Until a few years ago I used to love shopping for groceries. Now it is a chore that I put off as long as possible (usually when the cupboards are looking bare). What started to push me away from the large supermarkets was shopping in smaller discount outlets (for example large chain pound stores and discount chains like Home Bargains). These shops carry many products that are consistently half the price of the major supermarkets (not to mention the odd end-of-line bargain). Surely if these chains, with their smaller buying power and smaller distribution networks can sell at these prices, the supermarkets can too.
Two months ago I decided to see what the options were to doing the main shop in the supermarkets. I’ve always bought everything in one place and realised recently that I’ve been paying a premium for that convenience. I have still popped into the supermarkets for the odd basket of shopping, or for things that I can’t get elsewhere but I’m pleased to report that there are alternatives for those with the time and inclination to use them.
We’ve had an Aldi in my town for ages and I’ve always avoided it. The narrow isles and constant congestion put me off. I’m not that impressed with some of their copy-cat products (some of the products have packaging and names that are as close as legally possible to their named-brand equivalents) but I’ve found their fresh produce and meat is of equal (if not better) quality to that of the supermarkets next door. Of course you can’t get the same range of groceries in Aldi, and they sell very few named brands, but that’s the price you pay for the significant savings on offer! The bonus is that I park over the road in Tesco while I shop in Aldi!
Farm Foods etc
A relatively small freezer chain, and I could lump Iceland and other small freezer chains in this category. Again the choice is limited and the selection of fresh produce is extremely basic. They do have a good selection of fresh produce (for example meats, bacon and cheese) and where they excel is with selling brand names cheaper than the large supermarkets. Again parking is limited but thanks to Tesco who have a large free car park opposite that isn’t a problem…
Home Bargains etc
As I mentioned at the start of my post, these companies are the ones that soured my relationship with the supermarkets. Whilst they carry a lot of end-of-line products that you can’t depend on seeing, they carry a lot of regular items at significant cost savings over the supermarkets. Some of these have their own car parks, but most don’t and this is one of the prices you pay for their lower prices.
We have a Co-op Food store less than five minutes walk from the house, and other local shops within a short walk. I’ve tended to use these shops for top-up and items that I’ve run out of, as they carry only a limited range of essential items. I’ve also learnt that a quick visit to the supermarket for a bottle of milk can cost ten times the amount as I put in special offer items that are placed to tempt me. Using my local store puts a stop to this 🙂
So after two months have I saved any money? My accounting software suggests I have but that doesn’t include the shops that aren’t primarily grocery based. I’ve certainly had more food for my money and the cupboards have never been so full. A supermarket fan might point out that I haven’t been earning loyalty points in these other stores, and that it has cost me extra time and petrol money in travelling between them.
So what now? Having shopped in Aldi I can see why they have been expanding their sales while the larger supermarket chains lose out. I’ll keep shopping around – if nothing else I can be smug about not giving my money to the large faceless chains, and if more people join me they will be forced to look again at their charging policies.
Where do you do your shopping? Have you come to the same (or different) conclusions as me?