Easter means eggs and nothing is guaranteed to cause as much excitement among children (and many adults!) as a good old fashioned chocolate blow-out on Easter Sunday.
As tempting as many of the special offers are on Easter eggs this year, there's also money to be saved by making your own. If you have the time and the energy, it can be fun doing the job yourself.
The first step is a visit your local treasure trove of a shop where you find all kinds of cooking and baking equipment, to purchase a a set of Easter-egg moulds equivalent to a small or medium size.
Some people will already have them, bringing down the cost, and don't forget that once you have them it's a one-off cost.
In my case it was dropping into Kitchen Complements in Grantham Street, Dublin, where I bought two, for €3.25 each.
You could just as easily use one, but it would take twice the time to make your confections.
2 The chocolate
Deciding what kind of chocolate to use was much more of a head-scratcher.
Cheaper cooking chocolate (2 x 500g bars of Scotbar or Homecook for less than €4) produced 10 eggs for the price of two purchased ones at just 40c per egg.
With the price of the smallest shop egg at around €1.50, that's a potential saving of €11.
At the other end of the scale, one could use expensive posh chocolate with masses of cocoa in it, but I wasn't sure my four-year old would like it.
I could also have plumped for Belgian milk chocolate buttons from Kitchen Complements (54% cocoa solids), specially made to be suitable for moulding and pouring. Not bad at €2.95 for 200g.
Two 230g bars of Cadbury's Dairy Milk (made in Ireland using FairTrade cocoa) were on sale for an offer price of €3.50 from Superquinn.
3 Making them
Making the eggs was simple enough, if a little messy. The trick, it seems, is not to overheat the chocolate when melting it.
Once done, it's a case of just filling the moulds, sticking it in the fridge to set and it tastes great.
Unlike the Scotbar eggs (five for just €2 or 40c each) we managed to make three small/medium-sized eggs of reasonable thickness for a total of €3.50 -- or about €1.16 each.
A good bit cheaper than the Cadbury's/Mars small (160-180g) eggs for €1.50 each in Tesco, and the feel-good factor is priceless: having fun with your kids, adding any decoration you like, chocolatey fingers and, of course, the satisfaction of having made it yourself.
4 Buy your own
Of course, if this is all too much effort, you could buy your own.
A survey by UK grocery shopping website mySupermarket revealed that prices there were up by an average of 21% compared to last year -- and as much as 141% in one case. Manufacturers and retailers blamed the increases on the rising costs of cocoa, among other things.
But while the basic price of confectionary may have risen, it doesn't appear to have affected prices in the Irish Easter egg market.
In fact, the main supermarkets, including Superquinn, Tesco, Supervalu and Dunnes Stores, have been waging something of a price war on these seasonal chocolate items.
For instance, in Tesco, a small Maltesers egg (158g) costs €1.50 -- down from €3.29. In Superquinn, that same egg is €1.99, down from €3.99.
Dunnes has large Cadbury eggs (around 300g) cut from €10 to €5, while Supervalu is offering three Cadbury's/Nestle medium eggs (177-187g) for just €5.
Even the upmarket brands are getting the discount treatment, although not by quite as much as the popular or cheaper ones.
Lily O'Brien's Crispy Hearts egg (370g) is being sold for €12 in Dunnes, down from €15, while Tesco is offering two Green and Black's Milk eggs (180g) for €10 -- they cost €7.99 each.
You are also likely to find similar deals in the convenience store chains too, including Centra, Spar, and Mace.
5 Finding deals
The grocery trade is expecting extra sales this year because of Easter falling so late. Clearly, the best advice to pay as little as possible for your easter eggs is to look for the special deals and multi-buys.
But for some consumers, this particular price war may smell a little of the strategy of pricing them high to begin with, then slashing them in the last few weeks before Easter in order to make them seem like incredible value.
Indeed, several posters on online discussion forum Boards.ie angrily reported buying their easter eggs early in March at full price at their local supermarkets, only to discover that the same eggs had halved in price weeks later.
Ruddy agrees that the easter egg market has become very "offer-centric".
"It's a market which became so competitive and so price-focused, that many small guys stopped stocking a large range of eggs because consumers were only buying them on promotion in the big retailers."
As a result, Ruddy says easter eggs have now almost become what the retail trade calls a "KVI" (known value item) -- an item that everyone knows the price of, such as milk or bread, and can easily compare prices.
"Shoppers will now know what a 'standard' egg costs, or what it costs when it's on promotion, and will reject it at the high price and only buy at the low or promotional price."