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Your view: shopping around for the best supermarket

A supermarket shopper with a basket

This week, supermarkets have been a hot topic – from value for money, to food labelling, right down to the good old chocolate digestive. Here’s a hand-picked basket of your top comments.

During an investigation, we found some supermarket ready meals with ‘five-a-day’ logos that also contained high amounts of saturated fat, salt or sugar.

We asked if you would expect meals with the five-a-day logo to be healthy.

Bob has little trust in any food labels:

‘Nowadays we take the line that supermarkets (and other companies) are not to be trusted. Therefore labels, pricing claims, and quantities within are not taken for granted. For a long time now, we only buy food which has not been processed as much as possible.’

SKS thinks education could help us make healthier choices:

‘All very well saying eat a balanced diet, but food and nutrition has not been taught in schools for many years. There are generations now who just don’t know what a “balanced diet” is or how to plan and cook healthy meals from scratch.’

Dave R has clear criteria he would like ‘five-a-day’ food to meet:

‘If I had my way, companies would not be allowed to use the five a day logo on any processed ready meals. I would allow manufacturers to use the logo only on frozen and canned vegetables or fruit, provided they also indicated what constitutes one portion. Supermarkets should be required to exhibit a poster in their fresh fruit and veg section, indicating the government’s recommendations on portion size for each variety.’

Battle of the biscuits

The humble chocolate digestive kicked off a wave of biscuit appreciation when we asked if you prefer to buy branded or own-label.

Malcolm R likes to get his biccies from M&S:

‘We buy biscuits from M&S. Chocolate digestives are as good or better than McVities at, often, around half the price. Rich tea, ginger nut, shortbread, and so on, all as good as main brands but cheaper.’

John Ward feels that McVitie’s trumps the supermarket copies:

‘I do believe the McVitie dark chocolate digestive (or the “McVitie & Price Homewheat Chocolate Digestive” as it was called when I was growing up) is the most toothsome of all the brands available, although Sainsbury’s runs it close.’

Best value supermarkets

The results of our supermarket survey inspired you to share where you shop for the best value.

Lombear takes a tactical approach to get the best value:

‘I do two shops now – a first pass at Lidl for the essentials and any offers there and then a lesser shop at Sainsbury’s for anything not available at Lidl. I buy a lot of fruit, veg and meat at Lidl – the price differential between those at Sainsbury’s is crazy. Cucumbers, for example, are 40-60p at Lidl, but nearly a quid at Sainsbury’s. Milk is a quid at Lidl, but £1.18 at Sainsbury’s. Repeat that difference across fresh foods and it really adds up. Now I don’t need to do this, I earn a good wage (and get some pretty surprised looks when I say I shop a Lidl), but I fail to see the point of paying more for equally good supplies through pure laziness or snobbery. I can put my money to better use…’

DiB thinks that some people confuse good value with low prices, in our Comment of the Week:

‘Most of us initially equate value with costing less. However, if we want quality for our money, then perhaps some of the “cheaper” supermarkets may not fare so well. In the present economic climate many shoppers go for the cheap option rather than value. I found that buying better quality means I buy less, waste less, and it goes further. But then when I’m faced with what’s in my purse at the time the better quality product often stays on the shelf.’

Are you getting good value from your local supermarket? Do you think their own-brand products compete with the big names?

Comments
Member

Locally I only have a Sainsbury’s, a Spar and a Poundland. I do not drive and find it irresponsible to damage the environment (and not to mention a waste of valuable time and fuel) by shopping further away. I buy most things at Sainsbury’s but have found that rather than pay a ridiculous £3 odd for Strepsils there I can get 20 Beechams Max Strength for £1 at Poundland. I also buy garden bulbs at Poundland as they are cheaper and seem to do just as well. A shrub I bought there died but I think it had been in the shop too long. I had seen it and should have bought it earlier. Sainsbury’s recently had Guu deserts displayed at two different prices in different places, so I made sure of the saving by using a Spar Valentine’s season special offer, the only piece of non junk in my junk mail for ages.

Member

I am surprised that we have not had many comments about the recent incidents of horse meat turning up in supermarket products.

Some have said that the public has over-reacted because horse meat is not going to harm anyone and it might even improve the quality of the food. The problem is that for meat to be classed as fit for consumption it must pass various tests and be free from veterinary drugs used to treat sick animals. It seems unlikely that a manufacturer fraudulently using horse meat instead of beef in products will be testing the horse meat to ensure it is safe to eat. Slaughtering sick horses seems more likely than killing healthy animals.

I do think there is a cause for concern and with supermarkets selling food from various manufacturers – either in branded or own brand products – it is likely that any of our supermarkets could have a problem. I would expect the supermarkets to provide some information about horse meat in food, but having had a quick trawl of supermarket websites I have only found conspicuous information on Asd’s website.

I looked for information at my local Tesco stor and found an announcement hidden on the rear of a portable advertising panel on display outside the store. I turned it round so that customers could see it.

Member

I don’t find horsemeat the specific issue, just a symptom of a wider problem. If the retailers (supermarkets included) do not know (or condone) what is in the food products they sell, then what nasties are we consuming that we don’t know (and aren’t told) about?
What amazes me about the horsemeat saga is the convoluted route this has taken before it reaches the consumer – from the meat slaughterer through a number of processing plants, with several agents involved, all making a profit on their part in the deal. How can the “value” end product, at the price the consumer pays, have any food value left in it?
A good argument for being cynical about cheap processed food.

Member

I have always been wary of cheap processed food, and I have noticed your concerns about ‘value’ produce in some recent postings. I agree, though I am more concerned about possible nasties than poor nutritional value, on the basis that most of us have a more than adequate diet.

While it is clear that food processors must cut corners to produce cheaper products, I wonder if we are safe buying any form of processed food, even expensive products. For many years, even expensive cooked ham is often ‘formed’ into nice slices rather than cut from the bone, so I wonder what really goes into supermarket pre-prepared foods.

Member

Neighbourhood planning is being promoted and, like many, I am involved in a group pursuing this locally

We are lucky to have two main supermarkets plus a large multiple convenience store in the High Street but fear competition (with loss of outlets) from three surrounding towns which are actively promoting growth.

Are there any studies/statistics that show the value of grocery comparison shopping (as practiced by Lombear and Johnson) to the whole retail scenario in an area?

Member

John H. You might find some published information via one of the websites devoted to shopping or supermarkets.

Member

I do not think it is too cynical to suspect that the convoluted route is to some extent deliberate, as it helps to obscure what is in the food. People were so keen to blame Romanian suppliers and then it was found that they had labelled the meat correctly and that the deception had happened in France. There is also very little joined up thinking. When Ireland has an economic crisis and Romania switches from horse to motor transport what do people think happens to the horses? There is not always extra profit along the convoluted way. Remember Princes sending UK-caught prawns to Malaysia to be shelled and back to the UK because it was cheaper overall?

Member

Having seen various surveys in the past I have always wondered if they are a little skewed as the majority of participants may be the unhappy ones, with happy customers not bothering!
My wife and I have been Tesco shoppers for many years now but I must say I believe the recent survey is very accurate based on our findings over the last year or so, and we have finally given up and will vote with our feet.
We have shopped at the Tesco Wragby Road store for over 20 years now but it’s unbelievable how you put up with issues out of habit, until like now it gets too much.
Firstly and most importantly, the staff in general are rude and give that “don’t care” attitude out. Section staff are hard to find and why queue at customer services with the smokers and lottery participants for half an hour to complain (no exaggeration.)
Here are a few examples of points that have generally made it a totally unhappy shopping experience for us.
1) Offers – usually out of stock even though they have just started, and the staffs general answer that must have been practised, “We only have a small stockroom and the shelf only holds 2 packs”.
2) General fresh produce, fruit and veg very below par. Just peeled a pack of Tesco potatoes and literally a third where black inside. Bananas that don’t last more than a couple of days. Milk with a short use by date, less than a week which is no use when you do a weekly shop.
3) Our usual Brand out of stock, “Why not try our Tesco Brand”. No thanks, have you seen the Which survey results!
Even taking into consideration that our weekly shop is never low in value, and we spend over £100 per week on fuel I don’t suppose our contribution will be missed in the whole concept of Tesco’s profit margin. However, if more like us are voting with their feet perhaps one day Tesco will realise their ship is sinking.
A lost customer.

Member

The most significant finding of the survey on supermarket satisfaction is that, for 4 out of the five supermarkets that offer both premises and internet based services, respondents give a higher rating to the internet service.

Is cyber-shopping becoming the consumer’s preference?

Member

That’s probably because you don’t have to go in the wretched shop. Trolley rage is a most unbecoming condition and well worth avoiding. At least computer rage only involves cursing the computer and not, even inwardly, your fellow sufferers.

Member
Peter E says:
1 March 2013

I always shop at Waitrose. My wife shops at cheap supermarkets. Actually I rather approve of Aldi and Lidl, but then I am a SNOB.
However, last month, my wife was loudly accused of shoplifting in Morrisons (Bracknell), publicly searched, made to cry, and then let go without a word of apology. “What” I asked her “do you expect when you shop in a place like that?” Now she shops at Sainsbury or Waitrose!

Member
Peter E says:
1 March 2013

I forgot to make my point …

My point being that you would NEVER get treatment like that in Waitrose.

Member

Morrisons must get the highest rating for not trusting customers.

When they make a mistake at the till you are required to queue up at the tobacco counter (masquerading as ‘Customer Services’) and then give your name, address and signature – even for 10p.

There is a particularly jobsworth assistant manager at my local store who will insist on this with lengthy stoicism. It is a joy to revert to him after signing and point out that his subordinates have allowed me to record myself as “Mickey Mouse, Disneyland”.

Member

What really annoys me:-
I have to get the magnifying glass to read the nutritional information or ingredients list on various products. I am getting older but do not yet need spectacles for reading or any activity other than driving. Why then do I need a magnifying glass to read the minuscule details on a Waitrose essentials fruit and fibre packet, but can read the same information clearly on a Tesco or Aldi pack. Email to Waitrose coming up ……