Consumer's supermarket survey: 4 things we learned
We spent 6 weeks surveying supermarkets to compare what it would cost to make classic Friday night takeaway meals at home. Here's what we discovered surveying a different ‘fakeaway’ each week.
For our fakeaways, we chose burgers, lasagne, vegetarian nachos, pizza, pad thai and butter chicken.
Each week, we loaded carts at the four major supermarkets (New World, Countdown, Pak’nSave and Supie) with the ingredients we needed for that week’s dish. Then we compared prices – between supermarkets and with takeaways.
Our recipes weren’t the budget versions. We designed them to cover a wide range of foods, so we could compare more supermarket prices. That meant our lasagne included lentils and spinach, and our pad thai used free-range eggs and chicken, as well as frozen prawns.
More variety meant more insights – here are the four main ones.
1. It pays to shop around
The biggest lesson we learned was this: the savviest shoppers are mixing things up. They're checking out specials, comparing prices and brands, then planning their shopping trips accordingly. You can save a lot of money on individual items just by going to a different supermarket, being prepared to swap brands, or stocking up when things are cheap (if you can afford to).
When we trialled a meal of burgers, 500gm of beef mince cost us $13 at New World, but only $8.75 at Pak’nSave. When we searched for garlic bread to go with our lasagne, a Mamma Forellis two-pack cost $7.99 at New World, but if you switched to Emma-Jane, it would cost you only $3.80 at Supie, the online only grocer.
Prices also fluctuated for cheese, chicken, bread, fresh produce and more.
Using Grocer.nz, the supermarket price comparison app, could help you save you a lot of money on your weekly shopping trip.
2. In our survey Countdown was the most expensive supermarket
Countdown was the most expensive supermarket to buy the ingredients for two of the meals we surveyed: lasagne and pad thai. It was the second most expensive supermarket for burgers and butter chicken.
When we added up the cost of the ingredients for all six meals, Countdown was the most expensive supermarket overall. It was close though – only $1.37 separated it from New World, in second place.
Pak’nSave was third, and Supie was the cheapest.
3. It's almost always cheaper to cook than to buy takeaways
As well as our supermarket surveys, we looked at how much the same meals would cost if you opted to head out and buy takeaways. Almost always, it was cheaper to cook those meals at home.
There were two exceptions. Most supermarkets have cheap options for frozen or ready-to-eat lasagne. At Pak’nSave, a slab will set you back $6.29 – although it doesn’t look that appetising.
Then there’s pizza. Thanks to Dominos, the nationwide pizza chain, there are incredibly cheap takeaway pizza options. On the day of our survey, Dominos was celebrating World Pepperoni Day (yes, that’s a real thing). On that day, you could get four large pepperoni pizzas for just $16. That's a steal.
But there's another factor at play. Yes, takeaways can save you time, and in the case of pizza, a lot of money. But when you're cooking at home, you know exactly what's going into your meal. If you're cooking for kids, you can sneak extra vegetables in (especially in lasagne). And as a bonus, you may have enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
4. These days, you might not save money eating vegetarian
It’s long been thought that if you’re skipping meat with your meals, you’re probably saving a bit of money. But with the price of vegetables these days, that may no longer be the case.
When we cooked a meal of vegetarian nachos, the total bill could be as much as $57 (at New World), thanks to the price of avocados, capsicums, onions and chillis. That’s a similar price to what it cost to make burgers or butter chicken in our survey.
One caveat: our survey was done during September and October, when some of the vegetables we bought were out of season. Prices should hopefully start coming down now the weather’s warming up, and fruit and vegetables begin to ripen.
Read the series
End dodgy 'specials' at the supermarkets
Whether it's an 'everyday low price' or 'super saver', we asked you to send us examples of unclear or misleading pricing and promotional practices, so we can hold the supermarkets to account.