Times are tough and our budgets are getting tighter, and one of the best ways to cut spending is at the supermarket.
Even discounters like Aldi and Lidl, which were originally aimed at low budgets, now cater to everyone. In the same aisle you might find cheap sausages next to Wagyu beef.
In fact, 1.4 million more people are now visiting these stores compared to the start of 2022.
In this guide, we:
The basket we chose
To see which supermarket is the cheapest for basic foodstuffs, we compared the prices of 10 items Brits often put in their basket.
The supermarkets compared were Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Aldi, Iceland, Lidl, Ocado, Co-op and Tesco.
Our basket consists of:
- Semi-skimmed milk (1 pint)
- Granulated sugar (1kg)
- Medium Free Range Eggs (6)
- Tea bags (250g, i.e. 80 bags)
- Cheddar (400g)
- White sandwich bread (800g)
- Toilet paper roll (x4)
- Bananas (each)
- Baked beans (420g)
- Digestive biscuits (400g)
Prices were compared in-store and online.
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What do the results say?
I bet you guessed the cheapest and most expensive supermarkets wrong. It’s a little shocking: Iceland’s budget supermarket was the most expensive place to buy our 10 basic items.
Meanwhile, Morrisons came out as the cheapest place to buy our weekly shop.
That said, it was the most expensive for some items, like milk – a whopping 10p more than in the cheapest store – but to counter that, other food items are massively cheaper than anywhere else.
As a pro bargain hunter I know that 30p per toilet roll is a really good deal; it is rare to find this price these days. So it’s unbelievable that Morrisons have six rolls of toilet paper for 97p – that’s 16p each. I have never seen such a price!
All of this goes to show that if you’re looking for the best value for money, you can’t buy from just one store, even if it’s on a budget.
Paying attention to your store is more important than ever. What do you buy in large quantities? What is its good price?
Asda came in as the second cheapest place to shop, with prices still low across the board – but its cheese was the most expensive, costing 30p more than the same amount at Waitrose.
Learn more about the impact of inflation on your money
Basket cost: £7.71
Good for: its fish and meat counters, its bakery, its charcuterie, etc. – meaning people on a budget have butchers and fishmongers on hand to offer advice on cheaper cuts, as well as giving shoppers control over how much they buy.
If you only want one piece of ham, or three scallops, you can get it at the cool counters.
Bad for: while some Morrisons products can be much cheaper than in competing supermarkets, other items can be a bit more expensive – so you need to be warned to get the best value for money.
Trick : do you plan on getting a takeaway? Try Morrisons market cuisine to cut costs.
It has 18 fresh take-out counters in its stores across the country – so you can watch your chef-prepared food (or stay home and let Deliveroo drop it off) for a fraction of the price.
Basket cost: £10.17
Good for: Ocado Disney Meals – an extremely popular meal deal inspired by a Disney movie.
A recent one is the “Miracle Traybake” based on the movie Encanto; it costs £6 (to feed a family of four), but the ingredients separately, apart from the supply, would cost you £9.75.
Bad for: Ocado is online only and does not deliver to much of the country.
Trick : Ocado has some brilliant deals to attract new buyers: it’s common to get a £20 voucher on a spend of £80 or even £60.
And if you don’t shop there for a while, it’ll start dropping big coupons in your inbox to keep you coming back.
Basket cost: £8.33
Good for: the middle aisle, which offers a randomly themed selection of new produce every Thursday (think gardening items one week and candle food the next).
The best part is that you can go there to drink milk and leave with a paddling pool!
Bad for: it can be difficult to make a complete shop because the range of products is limited.
Trick : be sure to download Lidl’s loyalty app, which offers personalized discounts and freebies.
Basket cost: 10:30 £
Good for: the free Tesco Club card. You get points every time you shop, which you can use in-store for your groceries.
But money-saving professionals know that to maximize points for up to three times what they’re worth, you use them at a Clubcard rewards partner such as Hotels.com, Eurostar, Alton Towers and Prezzo.
Bad for: Tesco doesn’t really cut prices on products in stores without a Clubcard. So if you don’t have one, you’ll find that your shop costs a lot more than someone who does.
Trick : Parents love Tesco’s range of F&F school uniforms. The clothes have a 100 day guarantee, including the shoes – so if they wear out (and 100 days is a long time) just take them back and give your child a brand new pair no additional cost.
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Marks & Spencer
Basket cost: 10:30 £
Good for: the Sparks card app. He’ll give you personalized discounts on what you usually buy (20% off chicken, etc.) – and every once in a while you’ll get a freebie, like a pack of Percy Pigs.
Bad for: there’s no direct online ordering – well, it’s not particularly cheap, but look out for its basic “Simply M&S” range for the best value.
Trick : Marks & Spencer has the best “yellow stickers”. If you time it right, you can find massive discounts on fancy dishes you wouldn’t usually treat yourself to.
M&S told us each store cuts food at different times, but it’s always a good cry to go towards the end of the day.
Basket cost: €12.19
Good for: its collaborations with major brands, such as with Greggs, Yo!, Ed’s Easy Diner, TGI Fridays, Chiquito – so you can have frozen “restaurant” meals at home for a fraction of the price.
Bad for: Iceland was the most expensive basket on our list. When it comes to a basic grocery store this is not the place to go.
Trick : Iceland really comes into its own at Christmas, with its range of frozen Christmas canapés, sides and deluxe desserts.
Basket cost: £11.11
Good for: £5 Freezer Favourites: Every week you get six top frozen brands for £5, which is incredible value for money.
For example, during our shopping exercise, there was a tub of Carte D’Or ice cream included in the offer; it’s usually £3.85 on its own.
Bad for: the co-op is more of a grocery store than a supermarket, so it will always be on the more expensive end of the spectrum.
Trick : when you sign up as a Co-op member, you get a card (physical and/or app) and it gives you personalized offers that are refreshed weekly based on your purchase history, as well as offers exclusive to members.
On top of that, you earn 2p for every £1 spent on select Co-op branded items, which you can then spend in a store.
Basket cost: £11.56
Good for: myWaitrose offers – sign up for the myWaitrose card, which offers different vouchers each week.
In addition, the card offers 20% off at the meat and cheese counters every day and 20% off at the fishmonger’s every Friday.
Bad for: Waitrose is not cheap and unlikely to be in a town or village that isn’t ‘posh’ enough.
Trick : don’t rule out own-brand items, which are often the same or similarly priced to products from other supermarkets, but are often of higher quality.
Basket cost: £9.50
Good for: Aldi Specialbuys, which are in the center aisle on Thursdays and Sundays.
Aldi is also arguably the best place to get high-end items at a fraction of the usual cost, such as yellowfin tuna steaks, which cost £3.99 compared to £7 at Waitrose.
Bad for: it’s hard to find specialty items all year round. That often means Aldi can’t be the only store you go to if you’re cooking something exotic from a distance.
Trick : Aldi is doing some really big discounts, with ‘yellow sticker’ bargains. It marks down perishable goods such as bread, meat, fruit and vegetables by 75% on the last day of their life before closing.
Basket cost: €9.39
Good for: the Nectar card – you can collect one point for every pound spent at Sainsbury’s when you sign up for Nectar. Five hundred points are worth £2.50.
There is also “My Nectar Prices”, which personalizes discounts for you based on your shopping habits.
Bad for: Although it has a large and arguably more interesting range of food products than other supermarkets, Sainsbury’s is not the cheapest place to buy the basics.
Trick : Sainsbury’s toy sale is something parents are very excited about. Typically, it’s only once a year, around October, and discounts range from 25-50%. The sale only lasts one week and is in-store only.
Basket cost: £7.99
Good for: Second only to Morrison’s as the cheapest supermarket, Asda has consistently low prices across the range – where Morrison’s, for example, has some very cheap as well as expensive goods.
The product range is also bigger than you’ll find at Aldi or Lidl (which is also consistently low priced), so you can do a ‘shop full’ and lower your total.
Bad for: There is no loyalty program at Asda, which means there are no discounts or personalized gifts for being a loyal customer.
Trick : Don’t forget Asda’s range of clothing, George, which is exceptional value and often trending on Tiktok because it’s so stylish.
Bras in particular are a bargain, especially if you have a large bust and want something pretty.
*Prices are correct as of Thursday August 4, 2022 and may of course fluctuate.