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Where to buy the cheapest fruit and veg

publication date: Jan 23, 2012
author/source: Nicola Mirams
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With figures showing we're spending less on fruit and veg how do you keep down the cost of eating healthily? In a re-run of an article she did for us a couple of years ago, former student Nicola Mirams shows how.

The prices are out of date but the message is the same. Supermarkets are not always cheapest.

Comparison on fruit and vegetables at five different shops in Durham on 12/01/08
These included the Indoor Market, an independent greengrocer, Iceland, Tesco Express and Marks and Spencer. (Not all the fruit and vegetables were sold in all the shops or sold in a quantity that was easy to compare (for example, apples were sold singly)

Broccoli: Market 0.89, Greengrocer, 0.69, Iceland £1, Tesco Express 0.98.
Cheapest: Market. Most expensive: Iceland.

Carrots (per kilo) Market 0.64p, Greengrocer: 0.79p, Iceland 0.75p, Tesco Express 0.54p, M & S:0.79p
Cheapest: Tesco Express. Most expensive: greengrocer and M & S

Apples: Market 0.59lb, Greengrocer: 0.79p a lb, Iceland: 25p each, Tesco Express: 32p each, M & S 0.45p
Difficult to compare as some apples were sold individually and some may have been bigger than others but the market looks cheapest.

Potatoes (per kilo): Market: 0.40p Greengrocer 0.42p, Iceland, 0.50p, Tesco Express (had run out), M & S 0.52p
Cheapest: Market. Most expensive: M & S

Cucumber: Market: 99p, Greengrocer: 89p,  Iceland £1, Tesco Express £1.04, M & S: 78p
Cheapest: Marks & Spencer, Most expensive: Tesco Express

Tomatoes (per lb) Market:£1.50 Greengrocer: 69p, Iceland £1 for six, Tesco Express 92p for six, M & S 99p for six
Again difficult to compare as some are sold in packs of six (likely to be less than one pound. The greengrocer looks like the best deal

White onions: Market: 86p kg, Greengrocer 64p kg, Iceland £1 a kg, Tesco Express: 46p each, M & S: 99p kg
Tesco's onions are sold individually but look the most expensive. The greengrocer's are the cheapest.

Peppers: Market: £1.50 lb, Greengrocer: £1.19 lb, Iceland: £1.50 for 3, Tesco Exress: 0.75 each, M & S 0.50 each.
If you only want one pepper there are some advantages in buying them individually but they obviously cost more pro rata. Tesco's look like the most expensive, the greengrocer's (which could be bought individually) look cheapest

Lettuce: Market: 99p, Greengrocer 69p, Iceland £1 for 300g, Tesco Express £1.13, M & S £1.18
Cheapest: Greengrocer. Most expensive: M & S

Bananas: Market: 59p lb, Greengrocer 49p lb, Iceland £1 for 7. Tesco Express, 19p each, M & S 45p a lb
Depends how big the bananas Tesco is selling are but looks as if they're priciest, and that M & S, surprise, surprise, is the cheapest.

  • There are significant differences between the top and bottom prices that make it well worth shopping around. You could pay almost 50p more for a lettuce in M & S, for example than in a local greengrocer (though the quality may be better and it may last longer)
  • My independent greengrocer came out cheapest overall (apart from carrots) though market traders tend to be cheaper if you buy in bulk.
  • Iceland may be cheap for frozen fruit and veg but charges above average for fresh produce
  • City centre supermarkets like Tesco Express tend to be more expensive than their out of town counterparts (but of course you have to get there)
  • Although M & S was predictably most expensive for the majority of items it surprisinly had a couple of the cheapest prices - for cucumber and bananas
  • The survey didn't include Aldi, Lidl and Netto which have made a point of marketing cheap veg

Top tips
  • Know your local area. It might not be practical to find the price of an apple in every single shop, but having an idea of where is cheaper saves you money in the long run
  • If there are deals on fruit or vegetables, check to see whether they are really the best value (look on the labels on the shelf which should give you a price each/per kg/per lb)
  • Bulk buy! For items with a long storage life such as potatoes, kilogram or heavier bags are much cheaper than buying smaller quantities more often
  • Watch out for fruit and veg offers at £1. They could easily be more expensive than you'd pay elsewhere
  • Out of season fruit and veg is generally - but not always - more expensive. So expect to pay more in the winter for summer veg like cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes.


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