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How does the cost of shopping zero waste compare to supermarkets?

A common question that we get asked in the shop is "How do your prices compare to supermarkets?", but it's not a straight forward question to answer.

There are many factors to consider, and it depends on how you define the term 'price'. For me, it's not just the price tag on the product to think about, but there are also other considerations such as the environmental impact of the packaging that would be used if not bought from a package-free shop, the nutritional value and ingredients used in some products, such as the Doisy and Dam D&Ds (the Smartie look-alikes) that are produced with no palm oil and ethically sourced cocoa, but also the carbon footprint of transporting goods, and more. The later is a topic I could, and probably will do a whole post about, but we do what we can to reduce the carbon footprint where possible in a number of ways.

However, when many people ask the question they are simply referring to the price of purchase and that is the main focus of this post. A response I typically give to answer this question is that when purchasing 10 items from The Bare Alternative, the price should be the same if not cheaper than supermarket prices. So I decided to really put this to the test.

Below I have taken a customer's shopping receipt and compared with online prices from Tesco to make a fair comparison with a real example, rather than just hand-picking a selection of items I already know we have cheaper prices than supermarkets.

And here's the comparison of how our prices stack up against buying the same items from Tesco if you were able to buy exactly the same quantities, but as that's not possible because you can't buy per KG, I've also listed the actual cost of having to buy multiple packs to closely match if not having to go over to have the same quantities.

A note to make is that not all products could be matched exactly in terms of quality standards. For example, the sunflower oil we stock is cold pressed and the online product is standard, and we sometimes struggle to source the cheaper version of products you may find in supermarkets, for example, we can only source organic lasagne sheets, although our price comes in just 20p per KG more expensive.

When looking at the pre-packed total, it could be considered unfair that the prices are higher as more packs are needed to be purchased to get to at least the same quantity per item, but at the same time, this is another benefit of zero waste shopping. You can buy package-free, but also only what you need, and with about 40% of all food produced going to waste, this really does outline the importance of buying only what you need.

So in this example, the cheapest shopping basket is with Tesco if you could buy the same exact quantities, but the reality is that this actual shop is £8.96 (or about 19%) cheaper at The Bare Alternative. We achieve this through a number of factors, including checking prices from multiple suppliers, only stocking organic produce in a situation where the per KG price is cheaper than supermarket prices and buying in larger quantities when possible to get better prices (which also helps cut down on carbon footprint of deliveries).

This is only one example of comparison, so no conclusion can be made that it is always cheaper to shop with us, but it gives a good idea of the typical comparison that can be made. However, one fact that is definitive with any comparison is that no packaging is created shopping with us, whereas, the basket from this online supermarket shop would have created 19 unrecyclable plastic packets and 4 plastic bottles, as well as 2 glass jars from the spices and a card box (with a plastic window) from the lasagne.

Please help us at The Bare Alternative, and other zero waste shops and ethically-minded businesses, by choosing to participate in conscious consumerism, and support local and independent business by sharing the message of package-free shopping with friends and family and the fact that you can save on packaging, food waste and money by shopping this way.

I hope that you have found this interesting. Please leave your thoughts and comments, or ideas for future posts below,

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1 Comment

Stuart Astill
Stuart Astill
Oct 05, 2020

Really nice analysis and it raises a lot of issues to think about more. Something I would be interested in you blogging on is what you think are the best containers to use/bring for package free on your various products. Thanks!

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