- a blog about food and value

Shopping in the Recession

Irish TimesThe mass swell of shoppers across the border continues, and with Christmas fast approaching, it’s going to turn into a flood.

Today’s Pricewatch questions the difference in prices in major supermarkets operating in the Republic and the north, pointing out that a recent Consumer Association of Ireland (CAI) survey showed that a basket of goods in Tesco is 18% more expensive south of the border. The retailers claim it’s all down to the higher cost of doing business in the Republic. Dermot Jewell of the CAI is not convinced, and is calling for retailers to be forced to disclose their profits.

Meanwhile, today’s Liveline was hopping with callers debating the rights and wrongs of a new poster campaign to lure the Republic’s shoppers to Belfast this Christmas. The Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan has called for people to stop supporting “her majesty’s goverment”. I’m not sure this is helpful in any way. While of course most people want to support the local economy and help protect jobs, it’s completely understandable that they don’t really have a choice but to shop up north: it’s much cheaper and money is tight.

Also in the Irish Times, a survey of behaviour and attitudes found that 55% of us are now buying more own brand grocery products, while 53% are spreading our shopping over a greater number of outlets to find better value. Unsurprisingly, we’re also eating out less.

How have you changed your shopping habits over the past year? Are you cross-border shopping, or can you afford not to?


  1. Maybe the Minister should look at WHY so many people are shopping up the North rather than trying to get us to stop.

    She should address the issues that result in such high prices in the Republic. To your average shopper, issues with tax and minimum wages mean nothing when it comes to keeping bills down…especially coming up to Christmas.

  2. Our familly is still quite small: 2 adults and a toddler. Number 2 is coming along soon and if things stay as they are, when I have two kids to feed, I will certainly give shopping across the border a go. For the moment, after comparing online price of the goods we use, it wasn’t really worth the trip. I use washable nappies and the toddler drinks plain milk, not the follow on formula that costs an eye. We shop local for fruits, vegs and fish. Don’t eat much meat, a chicken (organic when I can afford it) is a bi monthly event and lasts us 2, sometimes 3 meals. I use leftovers to cook new dishes, like chicken pies or soup with vegetables, French toasts with the remaining few slices of a loaf. I also cook a lot from scratch, and when shopping I favour supermarket own brands, most of them have a good organic selection. Pasta is on the menu more often than not these days, but there are so many variations you can have a different meal every night for few euros. I’m also a bargain hunter and when I see special offers (real ones!), I stock up on non perishable goods like rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes and beans, etc… And I shop with a calculator, buying in bulk is not always the cheapest option, you need to make sure that the pice/kilo is the most interesting

  3. Mary Coughlan’s exhortation to shop local plays very well with the cumann members in Donegal i’m sure. For the ordinary person it ammounts to encouraging us to make our own personal finances worse by paying too much for goods here so her government can get some taxes. Crazy economics but then what is to be expected from someone who served her time alongside “bertie madoff”.

  4. After driving in to work today and passing group after group of public servants on strike my blood is boiling! I am already giving a large proportion of what I EARN every month to the government for them to pay the wages of public servants who are now in strike because they got paycuts (which are less than the average in the private sector) so I ask why I should then give more of what I EARN to pay extotionate VAT rates in this country? I don’t shop in the North often but I buy allot of my non food goods online from UK sites and I will continue to, I also shop around allot more than in the past. The cheek of Mary Coughlan…

  5. They haven’t even had a pay cut yet SJ. I don’t shop in the north; it’s not an option as I’m in Cork. I did do a booze run to Newry a few years back when I still lived in Dublin and that was it. At the moment, I couldn’t in good conscience shop in the north. I heard Joe Duffy yesterday when a staff member from Argos in Portlaoise called to say that 7 people were being let go from there in January partly due to northern shoppers. I know Argos are majorly to blame but tourist shoppers must take some of the responsibility. Yes, I buy cosmetics and non food items online, but these are things that I would not buy if I could not get them cheaper. I wonder how many people are actually spending more in the north than the south simply because it is cheaper, eg extra bottles of wine because they’re only £3.99. Isn’t that a false economy?

  6. PS Eibhlin Byrne telling people that they weren’t complaining to the shops that applied a Paddy Tax eg Tesco made me see red. Of course people are complaining to the shops!

  7. Oh dear. I don’t want to get into a public/private debate but public servant pay has been cut. I’ve now got e270 less per month than I did this time last year. I voted not to strike, appreciate that *everyone* is having a hard time of it at the moment 🙁

  8. Is that not a pension contriution CB?

  9. In fairness, some people simply cannot afford the Republic’s prices. Say, a familly with small children, including one wearing nappies and drinking formula milk would save a small fortune by shopping up north. And sorry if there is a guilt factor to it, but the prices difference is too obvious to be ignored. I’m all in favour of a reduction of ALL wages across all sectors, public and private, a reduction of rents, services and VAT. This should level things with Northern Ireland. Trying to appeal to people’s conscience when they can barely make month ends meet is not going to achieve anything

  10. I seriously doubt that people barely making ends meet are sitting in their cars for hours to drive to Newry to save money on shopping. That doesnt explain the 6km tailbacks to Newry today, the strike day.

  11. Without wanting to get too far into the public/private thing (seeing as it’s not really an “us versus them” things no matter how many people try to whip it up that way), people should perhaps take a deep breath and make sure of what they’re saying before giving out.
    Claire: the pension levy is not a pension contribution. It goes to the government exchequer. It’s an extra tax applied to public sector workers, and amounts to a 10% pay cut.
    SJ: disregarding the fact that anyone on strike today did not get paid (thus saving the government a day’s pay and pension contribution, which I would have thought you’d be glad about), what makes you think that public servants don’t pay the same taxes you do?
    On topic: Mary Coughlan is out of her depth, and should do something about VAT and prices if she wants people to stop shopping in the North. Once something like this becomes a matter of “patriotism”, you know those responsible have run out of ideas.

  12. Well, i didnt come to cheapeats for an argument, but it seems i have found one!
    Private sector folk like those above in this thread, you need to educate yourselves and stop all this indignant talk of your taxes paying the public sector. Would you prefer to have trained chimps manning your hospitals, schools, emergency services and defence forces or do you think that trained educated workers should nurse you and teach your children? And assuming it’s the latter, how much do you really think they should be paid?
    I did a four year degree and two one year postgrads to qualify as a teacher. If you can find me a private sector profession that demands this level of education to enter and are paid less than me (41K) after eight years in the job than I take my hat off to you.
    In the boom years i did not stamp my feet and whinge about how unfair it was that i dont earn enough to have an SUV/second home/Aga and all the rest. I accepted that I will always drive an old car and pay for half of one overpriced home. But yet now that fortunes have to a small extent reversed, I am meant to be too ‘grateful to have a job’ to oppose any form of wage cut. Of course I feel gratitude, but I find being constantly told how lucky i am a little rich, having made my choice to enter teaching in a time that those around me seemed to regard it as a slightly pitiful form of charity work. So while I accept there is huge rage out there, I will not accept that I and other hardworking PS workers are the appropriate target of that rage.
    We should be using our brains and uniting against the fine folk who plunged us into this quagmire and who are now using the media very effectively to make us hate each other.
    Bon appetit.

  13. Hear hear Emma and Aidan, I totally agree with you. This bickering between ‘public’ and ‘private’ takes focus away from the people who got this country in the mess and aren’t paying for their crimes.

    And many public sector workers have already suffered through cutbacks – to take teachers as one example, class sizes have increased, special learning support has been cut back and many many teachers have lost their jobs. This ‘job for life’ perception is all wrong.

    I don’t work in the public sector now but have had experience of both the best and the worst of it in the past. Yes there are inefficiences and waste in some areas, but cuts across the board are a ridiculous way to deal with this. It will just compound the problems – putting the hard working public servants under more pressure, and failing to deal with departments that are bloated and wasteful. It’s just as stupid as every other decision made by the government in recent times.

  14. Our country was also hit hard by the Economic Recession. At least we are seeing some signs of economic recovery now. I hope that we could recover soon from this recession.

  15. I think we are also seeing some signs of recovery from the Economic Recession. Of course, we have no idea of how long it will take to completely recover, but some say it’s going to be longer than for the other recessions in decades. I also scanned an article yesterday that said business owners need a new set of tactics to do well during recovery.