What’s really cheaper – bargain supermarkets or online shopping: Two savvy mums go head to head to find out

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.”


Supermarket Deals

  • Tesco to create 20,000 jobs
    Tesco voucher codes
  • Asda's 3 for £10 wines
    Asda offers
  • Sainsburys
    Sainsbury’s deals
  • Morrisons
    Morrisons savings

Jessica’s tips

  • 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.”

Debbie’s tips

  • 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.

The results

Shopping trolley
What they bought and who won (Image: Getty)

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

350g cheese

  • In store: Cathedral City, £1.59,
  • Online: Iceland Cathedral City, £2.50

500g butter/margarine

  • In store: Danepak, £1.75, Lidl
  • Online: Tesco Butter Me Up, 89p

8 sausages

  • 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

1kg carrots

  • In store: Lidl own, 42p, Lidl
  • Online: Redmere Farms, 45p

2.5kg potatoes

  • In store: Lidl Speciality, £1.49, Lidl
  • Online: Redmere Farms, £1.29

1 cucumber

  • In store: Lidl own, 44p, Lidl
  • Online: Tesco Salad, 50p

400g strawberries

  • In store: Lidl own, £1.29, Lidl
  • Online: Perfectly Imperfect, £1.25

6 apples

  • 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

100 teabags

  • 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
  • Online: £1.40

Total cost

  • In store: £26.32
  • Online: £27.11

And there we have it!

Debbie managed to bag her shopping for less in store than Jessica managed online.

*All prices correct at time of going to press.