One of the big discussion points during these times of rampant inflation is the spiralling cost of the weekly food shop.
Prices are increasing everywhere, and whether or not your perception is that one store is more expensive than another, or that food is cheaper in the UK than in Spain, here’s a price comparison snapshot for 17th June 2023 – you may be surprised!
We haven’t included the discounters Aldi and Lidl because they don’t have an online food shopping delivery service so it proved impossible to do direct comparisons. Aldi online have a facility to make a shopping list that you email to yourself before visiting the store and Lidl have a well-developed online shopping portal for non-food items (small electricals, home and garden etc)
Anecdotal experience is that Aldi in the UK has a much better food range and is more price competitive than its Spanish counterpart.
Own brand is always worth a try
In the same way as you trust own brand products from the likes of Sainsbury’s and Asda, Spanish own brand goods are just as good (if not better) – Mercadona own brands “Hacendado” and “Deliplus” are excellent and way cheaper than main brands. Give them a try!
The same applies to Spanish manufactured goods as opposed to international brands, especially for spirits like gin, or even chocolate bars.
UK high street supermarkets offer a much wider choice
One thing that did stand out during our little experiment was that UK supermarkets offer a much wider choice of products, plus they have in-store concessions for things like pharmacy products and cigarettes which you just don’t get in Spanish high street supermarkets.
What you won’t find in a Spanish supermarket
Medication of any type is strictly controlled in Spain – only pharmacies can sell things like antihistamines, ibuprofen, paracetamol and cough mixture; basically anything that might need a prescription. So you won’t find 76p boxes of paracetamol in a Spanish supermarket.
Ready Meals – Spain doesn’t really do these in the same way as you’ll find in the UK. Carrefour has a better range than Mercadona, but it’s still nowhere near the choice you’ll find in the UK – Spaniards tend to cook from scratch far more.
Cigarettes – sold in specialist government controlled “estancos” or “tabaco” shops, never in supermarkets.
Non-Spanish wine – Surprisingly, the wine range in most supermarkets is fairly limited – you’ll find lots of great quality, good value Spanish wine but try getting an Australian Merlot or even French chardonnay and you’ll really struggle.
So, here it is – the comparison! The green box shows the lowest price (within 2 cents, prices are marked as the same). To make things easy, we calculated on a cost per kilo or per litre (unless otherwise stated) and the exchange rate was calculated using xe.com on 18th June 2023 – €1.17 to 1 GBP)
UK food only seems cheaper because it’s priced in sterling and not euros – do the math! The only things cheaper at Sainsbury’s (compared with both Mercadona and Carrefour) are pet food, sprouts, broccoli, chicken and bananas.
If you are a fish fan, then the UK is majorly more expensive than Spain across the board with cod and sea bass more than double the price. Many Spanish supermarkets have their own fish counter where you can select your fish and they’ll fillet/skin it there and then for you.
Pet food is much more expensive in Spain and the range is limited, especially for larger dogs.
Carrefour can be perceived as expensive but we found it cheaper for things like minced beef and fish and on a par with Mercadona for olive oil, Rioja, eggs and milk.
Overall, Mercadona was the cheapest, beating Carrefour by just under €10 for the whole list. Sainsbury’s would cost 50% more than Mercadona for this shop – eek!
Are supermarkets always the best value?
Local shops – There are still many small butchers, bakers, and fruit and veg shops on pretty much every main street in Spain, which are often better value and the produce tends to be fresher and more likely to be from local producers.
Weekly market – It’s one of the pleasures of life to wander round a Spanish weekly market so don’t spend all your shopping time in the supermarkets. Get to know the stallholders who go each week and you’ll soon be choosing from the pick of the crop.