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The great grocery showdown: ALDI, Woolworths or Coles – where does your dollar stretch the most?

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Here's what we found in the battle of the grocery titans.

In an era where every cent counts, your choice of supermarket can significantly impact your weekly budget. Australia has traditionally had limited supermarket options, featuring 2 major retailers and 1 value-focused newcomer. In this article, Finder's analysts compared the cost of a shopping trolley filled with 50 identical items from ALDI, Coles and Woolworths. These items were chosen to represent a typical family shopping list, but we also included some less common items because there's no such thing as an "average" shopper. So, how do the big 3 stack up?

The essentials: Eggs, milk, and bread

Let's start with the basics. A dozen large cage eggs will set you back $4.29 at ALDI, compared to $4.50 at Coles and $4.60 at Woolworths. While these differences may be minimal, they add up over time. The price of milk was consistent across all 3 retailers. Surprisingly, a 750g loaf of wholemeal bread was dearer at budget-friendly ALDI ($3.59) compared to Woolies ($3.00) and Coles ($3.30).

Meat the savings

When it comes to meat, ALDI generally trumps the competition on price. For example, 500g of beef mince is priced at $5.99 at ALDI, a trifling 1c more at Woolworths and $6.50 at Coles. Similar trends were observed for pork sausages and beef eye fillet steaks. However, Woolworths has the upper hand on free-range chicken drumsticks at $4.50, outdoing ALDI's $5.49 and Coles' $5.50.

Fresh produce: A mixed bag

The price of fresh fruits and vegetables vary hugely from time to time and state to state, depending on seasonality and local conditions, as reflected in our data. In ALDI, 3kg of navel oranges cost a substantial $7.47 during our shopping trip, while Woolworths offered the same fruit for $4.90 and Coles for $5.50. Woolworths also offered the lowest price in carrots, with its odd bunch 1kg bag coming in at $1.60 compared to $1.99 at ALDI and $2.40 at Coles.

The snack attack

For those with a sweet tooth or a penchant for snacking, ALDI generally comes out on top. A 200g packet of Tim Tams is $3.49 at ALDI, while Woolworths and Coles both charge $4.50. Similarly, a 270g packet of Twisties is $3.99 at ALDI and $4.00 at Woolworths, but jumps to $5.50 at Coles.

The biggest price differences

The top 5 biggest price differences were quite revealing:

Onions – 75% price difference (Woolworths was the cheapest)
Yoghurt – 66% price difference (ALDI was the cheapest)
Lemon lime and bitters – 57% price difference (ALDI was the cheapest)
Oranges – 52% price difference (Woolworths was the cheapest)
Carrots – 50% price difference (Woolworths was the cheapest)

The cheapest items

Taking a look at which supermarkets were the cheapest for individual items, excluding differences of only 1c, we found the following:

ALDI was cheapest for 19 items – eggs, shaved ham, pork sausages, fillet steaks, high protein yoghurt, mineral water, lemon lime and bitters, broccoli, coleslaw, Tim Tams, buttermilk, cheese, almond milk, maple syrup, cling wrap, moisturiser, Vegemite, flour and chicken nuggets.

Woolworths was the cheapest for 6 items – oranges, carrots, onions, asparagus, chicken drumsticks and wholemeal bread.

Coles, on the other hand, was not cheaper than both of its competitors for any individual item – but was equal lowest on several items.

When all the trolleys were tallied, ALDI's total stood at $200, Woolworths at $207 and Coles at $214. If you're paying by credit card, note that ALDI applies a 0.5% surcharge, while Woolworths and Coles don't.

ALDI may appear to be the hands-down winner if you're solely focused on the bottom line. However, Woolworths offers competitive pricing on select items and may be more convenient depending on your locale. ALDI's no-frills business model enables it to offer lower prices, but it may not have the variety you're seeking. In contrast, Woolworths and Coles provide a wider range of brands and options, something that could be pivotal depending on your needs or preferences.

Methodology and context

Before we wrap up, let's touch on how the data was compiled. Prices were sourced for delivery or in-store purchases within the same Queensland postcode. A small number of Woolworths and Coles prices were manually checked in NSW. Given ALDI's streamlined product range, we selected the cheapest available brands at Woolworths and Coles to ensure a fair comparison. Any weight differences were adjusted accordingly.

So the next time you're drafting your shopping list, bear in mind that the cheapest option on paper might not always be the best fit for your lifestyle or your family's needs. In an era where every penny – or cent, in our case – truly matters, making an informed choice is more crucial than ever.

For any shoppers eager for discounts for retail more generally, Finder's Coupon Code Finder is a handy tool to search for discount codes for particular brands before you hit the "Buy" button.

Finder's Insights Blog examines issues affecting the Australian consumer. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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