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Simple click could save Coles and Woolworths shoppers hundreds when buying online

Using filters the right way on the Coles and Woolworths websites can make a huge difference to the cost of your shop.

If you want to spend as little as possible on groceries at Coles and Woolies, you normally need to do a bit of homework before hitting the shops.

But, if you’re shopping online, there are a couple of handy little website hacks that will do that homework for you.

Here's how you can get the best bang for your back when adding to your cart, as well as a few tips to help if you prefer pushing a trolley.

Composite image of prices of groceries at Coles and Woolworths when sorted by relevance and unit price, on a background of a trolley in a supermarket.
Sorting groceries by unit pricing can help you save a lot of cash. (Getty/Supplied)

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Shopping offline? OK, here’s your homework

The half-price specials come out every Wednesday, but they announce them online every Monday at 5:00pm, so you can make your list once they go live and make sure you’re cashing in on the discounts that week.

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Need dishwasher tablets, for example? There’s a different brand on special each week so, unless you care about brands, there’s no need to ever pay full price.

Once in the store, you can also use the unit pricing on the shelves to compare different package sizes and decide which ones give you the best value for money.

Shopping online? Forget about all that

For you, it’s as simple as this: when you search for a certain product and get your list of results, look for the ‘sort by’ button.

  • At Coles online, change it from ‘Closest match’ to ‘Lowest unit price’

  • On Woolworths’ website, change it from ‘Most relevant’ to ‘Unit price low to high’.

When I do this for yoghurt, look what happens: at Coles, the first products shown are $1.20 per 100g versus 40c per 100g.

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Coles sorted by ‘closest match’

Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website.
Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website. (Supplied)

Coles sorted by ‘lowest unit price’

Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website.
Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website. (Supplied)

At Woolies, the gap is almost five times the price: The first results shown are $1.93 per 100g versus 40c per 100g.

Woolworths sorted by ‘relevance’

Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website.
Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website. (Supplied)

Woolworths sorted by ‘unit price low to high’

Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website.
Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website. (Supplied)

Boom. With that simple toggle of a button, you’ve just ensured you’ll now see the best-value options for every product you search. Some of them will have a low unit price because they’re large packet sizes, some will be big discounts, some will be home brands. None will be top-dollar. Take your pick.

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In bricks-and-mortar supermarkets, the primo spots at the end of the aisles and at eye level in the aisles are all sold to the highest bidder as part of the visual-merchandising strategy. Nothing is accidental.

Online, they might call it ‘relevant’ or ‘closest match’ but they sell those spots too (to be fair, they do label some of the items that come up first as ‘promoted’).

So, if you use the default settings, it’s like you’re only looking at the eye-level products in the supermarket.

One more trick: sometimes you’ll get a cheaper price by selecting a different location. This is mainly the case for Woolies because Woolies ‘Metro’ supermarkets are slightly more expensive.

Here’s the same yoghurt search as the one above when I change the pick-up address to my nearest Woolies Metro. Notice the home-brand yoghurt is now 20c more.

Woolworths Metro sort by ‘unit price low to high’

Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website.
Screenshot showing prices of groceries on a Coles or Woolworths website. (Supplied)

That’s a 5 per cent uptick, which adds up across a whole shop.

Delivery costs

One final thing to keep in mind: don’t pay for delivery.

Coles delivers free if you order more than $100 worth of groceries on your first online shop and more than $250 on future shops with two-, four- or six-hour delivery windows.

Woolies delivers free if you spend more than $100 worth on your first online shop and more than $250 on future shops, with three- or five-hour next-day delivery windows.

If you’re close to the $250 mark, why not stock up on non-perishables that are half-price that week?

In my books, I call grocery savings a “war of attrition”: you need to save a bit here and a bit there and, in the end, it adds up to hundreds of dollars.

So, add these weapons to your online shopping armoury. It all counts.