Save money on your weekly food shop – do discount supermarkets really save you cash?

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Whether your weekly shop consists of a basket of brands or a bag full of bargains, it’s irritating – and unnecessary – spending more money on food shopping than you have to. But do discount supermarkets really save you cash and what about their ethical and environmental credentials?

Do discount supermarkets really save you cash?

We’ve picked five everyday items from the UK’s big four supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons) and two discount supermarkets (Aldi and Lidl) and compared prices of their cheapest ranges. We looked at milk (2 pints, semi-skimmed); instant coffee (100g); wholemeal bread (800g); 6 eggs and 8 sausages (454g). We also looked at their environmental credentials, Fairtrade policies, where they source their food from and food waste.

Hopefully, this will help you become an even savvier shopper!

Asda

The youngest of the supermarkets is ‘tapping pockets’ Asda. Founded in 1965 in West Yorkshire, it now has over 525 stores across the UK and has been part of the American company Wal-Mart since 1999. It employs 165,000 staff and serves more than 18 million customers every week.

Five items from Asda – £3.47

  • Farmer Owned British ASDA semi-skimmed milk, 2 pints = 75p
  • Asda Smartprice instant coffee granules, 100g = 67p
  • Asda Baker’s Selection square cut medium wholemeal bread, 800g = 50p
  • Asda Smartprice mixed weight eggs, 6 = 70p
  • Asda pork sausages, 8 = 85p

Fairtrade:

  • Bananas – 93% of bananas are Rainforest Alliance Certified and 7% are Fairtrade.

Environmental Credentials:

  • Energy – since 2005, reduced energy use in existing stores by 33% and in new stores by 45%.
  • Travel – Asda goods travel 30 million fewer road miles to and from depots than they did in 2005.
  • Waste – in 2014, diverted 98.9% of waste away from landfill.
  • Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories.

SAVVY TIP: The Courtauld Commitment is a voluntary agreement that brings together food organisations to make production and consumption more sustainable.

Food tracing:

  • Cheese – all cheeses are made with British milk (unless specific imports).
  • Red Tractor – nearly all the food that is produced (farmed or grown) in the UK has the Red Tractor logo.

SAVVY TIP: The Red Tractor logo represents the farming and growing schemes of Assured Food Standards, a British organisation that promotes and regulates food quality.

  • Milk – first major UK retailer to sell free-range dairy milk.
  • Eggs – all shell eggs are British.
  • Prawns – farmed warm water prawns are from BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) certified farms.
  • FSC – all of Asda’s Shades toilet paper is certified FSC Mix.
  • WWF – signatory of the WWF Forests campaign and committed to buy timber and timber products from sustainable sources by 2020.

Food Waste:

  • Donations to FareShare: Since 2013, they have worked with FareShare to redistribute surplus food to UK charities and community projects, and since 2010, have donated stock with an estimated retail value of £1.7m to In Kind Direct, benefiting 2,330 charities.
  • Wonky fruit and veg – since 2016, they have sold ‘Wonky Fruit and Veg’ boxes, which are around 30% cheaper than standard lines.

Tesco

The UK’s biggest grocer is Tesco. Founded in 1919 in the East End of London, they now employ 460,000 people globally, have 6,809 stores worldwide and serve 79 million shoppers each week.

Five items from Tesco – £3.49

  • Tesco British semi-skimmed milk, 2 pints = 75p
  • Tesco Everyday Value coffee granules, 100g = 79p
  • Tesco Everyday Value medium sliced wholemeal bread, 800G = 40p
  • Tesco Everyday Value mixed eggs, 6 = 70p
  • Woodside Farms pork sausages, 8 = 85p

Fairtrade:

Tesco are the second largest seller of Fairtrade products in the UK:

  • Bananas – not all bananas from Tesco are Fairtrade, but they are Rainforest Alliance Certified, which means they meet standards that require environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
  • Ethical Trade Managers – they have 45 ethical trade managers across the world to ensure their products are sourced to the highest ethical standards.

Environmental Credentials:

  • Zero Carbon – following the UK’s 2010 Climate Change Act, Tesco have committed to become a zero carbon business by 2050.
  • FSC – by 2020, 100% of the wood and paper materials used in own brand products will be either FSC or PEFC certified or come from a recycled source.
  • Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories.

Food tracing:

  • Meat – all meat sold from the meat counters is 100% British.
  • Fish – the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label is across 28 different types of chilled pre-packed fish and will be introduced to 656 fish counters across the UK, and to relevant frozen fish lines too.
  • Red Tractor Assured – some products carry this logo.

Food Waste:

Less than 1% of food at Tesco is wasted, but this is still 60,000 tonnes a year. They say they want to do more:

  • No waste – Tesco says that no food that’s safe to eat will go to waste by the end of 2017. If food cannot be sold, they offer it to charities and community groups. Since 2012, they have donated food equivalent of over 15 million meals.
  • No food in landfill – Since 2009, no food from Tesco has gone to landfill. Bakery excess unable to be donated to charity is made into animal feed for livestock, chicken fat and cooking oil is converted into bio-diesel and where all other options are not available, they recover energy from food waste through anaerobic digestion or incineration.

Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s is the second largest chain of supermarkets in the UK. Founded in London in 1869, they now sell over 90,000 products, employ around 195,000 staff across the UK and Ireland and have over 26 million weekly customers.

They were the first retailer of organic products in the UK and are the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade products.

Five items from Sainsbury’s – £4.25

  • Sainsbury’s British semi-skimmed milk, 2 pints = 75p
  • Sainsbury’s rich roast instant coffee granules, 100g = £1.50
  • Sainsbury’s Basics medium sliced wholemeal bread, 800g = 35p
  • Sainsbury’s Basics mixed sizes barn eggs, 6 = 80p
  • Sainsbury’s Basics pork sausages, 8 = 85p

Fairtrade:

UK’s first and biggest retailer of Fairtrade products. Hundreds of their own brand products are also Fairtrade.

  • Bananas – 100% of bananas are Fairtrade and they are the UK’s largest retailer of Fairtrade flowers.
  • Tea – they have recently received some backlash due to their own-brand tea ranges no longer being Fairtrade certified. Instead, the supermarket chain are selling ‘fairly traded’ tea. This is not supported by the Fairtrade Foundation.

Environmental Credentials:

  • Carbon Emissions – aim to reduce carbon emissions by 30% absolute and 65% relative to 2005.
  • Water – during 2015/16, 29% water use reduction against 2005/06, this is around one billion litres less. By 2020, aim to increase this to 55% less.
  • Packaging – since 2005, reduced packaging by 32.5%.
  • Wood – 93% of the wood used in own-brand products in 2014/15 (excluding nappies) was from recycled, PEFC or FSC certified sources.
  • Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories.

Food tracing:

  • Meat and Dairy – fresh chicken, fresh pork, eggs and milk are 100% UK sourced, including all of their fresh meat counters.
  • SO organic – Sainsbury’s SO organic range is all sourced from the UK.
  • Fish – all cod and haddock is MSC certified. Aim to have 100% fish and seafood independently certified as sustainable by 2020. Named the best sustainable seafood supermarket in the world in a survey published by the Marine Stewardship Council in March 2017.
  • RSPCA – over 60% of all RSPCA Assured sales are from Sainsbury’s.

Food Waste:

  • Waste Less, Save More – launched in 2015, they are investing £10 million over five years to identify ways to help people reduce their food waste.
  • Food Donation – over 1,900 food donation partnerships across stores. They aim to set all stores up with a registered charity to receive unsold fresh food.
  • Store Waste – surplus food that can’t be used by charity is processed into animal feed to support British farmers or used to generate energy through anaerobic digestion. All general waste from stores is recycled or turned into fuel.

Morrisons

Morrisons was founded in 1899 in West Yorkshire. It is the UK’s fourth largest food retailer with 500 stores, 117,000 staff and serves 11 million customers each week.

Five items from Morrisons – £4.59

  • Morrisons British semi-skimmed milk, 2 pints = 75p
  • Morrisons classic full roast instant coffee, 100g = £1.60
  • Morrisons medium sliced wholemeal bread, 800g = 48p
  • Morrisons Savers eggs, 6 = 70p
  • Morrisons thick pork sausages, 8 = £1.06

Environmental Credentials:

  • Carbon Emissions – 26.9% reduction in operational carbon emissions against 2005 levels. Morrisons were the first major supermarket to be awarded the Carbon Trust Standard.
  • Landfill – 95% store waste diverted from being send direct to landfill. Zero waste direct to landfill in manufacturing sites.
  • LED Lighting – 90 stores fitted with LED lighting.
  • Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories.

Food tracing:

  • For Farmers – over £5 million additional funds direct to British famers through this range.
  • Eggs – all shell eggs will be from non-caged hens by 2025. In 2016, 60% of egg sales were free range.
  • Meat and Dairy – all fresh Morrisons branded beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey, eggs and milk are 100% British and Red Tractor farm assured.
  • FSC – 86% of Morrisons branded household and beauty products are FSC, equivalent or recycled.
  • Fish – Morrisons farmed fish and seafood all comes from Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices or Global G.A.P certified farms, all of which include provisions for fish welfare.

Food Waste:

  • Charity – donates all of its unsold food, which is still safe to eat, each month to charity.
  • Wonky Veg – 25,000 tonnes of wonky veg are sold in stores.

Aldi

German retailer Aldi was founded in 1913. It now has 627 stores and employs 23,620 staff in the UK – globally they have 5,304 stores and employ 104,400 staff. In 2015, they donated 12.1 million Euros to charities and other social organisations.

Five items from Aldi – £4.73

  • Cowbelle British semi-skimmed milk, 2 pints = 75p
  • Specially Selected Fairtrade Colombian instant coffee, 100g = £1.99
  • Everyday Essentials medium sliced wholemeal bread, 800g = 35p
  • Merevale medium free range British eggs, 6 = 79p
  • Ashfield Farm British pork sausages, 8 = 85p

Fairtrade:

  • Roses – Fairtrade roses are sold in all stores.
  • Bananas – 100% of their fresh bananas are Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certified.

Environmental Credentials:

  • Zero waste – aim to become climate-neutral and zero-waste. Between 2014 and 2012 their carbon footprint decreased by 38%.
  • Recycling – in 2015, 99.95% of transport packaging cardboard, paper, and cardboard boxes and 99.93% of transport packaging plastic wrap was recycled.
  • Landfill – since 2014, no waste produced has been sent direct to landfill.
  • FSC – In 2015, 58% of UK products containing wood or paper were sustainably certified. By the end of 2020, all wood and paper products will be either sourced from forests certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC), or made from 100% recycled sources. All Aldi toilet paper, kitchen paper, napkins and facial tissues, advertising and leafles and 100% of the baby range is FSC or PEFC certified.
  • Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories.

Food tracing:

  • Fish – over a third of wild caught fish is MSC certified. All canned tuna is responsibly sourced. As a result, they ranked 5th place in the 2015 Greenpeace Tuna league table.
  • 100% British – all fresh everyday meat and poultry in the UK is from British, Red Tractor approved farms. They are the only retailer to sell 100% British Red Tractor certified lamb. 77% of total sales are derived from products sourced via British suppliers.
  • Fruit and Veg – more than 40% of the fresh fruit and vegetables sold in the UK are British, making Aldi a market leader.
  • Ireland – 100% of Butcher’s selection meat and poultry is Bord Bia Assured. They are the largest retailer of Bord Bia in Ireland and the only Irish retailer to sell 100% Bord Bia approved eggs.
  • RSPCA Assured – more than 70 different products now carry RSPCA Assured label.

Food Waste:

  • Charity – in 2015, 81% of stores donated unsold food to charitable organisations.

Lidl

German discount store Lidl was founded in 1930. They now have over 600 stores in the UK. Over three years, they aim to raise £3 million for the NSPCC. Like Aldi, the stores are more like warehouses and they won’t necessarily always stock the products or brands you want.

Five items from Lidl – £4.83

  • British semi-skimmed milk, 2 pints = 75p
  • Bellarom Fairtrade Colombian instant coffee, 100g = £1.99
  • Simply medium sliced wholemeal loaf, 800g = 35p
  • Woodcote free range eggs large, 6 = 89p
  • Warren & Sons British pork sausages, 8 = 85p

Fairtrade:

  • Bananas – 100% of bananas are either Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade certified.
  • Cocoa – 100% of the cocoa in own brand products is certified as sustainable under UTZ, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance standards.
  • Coffee – committed to sourcing 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee for Deluxe range, with target to certify the entire range of coffee products to either Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade by 2017.

Environmental Credentials:

  • Energy – ISO 50001 certified, which specifies requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining and improving an energy management system.
  • Lights – all store warehouses, staff areas and office buildings are equipped with motion sensors and intelligent lighting systems that activate the lights only when required, helping to conserve energy.
  • Courtauld Commitment 2025 signatories.

Food tracing:

  • Eggs – 100% cage-free eggs by 2025, this includes whole eggs and any eggs contained within products.
  • RSPCA –  certain products have been independently audited to ensure they meet RSPCA Assured scheme.
  • Fish – UK’s largest suppliers of MSC-certified fish, stocking the third largest range of MSC products. All wild caught fresh fish is 100% certified.

Food Waste

Total food waste is less than 1% of turnover.

  • Neighbourly – launched partnership with Neighbourly, a social platform that matches stores to local charities who could benefit from supplies of surplus food.

SAVVY TIP: This is only a snapshot, but, interestingly, discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl actually came out as the most expensive for these five items, with Tesco and Asda the cheapest.

If you want a more comprehensive comparison, you can compare your weekly food shop at the independent price comparison website mysupermarket.co.uk.

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