Battle of the Supermarkets

On Friday I stumbled across a great feature by Peter Knight in The London Paper. If you work in London and read the freebie papers perhaps you saw it too.

In it celebrity chef Aldo Zilli – the cheery chap in the Optivita cereal ads – carried out an experiment to find out which supermarket sells the best quality food and is the most value for money. A useful thing to know as we try to save cash but eat well in the credit crunch!

At his restaurant in Soho, Zilli cooked up six identical cottage pies, using mince, veg, wine, cream etc. purchased from six different stores: Tesco, M&S, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Lidl. He then got a team of six tasters – a tough job but somebody’s got to do it! – to try out the pies and score them.

Oh well, I thought, before I’d finished reading the piece. That’s easy. M&S and Waitrose will win hands down. They might be pricier but the food will taste better. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

Here were the scores…

1. Tesco – top with 45 points

2. M&S & Aldi – joint second with 43 points

3. Waitrose – 38 points

4. Lidl – 17 points

5. Sainsbury’s – bottom with 15 points!

What would Jamie Oliver have to say about Sainsbury’s?! And what a shocker Tesco’s came first while M&S and Aldi tied for second place! When I carried out the Aldi shopping experiment some of you said you thought the quality of Lidl’s food was better than Aldi’s. I’m surprised too that Waitrose came so far down the list.

Zilli disagreed with the tasters some of the time, though. He reckoned as they were mostly in their early 20s their palates might be accustomed to the taste of cheaper ingredients. He said Aldi’s ingredients “were the worst”, with Lidl’s "second worst" and thought the quality of Sainsbury’s meat was good.

But – dare I disagree with Zilli – I shopped in Sainsbury’s recently and thought the quality of their mince and casserole steak wasn’t anything as good as stuff I’ve bought from Asda or Waitrose – when I’m feeling flush. It’s a shame they didn’t include Asda and Somerfield in the experiment, but you can’t cover everything.

Where do you shop and which supermarkets you think offer the best value for money for the best quality? Are you seduced by the breathy M&S ads or are you a Tesco’s aficionado? Leave a message and let me know.


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28 Responses to Battle of the Supermarkets

  1. Julie says:

    Hi,  We have been shopping a Aldi for years, I must admit when we started we thought it a little poor, but it has got much better over the last 18 months, We live on the outskirts of Leicester and they are building a Lidl accros the road from our Aldi (should be good for a food price war!), we also have a Neto, but food has improved, they now do 5 fruit & veg for 69p (bargin) Melons, Pineapple, Plums, tomatoes etc etc.  I got a little snobby earlier on in the year and started to do a little shopping at Morissons but have gone back to Aldi as it was costing me as much for a few things as I was spending at Aldi for a trolly full.
    Also I have just purchased a Shopping Trolley – A FUNKY ONE! not a granny check one, this will be road tested on Saturday, as its Market, Neto the Aldi – quite a walk with heavy bags.
    Will let you know how I fair!  

  2. Philip W says:

    For the last 4 years, we actually had a choice of Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Aldi and Marks & Spencer in easy driving distance.  I must agree – it\’s a shame Asda and Somerfield were not included, as, having tried them all, I consider the food quality and selection in Asda well superior to any of the other supermarkets mentioned!

  3. Tom says:

    Maybe we should be looking at our local butchers as I do for our meat, most of the time the price is better and the meat is certainly of a higher quality (and not sweaty like inside the cartons they use at supermarkets).  With the credit crunch on way, we should maybe be thinking quality not quantity and reduce our intake of the more expensive cuts, rather than buying cheaper versions from the supermarkets.

  4. nina says:

    Thats all well and good for all these top chefs to say we should buy this and shop there……… but at the end of the day its what the wallet or purse tells us (budget wise!) I tend to go to all and try/test each product i want and then know which one each of enjoyed the most and generally stick with it. Yes, I agree Asda is very good and I find I do favour them to most of the rest. Sainsbury\’s?? Far to expensive for the same product in either Asda or (sometimes) Tesco!!
    So come on you "chefs" how about using the "cheaper" products/produce and make a good meal out of them the same as "we mere mortals" have to on the average low end of the scale wage!!! I CHALLENGE YOU!!! Including Jammie Oliver (you not allowed to go to Sainsbury\’s Jamie!!!) Aldo Zilli and ALL the rest of you!!

  5. wuga says:

    Why oh why do these supermarket tests never even mention Morrisons? is that that they don\’t exist south of Watford and therefore officially don\’t exist?

  6. wuga says:

    sorry that should have read never EVER mention Morrisons…

  7. wuga says:

    hence the expression:
    It\’s not just food … it\’s overpriced, overhyped, overadvertised food.
    Lidl has some really good quallity stuff at a fraction of the price of many of the "big" shops.
    The other thing is what is a "luxury" brand? In my experience it usually means higher in fat, higher in sugar. OK there are sometimes when brands matter like Heinz Beans, Heinz Tomato Sauce, HP sauce etc – but when it comes to say, tinned tomatoes they are a generic product so why pay 60p a tin when you can pay 15p at Lidl and the quality is definitely as good.

  8. kiska says:


    Tesco is the worst supermarket for vegetables!!! I tried to buy vegetables in few Tesco supermarkets and it appears they have problems with stocking vegetables.  They are rotting on the shelf….. So, I end of buying vegetables from M&S where they are the best.
    LIDL and ALDI – they sell good stock from EU with EU prices.  Pls, check parma ham, milano and napoli salami, chorizo….They are the same quality as M&S, but much cheaper prices…. and you cannot compare that to Tesco…!!! They simply sell downmarket stuff…

  9. Stealth says:

    What i hate most about all these so called celeb chiefs, is they always try and impose what is right and what is wrong on people, for over 5 thousand years people have generally been living on what the hell they like.
    Some die young, some die old. just because one person ate something and died young from it, doesn\’t mean the next person will, look at smoking? i know some 80 year old, been smoking all there life,
    What i want, is freedom of choice, i want my turkey twizzlers. hell I\’m 30, i loved them, until Mr Oliver decided that only Children eat them. then they were off the shelves faster than a bugatti veyron
    Why would anyone want to pay more for beans? when they all come from the same plant? why would anyone want to pay more for potatoes when its the same just different brand name?
    I\’m human, i want to eat, its part of my natural cycle in life. I\’m not over weight, nor under, I\’m not obsessively healthy but I\’m not a slob neither?
    I just want to eat what I want, not what some git with a huge pay check says is better for me. after all isn\’t life about living? so what if one thing has 3000000+ more calories than that of the other, if it tastes better then yes I\’m going to eat it, if i die because of what i eat, so be it, at least i lived my life and ate what i wanted to eat, at least i tried and tasted all those delicious foods before i finally popped my clogs.
    So many people are way to concerned about what to eat, drink think and do, that they really are a slave to the nation.
    Free your self, eat what you like, pay less for it, reap the benefits of being happier in your self for not falling for such crap as, "its healthier for you" after all. you may get hit by a bus in the morning.  then what good would of come by avoiding all them "unhealthy" "cheap" foods?
    At least you can sit back in heaven and say you truly lived.

  10. gerald says:

    having read all these comments,I  feel I have to mak my point. Is this a knock sainsburys feature, We have shopped with our local Sainsburys since they opened here in 1994. Always found the store packed with customers enjoying the quality of the produce,after years of a somerfield,known locally as scomerfield! we never had better. We have shopped elsewhere whilst on holiday etc. and have used asda tesco m&s and waitrose. Whilst they all have positive parts of their stores,they also have negative parts,and when you add fuel to go to these other stores,it realy makes little diffrence,with the exception of lidl where we found some of the products of a very low quality! We still go with the point that you get what you pay for and in that money can be saved from good quality produce instead of so called cheaper alternatives

  11. Stealth says:

    " you get what you pay for and in that money can be saved from good quality produce instead of so called cheaper alternatives "
    In so many ways that is wrong, you do not save money by buying more expensive produce, just because the label states it as better than something with "value" stamped on it.
    Surprising how many "Tesco\’s value" products are made by big name companies like Heinz, Weetabix, and the like. they get the best of both worlds, they can sell their wares, to people who are money conscious, yet still sell at full price to someone who likes the brand name on it at the same time.
    Also, you would be surprised at how, the fat content in Tesco\’s so called "quality" minced beef, is actually higher and the meat content lower, than what is found in Tesco\’s "Value" mince at almost half the price.
    Some things are better quality when they are cheaper, due to the fact they are trying to compete with well established brands. you don\’t just get your foot in the door when trying to produce high quality produce for almost the same cost as a well established brand, with out building a customer base first.
    As for Sainsburys, well i have one at the bottom of my road, and i would much rather spend the extra fuel to travel to asda, at least they DO have more deals than tesco\’s, and Sainsburys. and its not just on their "value" home branded products neither, they have deals on well named brands.
    Judging someone on where they shop, or how they shop, shows very poor self esteem, you don\’t have to shop and spend money on the most expensive foods to live a healthy life or a happy one, name calling belongs in a playground where kids do not know any better.  (I\’m not saying you are, but you did find the need to drop that comment in)
    Personally, ill shop where it saves me money, ill buy where it saves me money also. too many money grabbing people in this country as it is, what with the government and tax, shops, other businesses local councils, anything that\’s going to let me have a few more Pounds to spend on my family is good by me.
    May be you should be the same, take one step back, stop thinking about your self, and how a brand name is going to save your life, think about how you can stop the spread of greed and help your family in the process by having just a few more pennies to spend / save / give as inheritance.
    May be then, it will not matter where you shop, as you will have found happiness with in your self.
    After all, anyone can make something "cheap" taste just as good something that\’s expensive.
    PS, how would any of you lot cope if you had to survive in the wild? no branded names out there to be worried about i can tell you.
    PPS, Its amazing how we here, in the west, can talk on a blog about the quality of food in our super markets vs the price. may be spare a thought to the people in 3rd world countries who don\’t even have that luxury. think about that while you throw the scraps of your dinner away because you couldnt eat it all?

  12. Christine says:

    Ahoy there city dwellers from the countryside. It\’s fine for all you city dwellers with cars or people who commute to work in an area where you can do your shopping on the way home – we don\’t all have the luxury of the choice that you have! Give us people who live in rural areas without a choice of supermarkets a chance. We either have to catch a bus and carry our shopping home or order on-line and take our chances or take the offerings of whoever feels that they can offer us something. Some of us just don\’t have the choice of supermarkets or even good quality small butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Some of us are also housebound and have to rely on others for our shopping! You all seem to be drivers who are fit, healthy and able to take care of yourselves. Heaven help you if you had one bus a week to get your shopping and only a corner shop for your top ups. You are also showing how influenced people can be by "the media" rather than common sense and your own budget. You\’d all do better to see if you can grow more of your own even in a back yard, on the window sill, as part of a community allotment as well as looking for basic cooking courses locally to improve your own cookery skills. Likewise – it\’s how you manage your total budget not just the food budget that matters. We don\’t want to get too hung up on saving money on food just to enable us to buy more clothes, keep running an expensive car, go out socialising, buy more beer and fags,  or buy more expensive furniture or "stuff" or whatever expenses you think are absolutely necessary (and which are often not). Frugal living is a total package.

  13. Frank says:

    I think Aldi and Lidl don\’t sell bad quality. It is maybe a little bit strange not to have the well known brandnames written on the lable but the product quality isn\’t bad at all. I am not british and I were growing up with Aldi and Lidl in our town and we was not to posh to shop there because you got value for you money.
    I thing the people must understand that this supermarkets are very important for the prices we have to pay and to keep the customers the other will press there prises ok it is not ok for the farmer and all the other  but we all have to learn when we want to eat good food we have to pay a fair price otherwise it ends up in junk and very bad food.
    I only shop in Aldis and Lidl for my weekly things and I can say the quality is good there I can afford the organic range there and my family is very healthy feed, we all have to look after the penny we spend and in the moment the money is tied for all of us somehow.

  14. piper says:

    Hi there. Thanks for all the interesting comments. I certainly didn\’t intend it to be a \’knock sainsbury\’s feature\’ – just wasn\’t that impressed when I went recently and was a bit shocked as years ago when I used to shop there the quality was excellent.  Personally I\’ve never been much of a fan of our local Somerfield\’s either. While you get the impression that it\’s meant to have plenty of bargains I\’ve found things like cereals and tortillas are more expensive in there than our local Waitrose.
    I live in Essex and the nearest Morrison\’s is a 40 minute drive so haven\’t ventured there yet.  

  15. Andrew says:

    Can\’t help but agree with Zilli here, the fact that the entire panel of the tasters were, I quote "mostly in their early 20s" shows that they quite obviously have been living on cheaper food and therefore more acustomed to cheap ingredients. It is a well-known fact that people who like eating cheap, bland foods offered by stores like Tesco, Asda etc, etc will not like foods that actually taste of something.
    At the end of the day there is also alot of supermarket snobbery going about and yes, it is predominately "you get what you pay for" and I\’d rather pay a little more for better fod.
    At the same time, the notion of "quantity over quality" is heavily adopted by Tesco and other cheaper stores (though Tesco is the worst offender here), therefore their foods are either saturated in water, fat, or (though mainly "and" would be the better here) a tonne of salt.
    Whilst I still have a lot more to put forward in this area of discussion, I will merely conclude with the fact that unfortunately Zilli\’s test was rather biased by having tasters in their early 20\’s whom were probably actually students and/or earning a small wage whilst also living on poorer quality food.
    How anyone can like Tesco food is beyond me, I spent my first year at uni eating Tesco food and hated it…

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  17. Laura says:

    Why on earth didn\’t they include Asda???  I live on the outskirts of East London and have 2 Asdas, a Tesco Extra and a Sainsbury\’s all within about 3 miles.  There\’s never anyone in Sainsbury\’s, the Tesco seems to mostly cater for the large local immigrant population as they have a very large section for Polish/Asian/African etc etc foods, but everything else seems to be either of low quality or over-priced.  But both Asdas are always chock a block every time I go there.  Definitely the most popular option in my area, and surely a popular option for the rest of the country I would have thought – I used to live in Shropshire and it was the same story there.
    I really don\’t think it\’s a valid survey without including Asda.
    Going off-track slightly – I don\’t understand how supermarkets can justify selling strawberries from Europe cheaper than ones from Norfolk.  It\’s not just strawberries I might add, I try to make a point of buying British produce but it\’s either unavailable or much more expensive than foreign imports.  The other day I saw British apples selling at a higher price than South African ones – how can they be cheaper, taking into consideration the costs of transporting them?  I can only assume they pay the foreign farmers a pittance for their produce.

  18. Unknown says:

    I’m not quite sure what Christine’s point is, is she having a whinge about lack of choice in some rural areas? Fine, but why make such sweeping generalisations, and why not think a little about this ‘luxury of choice’?I’m one of the commuters she moans about, because I can’t afford –hence my being on the frugal forum!- to live where I work, or in the countryside proper- –  so I have to live in a crummy suburb and commute.  ‘Luxury of choice’   indeed. There is no choice of supermarket, it’s tesco or Tesco and no, there aren’t wonderful specialist shops either, just a stinking corner shop that serves booze to tramps and months-old onions to those who forgot an ingredient.
    However, because I rely on buses for my shopping, work etc,  I made sure I lived in an area which has a good bus service, however grotty the area is- more of that luxury of choice? I’d say making the best of it.
     And as for growing your own, yes I do thanks, but as discussed I live in a suburb with limited space so just occasionally I need to supplement from a shop !I could make a moany generalisation about how I’m sure you have more space to plant in the countryside but it’s not my style.

  19. margaret says:

    i have to say that you can not bet the co-op for quality meat it has to come tops for me

  20. andrew says:

    we have all big named supermarket around us. but why have a  test of food and then change the outcome. just because a chef thinks people at 20,s have cheap tastes, if its what you like then eat it whatever supermarket supply it, chef dont have a buget like we do, because they charge the earth for there food  like he says in his restaurant.

  21. brendan says:

    I would have to disagree about the comment about the tasters being mid 20\’s and probably be used to the taste of cheaper ingredeints. there are many people around that age that work in hotels and restaurants that would have a better palette that Mr Zilli. age doesn\’t mean a thing. I think he should stick to the adverts

  22. dogstail says:

    Well, I gave up being a supermarket "snob" a few years back when I realised that, at the end of the day, all the supermarkets want to do is make money and personally I would rather now shop (when I can) at our local greengrocers and butchers and keep them in business rather than lining the pockets of the shareholders of the big players.  At the end of the day, you get what you pay for, either in a name or in quality.  The supermarkets all play the same game of dropping the prices on a few key items to get people in through the doors.  The money they lose on those key items is gained back on other products because people don\’t have the time (or the inclination) to go between the various shops to find the best prices on each and everything on their list.  They want to go into one shop and get everything in one go if they can.  The smaller the range of goods stocked, the more you appear to be paying for the items that are not reduced to attract customers. If I have to shop at supermarkets I prefer to shop at Somerfield or Co-Op – they might not carry the huge or flashy ranges that the bigger companies stock, but if you are happy to work with basics, I generally find they come up trumps (also with less of a range of items to chose from, I generally spend less money too!)

  23. Liam says:

    Back to basics, back to old values say I! The common misconception is that there is no time to shop sensibly, cook or even eat these days; so we inevitably end up buying a mass produced, salt infested, disappointing version of what we actually wanted to eat in the first place. I have found that by buying what I need a couple of times a week using the old butcher, baker and candlestick method by visiting local specialist shops I get better quality, at the price I can afford and no food waste. Although on that point Mr Brown, I take issue!!! Why not stop over production of smiley potato faces, and all the other crap that supermarkets sell along with cheap foreign imports. That is the real food waste! When you do shop around, and stop buying pre-cut meats in sweaty plastic, this world will be a far better place. Indeed you learn so much about food, tasty cheaper cuts like Shin of Beef, free bones (for dogs or jus) Jus is not a friend by the way. You get to learn about portioning. And you get to be greener and cheaper at the same time!
    Britain has fantastic food, the telly cant stop telling us that, and yet land producers and the fishing industry get sold down the river in favour of \’produce of more than one country\’.  

  24. shaun says:

    i am a roofer and work 6 days a week.i love nothing better to relax in the kitchen and cook me and my misus something nice after a hard days work. on a saterday night we usaly treat ourselves to a nice bit of steak or something like that.every meal we eat 9/10 usaly has some form of meat in it.we usaly go shopping together when i finish work on a saterday to either tescos asda sainsburrys or morrisons. but when we go to the checkout my wallet having paid for the shopping seens to be getting thiner every we decided to give the small shops and cheap shops ago for our main shopping. so of we went. 1st stop was our local butchers.i asked for two nice sirloin steaks he asked how much i said about 8pound in money.he feches this fresh peice of beef out from the back of the shop and cut us two steaks about 2inches thick and about 10 to 12 inches long come to 7.69 in money i was shocked. asked for a peice of pork for our sunday roast about 7pound in money this leg of pork what he gave us fed me my wife for the roast we had a curry with it on the night i took pork sarnies to work for my bait the next day and also there was loads left for my two dogs. when i cooked the steak on saterday night it did not shrink like supermarket steak does there was no water came out like supermarket does and the steak was so jusy and tender it was was the fruit and veg shop bought all the fruit and veg we buy from the supermarket half the price nice and fresh fruit stayed fresh all week not like the was a shop called home bargains all branded tinned food etc realy cheaper than supermarket for same stuff next was aldis for cleaning stuff .it done the same job as tescos etc saved loads.then lidle for bits and bobs big saving… then the tescos for booze.. our shopping bill has gone from 140.00 a week down to 80 to 90 pound a week for much fresher tastier cheaper food than any supermarkt what im saying is i wont be shopping in the supermarket for nothing els but booze try the little shops and the local shops and the cheap shops you will be suprised if you dont you are a fool

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