Supermarket Showdown – Tesco vs. Sainsbury’s

Shopping Bag I love supermarkets, its something about them being a big place with cheap prices. Yes, I’m weird. For most of my life growing up with my parents we shopped exclusively at Tesco (the closest Sainsbury’s is quite a while away). Since living in London my local became Sainsbury’s (no idea where the closest Tescos is, lots of Metros but they don’t count). Initially I was worried that Sainsbury’s would be expensive compared to Tesco, it has that reputation in most peoples minds. After shopping there I was pretty sure it was comparable to Tesco, however whenever I suggest this to people they disagree. I’m a very economical shopper, about 65% of my shopping is Sainsbury’s Basics, the rest Sainsbury’s ‘normal’. No brand names, unless for some special offer where the brand is cheaper. So this showdown is very much Tesco Value vs. Sainsbury’s Basics. Also to cut back on shopping trips I normally shop to cover 3+ weeks (I get fresh veg from Sainsbury’s local when I run out).

I don’t normally food shop online (Sainsbury’s is close and when I want the food, I want it now) However it crossed my mind, if I shopped online I could order from Tesco, maybe that’ll save me money? There is no reason sticking to Sainsbury’s if they deliver it to me. Also maybe online prices are cheaper? So..I ran a test. Doing the exact shop I need now, first in Sainsbury’s with the usual items, then Tesco, trying to match products.

Results Sainsbury’s £69.33 | Tesco £73.92

Not a huge surprise, I’d have loved it if Tesco was cheaper cause I could go save myself some money. What is surprising is how many products where identical prices and quantities. Possibly the same product re-packaged. Some products didn’t match perfectly, but I made sure to find the cheapest version. If I was comparing a Sainsbury’s Basic item I would first look for a Tesco Value alternative, if not available I would go to Tesco ‘normal’ brand. There was the lack of a ‘normal’ pesto in Tesco so the cheapest was the Bertolli brand.

Sainsburys Reciept Obviously this is a very small scale sample and by no means definitive, except for me and what I buy. One thing that could change figures is the taste difference between shops ‘normal’ and Basic/Value range. For example Sainsbury’s basic pasta sauce is not good, very sweet. Having not tried Tesco basic pasta sauce I can’t judge, but if its good, I would buy it and save. I was rather shocked that even for a £70 order Sainsbury’s charged £3.50-5.50 and Tesco £3-6 (depending on time of day) for delivery. This negates the idea that it might be cheaper to shop online. As far as the websites Sainsbury’s had a slicker interface.

Just come back from an actually Sainsbury’s shop and as I expected the prices on the site are same as in-store, no special online offers that effected my basket. Interesting how Tesco’s main advertising angle is money saving ‘Every Little Helps’ vs. Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ however when it comes to the crunch they are one in the same.

Update 08/06/09: I re-posted this on MoneySavingExpert.com and a lively discussions ensued.