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We’re all getting a little savvier when it comes to doing the supermarket shop nowadays. We know to go to the budget supermarkets instead, look out for special offers and stock up when something’s on sale. But it seems some deals could be misleading us, as a new report from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that some supermarket promotions are confusing for customers.

It’s thought to be a relatively small problem and not all supermarkets were found to have complicated deals, but the CMA is advising that the big stores make their offers clearer so customers can understand when they’re really saving.

Difficult to understand

Supermarkets often reduce the cost of some items and put a big sticker on them to tell you it’s on sale, but this can sometimes mislead customers. The stores aren’t allowed to advertise the discounted price if they only had it on sale at the original price for a couple of weeks, but the CMA found some supermarkets had been displaying deals in this way. This could make you think you’re getting a great discount on something, when in fact it had been at the sale price for longer than the original price.

The CMA is recommending that compliance is tightened up on these deals, so customers know when they’re really getting a bargain. They also want it to be simpler for customers to compare prices between different brands on sale in a store so you’ll be able to tell which one is good value for money – and if any are just fancy packaging.

Tips to save

Make sure you’re not getting perplexed by the promotions when you’re shopping in a supermarket – here’s how to tell if you’re really getting a good deal:

Check the unit price if you’re not sure which brand you should go for. Let’s say one pack of 24 toilet rolls is on sale for £5 but there’s a 12 pack for £2, which should you go for? If you look on the shelf underneath where the price is, it should tell you how much it costs per item, weight or volume and you’ll be able to tell which one’s really better value.

Use the vouchers you get from supermarkets. Most of the big stores now price match their rivals but it’s not always easy to get these savings back. For example, for Asda you have to log your receipt online and get a voucher.

Go for the own-brand goods. Just because the Heinz ketchup is on sale this week doesn’t mean it’s cheaper than the Tesco’s own sauce and you might not even be able to tell the difference with some products.

Look for cheaper options for fancy products. For example, if you’re making a recipe with smoked salmon, it’s much cheaper just to get smoked salmon trimmings. Or look in the freezers, as you can often get frozen vegetables or herbs that taste as good as the fresh ones.

Stay away from the ends of the aisles. This is where supermarkets will put the products they’re trying to sell the most and although these can sometimes be a good deal, they’re not always. And if it was something you weren’t already planning on buying, you’re not saving money by getting it!

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