Shoppers chase bargains

BARGAIN HUNTER: Natu Chhiba looks out for specials before going shopping.
BARGAIN HUNTER: Natu Chhiba looks out for specials before going shopping.

Food prices are constantly climbing, leaving shoppers little option but to keep opening their wallets.

The latest Statistics New Zealand figures show food prices increased 1.5 per cent in the year to December 2013.

The biggest hikes were in the grocery food group which were up 2 per cent and included dairy products like milk and yoghurt which both rose around 10 per cent.

Comparing the costs of different supermarkets.
Comparing the costs of different supermarkets.

But with the large range of supermarket shopping experiences available in Auckland, it's still possible to get good deals.

From boutique stores to exotic Asian markets and conventional supermarket chains, Aucklanders now have plenty of places to choose their grocery items from.

But prices vary as much as the decor so it pays to shop around.

The East & Bays Courier visited five supermarkets last week and compared conventional supermarkets Pak 'n Save and Countdown with boutique supermarkets Nosh and Farro Fresh and Asian food mart D.H Supermarket.

While fruit prices are comparable across all stores - apart from D.H Supermarket which had cheap bananas and avocados - grocery prices vary significantly.

Mt Eden resident Natu Chhiba says he always shops around for the best prices.

He and his wife usually frequent Countdown or New World but that's not set in stone. The couple watches out for advertised bargains.

"Wherever we can get the better prices we go there," he says.

"You've got to these days. Last week bread was two for $5 at New World but this week it's two for $5 at Countdown.

"We save money that way."

Of the hiked grocery products, dairy products increased the most, including milk by 9.4 per cent, cheese by 7.7 per cent and yoghurt by 10 per cent.

Countdown is selling 2 litres of milk for $4.29 - a far cry from the days milk was delivered free to schools for New Zealand children, between 1937 and 1967.

Nosh attempted to even the playing field in 2012, creating a stir when it slashed milk prices to $2.49 for 2 litres by creating its own Nosh Essentials brand.

But milk prices at the boutique grocery store have crept up again.

Alannah Haysmith was shopping at the Mt Eden branch of Nosh when the East & Bays Courier visited last week.

The young Mt Eden mum likes to shop at the boutique supermarket for unique items or to pick up something special for a barbecue.

"It's good here. Some things are really cheap, for things like eggs and milk, but you wouldn't want to do your whole shop here all the time," she says.

Mrs Haysmith heads to Countdown for staples like washing powder and nappies.

Of the country's major supermarkets Pak 'n Save consistently ranks the cheapest.

Owned by Foodstuffs, the chain has topped Consumer New Zealand surveys for the lowest supermarket prices for the last 11 years.

But Consumer researcher Jessica Wilson says the gap is definitely closing.

A Countdown store in Kilbirnie, Wellington, ensured Pak 'n Save was cheapest in only six out of seven centres last year.

"What we're looking at are the big players, Pak 'n Save, New World and Countdown, where most people get their shopping done on a weekly basis," she says.

"There are other options emerging, like fruit and vegetable markets, so there are other options out there but the bulk of us still go to the big players."

East And Bays Courier