Tag Archives | grocery prices

What’s your normal bottled water buying routine?

Would you be able to save nearly €1000 over the course of a year by giving up on buying bottled water, and sticking to tap water? You’d be helping your pocket, as well as helping out the environment. Previously, I did a similar analysis asking “What’s your normal coffee buying routine at work?” which could you a further €1400 each year.

Single bottle of water can cost you up to €1.85.

The price of bottled water varies widely, from a few cents to a couple of euro per litre. For illustration purposes here, I’m using a well known sparkling water brand 500ml bottle which you’ll find in any shop in the country. The same 500ml of sparkling water, but from a different brand (imported) could cost you as “little” as €1.19.

A days supply of bottled water could cost you €3.70.

But 6 500ml bottles of sparkling water in Lidl would set you back €1.69 total. Strangely enough, 6 500ml bottles of sparkling water, no matter where you buy the pack in my recent experience, will cost you €1.69. Grocery competition? Where?

A weeks supply of bottled water could cost you up to €18.50

But it’s not just the cost to you or I that’s of interest in buying bottled water as frequently as this. There is the economic cost of shipping water from region to region, or even from country to country. Though, getting a glass of water from our tap these days isn’t cheap – we only need to see the costs incurred by Irish Water when it comes to fixing pipes.

A months supply of bottled water could cost you up to €74.

There is also the cost to the environment through all the plastic used to bottle water. “Plastic water bottles can take over 1,000 years to bio-degrade and if incinerated, they produce toxic fumes. It is estimated that over 80% of all single-use water bottles used in the U.S. simply become “litter”.” Furthermore, “it is estimated that actually 3 liters of water is used to package 1 liter of bottled water”.

Buying bottled water for a year can set you back nearly €1000.

There are obviously some simple alternatives to buying water in plastic bottles. Well, you could buy one, and then reuse it which would save you a lot of money. Never one to advise spending money in an effort to save money, but you could purchase one of those high-quality reusable water bottles you see people using these days. While these bottles aren’t cheap, if you look after the bottle and keep it clean and hygienic, it should last you a long time. Or just use a glass.

And when you’re out, assuming it’s not one of the places starting to charge for it, don’t be shy to just ask for the house tap water.


This Weeks Grocery Special Offers across Ireland

Every week you can access this weeks grocery special offers across Ireland from all of the main grocery chains from this single handy web page. On a weekly basis, sometimes monthly, all the Irish supermarket chains publish their special offers on their websites in various different formats.

You can use this webpage to click on any of the icons below to bring you directly to the this weeks grocery special offers across Ireland from the main supermarket chains.

This Weeks Grocery Special Offers across Ireland

These links are as up to date as I can make them. The supermarket chains, however, don’t make it easy to keep this listing up to date – they regularly change the links to their special offers pages for no apparent reason other than to make it hard to keep this webpage up to date.

If you notice any broken links, or have any suggestions on any other pages that should be added here, please let me know here.


Some help with saving money on your grocery shopping

There’s been a bit of focus on grocery shopping in general in the past few weeks, particularly with the renaming of the Superquinn stores to SuperValu, and the closure of 4 Marks & Spencer stores, but the opening of one other in Limerick.

The Irish Times in particular seems to have gone big on it in the past week, with what seems to me to be a pretty anti-Supervalu / Musgraves slant. I must go back through the PriceWatch articles (and particularly the “Value for Money” ones to see how Supervalu compares in mentions to the other chains.

On a more positive slant, here’s a few links that should help you save money on your weekly / monthly grocery shopping:

  1. I’ve updated the ValueIreland “This Weeks Grocery Special Offers” page with a couple of more outlets who provide weekly updates online to their grocery special offers available. It’s worth bookmarking that page to visit each week to see what’s out there.
  2. Don’t forget there’s the “Top Twitter Tips for Grocery Shopping” that I put together a couple of years ago now – it’s all still very relevant today.
  3. It’s worth remembering that there is no price comparison tool available in Ireland to help you compare prices of grocery items. This seems to be a very popular thing that people are looking for on Google, but it just doesn’t exist. The National Consumer Agency did try to do something some years ago, but went about it incorrectly and thus failed miserably.

Know Your Consumer Rights with Tina LeonadOne final link for you is from the (relatively) new website from Tina Leonard – consumer affairs journalist, radio and TV contributor, and director on the board of the aforementioned National Consumer Agency (though, strangely not declared on her website).

Tina’s website is a great resource with detailed tips and advice on all sorts of consumer stuff, with my suggested link now being her “Saving on your Groceries” article. There’s some great stuff in there, so check it out too.


Big Deal. No, seriously, why bother, Superquinn?

It just shows how dire the state of competition in our grocery market is when Superquinn think it’s worth their while printing up posters telling us how much they’re exactly the same as one of their competitors. Not just a little better, not a lot better, but merely exactly the same.

If you're reading this, you're probably on a PC with internet filtering, or a poor connections, so you're missing a picture of a Superquinn poster proclaiming that they're exactly the same as Tesco.

Competition in our grocery market? Not here anyway.


The National Consumer Agency Price Comparison Website – RIP – and just as well

It’s some time ago that the NCA admitted that they had to give up on trying to build a grocery price comparison website in order to replace their fairly pointless half years shopping exercise around the country.

In a very weak moment, I did express support in this exercise from an organisation that I have mostly very little faith in, and unfortunately, I guess I should have know that my faith was misplaced.

I’m quite keen on the potential that there exists in Ireland for a grocery price comparison website – I’ve even gone as far as developing what I suppose is effectively a “business requirements document” for what could be achieved with such a site given current web 2.0 type available functions and application.

However, as was indicated by the NCA when they announced their ending of their efforts, any grocery price comparison website needs to get the full co-operation of all of the grocery players in Ireland – a level of co-operation that effectively means them handing over a computer data file of all of their prices countrywide every morning.

There’s no point in having a price comparison website if the prices aren’t as bang up to date as possible.

I had thought that the NCA may have been in a better position to get this co-operation than me so I sent them my ideas in case anything could be made of them.

And very kindly, the NCA did give me a couple of hours towards the end of last year to discuss my thinking on the kind of site and functionality required.

We had some relatively indepth conversations regarding how price information could be gathered and classified – particularly to classify products to allow comparison between branded and non-branded items (e.g. 1l of branded milk compared to 1l of non-branded milk).

In my own professional line of work, I work with applications where daily pricing updates are received every day from multiple external data sources where products are categorised to up to 5 or 6 levels to allow cross-comparisons.

Those that I spoke to were particularly interested in that line of conversation. At the end, while promising to keep in touch and keep me updated on their work, they – at the time – gave me a very positive update on where they were in their own efforts.

Three weeks later, they cancelled the project.

I’m writing about this now because I came across a presentation given by the Chief Executive of the NCA, Ms. Ann Fitzgerald, to something called the Eurostat Conference back in October 2009. At this conference, Ms. Fitzgerald gave some inkling as to how the NCA’s thinking was actually progressing with regards to their price comparison website efforts:

The Agency is currently engaged with retailers in an initiative designed to increase the level and frequency of the information provided to consumers.

The Agency is working to develop a system of frequent surveys, covering each of the main retail groups, which will track the prices of commonly purchased basic food and household products.

This would be delivered through each retail group providing us with the prices that they charge for a pre-agreed list of goods at regular intervals. The prices would be compiled and placed on the Agency’s website so that consumers could compare prices and make informed shopping choices on an ongoing basis. In addition, in order to facilitate consumers who may not have Internet access, versions for newspaper and other media outlets would be made available, so that they could also benefit from the information.

If “frequent surveys” was the way they were intending on developing a price comparison website, then it’s probably just as well they didn’t proceed.

“Frequent surveys” would have been about as useful as their 6 monthly surveys – the data would be out of date almost as soon as it was collected, never mind when the information is eventually published.


Who really is the cheapest supermarket? Don’t expect the NCA to tell you!

Splashed across the Aldi website at the moment is the headline “Ireland’s Best Value Discounter”, while available on many of the Lidl special offer pages is a banner that advertises that discounter as “Ireland’s Cheapest Supermarket”.

And both are basing their claims on the July 2009 National Consumer Agency grocery survey.

One could initially say that this further highlights the uselessness of the NCA grocery surveys in that both chains are able to make broadly similar claims (on the face of it) based on the outcome of the same survey.

It also highlights how ridiculous the NCA were to not include these chains in their grocery surveys from the very beginning – it wasn’t until ValueIreland.com carried out the NCA survey in both Aldi and Lidl that both stores were included back in 2008/2007.

But who is cheapest?

Well, the title of “Ireland’s Best Value Discounter” does actually go to Aldi, when comparing Aldi and Lidl only, and only when comparing “own brand results” rather than “branded results”.
But that’s when comparing a basket of 52 items “own brand” items purchased in both stores – all other stores (Tesco, Dunnes, Superquinn etc) are not part of this particular survey (table 2).

The title claimed by Lidl as “Ireland’s Cheapest Supermarket” is sort of incorrect as it only refers to that the part of the survey where “own brand” items are purchased rather than any “branded”. It should really read “Ireland’s Cheapest Supermarket for Own Brand Items”

Technically, it should really read, “Ireland’s Cheapest Supermarket for Own Brand Items in a basked of 19 items, rather than 52”.

With me still?

If you buy 20 listed “own brand” items in Lidl, they are cheaper than all other stores. However, if you buy a basket of 52 “own brand” items in Aldi, they’re cheaper than all other stores – including Lidl.

So that probably means that the “Ireland’s Best Value Discounter” claim made by Aldi is also incorrect – since if you bought 20 items instead of 52, then Lidl would be cheaper.

Confused – you should be, and that’s exactly what supermarkets want – confused consumers. This is why the National Consumer Agency also had to give up on their plans for their “grocery price comparison” website (which I’ll be coming back to soon).

Its unfortunate then that in a grocery market where the chains depend on consumer confusion, the organisation that is supposed to help consumers by reducing that confusion are only serving to increase it with their useless grocery surveys.

Edit 22/03 – Since I originally drafted this article, Conor Popes Pricewatch column in The Irish Times has touched on this topic, Lack of price information costing consumers a packet. In his article, he refers to the NCA grocery price surveys, and the fact that it seems like we thankfully won’t see any more of them:

Speaking at a recent media briefing to promote the amalgamation of the Financial Regulator’s information and education functions within the NCA, the agency’s chief executive Ann Fitzgerald confirmed that the general surveys had been knocked on the head. She expressed disappointment that they were being abandoned but said that obstacles being put in the way of the agency by retailers had made them next to impossible to carry out.

Edit 23/03 – Following on from the Pricewatch article above, CheapEats.ie have followed up also with their article, Pricewatch: The cheapest supermarket?.

Check out their discussion in answer to the question – In the absence of in-depth price comparisons, which supermarkets do you find the cheapest?


Survey shocker – groceries still more expensive down south!

The shocker is that people are still spending time and money on this kind of survey. This newspaper report on a report in the most recent edition of the Consumers Association of Ireland magazine, Consumer Choice, completely passed me my last week.

I mean, come one, with a headline of “Tesco groceries still cost 18% more in South despite cuts”, it’s not really news, is it? It’d be like seeing the headline “Brian Lenihan denies Nama is a developer bail-out”.

Only a couple of observations. I don’t believe a sampling of 25 items from a supermarket that sells thousands of items is a valid statistical analysis. It’s not even a decent sampling of the items that a normal consumer would buy every week.

Okay, you may say, it’s because they’re the bog standard grocery items that we all buy every week that makes them relevant. I’d give you that, but only if the 25 items didn’t include a “Walls Cornetto Strawberry six pack”.

The clincher of the complete pointlessness of this story at all is in this quote from whomever wrote the article in Consumer Choice:

… major retailers should disclose the profit margins in their Irish divisions to introduce transparency into the debate.

This, coming from an Association where some of the board members, and some staff, steadfastly refused over the course of a year to reveal any details about which other organisations they “represented” the Association itself. And an organisation where it took freedom of information requests from some board members to discover the expenses received by other board members when carrying out those “representative” duties.

Transparency indeed!


Update on Grocery Offers E-mail – not much of an update

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the special offers web pages that are presented by most of the Irish grocery chains. I mentioned how I’d written to a few of them suggesting that a couple of changes would make those offers pages a little more user friendly – both for consumers and for people who run websites such as this one.

These suggestions primarily focused on publishing the offers on the same web page each week rather than on differing pages, and potentially publishing the offers on an RSS feed as well.

Well, in 3 weeks, I’ve only received responses from Tesco and Centra. Centra have still to follow up further, and Tesco have confirmed that their special offers will always be available on http://www.tesco.ie/weeklytopoffers/. Tesco also confirmed that publishing special offers via an RSS feed isn’t something they’re going to do for the moment.

If anyone out there has any contacts within the other grocery chains, maybe you could pass on this post and see if they’d like to follow up.

UPDATE: Just to add, following a couple of extra e-mails yesterday, Musgraves PR have just confirmed that they’re following up now as well.


Grocery special offer web pages – hopefully grocers will do better

You’ll probably have seen on many consumer related websites recently the growing listing of the special offers web pages that are updated every week or month.

For the record, here are the special offer links for all the Irish based grocery chains that I can find at the moment. If I’ve missed any, please let me know.These web pages are obviously pretty useful. For me personally, I find the Eurospar and Centra special offers pretty useful as I get some of my regular shopping items from those chains in bulk depending on the offers they have at certain times.

Could Do Better

But I really think that these grocery chains could actually do a little better with their grocery special offers web pages.

The main issue I have with their web pages is that for some of them, the links could change from week to week. This means that the respective websites need to be checked each week to see where the special offers are, and subsequently any links provided one week on a website like done above could be out of date and become a broken link the next week when the link changes.

Certain other pages provide non-standard presentations of the special offers such as Flash images or PDF files. These have the problem that not all web users (and particularly those doing the shopping and potentially visiting these pages) will have the software necessary on their machines to see the actual offers.

Yet another issue is where a couple of the offers pages open up in new windows. These pop up windows aren’t ideal in getting the message across to the widest possible audience as they could be blocked by some peoples internet settings.

RSS Offers Are the Future

Finally, I think these grocers are missing a trick by only publishing static web pages with their weekly or monthly special offers.

I reckon they’d get a much larger audience if they provided their grocery special offers via an RSS feed.

This would directly benefit any consumers who want to subscribe to these special offers where the update each week or month would be pushed out rather than depending on people visiting the website each week. Even coming back each week to check out the special offers might not be so straight forward if the consumers can’t bookmark the special offers pages if their web address changes each time.

I also think that if these grocery chains were to provide their grocery special offers via an RSS feed, it would given them greater flexibility in how to broadcast their message (via anywhere such as Twitter, Facebook, and so on that can publish such a feed).

It would also make it easier for publishers of consumer websites such as this one to promote the special offers to our readers on a weekly or monthly basis and to ensure the information is as up to date and as accurate as possible all the time.

Will the Grocers follow Up?

With all this in mind, last night I contacted most of the above grocery chains providing this feedback and the RSS publication suggestion. Hopefully they’ll all follow up.

I’ll let you know how things progress.


Grocery Shopping – an alternative to your shopping list

I came across this article from the Salt Lake Tribue a couple of weeks ago – Cheap Chick: Shopping for bargains with the “Grocery Guru“.

You should have a quick look at the embedded video (even just the first few minutes) to see the phenomonen that is coupon clipping in the US – something that we’re not as familiar with here.

One thing that did strike me though was a slight change to the normal suggestions that we always have a shopping list every time we go shopping – or at least a set list of things that we normally buy to prevent impulse shopping.

The article suggests doing your weekly shopping, and your weekly cooking, purely based on the special offers that are available in supermarkets each week.

So, if you’re signed up to the LIDL, ALDI and all the other supermarkets “special offers” communications sent out each week, then you could come up with your cooking plan based on what’s on offer for that week, and then do your shopping accordingly – rather than seeing the offers in the store and reacting (impulsively = bad) in the store.


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