One of these is milk. While most politicians are routinely caught out by the ‘how much is a pint of milk?’ question, most normal people aren’t. A litre of semi skimmed in the village shop is £0.95, two litres of organic milk in the big supermarket is typically £1.65.
It’s a simple calculation; milk is cheaper in Sainsbury ergo Sainsbury is a cheap place to shop. Yes, like two and two is five.
Supermarkets gamble on us making simple but wrong calculations to milk us (sorry, that was shameful).
I’ve long suspected that my favourite local greengrocer is cheaper on a lot of things than the Sainsbury in Tunbridge Wells. So I decided to put my suspicions to the test. Donning a yashmak (I made that bit up) I scooted round the fruit and veg aisles in Sainsbury and subtly made notes. Then I went to Leach’s in Ticehurst and compared prices.
First, a caveat. As Chris Leach pointed out, it’s difficult to compare like with like. With supermarkets you pay through the nose whenever you go for the non-basic option or they make you buy more than you wanted to get a good price. On the other hand with a good greengrocer you get the standard price even if you just want one small one – and, or should I say AND, you have the benefit of someone who knows about fruit and veg. and who values their customers making sure you get decent produce. Anyway, here is how big old Sainsbury and little old Mr Leach shaped up;
|Leach’s of Ticehurst||Sainsbury|
|Leeks||£2.20 per kilo||£2.59 per kilo|
|Broccoli||£3.99 per kilo||£2.00 per kilo|
|Peppers||£3.99 per kilo||£4.00 per kilo|
|Courgettes||£2.20 per kilo||£1.80 per kilo|
|Onions white||£1.10 per kilo||£1.00 per kilo|
|Potatoes, King Edwards||£1.00 per kilo (Ambo, like King Edwards)||£0.80 per kilo but only in 2.5kg bag|
|New Potatoes||£1.50 per kilo||£1.50 per kilo standard£2.00-£2.50 per kilo variety|
|Speciality new potatoes||£3.00 per kilo (ttd)|
|Carrots||£1.10 per kilo||£0.90 per kilo|
|Sweetcorn||2 for £0.75 (local)||2 for £1.99 (ttd)|
So as soon as you deviate from the standard with Sainsbury you pay more. Sweetcorn is a good example. Sainsbury’s taste the difference (ttd) sweetcorn comes prepared and packaged, Chris Leach’s doesn’t. However with sweetcorn you really want it to get to the table from the field as quick as possible as it gets starchier and tougher with every passing day. The time it takes to get through Sainsbury’s packaging and supply chain means that you will taste the difference – as Chris Leach buys locally, his will taste way better.
Elsewhere he scores with potatoes (he even has some cheapies out the back which he doesn’t rate for just 50p per kilo) and leeks, comes even-stevens with peppers and close with onions, carrots and courgettes.
And even with broccoli, where the supermarket wins hands down, as soon as you buy it from Sainsbury plastic wrapped (£3.33 per kilo) the difference narrows.
Lastly factor in the other benefits of shopping locally. If you live in Chris’s neighbourhood and your car does 45 miles to the gallon (or 10 miles to the litre) then it’ll cost you around £2.80 in fuel to get to Sainsbury and back (wear and tear not included). Or if you’re single or you want just enough for the next couple of days Sainsbury’s often pushes you into buying in larger quantities to get decent prices. DEFRA has estimated that around a third of food gets wasted. This is why.
The bigger question is how supermarkets can promise with a straight face that they deliver great value when a small greengrocer, like Leach’s, can often match or better their prices.
Supermarkets put the screws on farmers. They have vast economies of scale. They only pass on savings to us when they have to. In short they surely don’t deserve our custom.
Moreover think how shameless they’d be without local greengrocers to keep them on the straight and narrow. All the more reason to support yours and make sure your town or village has plenty of independents shops where people who really know their onions give you expertise and service the supermarkets can’t match and at prices that are pretty comparable and, in a surprising number of instances, better.