Tuesday 12 December 2017

Weekly food bill makes basket case of family finances

Dermot Jewell of Consumers Association Ireland answers your questions

Dermott Jewell
Dermott Jewell

Dermott Jewell

QMy husband and I have four children and we are finding it increasingly hard to afford the weekly shop. We are still buying the same amount of groceries as we did this time last year.

However, the price of those groceries seems to have gone up – and as my husband and I have had pay cuts over the last few years, it is very hard to put food on the table. Is there anything we can do to bring down the cost of our weekly shop?

Aisling, Clondalkin,

Dublin 22

Dermot replies: Reducing the cost of the weekly shop is possible but you will need to change your buying pattern and habits. A weekly shop suggests that you are buying only what is needed for the week.

Although weekly shops are good because they avoid you throwing away expensive unused food, you could be losing out on three-for-two or special bulk offers. The danger with bulk offers is that they can make you buy unnecessarily. However, if the offer is good, the best-before date is long, and it is a product you will continually use, you should save money.

Bulk buying comes with big upfront costs. You can get around with this by teaming up with other family members, close friends and neighbours to share the bulk buying – and the savings that arise.

If you have not already done so, shop around for your weekly shop. Many consumers who have broken their shopping out across different retailers have saved a lot by doing so. You could shop for your meat, fish and vegetables at one outlet; toiletries and paper products in another; dairy, cheeses and fruit at a third; and bread, papers, milk and so on locally to avoid wastage and spoiling.

Take a close look at your spend and you should see that a fortnightly or monthly shop across various outlets will provide immediate and badly needed savings.

Q I'm not the most assertive person. When I go to a retailer to complain about faulty or inadequate products, I get nowhere. How can I get better at complaining?

Mark, Fethard, Co Tipperary

A Complaining requires confidence – and knowledge of your rights and entitlements. If you have paid for something which is broken and not working, you are certainly entitled to bring it back. After that, things get a little cloudy.

When you buy anything, you enter into a contract with the seller. Under consumer law, if you buy something which is not of good quality, not working and so not fit for its intended purpose and/or not as it was described or advertised, you have the right to bring it back and seek a refund, replacement or a repair which will restore it to its full working condition – the condition you paid for.

If you buy something which turns out to be faulty, return it to the shop as soon as possible. Always state the facts calmly but assertively. You will need to have the original receipt or a bank or credit card statement proving that it was you who made the purchase and who made that contract with the seller. If you hire someone to provide a service, the same rights apply – good quality, safe products and materials must be used by the person or company you entered a contract with.

These are your basic rights – and if they are denied to you, you can seek redress from the National Consumer Agency or the Small Claims Court.

  • Dermott Jewell is the policy and council advisor with the consumer lobby group, the Consumers' Association of Ireland – www.thecai.ie

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