Back to (Sainsbury’s) basics

Fascinating facts I have learnt since scrutinising supermarket value ranges:

  • It’s cheaper to buy lemon curd (22p) than jam (29p).
  • Sainsbury’s Basics spaghetti, at 39p for 500g, suddenly seems a rip off when the Tesco Everyday Value version is half the price (19p).
  • 27p buys an awful lot of tea bags, even if you don’t necessarily want to drink them.
  • If you want to buy a small quantity of cheese, butter, margarine or oil: you’re stitched.

Before I went wild in the aisles with a £10 budget for two, I pored over the prices of Sainsbury’s Basics, Tesco Everyday Value and ASDA Smartprice (any excuse for a spreadsheet).

The comparison website and app www.mysupermarket.co.uk was particularly helpful, and Sainsbury’s website most frustrating because it won’t let you re-order products to put the cheapest first.

I find it hard to believe how cheap some of these products are (15p for a tin of custard or mushy peas, anyone?) but they make a massive difference when doing the Live Below the Line charity challenge.

Initially I was surprised at how many of the prices were identical – 25p for baked beans, 31p for chopped tomatoes, 47p for a loaf, 53p for a litre of UHT skimmed milk, 75p for a kilo of frozen mixed veg, 45p for 500g of natural yogurt and so on.

However, this did mean the discrepancies stuck out even more.

Sometimes it was driven by the pack size. For example, Tesco, ASDA and Morrisons all sell cheap cooking bacon at 81p for 500g – but Sainsbury’s opts for a bigger pack, at £1.09 for 670g.

Elsewhere, Sainsbury’s Basics was just more expensive: 65p for 1.5kg flour, compared to 45p in Tesco and ASDA.

Iceland was infuriating because it likes to plaster the place in £1 price tags. I hoped the “experts in frozen food” would ante up some cheap veg – but all the bags I found cost £1, more expensive than the 75p frozen mixed veg at other supermarkets.

However, Iceland does sell 6 free range eggs for £1, the cheapest I found, and 12 unfortunately not non-free range eggs for £1.25.

In the end, saving 70p on pack prices of value pasta, mushrooms and bacon drove me towards Tesco rather than Sainsbury’s for most of my shopping. It may seem a tiny amount, but that extra money meant I could actually include the luxury of some fruit – even if it was only a couple of apples and a tin of pineapple pieces.

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