Buying your weekly groceries can be an expensive process. Our review highlights all the major high-street supermarkets with a comparison of the discounts offered and the quality of the products available.
Like their competitors Tesco offer a price match (although only with ASDA) and will pay back the difference if you find them more expensive. Tesco also have exclusive student deals. Check out studentbeans.com where special deals, such as £15 off an online shop, are often updated. Tesco also market a special “student range’’ which contains everything from laptops to bedding at discounted prices, although you do not actually have to be a student to access these discounts. Tesco also offer a club card scheme which allows you to collect points which can then be transferred into vouchers which can be spent in store. You can also exchange your points for club card rewards, which can be used for restaurant deals, cinema tickets, tickets for special attractions and even some student specific goods like a young person’s railcard. There’s a Tesco local on almost every street corner so transport shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you need to do a big shop it’s possible to get a delivery. This will cost the same as an Asda delivery- £3-6, depending on day and time.
‘I probably visit Tesco most regularly as it’s really handy, they can have good deals’ Emily, fourth year, London
‘There’s a Tesco on my way home from uni so I tend to pop in pretty much every day. I can normally pick up a good dinner from the reduced section!’ Dave, first year, Newcastle
‘Tesco is really local so I do tend to shop there for the odd thing. However, I normally try and use local shops or other supermarkets. Tesco has a monopoly on British business!’ Sally, third year, Oxford
ASDA are one of the cheapest supermarkets and are committed to keeping their prices the lowest. Their Price Guarantee policy means that if they’re not 10% cheaper than Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons and Waitrose they will guarantee to pay you back the difference. They also offer a Student Shopper Card which your parents can top up for you in store or online. Asda do not have any kind of loyalty card comparable to a Tesco club card or Sainbury’s nectar card, as they see themselves as consistently cheaper than their competitors and so not in need of any ‘gimmicks’. Asda don’t generally have as many ‘local’ supermarkets as their competitors which means you need to get the bus or drive to get your groceries. However, out of town supermarkets, whatever the brand, are almost always considerably cheaper than their inner city counterparts so overall it’s probably worth it if you’re considering a big shop. Alternatively, you can order online and get your shopping delivered, which will cost £3-£6.
‘I know it’s really good value but our Asda isn’t very local so I never really go there. I guess I could get deliveries but I prefer to browse the shop myself’ Rona, third year, Edinburgh
‘Best deals, I prefer to online shop here as there isn’t one nearby’ Emma, third year, Glasgow
‘My housemates and I tend to go in a car once every couple of months when we need to get in a big shop for a party. You don’t want to have to carry crates of beer on foot!’ Mike, second year, York
Sainsbury’s has a reputation for being a bit pricier than its competitors. Perhaps in a bid to shake this reputation they have recently introduced a price check initiative: if your total shopping bill is more expensive than it would be at Tesco or Asda, they will give you coupons to refund the difference. Like Asda, Sainsbury’s have a meal card concept which is designed with students in mind. This means that your parents can top up your card and you can spend up to this amount in store (it doesn’t work on credit so there’s no option of racking up another overdraft!). Like Tesco, Sainsbury’s have a reward card- the Nectar card. Like a Tesco club card, you collect points with every shop you buy and can then swap these in for ‘treats’ like cinema tickets or meals out. Their selection of treats is slightly more limited than Tesco and doesn’t include a young person’s railcard, although you can use your points for easyjet flights. Sainsbury’s also offer online shopping, which will cost between £3.50-£5.50, however they do also offer some free slots on deliveries on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday if you have spent over £100.
‘I think Sainsbury’s is a more pricey option but sometimes has good deals and their essentials like bread etc. can be very good value’ Matthew, third year, Newcastle
‘I never go into Sainsbury’s because I always think it’s more expensive than the Tesco next door!’ Mark, second year, Brighton
Lidl is a great European budget supermarket for buying basics on bulk. They also offer special services such as DVD rental. However, it can be a bit hit and miss on finding specific items and to keep their prices low they do not offer online shopping or loyalty cards (or free plastic bags!).
‘Lidl is great value but doesn’t have a great layout and the selection of products is a bit confused’ John, first year, London
‘I guess Lidl is good value but I’m a little nervous about the quality of their fresh groceries like vegetables and milk. I find the interior very depressing!’ Amelia, third year, Edinburgh
Waitrose prices are generally higher than their competitors; however they have introduced an Essentials range which is relatively reasonable. Their stores tend to be few and far between so unless it’s your local supermarket it can be a hassle to get to. One plus point is that they offer free online delivery, although you do have to spend over £50 to qualify for this. They have recently introduced a loyalty card scheme which works slightly differently to those of Tesco and Sainsbury’s in that it doesn’t offer a points system, but gives users access to exclusive offers and competitions. There is also a monthly draw which awards the winner the prize of a year’s free shopping!
‘I rarely visit, but I do prefer their food. Lovely bread although it is more expensive’ Sarah, fourth year Leeds
‘I never go in because I always think of it as too expensive; I’ve heard their essentials stuff isn’t too expensive though’ Simon, second year London
‘I would only go in if I wanted to treat myself! I don’t think Waitrose really works for a student budget…’ Katie, first year Bristol
There are fewer Morrisons around (their stores would represent 10% of Tesco’s total number) however they can be good for a deal. However, they do not offer online shopping, which not only means getting there can be an issue but also makes comparable price checking difficult. Morrison’s offer some special discounts, such as 6p off every litre of petrol when you spend £6 in store, but as they are normally out of town you will have to spend some money actually getting there! Like Asda, Morrison’s do not offer any kind of loyalty card.
‘They can have good deals on alcohol, but I rarely visit’ Samantha, second year, Sheffield
‘Way too much hassle to get to! I do quite like the layout though’ Ben, first year, Loughborough
‘I’ve never been, no idea if they’re good value!’ Beth, first year, Coventry
Coop supermarkets tend to be smaller than giants like Tesco and Sainsbury’s, which means that their food prices can be a little steeper. However, this is also partly a result of their commitment to high ethical standards, so the Coop is a good alternative for those who feel slightly dubious about supporting Tesco. Coop do not offer any kind of price promise scheme or any student specific strategies, however, they do have some great deals and initiatives, which can help you to save on your groceries. Their website very clearly shows all the deals they have on at a particular time and also offers a link to a coupons website, which you can print off and use in store to save money on a huge range of products. The Coop do not offer online shopping.
‘There’s a Coop just at the end of my street so I pop in for the odd essential. I like shopping there because I like to try and shop ethicially, although they are a little more expensive than some bigger supermarkets. They do great alcohol deals though! I think they are better than Tesco or Sainsbury’s for wine or beer’ Sarah, fourth year, Edinburgh
‘I occasionally go to the coop because it’s quite handy. They have a good range of products, although not as many choices as in the bigger supermarkets. I quite like their ‘own brand’ range, I feel like it’s good quality’ Tom, second year, Durham
Like Lidl, Aldi keeps it’s prices low by not spending money on the shop layout or any added extras (plastic bags, online shopping etc.) It doesn’t offer any exclusive student deals but its commitment to extremely low prices make it very student friendly. Prices are kept low by not buying in big branded products so don’t necessarily expect to find your favourite brands, you may have to compromise!
‘Me and the other lads in my flat always do our weekly shop at Aldi because it’s so cheap. It’s great for us because we eat pretty simply and aren’t that fussy, it’s pies or curry most night!’ Tom, first year, Newcastle
‘I’m an exchange student from Poland so I like Aldi because it’s the only place I can find my favourite yoghurt drinks!’ Marie, second year, Leeds
‘I’ve been into Aldi once or twice but I hate the way it’s laid out, it feels like a factory! I’m quite particular about what I eat and I don’t always think their products are of that great a quality…’ Sophie, third year, Cardiff
*Prices, discounts and offers are correct at the time of publishing this blog entry