The best place to shop

We all know what you buy at the supermarket has a major influence on your household budget, but according to the annual price survey released by Consumer, where you buy also makes a big difference.


Each year Consumer’s people storm the supermarket isles armed with a list of 40 top-selling products. They then compare the till-tape totals to see how things measure up. Fresh meat, fish and produce such as alcoholic beverages are excluded because of quality variations.


The survey has once again confirmed what many frugal shoppers already know – Pak’n Save is the cheapest place to buy basic grocery items, which probably explains why it always seems so busy. But Countdown is not out of the picture and offers plenty of bargain-buy specials – although Consumer did point out that the normal price of some of those products was more than Pak’n Save. An example was a 500g block of cheese bought at Countdown in Wellington. It was reduced from $8.99 to $6, but even at $6 the cost was one cent more than the normal Pak’n Save price.


The average saving at Pak’n Save was about $14 on the basket of 40 items.


This year the survey also had some relevance to those who can afford to buy high-end items not usually found at Pak’n Save. The survey included Countdown, New World, Nosh in Auckland, and Moore Wilson’s in Wellington (which is a pretty amazing mouth-watering shopping experience and worth a look – even if it is to only look!). Products included espresso coffee, organic milk, multi-grain bread, premium yoghurt and locally grown olive oil. Here Countdown came out tops.


So here’s the summary. Ignoring specials, for basic everyday items shop at Pak’n Save. But if you are after something a little special then Countdown is for you.


When you are visiting your supermaket, Aaron from Auckland says you should keep an eye out for ham bones in the deli section. “When the staff have sliced off as much as they can with the big industrial slicers they wrap it in cling wrap and generally sell it for under $4. I attack it with a small knife when I get home and can usually cut off enough ham for several dinners and quite a few sandwiches. In winter I use the bone and fatty pieces of meat to make a stew.”


Lynda writes, “At the Delicatessen section of most supermarkets, buy the luncheon off-cuts instead of the almost double priced standard slices. At my local, for example, 1kg of luncheon ‘off-cuts/rag-ends’ costs $2.49 while nice looking standard slices cost $4.50/kg.”


Jaycee from Kawerau says, “Watch for ‘Use Today’ meat specials, often half the normal price, and freeze for future use. Towards the end of the week, meat that is already on special becomes an especially good buy!”


Oily raggers have lots of shopping tips which they have shared over the years:

• Filling the pantry up with bargain buys cherry-picked from a number of supermarket chains is still the best way to minimise your grocery bill. Cook whatever is in your pantry, so you know you are getting meals at the very best value.
• Don’t shop when you are hungry. Those rotisserie chickens are just too tempting, and the cream donuts… oh they are irresistible!
• Pay cash… not plastic to buy groceries – that way you will not only see the money going out of your bank account, you will feel it slipping through your clutches like goo! And only have $100 notes in your purse – most oily raggers will die before breaking a $100 note!
• Think of your grocery bill in terms of hours of work. If your after-tax pay is say $20 an hour (in the hand) then a $160 grocery shop is 8 hours of torturous labour!
• If you do buy fruit and vegetables (and why would you when you can grow your own!) then only buy in season.
• Allow plenty of time to compare prices and find those hidden specials. This may involve complex calculations like dividing the price by the contents so take a calculator, and watch out for blocks of cheese discounted by $2.99 but still costing more than the big yellow supermarket down the road!


• Still on specials, check to make sure the discounted price isn’t more expensive than the standard price of the brand you usually buy.


• Buying in bulk may be more expensive! Work it out on a weight basis to make sure you are getting the best buy. Small packs can be cheaper and it avoids the temptation to use more if you have more in the packet.


Don’t forget to send your money-saving tips to us so we can share them with others.