IF YOU find yourself heading to the supermarket this festive season, it's worth choosing your time carefully.
You're less likely be waiting around in queues if you choose the quietest times to shop – here's how you can find that out.
Supermarkets have loads of safety measures in place to help you shop safely.
People are being asked to shop alone, if they can, to reduce the number of people in stores, while masks are still a must unless you're exempt.
Find the best time to shop
If you search for your local supermarket on Google you will be able find out when it's most popular with shoppers.
It will show you traffic volumes of people based on an average score, as wellas "live" data.
Firstly, search the shop you want to visit. Then click on the location and this will reveal extra data.
The blue shows the average amount of shoppers, while the pink shows the number of people in the store at the time you're looking.
Shops are likely to be busy at the moment but it could help you pinpoint a time when fewer shoppers tend to visit.
Many supermarkets are opening for longer than usual to give people more time and space to shop this Christmas so check with each store directly, as Google does not always have these updated hours.
Avoid the queues
Some supermarkets have created queuing apps which mean you don't have to wait around in the cold or wet if it is busy.
Sainsbury's and Asda let you book a place in the queue and wait in your car.
And M&S has an app that lets you book a shopping slot ahead of time so you're not waiting around.
Sometimes queues can be hard to predict, especially when things like lockdown rules change, so it's best to be prepared for one.
Be prepared to queue outside in the cold and make sure you wrap up warm and don't mind being with crowds.
Morning or evening: which is best?
The bonus of going early is that you will have access to the store which has been fully stocked overnight.
However, some shops stock their shelves throughout the day too – it's worth asking when there are deliveries and restocks at your local store.
Mornings are traditionally quieter, but this may not be the case before Christmas when everyone is trying to beat the queues.
And in some supermarkets, like Lidl, mornings are actually the busiest time of the day.
Again, it's worth checking with each supermarket and the branch you plan to go to.
How to cut the cost of your grocery shop
SAVING on your shop can make a big difference to your wallet. Here are some tips from comparison site Money.co.uk about how you can cut the cost of your shopping bills:
- Write yourself a list – Only buy items that you need. If it isn’t on your list, don’t put it in the trolley
- Create a budget – Work out a weekly budget for your food shopping
- Never shop hungry – you are far more likely to buy more food if your tummy is rumbling
- Don’t buy pre-chopped veggies or fruit – The extra they’ll charge for chopping can be eye watering
- Use social media – follow your favourite retailers to find out about the latest deals
- Be disloyal – You may want to go to different stores to find the best bargains
- Check the small print – It’s always worth checking the price per kg/lb/litre when comparing offers so you’re making a like for like decision as a bigger box won’t necessarily mean you get more
- Use your loyalty cards – Don’t be afraid to sign up to them all. They all work slightly differently – work out what bonus suits you better and remember to trade in your points for additional rewards
If you go late stock may be low because it's sold out through out the day, so it depends what you need.
Some stores replenish items at other times of the day though and not just overnight ready for the morning.
It could be worth asking staff when they replenish the shelves.
Ask for help
If you can't find an item then try asking staff for help.
If you're vulnerable shopper then you might be able to ask staff to keep items for you – they don't have to help you but it's worth trying.
Other shoppers might want to ask staff when key items that they want are going to be restocked as this may change.
If you're worried about going into a store, ask friends or neighbours for help.
Sainsbury's is asking people who have managed to land a Christmas delivery slot to share it with others who have not been as lucky.
If you're older make use of priority shopping hours
Elderly shoppers can access stores earlier then others so they can complete their shopping.
Most supermarkets are still running priority access and dedicated shopping hours for the vulnerable so they don't have to queue – check directly with the supermarket you're going to for what they are offering.
And NHS staff, emergency services and care workers can get priority access and dedicated hours too.
Sainsbury's has warned that it may run out of some fruit and veg due to UK travel bans.
TobyCarvery is doing a takeaway Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for £25 – and it comes with two courses.
If you've lost your job due to coronavirus, or are simply feeling the squeeze this year – there's loads of schemes available that can help you make ends meet.
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