Housing costs aside, the bulk of our hard-earned cash goes towards buying groceries.
CHOICE research shows that the vast majority of Australians are concerned about their food and grocery expenses and they're looking to cut back if they can. Savings, low prices and value for money are top priorities for grocery shoppers according to industry reports, outranking shopping experience, inspiration, and even food quality and freshness when it comes to choosing where to shop.
So where can you buy the cheapest groceries? Here's how survey supermarket grocery prices to find out.
When selecting our supermarket locations, we draw on ABS data to provide a good representation of Australia, taking into account geography, population size, distance to the nearest city centre, socio-economic status, and clusters of the different supermarket chains.
All up our undercover shoppers visit more than 120 supermarkets – Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA stores – in more than 30 locations across Australia.
In compiling our grocery list we first study retail sales data to make sure we include items regularly purchased by average Australians. The intent is to compile a list of commonly purchased items that we can compare on price, rather than a basket that's representative of an average weekly shop.
Basket items are also selected to give good coverage of grocery categories: from beverages, bread, cereal, confectionery, canned fish, frozen veg, pasta, chilled dairy and snacks, right through to household cleaning products.
>We record the pack price for all packaged items, and the unit price (price per kg) for loose items such as bananas and broccoli. The fresh fruit and veg items are chosen for being commonly purchased. We keep the number of these items to a minimum because the quality of fresh produce can vary widely across stores and geography, creating too many variables for a fair price comparison.
The CHOICE shopping list gives you a full list of the grocery items we price.
National brands are those sold in most if not all major supermarket chains, such as Cottee's, Kleenex and Moccona. Selection of the national brand for each basket item is done in consultation with the Retail World Annual Report, and the closest comparable supermarket brand items are selected accordingly.
Supermarket brands are those sold under the supermarket's own brands, including Coles, Woolworths or Aldi's bespoke brands. Supermarket brands are sometimes referred to as 'private label' , 'house', 'store' or 'own' brands.
We put a lot of due diligence into choosing our basket items across the national and supermarket brands to ensure we're making fair comparisons. Where possible we stick to more commoditised – or basic – items with limited differences across brands, to make sure we compare like with like. Canned tomatoes are chosen over ready-made tomato-based pasta sauce, for example, as pasta sauce recipes can vary significantly from brand to brand.
We put a lot of due diligence into choosing our basket items across the national and supermarket brands to ensure we're making fair comparisons
We also spend a lot of time in stores and online to make sure the items we choose have comparable products across the national and supermarket brands – that means they need to be similar in size, type or style, as well as appearance.
For our budget baskets we take our supermarket brand baskets and substitute items for budget versions where they're available, like Woolworths Essentials Penne instead of Woolworths Penne Rigate, for example.
Prices collected in IGA stores are for national brand items and fresh fruit/veg items only.
All up we price seven different baskets of these items.
- National brand basket (priced at Coles, Woolworths and IGA)
- Supermarket brand basket: Aldi
- Supermarket brand basket: Coles
- Supermarket brand basket: Woolworths
- Budget basket: Aldi
- Budget basket: Coles
- Budget basket: Woolworths
CHOICE engages with a qualified partner accredited with the Mystery Shopping Providers Association to undertake the fieldwork. Undercover shoppers collect price data at the nominated supermarkets within five days between a Thursday and the following Tuesday, to avoid the price changes which generally occur on a Wednesday.
For each item we provide shoppers with a photo and specify the quantity, weight or pack size to make sure they're collecting prices for the correct product. Shoppers are required to record the last two digits of the barcode as part of the validation procedure in Coles, Woolworths and IGA. Due to labelling inconsistencies, this is not possible at Aldi stores.
The data is collected via an online program that requires shoppers to enter prices in a consistent format for each item before they can complete the shop. Every shopper's price list is validated for accuracy and completeness for quality assurance.
Supermarkets are an enormous source of research fodder, and the focus of this piece of research is on price. But we understand that many other factors are often considered when choosing where to shop or which products to buy, including convenience, nutrition, quality, supporting smaller and/or local producers and country of origin. And for some people, these other factors may be of higher priority than price.
If these issues are of interest to you, check out the following articles.
- Our supermarket satisfaction survey asks Australian grocery shoppers to rate checkout speed, COVID-safety, value for money, online shopping and more.
- We have long campaigned to improve country of origin labelling to make sure there's a system that consumers can trust, that provides clarity around where food products and their ingredients are sourced.
- We regularly review quality by comparing performance, nutrition or taste of products (including national and supermarket brands) within individual product categories. Our more recent grocery item reviews include:
- If there's a product category you'd like to see us tackle, you can request a test.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.