Avoid this sneaky supermarket rip-off

Supermarkets can be highly misleading when it comes to buying in bulk. Here's what you need to watch out for...

If there’s one thing that annoys me, it’s when supermarkets employ sneaky tactics to try and scam you out of your hard-earned cash.

As an example of this, supermarkets have a tendency to make you believe that you’ll be saving yourself some serious pennies if you buy larger packs of goods instead of smaller ones. But in fact, in some cases, you’ll actually be forking out more.

Just recently, ASDA and Sainsbury’s were accused of illegally misleading shoppers over their pricing of certain ‘great value’ multi-packs of groceries which were actually more expensive than single packs of the same items.

Using data from supermarket comparison site mySupermarket.co.uk, Which? discovered more than 600 examples of larger packs being worse value than smaller packs.

Both supermarkets have since said they have corrected prices, but I thought it was time to do a bit of investigating for myself and see what I could find.

So, again using mySupermarket.co.uk, I took a look at some of the deals on offer to see whether bigger does always mean better value at Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ASDA and Ocado/Waitrose.

(Note that all of the prices used in this research exclude special offers.)

Sainsbury’s

The table below highlights some of the ‘rip-off’ deals you’ll find in Sainsbury’s, with the most expensive version highlighted in bold.

Item

Weight

Price

Price per 100g (or equivalent)

Weight

Price

Price per 100g

Hellmann’s mayonnaise

600g

£2.75

45.8p

400g

£1.75

43.8p

Heinz top down squeezy ketchup

570g

£2.09

36.7p

460g

£1.60

34.8p

Nestle Cheerios

800g

£3.49

43.6p

600g

£2.48

41.3p

Sainsbury’s cornflakes

1kg

£1.57

15.7p*

750g

£1.18

15.7p*

Green Giant sweetcorn

3x198g

£1.87

31.5p

198g

58p (so £1.74 for 3)

29.3p

Triple Velvet loo roll

9 rolls

£4.49

49.9p/roll

4 rolls

£1.99

49.8p/roll

Persil Bio gel tablets

48 washes

£5.85

24.4p/wash

24 washes

£2.94

24.5p/wash**

*This works out to be the same price per 100g – so buying in bulk doesn’t mean you’ll get a better price.

**Although this is more expensive, the difference is tiny.

You’ll notice that in nearly all of these cases, the larger packs are actually more expensive per 100g than the smaller packs. The only exceptions are Sainsbury’s Cornflakes, where both packs are the same price per 100g, and the Persil Bio gel tablets, where the smaller pack is slightly more expensive at 24.5p/wash compared to 24.4p/wash. However, given that the difference between the two is so tiny, I think this still shows you’re not always getting a significantly better deal by buying a larger pack.

Rachel Robson rounds up five ways to cut your food bills.

The Green Giant sweetcorn is also one to point out as you’d actually save yourself money by buying three individual tins of sweetcorn rather than the three-pack. So it does pay to know your maths!

And it's not just the prices themselves that are the issue. The labelling on some of these items is also highly misleading.

For example, the labelling on the three-pack of Green Giant sweetcorn describes the pack as ‘special value’, while the 800g pack of Cheerios is described as ‘mega value’. This labelling has been designed to lure you in, making you believe that you’re getting better value for your money. And yet, in both of these cases, the larger packs are actually more expensive per 100g. So you’re actually getting a worse deal.

Tesco

You’ll notice that for Tesco, many of the items are the same as those for Sainsbury’s. 

Item

Weight

Price

Price per 100g (or equivalent)

Weight

Price

Price per 100g

Hellmann’s mayonnaise

600g

£2.75

45.8p

400g

£1.75

43.8p

Heinz top down squeezy ketchup

570g

£2.09

36.7p

460g

£1.60

34.8p

Nestle Cheerios

800g

£3.49

43.6p

600g

£2.48

41.3p

Green Giant sweetcorn

4x198g

£2.49

31.4p

198g

55p (so £2.20 for 4)

27.8p

Nestle Shreddies

1Kg

£3.19

31.9p*

750g

£2.39

31.9p*

Triple Velvet loo roll

9 rolls

£4.49

49.9p/roll

4 rolls

£1.99

49.8p/roll

Tesco Spaghetti

2Kg

£2.49

12.5p

1Kg

£1.05

10.5p

*This works out to be the same price per 100g – so buying in bulk doesn’t mean you’ll get a better price.

Again, labelling is an issue here. The 750g pack of Shreddies is described as being ‘big value’, while the 1Kg pack is ‘mega value’, and yet there’s no difference in price per 100g. So again, in my view, shoppers are being conned into thinking they’re getting more for their money than they actually are.

And as for the spaghetti, it's actually cheaper to buy two 1Kg packs than one 2Kg pack.

ASDA

Here’s what I found for ASDA – you’ll notice that I didn’t manage to find quite as many rip-off deals.

Item

Weight

Price

Price per 100g (or equivalent)

Weight

Price

Price per 100g

Hellmann’s mayonnaise

600g

£2.68

44.6p

400g

£1.75

43.8p

Vale of Camelot  Creamy Mature Cheddar

400g

£3.58

£8.95/Kg

200g

£1.78

£8.90/Kg

Triple Velvet loo roll

24 rolls

£9.96

41.5p/roll

9 rolls

£3.50

38.9p/roll

In this case, the 24 pack of Triple Velvet toilet roll is labelled as ‘big value’ – yet, once again, this pack is actually more expensive per roll than the nine roll pack.

Ocado/Waitrose

Finally, let’s check out Ocado/Waitrose.

Item

Weight

Price

Price per 100g (or equivalent)

Weight

Price

Price per 100g

Hellmann’s mayonnaise

600g

£2.75

45.8p

400g

£1.75

43.8p

Heinz top down squeezy ketchup

570g

£2.09

36.7p

460g

£1.60

34.8p

Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes

1Kg

£3.59

35.9p

750g

£2.13

28.4p

Green Giant sweetcorn

3x198g

£1.85

31.1p

198g

58p (so £1.74 for 3)

29.3p

Triple Velvet loo roll

9 rolls

£4.49

49.9p/roll

4 rolls

£1.99

49.8p/roll

Some of the old favourites appear yet again, with the smaller packs of Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Heinz ketchup, Green Giant sweetcorn, and Triple Velvet toilet roll all working out to be cheaper than the larger packs.

And this time, it’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes that comes with the misleading packaging. The 750g pack is described as a ‘value pack’, while the 1Kg is described as the ‘best value’ pack. But it’s hardly ‘best' value if it’s more expensive than the smaller pack!

Fight back

Overall, I think this shows that buying in bulk doesn’t always save you money. This is the case whether you're simply buying a bigger pack of something, or whether you're buying a multipack rather than a single item. 

And let’s face it, buying in bulk isn’t always practical either. After all, if your flat is anything like mine, storage space is likely to be minimal and as a result, buying large packs of cereal, washing powder and toilet roll might not always be convenient.

So if you’ve been cramming the bigger packs into your home in a bid to save money, now might be the time to stop!

We compare some of the big food brands with supermarket own brands to see which tastes best!

That said, it is worth bearing in mind that in many cases, buying larger packs of goods does still work out to be cheaper – even for some of the items mentioned in the tables above. For example, at Sainsbury's and Tesco, a 375g pack of Cheerios does work out to be more expensive than a 600g or 800g pack at 52.3p per 100g.

Unfortunately, this means the only way you can truly guarantee you're getting the best value for your money is to check the price per weight every time you buy something. And let’s face it, this is hardly practical, particularly if you’re trying to get round the supermarket quickly.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this conundrum. And that’s by using mySupermarket.co.uk to do your shopping.

The reason I like this website is because it allows you to track how much your shopping would cost at each of the four supermarkets mentioned above. Not only that, but it will also show you how much you’re paying per gram/kilogramme, so you’ll easily be able to see which is the cheapest option – no matter how big or small the packet!

It will also tell you when you can ‘swap and save’, helping you to save even more money. And while ordering your food online will mean you have to pay a delivery fee, you’ll often be able to locate a voucher code online which will help to offset this. So make sure you take a look at websites such as HotUKDeals, vouchercodes.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk to see if there are any relevant offers.

And for further tips, take a look at Ten ways to slash your supermarket spend.

More: Sandwiches: Lidl beats M&S – again | Dining out is cheaper than a takeaway

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