HOW many times has this happened to you? – you call into a supermarket for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread and end up leaving with a trolley full of bargains!

Sound familiar? Well before you start being too harsh with yourself, you are not alone. Supermarkets want you to part with as much money as possible, and they use lots of sneaky tricks to help you do so.

These include:

Bulk buys and special offers – while you might assume that bulk buying family-sized products is the cheapest option, it’s not always the case. Beware the heavily promoted gallon of mayonnaise, or ‘star buy’ industrial-sized box of crisps as they may work out as the same price as – or more expensive than – smaller equivalents. Likewise, we’ve learnt to automatically think that multibuy, 3-for-£2 type offers will work out cheaper, too: they might not!

So make sure you take a minute to do the maths – all supermarkets display a ‘price per unit’ for comparison (‘per 100g’ for example), normally in the small print on the shelf label. And work out if you really need the extras – special offers on perishable goods can be a false economy, especially once they’re in the bin!

Commuter prices – if you work 9 to 5, it’s tempting to rely on smaller express supermarkets, but beware: these stores may be part of a supermarket chain, but have a smaller (pricier) selection to choose from, and may even be more expensive for exactly the same items, just because of where they are.

Make time for an old-fashioned ‘big shop’ for cupboard essentials – and if that simply isn’t an option, get all your day-to-day must-haves online and delivered to your door.

Eye to eye – the next time you’re in a supermarket, check out what’s at eye level…no doubt you’ll find the more well-known pricier brands than the cheaper non-brand versions. This eye-level placement is a trick used throughout most supermarkets, with expensive items stacked at the most conveniently spottable height. Throw a glance up and down to the other shelves to seek out the cheaper alternatives.

Parents – the same applies to kid-eye height, too. Avoid tantrums and have some distractions handy for when junior spots that strategically placed sweetie.

Resist impulse – supermarkets love impulse buyers….that’s why you’ll find expensive chocolate bars and magazines next to the checkout, or glitzy offers on attention-grabbing end-aisle displays. Don’t be fooled by them. Make a shopping list and stick to it.

If you can’t resist the urge to splurge, use the self-checkout to avoid the tempting wait. And never go supermarket shopping hungry – you’re bound to pick up a pricey snack you didn’t plan to buy.

Don’t slow down – from understaffed tills to narrow, over-crowded aisles, supermarkets love to slow down your trip as the longer you’re in the shop, the more you’ll buy. Find a 24-hour supermarket and go early morning or in the evening to avoid human-shaped traffic jams. Or better still, shop online at your own pace.

Sensory overload – most supermarkets will tempt you by tickling all your senses. From the second you arrive you’re hit with colourful, scented flowers and bright, fresh fruit. And round the corner, take a deep breath and you’ll get a lung full of freshly baked bread or cakes; not long and you’ll be drooling your way to the checkout. Avoid the urge to satisfy your tingling senses and stick to your list.

Plan an essential route – often you’ll find shopping essentials such as dairy products on the back wall of the supermarket. This is because the more of the supermarket you have to walk through, the more chance you’ll be attracted by one of the non-essential, high cost displays. Keep your eye on the prize, keep your head down and focus on your shopping list.