Shopping smarter

Food prices always seem to be rising and questions are being asked as to why this could be so in a food growing country like Aoteaoilyragaroa. Some are pointing the finger at retailers, but we reckon the best way to beat higher prices is to shop smarter and grow your own.

Sometimes shopping is dangerous, so dangerous that special forces need to be marshalled. Early one morning we sent the oily rag ‘Shopping Warfare And Tactics’ (SWAT) team out in their fatigues and flak jackets. Their dangerous, and seemingly impossible, mission was to see which grocery chain offered the best buy for oily rag shoppers.

They started out with a list of 25 everyday items that we all put in our shopping basket – flour, sugar, baked beans, spaghetti, milk, cereals, cheese, tea, coffee, biscuits and the like. With shopping list in hand, the team convoyed their way to their local supermarket, stormed the turn styles and invaded the isles.

The first raid was on a discount supermarket that promotes itself as having New Zealand’s lowest food prices. The second assault was on a competing supermarket chain that promotes service and selection. Finally the team was patched through to a local internet café where they had a latté while surfing the web to see how much the items would cost if they were bought online from the very same service and selection supermarket chain. Here are extracts from their debrief.

The discount chain was true to its word. The every-day retail prices for all 25 items on the list were cheaper. The total cost of the basket was $94.52. In comparison, the regular cost of the basket at the “big-range, great service” chain was $115.46.

Six of the 25 items at the second supermarket were on “special”. The specials reduced the total cost by $10 to $104.84, but that was still $10 more than the discount chain. Of the six items on special only two were cheaper than the discount supermarket.

Those who shopped for specials and bought the best buys from each store (23 from the discount store and the two best buy specials from the other store), would have saved another $2.50, reducing the total cost of the 25 items to $92.02.

There was no difference between the online prices for the 25 items and that supermarket’s in-store prices. Even the day’s specials were the same. However, there is of course a packing and delivery charge, which was $19.95 in the example they looked at. This cost can be reduced in some cases as some stores offer a “buy online and pick up” service whereby a shopper places their order on-line then collects the box of groceries themselves – on their way home from work!

On-line specials were found by simply clicking an icon – a great way for frugal shoppers to ferret out bargains and compare them against the checkout tape from their regular supermarket.

The best grocery buying strategy for those watching their pennies is to shop at the chain that has the cheapest everyday prices, but to keep a lookout for those extra special specials offered by the other chains. The easiest way to find these specials is to look at the supermarket flyers and advertisements, or go on-line and search their list of specials.

An important finding was that products sold online by a major grocery chain do not cost any more than if they were bought directly off the supermarket shelf. On-line buying is not likely to suit most oily rag shoppers, but the convenience of having someone else do your shopping for you, and then deliver the goods to your door, will suit some, especially those with limited mobility or limited time.

We are pleased to say all members of the SWAT team returned safely.