A recent survey revealed how you can cut your grocery bill in half by shopping in discount stores for a better bargain, writes Ciaran Brennan
AS surveys go, the recent one by the National Consumer Agency into the retail market shouldn't have been a big surprise.
Taking a basket of goods, it compared them across the supermarkets and found that when it came to own-market brands, shopping in Aldi and Lidl could actually cut your bill in half.
A basket of 28 own-brand goods was more than 50pc cheaper in Lidl than in Dunnes Stores or Tesco, the National Consumer Agency (NCA) survey found.
However, the NCA's survey comes a year after the ValueIreland.com website found that Irish consumers could save up to €1,800 a year by shopping in Aldi or Lidl.
People misguidedly seem to be willing to pay a premium for better known branded items when in a lot of cases, the lesser known brands, such as those stocked by Aldi and Lidl are just as good -- and cheaper as well, ValueIreland.com said last year.
But given that Aldi and Lidl still command less than 10pc of the Irish retail market, it seems clear that Irish shoppers are still paying dearly for loyalty to traditional supermarket multiples.
"Clearly, we are so heavily brand driven and so heavily brand loyal that it is taking quite a significant amount of time to challenge us to try other makes of the same product and to actually have trust in that make," says Dermott Jewell of Consumers' Association of Ireland.
"It is understandable though -- whether it is tea or bread or milk or ice-cream -- all the way across all of the brands we have grown up with since we were children. It's incredible the power of marketing and how successful it has been."
Irish consumers can save a packet by weaning themselves off their blind loyalty to branded goods, he says.
But can they still find deals in the major multiples? Every day, householders across Ireland find leaflets from retailers in their letterboxes offering deals -- two for one offers and half price deals.
"Of course, there are pluses to looking at offers," says Mr Jewell.
"But it needs to be borne in mind that there are some expert people behind the marketing of the major supermarket chains.
"Offers will appeal to certain specific consumers but it won't appeal to every consumer.
"Why? Because there are thousands of products in a supermarket and whilst you may purchase three or four or five of those on a special offer, you will still purchase 20 or 30 of the others that are not on a special offer.
"In other words, you will save on one but spend heavily on another."
Likewise, loyalty cards can be a double-edged sword, he says.
While consumers can get deals and money back through loyalty cards, essentially they tie a consumer to a certain store and makes it more unlikely that they will shop around.
"Of course, there are smart consumers who will have a card for every shop and they are benefiting in that area," says Mr Jewell.
"The other side of that coin realistically is there will be offers made throughout the year to the supermarket loyalty card holder and they are geared no more than to bring you in to the shop."
But it doesn't matter how much you actually save on your grocery shopping if you return home and immediately dump one bag in every three in the bin.
According to the 'Love Food Hate Waste campaign' in the UK, around one third of all the food consumers buy ends up being thrown away and most of this could have been eaten -- it's not just peelings, cores and bones.
It found that 90pc of consumers just don't realise how much good food they actually throw out. Some households in the UK are wasting up to £400 (€507) each year on perfectly good food which ends up being thrown away.
The campaign advises consumers to plan what they are eating, as well as planning when and how many people there will be to eat the meal -- helping them to buy only what they will need.
Before you go to the supermarket, make a list to take with you -- this can save you both time and money and in the long-run will help you to avoid buying foodstuffs that you don't really need.
Make sure you store food correctly -- keeping your fridge at between 1-5 degrees Celsius will help to get the best from your food.
Give your leftovers a new lease of life by turning them into something really tasty the next day and don't forget you can compost all your vegetable and fruit peelings -- turning rubbish into a resource for the garden and subsequently saving you from actually having to buy the compost at the garden centre.
'I'm saving €40 by shopping weekly in a discount store'
JAMES O'Neill should know a thing or two about the savings to be made from shopping in discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl -- he led a campaign to allow Lidl to build a store in his home town of Drogheda.
"I'm a loan parent. I am on a low income and when I was going to the local supermarket I was hoping I would have enough money to pay for groceries and was constantly worrying and constantly trying to juggle costs," he says.
Mr O'Neill heard about the savings to be made in the Lidl in the neighbouring town of Balbriggan.
"I got to the stage where I would get a taxi from Drogheda to Balbriggan, do my shop and get a taxi home and still save money," he says.
That prompted him to start a campaign to allow Lidl to build a store in Drogheda.
He collected more than 17,000 signatures which helped pave the way for the discounter to set up in the town.
Mr O'Neill says he is now saving on average around €40 every week on his grocery shopping.
He says he is often asked by locals how Lidl can sell food so cheaply.
"My answer to that is you're asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is how can the others justify the prices they are charging?"