Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford investigate whether supermarket deals and special offers are always the bargain they appear to be.
Browse content similar to Episode 8. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
There's a lot we don't know about the food on our plates,
and the shops and the labels don't always tell you the whole story.
Sometimes, there's just too many offers, and when you actually
really look at them, you're not really saving that much.
Whether you're staying in or going out, you've told us you can
feel ripped off by the promises made for what you eat
and what you pay for it.
If you buy six, it's cheaper.
But I don't want to buy six, I want to buy one.
From claims that don't stack up
to the secrets behind the packaging,
we'll uncover the truth about Britain's food so that
you can be sure you're getting what you expect at the right price.
Your food, your money. This is Rip-Off Britain.
Hello, and welcome to Rip-Off Britain
where, as usual, we're all about making sure that,
whatever you're spending your money on,
and indeed wherever you're doing it, you are getting the deal that
you expected at the price you were expecting.
And today, we're going to be focusing in particular on those
stores that, I think these days, most of us simply cannot manage without -
Yes, whether we're actually scouring their shelves for the best
bargains or doing our shopping online,
the big name supermarkets between them still
account for a whopping chunk of our total annual spending on food.
And, of course, each of them is constantly battling to
convince us that it is the one which will make our money go furthest.
So, we're going to be revealing
some of the tricks of the trade to see just how they do that.
And along the way, of course,
we'll be getting to the bottom of some of the particular
questions and concerns that you've asked us to investigate
after perhaps your own supermarket shopping didn't quite turn
out the way you'd expected.
So, as we give you the lowdown on how to spot a great
deal from a dud one, we'll have some fantastic tips
and advice to help you get the most from the stores that continue
to play such a fundamental role in our daily lives.
Coming up - the cost of online shopping.
Are new charges pricing out those who need the service most?
I was angry, not just for myself.
There are a lot of people out there who are less fit than me,
older than me, who it will hit more.
And how to save a packet on your weekly shop -
this coupon queen shares her secrets for slashing what you spend.
When I go out and find a great deal, I actually get a little excited.
I start to think, "How many can I get for free?
"What if I combine it with this?"
And all these thoughts start whizzing through my head.
Special offers and promotions have traditionally been
one of the ways that supermarkets tempt us through their doors,
but anyone who regularly checks the deals available will probably have
noticed how often the same products
and brands pop up at that apparently reduced price.
And that begs the question -
when is an offer no longer quite so special, and
when is it in fact just the price that you should regularly be paying?
Buy one get one free, two for the price of one,
buy two get a third half price.
Supermarkets have been using special offers to compete for our
business, tempting us with deals that seem certain to save us money.
But some of them, and especially the buy one get one frees we've
come to know as BOGOFs, are coming under increasing scrutiny.
So, are we always getting the bargain we think we are?
I think if you've got a big family, a multibuy is a good idea,
especially if you're buying loads of cereals or something.
Probably it would be a good idea for families, consumer families,
because they want to buy quantities.
I always do the maths first
cos not all buy one get one frees are actually get one free.
But, as the number of BOGOFs has soared,
so too have concerns over whether they really save us money at all.
Last year, the consumer group Which?
launched what's called a super-complaint against the big
four supermarkets, claiming shoppers had been duped out
of hundreds of millions of pounds through misleading pricing tactics.
They demanded an investigation into what they described as "dodgy
"multibuys, shrinking products and baffling sales offers".
And those are all concerns echoed by Andy Webb
from the government-funded Money Advice Service.
He says BOGOFs and other deals seduce shoppers into buying
food they don't need.
We found that 75% of us, that's three quarters of us,
when we go to the supermarket, we're spending more
because we've seen this deal that we feel we have to buy.
And it works out around 21%, when you get to the checkout,
that's been added to the bill, about £11 or £12 per shop.
Now, we go to the supermarket roughly twice a week,
the research found so, in a year, that could be over £1,200,
which is a ridiculous amount of money that we're
spending on things we hadn't intended to buy when we went in.
What's more, the Money Advice Service reckons the reason we
so eagerly snap up all those BOGOFs is because it's not
easy to understand whether they offer genuine value for money.
So we took four everyday products
and four different examples of how the offers are presented
and asked people to pick the one which they thought was
the best value
and, out of everyone who answered that, only one in 50 -
that's 2% - were able to get all four correct, which just shows how
complicated some of the wording can be in the supermarket.
We wanted to see for ourselves how confusing these supermarket
offers might be,
so we asked Andy to repeat his test on the streets of Manchester.
So we've got these four everyday kind of products you
buy in the supermarket...
Andy's seeing if passing shoppers can work out which of several
different offers is really the best deal. So, thinking caps on.
Chances are, you might not instantly get it right, either.
First off, he's got a choice of prices for eggs.
So, which deal would you go for?
Well, if your maths skills are a bit rusty, it's the last one.
This time, the BOGOF was the best value.
But let's see if our shoppers can work it out.
Oh, gosh. One second. Erm...
That's probably the best one. Ten medium eggs on offer for £1.50.
-It's actually the bottom one.
-Is it? Impossible!
-So that's... 20 for £2.20. That one, I think.
-Yep, bang on, that's right.
-That's the best option there, if you need 20 eggs.
-Which I wouldn't.
Ten for £1.50. Two packs of six, so 12 for £2...
-Buy one get one free on ten for £2.20...
-So 20 for £2.20.
-Yeah, it's that one, isn't it?
-That's right. Well done.
-I'd say the bottom one.
-Yeah, it is the bottom one.
-Is it? Oh, good.
But that's a lot of eggs, it's 20 eggs for that last option,
but it works out cheaper if you need that many eggs.
Next up is lemons. Which of these represents the best deal?
Remember, these are exactly the sort of calculations we make
whenever we go shopping, and they're not easy.
Once again, it's the last answer that's the right one,
but it takes a bit of time to get there.
-Next up we've got 500g of lemons.
I buy them one at a time.
Yes, you do, don't you? I think it's that one, but my mind's going.
It's difficult when we put you on the spot.
-It's actually the last one.
-Is it, yeah?
That one's slightly cheaper, but again, it's a lot of lemons, isn't it?
Which represents the best deal?
One pack of 500g costs £1.20, buy one and get one half price on 250...
It's ridiculous. Erm...
-£1.10 for 500, that's probably the cheapest one, is it?
-Yeah, it is.
-You're good at this.
-I'm an accountant, so there you go.
-There we go, so your reputation's on the line now.
-That one, I think.
-No, £1.05 for... Oh, wait.
-Yeah, for half. What?
No, wait. Buy one get one half price on 250, so for 500g, it's £1.05,
-so it's that one.
-Yeah, you're right.
-You're meant to be the clever one.
So, it's quite clear that, when faced with
a multitude of multipack deals, most people were totally baffled.
So, of the ten people we spoke to, only one of them got all
the answers correct, and that was with the help of a calculator.
I think that just goes to show that some of the wording is really
complicated, it is difficult to try and find the best value
when you're faced with so many different options.
After carrying out an investigation into supermarket offers,
the Competition and Markets Authority issued recommendations
that stores should provide greater clarity over their prices.
And, since then, most of the big names have started moving
away from the traditional buy one get one free deals.
Sainsbury's have stopped doing multi-buy offers altogether.
It said such deals are out of step with modern shoppers
whose priorities are now cutting waste and eating more healthily.
Other stores too have now said they're
concentrating on everyday low prices, rather than promotions.
But the British Retail Consortium,
which speaks for the industry as a whole, pointed out that...
..and that, while the Competition and Markets Authority had found a limited
number of potentially confusing pricing practices,
these problems are not systemic across the retail industry.
But, if the idea of doing all those sums
while you're shopping fills you with horror, Andy has simple
advice to stop you being distracted into buying things you don't need.
If you do take a shopping list with you, that'll help you keep
to what you really buy.
And, of course, check that price per unit,
which will hopefully make it a little bit easier to figure
out what one from here and here actually is the best value.
Now, earlier in the programme,
we saw how supermarkets are starting to
crack down on some of their best-known deals after accusations
that they're confusing
and may encourage us to spend more on things we just don't need.
However, one person who's found a way to make special offers
work to her advantage is Sam Shelford from Essex.
Like many of us, she's often to be found staring at her phone.
But she's not simply messaging people or checking the latest
headlines, she's glued to her phone for very different reasons.
Am I addicted to special offers? I would say I am. Yeah, pretty much.
There's many people out there who'll sit browsing the internet or
just scrolling through Facebook or just scrolling through Instagram.
For me, I actually use that time to look for and find coupons.
When I go out and I find a great deal,
the sad truth is I actually get a little excited.
And obviously, I start to think, "How many can I get?
"How many can I get for free? What if I combine it with this?"
And all these thoughts start whizzing through my head.
Sam insists that her addiction to discounts saves her a small
fortune. Her weekly shop for her family of three
costs around £25, less than half the average family spend.
This all started about three years ago,
just after my daughter was born.
We was paying £300-£400 a month on food shopping,
and we just couldn't work out where it was going,
and obviously going on maternity leave and not having much of
an income made me realise I needed to tighten our belts a little bit.
When it comes to Sam's main weekly shop, it's all about the bargains.
She's determined never to pay full price.
Sam's successes echo those of the coupon kid, Jordan Cox,
whom we've met on the programme before.
£82 worth of shopping for...
-That's when you were getting good.
Like him, Sam puts a lot of time and effort into finding the best
deals, coupons and offers, but it does pay off.
She estimates all the hard work saves her
family as much as £1,300 a year.
The main places I tend to find vouchers
and coupons is obviously online.
A lot of social media will have them, a lot of brands will
have them on their websites, getting you to try their products.
Sam has a constant supply of vouchers cut out of magazines,
downloaded from the internet or ripped off packaging,
and that's just the start of her homework that she
does before going anywhere near a shop.
What I'm going to do now
is sit and compile a shopping list.
I've got my pile of coupons and my tablet,
and basically what I'm going to do is work my way through,
and just see what offers I've currently got in here.
Sam will write a list of all the products she has coupons for, then
she uses price comparison websites to find out who is currently
selling those products at the cheapest price.
Such meticulous attention to detail is the reason that she ends
up saving so much money.
This week, she's hoping to bag a load of free soup.
So obviously, one of the key offers was the soup,
so when I checked the price comparison site,
it had actually been reduced to a pound in store this week.
Now, I've got a pound off voucher,
which actually makes it completely free.
Sam is also a fan of cashback apps on her phone, such as TopCashback,
CheckoutSmrt and Shopitize, all of which,
once you've bought particular products, should result
in your bank account being credited with the savings that you've made.
But while it all sounds a world of opportunity -
providing you're prepared, of course, to put the work in -
there are those who'd cite a note of caution,
particularly to the more casual bargain hunter.
So industry expert Darren Smith has called round with some advice.
-Hiya, nice to meet you.
-Hello, come in.
I'm very keen on coupons and supermarket special offers,
and obviously their loyalty cards as well, but obviously what
benefit is that to the supermarket if we're getting these good deals?
Supermarkets are a business, at the end of the day,
so the three things they're trying to do are either get you as a
shopper to buy it more frequently, so as an example,
Aunt Bessie's launched midweek roast potatoes, so you have a roastie
on a Sunday, they're getting you to have one in the week as well.
The second thing they're trying to do is increase trip spend,
which means when you go in and you spend £1 on a product,
they want you to spend £2, so they'll give you a bigger pack,
and you might get two and a half times more,
so it's better value for you, but you're spending more with them.
The third thing is trying to get more shoppers to
buy into that category or that product,
so if you've never bought salads in the winter,
they might give you a deal to say, "Buy this pack in the winter."
And, of course, while the supermarkets realise
the value of coupons, so too do product manufacturers. For them,
the coupons you see as a great deal is simply very clever marketing.
What tricks are actually used to get people enticed to
-the in-store product?
-So what the buyers
and the suppliers are trying to do is trying to tempt you here,
to buy the product, let's call that on the first rung of the stairs.
Buy it, you like it,
and then when you come back and they roughly know your pattern of buying,
six weeks later, they might get you to buy it again,
maybe at a slightly higher price.
So you buy more of it, and ultimately, what they're
trying to get you to do is buy their product often, and at full-price.
But Sam is confident that she knows exactly how to make
the coupons work for her.
Despite relying on them for her weekly shop,
she's adamant she never buys anything that she doesn't need,
or indeed, won't use, and that's once again the case with
the latest haul that she's come back with.
This is a shop that we've just purchased.
This here was what we managed to purchase via coupons.
Obviously luckily, the soups, the butter, the yoghurts and the
hot chocolates were all completely free as well,
which is an absolute bonus.
If she had paid full price, Sam's shopping would have cost
her £32.20, but with the coupons, it came to £19.40, a saving of 40%.
Supermarket special offers and deals may be coming under increasing
scrutiny, but it's unlikely that they'll ever disappear completely.
And, for Sam, that's just as well because she couldn't imagine
giving up the way that she shops these days.
I don't think I'd ever be able to get
out of the routine of actually doing my shopping this way.
I just see the massive savings that I made, I enjoy it,
I get a little buzz out of it, which is quite sad to say.
But, no, it'll always be a way of life for me now.
and heavy shopping bags are just a few of the reasons that more
and more of us than ever before now do our weekly shopping online.
It's a hassle-free alternative
with the emphasis very firmly on convenience.
So, it's presumably not unreasonable that such a service may,
somewhere along the line, have some sort of cost attached to it.
Typically, for example, for delivery.
But in recent months, we've come across a number of people all
unhappy about the same thing.
And that is a big change in the policy of one major supermarket
that means that its online shopping now has more of a cost.
One that quite a few of you feel makes it much less
attractive as an option.
Nearly a third of all UK households now
shop for their groceries on the internet.
we spend an average of £8.9 billion doing that every year.
Wherever you live,
it's very easy to see the appeal of being able to do your shopping
online and then having it delivered straight to your door.
You don't have to worry about traffic,
about battling through crowds and, of course, best of all,
it actually gets carried straight into the house.
Now, an awful lot of people reckon that that convenience is
worth paying just a little bit extra for.
But for others, it's not convenience at all, it's a practical necessity.
64-year-old Dave Rosam from Winchester has relied
heavily on his weekly online shop from Tesco.
Dave was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
-over 30 years ago. Dave.
-Hello. Come in.
And the condition has had a lasting impact on his health and mobility.
I get tired very easy, which is the main problem.
I do have a back problem which... I tend to use a stick, I don't
need to, but it does take the pressure off the back and the pain.
How convenient has it been to have your shopping delivered here?
It saves me time, it saves me petrol money,
and also, I can think more about what I'm ordering.
I think it's a great service.
Or, at least, he did until a change in Tesco's policy led him
to write to us.
The store's online shopping service used to have a minimum
spend of £25, a comfortable amount for Dave to spend.
Any less than that and you'd incur a £4 surcharge.
But in July 2015,
Tesco started applying that £4 surcharge to shopping that
came to less than £40, leaving Dave, and others like him,
with a stark choice.
Pay an extra £4 with no more groceries to show for it or, to
avoid the surcharge,
spend an extra £15 a week on food he simply doesn't need.
I don't get angry very easy but I think I was angry.
Not just for myself, there are a lot of people out there...
..who are less fit than me, older than me, who it will hit more.
Who don't spend £40 a week on shopping, by any means.
-Was £40 more than you would ever consider spending in a week?
-It's quite a chunk out of my income.
-It's another £15 every time.
I'm just on state pension. And that is quite a considerable sum.
I could, if required, arrange it so that I only had it every two weeks.
But then you've got things like the fresh produce.
They're not going to last me two weeks without going off.
Dave hasn't got the freezer space for the surplus food that
he'd need to buy to escape the surcharge.
But in any case, for him, it's not about storage but affordability.
So what did you decide to do when you thought, no,
I can't afford that extra £15 a week?
I decided that while I'm not boycotting Tesco.
I now do any online shopping that I want to do with ASDA.
When we checked the policies of the other supermarkets,
it was clear that the change in Tesco's policy,
without which the store has said its online service would just
not be viable, is simply bringing it into line with its rivals.
Already, Morrisons won't deliver if your shopping costs less than £40.
And although Sainsbury's will,
you may have to pay a higher delivery charge.
Meanwhile, Waitrose has a minimum online spend of £60.
Beneath that, it too won't deliver.
200 miles away from Dave in Pembrokeshire lives 30-year-old
Jessica, who's another person to contact us on the same point.
She has cerebral palsy
and finds online shopping deliveries are vital.
Sometimes, even the simplest of activities,
like going shopping, can actually be quite hard work.
The supermarket delivery service means that
I can have my food effectively delivered to my front door.
Before Tesco introduced its £4 surcharge on shopping under £40,
Jessica used to make a couple of orders each week
to avoid problems of trying to pick up fresh produce in store.
Having the shopping delivered to the front door,
you haven't got to worry, what if I go somewhere
and I can't reach the items I want on the shelves,
or I can't pick up half of the items that I want to
put in the trolley cos they can be quite heavy?
But now that Tesco's minimum spend has gone up to £40,
Jessica only uses the online service every two to three weeks.
Which means, in between, at least twice a week,
she makes the trip to her local convenience store to pick up
all her fresh foods, and that can be difficult.
Thank you very much.
How are you? No, I've got a bag, actually.
As with Dave, for Jessica, this is about more than convenience.
She'd find it hard to justify paying the extra £4 that her shop
will cost under Tesco's new rules.
I've recently been made redundant from working full-time.
I do have to be more conscious of what I'm spending and where I'm
spending it cos, if I was to blow
my whole week's benefit on food,
I then perhaps wouldn't have money to pay the bills.
Disability charity Scope has concerns that people
like Jessica are being priced out of a service that they really need.
Disabled people are more likely than non-disabled people to do their
shopping online, and very often, that's out of necessity rather than
desire because local shops might not be accessible to them.
What this increase might mean is that they won't be able to do
that weekly shop online.
But you can understand the supermarkets' position as well.
The cost of running an online shopping service really adds up,
with many making losses as a result.
The Big Four retailers aren't making huge profits from online
because there are massive costs associated with running these
businesses. You have to have distribution centres
and you have to have a lot of picking in stores.
And then you have to have somebody driving delivery lorries
and delivery vans, and half the time, those delivery vans are empty,
of course, because they're going back to the depot.
So all those costs have to be borne
and, as a result, it's very difficult to make a profit in this area.
If it's costing between £15 and £25 to pick an order, somebody who
purchases £30 of product is not a valuable customer to the retailer.
As a consequence, what retailers are doing,
they're having to increase the minimum spend to cover those costs.
All of which makes perfect business sense,
but when the average cost of a weekly shop for a single person
under retirement age is around £30 a week,
minimum spends of £40 or more do raise the question of
whether online shopping is becoming less
practical for some of the people who might most benefit from using it.
When we asked the supermarkets if they felt that their online shopping
charges meet the needs of more vulnerable customers,
they were keen to stress that there are ways of keeping the costs down.
Morrisons, Sainsbury's and ASDA each told us that their charges
start at as little as £1, depending on the time and the day.
And regular customers can reduce costs further through
And while it's not quite as convenient as home delivery,
some stores also pointed out that there's a lower minimum spend
if you use their click and collect and service.
Waitrose didn't comment directly on costs,
but said it's continually looking at ways of responding to
the needs of customers, highlighting a scheme to raise the alarm
if an elderly or vulnerable person doesn't always answer the door.
And when we spoke to Tesco about Dave and Jessica's case,
it told us that it had to introduce a minimum basket spend
or it simply wouldn't be able to provide a...
Tesco said that it had a range of offers to make online
shopping cheaper, including its Delivery Saver scheme,
which the supermarket said had proved popular.
But, whatever the delivery price,
that minimum £40 spend remains an issue for Jessica,
who's frustrated that it limits how often
she uses a service that makes shopping so much easier for her.
I don't mind asking for help
but I'm so independent that I want to be able to manage it myself.
So being able just to click a few buttons and say I want this,
this, just gives me that independence.
There's enough times in your life that you have to admit defeat
and say that you need help with stuff, and being able to say
that you can do your shopping independently is just really good.
Well, of course it's oh,
so easy to be dazzled by the array of special offers and deals
with which we're confronted every time we go into a supermarket.
But, as with any kind of shopping,
you do sometimes just need to keep your wits about you a bit,
however much you might just want to get in
and get out of the store as quickly as possible.
Because, well, as we've seen, not everything is necessarily
quite as good a deal as it might at first appear.
But while life's too short, I think,
to do a full-on price comparison every time you're
planning your weekly shop,
the occasional check on which stores are offering the best prices
really can pay dividends when it comes to getting value for money.
We're often incredibly loyal to our favourite supermarket,
and that could mean we're missing out on better prices elsewhere.
Well, I must confess, I sometimes quite enjoy going to
the supermarket and having a good old rummage and a pry around.
And by and large, I think that all that rivalry between the big
names probably does help you keep the prices down.
But let us know if there's anything about your food shopping that's
left you feeling, I don't know, bamboozled or even short-changed.
And we'll continue to keep the supermarkets on their toes.
But I'm afraid that's where we have to leave it at this point.
Clearly, we look forward to your company again very soon.
-But, from all of us on the team, bye-bye.
Julia Somerville, Angela Rippon and Gloria Hunniford investigate whether supermarket deals and special offers are always the bargain they appear, testing out how easy it is for people to work out which deals offer the best value for money. And the charges for online shopping that some say price out the service for those who need it most.