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Is Aldi really cheaper than the other two?

Yes - but not as much as you might think - and also ...

First thing to say - I know this has been done before. Everything has been done before. I am not an original. You may even have done your own survey. Anyway, just for a bit of fun, and after I saw this cost comparison in the last Aldi catalogue, I decided to do my own mini survey. I didn't do IGA because (a) there is not one nearby and since we have the other three, why would I bother? and (b) my understanding is that, since they are mostly individually owned, they vary in what they offer. So I am looking at the big two - Coles and Woolworths for the comparison. Here in Eltham we are fortunate to have all three in a row and so inevitably we shop in all three, not necessarily on the same day, but over a week we would have visited all of them.

So what did I actually do? Well before I go into that I should perhaps lay out my criteria. I'm sure that you are all aware of the fact that Aldi's products are basically all home-brand with the exception of a few branded items that appear on their shelves from time to time. However, the comparison above - and similar ones that they have done before is with branded items, not the Coles and Woolworths Home Brands. So what I did was to find the cheapest prices for the products in the Aldi bag, in the other two shops. Interestingly, for these household cleaning products the big two had very many fewer Home Brand products than for food, and so actually the price difference was greater.

Because I also did a very mini survey of some food items that I buy all the time. The list will appear later on - with comments. There were just twelve items on the list. I did not include any fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, fish or delicatessen items because the price of those things change all the time. Mind you it would be interesting to look at that some other time.

I also tried to ignore specials. Again, this was mostly because these change all the time, but obviously if you are a canny shopper you would buy things when they were on a special rather than at their normal prices. One example in our house is butter - not the real butter but the 'almost butter' tubs which we use on a daily basis. When it comes on a 'special' I buy a few tubs and put them in the freezer, thus making sure that I always have some to hand, and also because it's cheaper. Our poor childhoods and youth are so ingrained in us both that we cannot bring ourselves to pay more than we need to for such items. Maybe, however, I am doing the farmers a disservice by doing this. You just can't win in this world can you?

Obviously this is also simply a price survey. Quality is not taken into account here at all. I do buy some things just because they are better quality - real butter for example or Aldi's cheeses - they are very good on cheese. No, for this survey I am assuming that I am checking where to buy if I need to count the pennies. After all that is what Aldi is doing with this marketing campaign.

Let's look at my food survey first. I went around Aldi and wrote the list and the prices down. You cannot find their prices online. For Coles and Woolworths I checked their online prices. And let me also say that this is me, not a survey expert, and so I might have got the sums wrong - although I did use a calculator, and I may not have quite compared like with like.

Cheese for cooking - a kilogram block of Tasty cheese.

Aldi $9.79; Coles $10.00; Woolworths $13.00. I confess I buy the Coles version because I actually quite like the taste. I have very conservative cheese tastes, and this particular cheese is mostly used for cooking - grated on to quiches and pizzas and suchlike. A gourmet would turn in their grave.

Butter - a $250g of unsalted butter - the Home brand version. I mostly buy more superior butter. Aldi $3.60; Coles $3.70; Woolworths $3.70. Not much difference there.

Spaghetti (500g) - Aldi 89c; Coles 90c; Woolworths 90c. The figures speak for themselves.

Plain Flour 1kg - Aldi $1.09; Coles $1.15; Woolworths $1.15

Sugar 2kg - Aldi $2.19; Coles $2.20; Woolworths $2.20 - I should note here that Coles sugar has some kind of international ethical stamp of approval as well.

Tinned diced tomatoes (400g) - Aldi 95c; Coles $1.10; Woolworths $1.10 - do you see a pattern emerging?

Thickened cream (300ml) - this is what I use for cooking and I also usually buy 600ml but Aldi does not have a 600ml size. Aldi $2.79; Coles $2.80; Woolworths $2.80

Orange juice (2l) Aldi $4.49; Coles $2.80; Woolworths $4.20 - a considerable difference in price here and the Coles version was not on a special. I worry I have this wrong somehow.

Sardines in oil - I eat a lot of sardines - some I will not buy because I don't like the taste - Coles and Woolworths home brands - and I sometimes buy much more expensive ones. This is a genuine taste thing for me. But if poor one would not have that luxury. Aldi 85c; Coles 85c; Woolworths 85c

Tomato paste (500g) - Aldi $1.39; Coles $1.40; Woolworths $1.40

Tinned cannellini beans (400g) - Aldi: 95c; Coles $1.00; Woolwoths $1.50 (organic) - they do not seem to have a home brand equivalent to the others. If they do I'm guessing the price would be the same as Coles'.

1 dozen eggs - Free range 700g - Aldi $4.29; Coles $5.20; Woolworths $5.20

TOTALS - Aldi $33.36 Coles $33.10 Woolworths $38.00 - it was the cheese that tipped Woolworths over the top. Which demonstrates that it depends what you have in your typical basket. I chose these items randomly as I wandered around Aldi. But Aldi was marginally - very marginally - more expensive than Coles and Coles and Woolworths obviously match each other's prices. They even seem to have specials on the same things at the same time often.

What about that collection of household cleaners though? Here, I have to say that Aldi is a clear winner, mostly because the other two do not seem to have many home brand items in this category. I wonder why this is? Do the makers of these products have more power than the poor farmers? For this particular collection, I'm afraid I did not check the Aldi prices, and just took their total on trust. I took the Coles and Woolworths prices from the websites, choosing the cheapest product, whether it was a brand or a home brand item. These are more expensive items too. Some of them, possibly unnecessary.

Fabric softener Coles $$1.30 - a pouch of Coles concentrate, which may not compare with the original Aldi item. Woolworths $6.00 for Fluffy - a brand - the one shown in the Aldi collection in fact.

Stain remover Coles $2.15; Woolworths $2.15 - the brand is Clean - (is this a home brand?)

Glass cleaner Coles $2.00 (home brand); Woolworths $2.00 (Strike - another home brand?)

Disinfectant wipes Coles $12.00 (Dettol or Pine-o-Cleen); Woolworths $2.50 (home brand and a colossal difference in price)

Creme cleanser Coles $3.00 (home brand); Woolworths $4.80 (Jif)

Bleach/disinfectant Coles $2.30 (Coles); Woolworths $2.59 (Strike - that possible home brand again)

Liquid detergent for washing machine Coles $2.00 (home brand); Woolworths $12.50 (Dynamo on special down from $25.00)

Cloth wipes Coles $1.00; Woolworths 99c - both home brand products.

Kitchen tidy bags, large size Coles $2.50; Woolworths $2.50 (Armada - another possible pseudo home brand)

Toilet cleaner discs - this was very difficult to compare Coles $7.30 - (the Duck product shown in the Aldi competitor bag but It is difficult to see how many discs are in their own. Woolworths $3.65 for the same product as the Coles one - on a special.)

TOTALS Aldi $35.26 Coles $47.55 Woolworths $42.18

Both of the supermarket prices were quite a bit higher, but not nearly as high as the $81.80 that Aldi suggested.

So what did we learn from this exercise? That Aldi's marketing - like all marketing - should not be taken at face value. Brands cost a whole lot more than Home Brands - which is what Aldi offers - for everything.

That all those household cleaner things are hugely expensive and must involve a considerable profit for the makers if a Coles home brand liquid washing machine detergent can cost just $2.00 whilst Dynamo will cost you $25.00. Is Dynamo better? Very probably - it may well be more concentrated and last longer at the very basic level. But then again maybe not or not enough to justify the price difference.

That quality has little to do with price. Sometimes it matters, sometimes it doesn't.

That I did not take specials into account with the foodstuffs. But then most of the Coles and Woolworths ones were home brands and home brands are not often on specials. They are already specials. And sometimes a special on an actual brand will make it almost the same price as the home brand.

But you know all this. I'm just preaching to the converted I know. Still it was interesting to see what a massive difference there was in Aldi's two bags of cleaning materials, and also that that difference was exaggerated by almost $40.00 on the cheaper Woolworths list.

If price matters. Beware.

A last word. There are other things to take into account when shopping - unless, as I say you are very poor and must consider every cent. The big two have other things that might tip you their way. They have a much bigger choice of products on their shelves. Their rewards cards do offer rewards. I have heaps of points and really must do something with them. They are not as good as they used to be though. I remember some English friends who visited us saying that they more or less paid for their air fares from shopping Sainsbury's. Not possible any more I suspect. I really should investigate the Velocity thing though.

They both have a free delivery service - if you buy over a certain amount - so if you are time poor and don't enjoy shopping this is a clear advantage.

They have those free magazines that I love. But the Aldi has all those quirky surprises and offerings. Their wine is often surprisingly good for a very low price. Their cheeses, as I mentioned are good - as is their orange juice. Our particular Aldi is a very friendly place. People talk to each other in a way that doesn't happen in the big two. They will wave you in front of them if you only have one or two items and they have a full trolley. This would not happen in the big two. Which is very curious because it's the same people after all. And our Aldi doesn't have really, really long queues, as they are generally quick to notice when they need to open another checkout.

Shopping is a very personal thing. Always interesting and sometimes fun.


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