How I use vouchers to save money on the grocery store

When I evaluate supermarket prices for this column each week, there is one thing I don’t take into account. Since the sample cart I use is usually too small for the buyer to qualify for coupons, I don’t include the value they might add. Still, there’s a huge benefit to using vouchers, depending on which supermarket you choose.

With the exception of certain products such as alcohol, tobacco and baby food, most retailers have some form of reward system in place.

Aldi does not use a voucher system or rewards cards and is truly the outlier in the Irish supermarket battle. Interestingly, they consistently show up as the lowest prices in my shopping cart survey.

At Dunnes Stores, it’s a dual system of Valueclub and grocery vouchers. Spend €50 at Dunnes and you’ll receive a €10 voucher for €50 off to use on your groceries the following week. The technical barrier to this is to start by spending €50 in the first week, but the vouchers aren’t connected to your Valueclub card, so it’s worth asking friends and family before hitting the supermarket. Likewise, you collect points for your purchases on your Valueclub card and in return receive additional discount vouchers.

As a rule, Lidl does not offer cash vouchers, although you can get the odd €1 discount on your next store using the Lidl Plus app. The app allows you to scratch and win after your in-store purchases; this week I won either a white chocolate bar or a roll of cling film; do what you want with my buying habits! You can also claim percentages off select in-store items that change every Thursday. If you are a member of the Parkrun community, you can also claim a special offer or a free item every week.

SuperValu’s rewards system is called Real Rewards and earns 1 point per €1 spent. They also offer regular promotions to customers in the form of €5 off for every €35 spent etc. as long as you use the app and scan your barcode with every transaction.

Finally, Tesco has the Clubcard. Basically, this earns 1 point per €1 spent in your pocket, but there are ways to boost the value of that 1 point/€1. You can also save points by refueling at Certa petrol stations and having a Tesco Mobile account. 1 point is roughly equivalent to the value of 1 cent. Uniquely, Clubcard benefits can be boosted for charitable activities and donations, but keep in mind the amount of money you’ll need to spend to redeem these boost coupons. An adult Dublin Zoo pass requires €4 vouchers or a €400 spend to claim.

Personally, I save my Clubcard points in their Christmas savings program, so I receive a significant amount of vouchers in November. You can also make cash payments at the cash register, making it a convenient savings system for an expensive time of year.

You can see where, if you shop at four of the top five supermarkets, you can save money by being a member of their loyalty programs. My recommendation is that you sign up for the bundle and pick the system that’s right for you based on where you’re shopping. Also, talk to friends and family before you hit the stores, you never know who may have a voucher that will benefit you.

I’m continuing to track the cost of a grocery cart in supermarkets over the next few weeks, you’ll see this week’s results below.

Strawberry cream cake

recipe from:Caitriona Redmond

Irish strawberries are just coming into season, so no better reason to make this super-lightweight sponge.

Strawberry cream cake

Preparation time

25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 medium eggs

  • 85g caster sugar

  • 85g plain flour

  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

  • 300 ml fresh cream

  • 4 tablespoons strawberry jam (best if slightly warmed)

  • 300g fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped

Method

  1. Preheat an oven (convection) to 170°, line 2 sandwich molds (12 cm in diameter).

  2. Whisk the eggs and powdered sugar together until light, fluffy and the mixture has about tripled in volume.

  3. Turn off the whisk. Stir the baking powder into the flour, then sift one-third of the flour into the egg mixture. Fold with a metal spoon. Repeat two more times until there is no more flour.

  4. Divide the cake batter between the two sandwich pans and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

  5. Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes before unmolding and assembling the cake.

  6. To assemble the cake, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Take one of the cakes and place it on a cake stand. Spread the top generously with strawberry jam.

  7. Top with two-thirds of the chopped strawberries, then whipped cream. Carefully place the second cake on top. Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and finish with the remaining chopped strawberries.

  8. This cake is best eaten the day it is served but can be kept for another 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Slow Cooker Potatoes

recipe from:Caitriona Redmond

Cook your potatoes in the slow cooker for this energy-efficient, low-waste stuffed potato skins recipe

Slow Cooker Potatoes

Preparation time

5 minutes

Cooking time

4 hours 0 minutes

Total time

4 hours 5 mins

Method

  1. There is no peeling, no chopping, and no boiling in this recipe. Just prick the skins to make sure they don’t burst.

  2. Put them in the slow cooker without water or seasoning (you can add the seasoning later). Lid in place; cook over high heat for about four hours until cooked through.

  3. Remove the potato from the inside and mash it with hot milk, fresh pepper and a knob of butter for a perfect mash.

  4. Spray the skins with oil, season and crisp them in the oven or in an air fryer for crispy potato skins. Sprinkle with grated cheese if desired.

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