-based Shopper Intelligence found over half (57 per cent) are willing to consider buying a supermarket’s own-label brands, rather than posher brand names.

What are ‘own label’ products?
‘Own labels’ are products manufactured specially for a retailer and bearing the retailer's name. Own-label products are usually cheaper but many people wonder will the quality and taste be as good.

All major supermarket-chains have different tiers of own level products, with the quality rising when you get to the top tier.

Based on the study’s estimates of how much each product an average household would get through in a month, swapping to own-label products from their higher-priced counterparts could save you nearly $20 or GBP15 per month (which translates to monthly savings of about Dh75 or Dh900 per year).

Such a move by consumers will significantly push down the overall cost of the weekly shopping bill, retail consultants confirm, while adding that when it comes to branded vs own-brand groceries, pricier doesn't always mean tastier.

Grocery shopping generic
Switch to ‘own label’ products over posher brands, it’s cheaper!

Tip #3: Stop buying items at eye level, they are pricier than you think!

Have you ever noticed that the more expensive items on the grocery shelves tend to be right at your eye level? That’s no coincidence. ‘Eye-level is buy-level’ is a marketing science that makes us spend more in supermarkets.

Research shows that only a negligible minority of people opt for the most expensive option, or the cheapest alternative. Shoppers tend to go for a mid-range choice, but what most people don’t know is that retailers factor this in too!

They stack their shelves with the most profitable items at eye-level. So if you're looking for cheaper options, look at the shelves above and below your line of vision as you'll probably find a better deal.

So financial planners advise that instead of falling for those marketing tricks, look up and down as you shop. The more affordable brands tend to be higher or lower on the shelves.

Stock - India shopping / Retail / grocery
Stop buying items at eye level, they are pricier than you think!

Tip #4: Save more by crunching numbers while you shop, rounding up grocery cost estimates: experts

If you’re stumped on how to save money on groceries, financial planners suggest that you’ll save yourself from any surprises when you get up to the checkout line, if you keep a running tally of how much money is in your cart.

It’s also recommended that you round up each item’s price. The Dh1.49 product becomes Dh2, a Dh7.75 item becomes Dh8, and so on.

If you do this for everything in your cart, you’ll still know roughly what you’re spending, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you’re at the checkout line and come in under budget every time.

‘Estimation and ‘rounding-off’ are key strategies to cost-effectively buying grocery. Learning to round-off and estimate on things such as groceries can help you know if you are being overcharged or not. If you are relying on your calculation to make sure that you have enough of something, always round up.

So use the calculator on your phone and keep track of all those veggies, fruits and other staple items you’re putting in your cart.

Grocery shopping?
Save more by crunching numbers while you shop, rounding up grocery cost estimates: experts

Tip #5: Buying in bulk isn’t always the cheaper alternative

On the surface, buying in bulk seems like a great way to save money. But is buying in bulk cheaper? When you buy a large amount of anything, the price of individual units tends to be lower. The more you buy, the less each unit actually costs you.

However, although this seems like a sure way to get a deal, buying in bulk often costs people more than they know. Buying in bulk is recommended by experts only if it actually saves you money. Think before you buy in bulk, financial planners reiterate.

Don’t assume that the big bulk buys at the discount stores are automatically the cheaper option. When you’re grocery shopping on a budget, be sure to stop and compare the price per unit or ounce for the item you’re buying.

Although the per-unit price may be low, the overall purchase price is higher than the price of just buying what you need for the week or month. The difference to your shopping budget if you buy a Dh45 bottle of shampoo versus a Dh12 one may mean that you need to put the groceries on your credit card.

The best way to reduce expenses is not by always buying more of a particular product to get a bulk discount, but by being judicious of what to buy in bulk and when to use less or substitute for a cheaper product.

How to save money on groceries by understanding ‘unit pricing’
How to save money on groceries by understanding ‘unit pricing’
Unit pricing is one of the most powerful tools you can use. It is quick and easy to do, and find how unit pricing can save you money on countless items, including groceries, hygiene, beverages or household supplies, and so much more.

Unit pricing allows you to directly compare two different types of the same food or other item by using a common unit of measurement. That way, you know exactly how much you're getting for your money.

There are most often simple units of measurement you can use in most cases - the ounce (oz) or gram (gm). But some products may have different sizes, such as gallons or per count or square foot, but the concept of finding the common unit still works.

Checking the ounces (or other shared unit of measurement) is important, because package size alone can be very misleading.

Here’s an example: If company A sells trash bags for Dh14.99 for 100 trash bags, that is equivalent to 14.9 fils per bag. (Dh14.99/100). If company B has trash bags for Dh19.49, but you get 200 bags, company B is a better value. That is 9.7 fils per bag, which is Dh19.49 divided by 100.

The trash bags from company B are a much better deal based on unit pricing per count. Company B is 9.7 fils per bag vs company A of 14.9 fils per bag.

Tip #6: Knowing when to shop is key to bagging big bargain deals

When it comes to getting a good deal, timing is key. Many experts say it’s cheaper to do your food shopping on Wednesdays. That’s because grocery stores restock their shelves mid-week and mark down what didn’t sell from the week before.

But because they’re in the process of changing the discounts, they often still honour the price cuts from last week’s sale. If going on a Wednesday isn’t doable, the general advice is to try and avoid the weekends. Bigger crowds equal fewer deals.

Time of day plays a big role with bargains too, retail experts reiterate. It’s often said that an early bird gets to hit the clearance shelves first. But if you prefer to shop later in the day, shopping right before closing time when the counters are trying to sell off the rest of their items is another great way to rake in big profits.