Jessica Bavin (left) and Debbie Carter (right) go head to head online and in store to see who can get their week’s shopping cheapest
It’s the burning question when it comes to buying the weekly groceries – is it cheaper to buy online or head out to the shops?
We decided to carry out the ultimate Cash Queens challenge. We asked two mums who are both super-savvy shoppers to take part.
We gave them a list of 20 family basics to see who could get them for the cheapest price, with one going online and the other shopping around the stores.
Read on to find out who won and why. Also, get our mums’ top tips on how to slash your grocery bill every week.
Jessica – online shopper
Jessica Bavin, 38, is head of business and economics at a school in Crewe, Cheshire. She is married to Jonathan and has two daughters.
Jessica prefers shopping online because she finds it easier to search for deals. She always starts her shop by using comparison websites and scouring voucher code sites.
She has different baskets open with supermarkets such as Tesco, Asda and Morrisons so she can compare prices.
“I always do the weekly shop online, partly because I’m a busy mum and it takes less of my time,” says Jessica. “But also I found when I went in store with the kids I ended up spending more on impulse buys. I used to look at the stuff on the conveyer belt at the till and realised I didn’t need a lot of it.
“Online, if I get carried away I can check my basket before I press buy and can drop things I know we don’t really need. I reckon I save £40 a week as I used to easily spend £120 a time in-store.
“I do lots of research on all my shopping and get a buzz out of savings. Things are getting better with online grocery shops. You don’t get all the silly alternatives.
“If I receive items with a shorter shelf life I contact the supermarket and often they refund me, while letting me keep the items.
“I’m not really bothered that I lost the challenge in cash terms. I feel like I still won as I did the shop from the comfort of my home at one store. I had no parking hassles and earned Tesco Clubcard points.”
Have a meal planner with family-friendly meals that are cheap to make.
Avoid wastage. If you are throwing food away on a regular basis, stop buying it. I don’t throw anything away if I can freeze it for future meals.
Make bigger portions than you need and freeze the rest. I find the ingredients for, say, a spaghetti bolognese are only pennies more to make enough for two meals. So I freeze half – it also saves me time in making another meal.
Avoid buying too many treats. If it’s in the cupboards the kids will want it and possibly eat too much. If it’s not there and they are used to it not being there, they will eat more sensibly.
Avoid relying on ready meals. Making things from scratch is often cheaper, and it’s healthier too – except for puddings, I’ve found.
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Debbie – shopping in store
Debbie Carter, 49, lives in Harlow, Essex, with her fiancé Martyn and her grown-up son.
Debbie does the majority of her shopping on the high street. She collects vouchers from magazines, uses her Tesco Clubcard and collects Nectar points.
She also uses the mySupermarket app to research who has the best deals. Debbie reckons by comparing prices before she hits the shops she can save at least £10 off her weekly grocery shop.
“I’m delighted I won the challenge,” she says. “Even it was by just 79p – every bit I can save helps keep my bills down. I never accept the first price I see for anything. I tend to do the majority of my food shop at one store but I am happy to go to more than one, picking up odd items at other stores if I spot a really good price for something.
“I prefer to go out and pick my own items, especially meat, vegetables and fruit. I had to get smart with my shopping as I had to give up work due to ill health. I now shop around for everything from food to energy and insurance.
“It saves us hundreds of pounds each year. I don’t go all-out for the basic cheapest items, I pick and choose what we like. Some own-brand stuff tastes better than the big brands.
“I don’t waste money on things we won’t eat, I just find the best deals on brands we all enjoy.”
Use an app such as mySupermarket to check prices in different stores. They also have an option that alerts you if something gets reduced in price.
Try out own brands such as Lidl’s Danepak, which I think is just as good as Lurpak, but a lot cheaper.
Check sites such as TopCashback and/or CheckoutSmart for money off, cashback or two-for-one offers.
Join loyalty schemes such as Nectar and Tesco Clubcard. Also look for coupons and download vouchers to get extra discounts.
Keep an eye out for in-store offers such as two-for-one or multi-buys. I stock up on non-perishable items when I spot these deals.
This is what they bought, where and what it cost – and who won:
1 medium sliced loaf
In store: Kingsmill 75p, Lidl
Online: Hovis soft white, £1
4 pints of milk
In store: Lidl own, 99p, Lidl
Online: Tesco Milk, £1
6 medium eggs
In store: Lidl own, 79p, Lidl
Online: Tesco free range (12), 89p
In store: Cathedral City, £1.59,
Online: Iceland Cathedral City, £2.50
In store: Danepak, £1.75, Lidl
Online: Tesco Butter Me Up, 89p
In store: Lidl Butchers, £1.29, Lidl
Online: Woodside Farms, 85p
400g sandwich ham
In store: Lidl own, £1.39, Lidl
Online: Everyday Value, £1.50
10 pack of fish fingers
In store: Birds Eye, £1.50, Iceland
Online: Everyday Value, 65p
6 pack of tomatoes
In store: Tesco Salad, 69p, Tesco
Online: Tesco Salad, 69p
In store: Lidl own, 42p, Lidl
Online: Redmere Farms, 45p
In store: Lidl Speciality, £1.49, Lidl
Online: Redmere Farms, £1.29
In store: Lidl own, 44p, Lidl
Online: Tesco Salad, 50p
In store: Lidl own, £1.29, Lidl
Online: Perfectly Imperfect, £1.25
In store: Rosendale Farms, 83p, Tesco
Online: Tesco Gala, £1.92
4 tins baked beans
In store: Branston, £1.49, Lidl
Online: Everyday Value, 96p
500g pasta sauce
In store: Tesco own, 75p, Tesco
Online: Tesco own, 75p
1kg fusilli pasta
In store: Tesco own, 98p, Tesco
Online: Tesco own, 98p
In store: Tesco Finest, £3, Tesco
Online: Tesco Finest, £2.39
1 litre squash
In store: Lidl own, 89p, Lidl
Online: Jucee, 89p
1 bottle white wine
In store: Tesco Chenin Blanc, £4, Tesco
Online: Tesco Pinot Grigio, £4.36
In store: £0
In store: £26.32
And there we have it!
Debbie managed to bag her shopping for less in store than Jessica managed online.