- a blog about food and value

Is ‘shopping around’ realistic?

euros-money-fiversYou may have read about the report earlier this week from the Competition Authority on the reason for the price differentials between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland prices.  It would seem that the reason is little to do with profiteering on the part of the retailers, or higher price margins, but is mostly down to ‘lax consumers’ who fail to hunt out good value.


A few years ago Mary Harney famously said, in response to complaints about the high cost of living, that people should ‘shop around’.  This really, really, really annoyed me at the time, and continues to rankle today.  So people should shop around, eh?  Fair enough. Let’s take an average middle-income Irish person as a sample.  This person works in Dublin but lives in Celbridge, Co Kildare, because they couldn’t afford to buy a house near their job, thanks to the property boom which favoured developers and priced ordinary working people out of the market.  This person has to commute for 2-3 hours each day.

Let’s say also that this person has two small children in childcare, who have to be picked up after the commute.  The childcare, by the way, costs at least €1500 each month and not one penny of that is tax-deductible.  In between working, commuting and trying to enjoy some brief time with the kids before they go to bed, this person is also expected to visit 5-6 shops each week in order to get the best possible value?  The red mist is starting to descend.  Where on earth is the understanding of what ordinary people’s lives are like?

I’ll try to avoid plunging into a full-on rant about this (too late, you say).  I’m lucky enough to live and work in Dublin city centre, and have access to plenty of different supermarkets and am able to shop around quite easily.  But the vast majority of people do not have this luxury, and have to somehow fit their shopping into already overstretched and overworked lives.  Claims like this are, I think, a complete abdication of the responsibility of government and regulatory bodies to properly monitor the markets, and as I said above a total lack of understanding of the pressures that ordinary people are under.

This is something I’ve been thinking (and seething) about for a while, and we plan to do a feature about it here soon. We know a few ways that you can plan out your visits to shops in order to get the best value while minimising the time you spend.  And if any of you have any tips, please do let us know.



  1. Come on, that’s not the situation in the Irish grocery market, and this blog should know it.

    Anyone who goes to an established supermarket when there is a German retailer within reach is failing to “shop around” and deserves to lose whatever mark-up they pay. There’s an Aldi in Celbridge. If your hypothetical person wants to shop in Eurospar or Tesco instead, that’s their problem.

  2. Aldi and Lidl are brilliant, and we talk about them here all the time, but you can’t get everything you need for your weekly shopping in them. I don’t know anyone who solely shops in the discounters, there’s just some brands and products that they don’t stock.

    Do you really think it’s all down to consumers? Didn’t you ever smell a rat when Dunnes, Superquinn and Tesco all had signs up proudly stating that they all charged exactly the same price for branded goods?

  3. “Where on earth is the understanding of what ordinary people’s lives are like?”

    that sums up the entire political class in Ireland, and pretty much everything that is wrong with our political system. The government (and the Oireachtas in general) is full of career politicians, and very few of them have ever been PAYE workers. They literally have no understanding or empathy with ordinary people. This is why they see no problem with being chauffeured around in limos and helicopters while the country’s economy is on its knees.

    er, sorry, rant over (for now…).

  4. Rant on Liam. I completely agree. 🙂

    Redmum had a particularly good example of That Kind of Thing on her blog last year:

  5. I’d agree with Jean on the Lidl/Aldi thing – I shop in a nearby Lidl for certain items but a lot of items I usually need aren’t stocked there. Doing a ‘full’ shop there is impossible for me. I’ve also found that my branch is really unreliable for restocking shelves, fruit and veg being particularly difficult to get at times. (Recently I went in for onions and spinach and could get neither).

  6. I agree you can get some stuff but not all in LIDL so fresh meat etc you have to go elsewhere

  7. I have to say our local Lidl is fantastic for Veg..its always very seasonal & exceptionally fresh.. we also find it does tend to stock alot of Veg that the “mainstreem supermarkets dont”.. We get our fruit from a little shop in Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre, which always has great offers. We would get all our meat from Thomas’s butchers in Foxrock who we have been using for years , he carries a great range of produce of exceptional quality..
    So we have to go to 3 different places to stock up on food for the wk