The weekly shop is a more stressful affair these days — and not just because we have to contend with panic-buying customers stockpiling essentials.
Confusing new one-way systems designed to help people stay distanced, plus the added discomfort of wearing a mask, mean many shoppers are keen to grab their groceries and get out of the store as quickly as possible.
But experts have warned that the new restrictions could be working to our disadvantage.
Aisle help: To make sure that you don’t miss savings, we hit the shops to find out where you should look for the very best prices
We have probably all experienced putting something in our trolley only to find a near-identical product cheaper elsewhere in the store.
‘Supermarkets group items on shelves according to the consumer’s specific needs,’ says Ratula Chakraborty, professor of business management at the University of East Anglia.
‘The prices charged will reflect consumers’ willingness to pay — and that can differ based on their needs.’
This is why it is often more expensive to buy a packet of dried fruit in the health food section than in the baking section, for instance.
Nuts, likewise, can normally be found in the ‘meal deal’ aisle, health food aisle or crisps aisle, but are also usually cheapest in the baking section.
To take a third example, when you buy fruit juice from the chilled drinks section, it’s only worth paying more if you are buying a fresh product (such as freshly squeezed orange juice).
Shops also stock ‘from concentrate’ juices in the fridge — but the same product can usually be bought cheaper in the unrefrigerated soft drinks section at the back of the store.
Because of Covid, it is much now harder to browse for the best price – and one-way systems mean you can’t easily return to an aisle if something you need was cheaper there
Professor Chakraborty adds: ‘There can often be bargains in the ethnic foods aisle, which many shoppers overlook because they are generally in a hurry and tend to stick to aisles that are familiar to them, rather than exploring the whole shop.’
Staples such as tins of chopped tomatoes and kidney beans are often cheaper in this section than in the tinned food aisle.
But because of Covid, it is now much harder to browse for the best price — and one-way systems mean you can’t easily return to an aisle if something you need was cheaper there.
Supermarkets may also package products slightly differently or use varying size packs, which makes comparing prices even harder, adds Professor Chakraborty.
To make sure that you don’t miss savings, Money Mail hit the shops to find out where you should look for the very best prices .
We asked the supermarkets why they priced their products differently in different aisles, and most claimed that the prices reflected the varying sizes.
A Waitrose spokesman says: ‘In some cases these products are different, and some of our larger pack sizes offer customers better value for money.’
And a Sainsbury’s spokesman says: ‘We are focused on offering our customers the best possible choice, quality and value.
‘Sometimes bigger packs offer better value for customers, as is the case with our own-brand walnuts, for example.’