Supermarket Survey 2008

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

If the economic crunch doesn't kill you, grocery prices will.

Today Tonight's latest supermarket survey is a shock. If you thought you were getting less for your dollar well, you're right, a LOT less.

From Joondalup to Mandurah we compared the cost of groceries across sixteen suburbs.

Last year, our shopping basket cost just over seventy dollars. This year, the same essentials set us back ninety bucks. That's an extra twenty dollars. A whopping increase of twenty eight percent. The biggest in a decade of surveys. No wonder Perth families are feeling the pinch.

"There's not a person who goes down to their grocery store or the petrol station as doesn't feel as though their walking away with less for their dollar" says John Cummings.

That's a big call from a bloke who owns a supermarket himself. John Cummings is being very candid. The President of the Independent Grocers Association has seen the price hike first hand.

"Ice cream going up by nearly 30% that's because of a shortage of dairy products and were seeing farmers getting more and if we weren't paying farmers more, they would be going broke and we wouldn't have ice cream".

So let's take a look at these everyday items...

Crisco Sunflower Oil ranged from $4.99 to $5.09. That's only a difference of 10 cents, but compared to last year's survey the average price is up from $3.69 to $5.01. An increase of $1.32 or 35%.

Watsonia Bacon ranged from $5.25 to $6.29. A $1.04 difference. The cheapest at Farmer Jacks in Subiaco. This year's average up from $4.62 to $5.72 so you're paying $1.10 more or 23%.

Arnott's Cream Biscuits ranged from $4.59 to $4.89. A 30 cent difference, but again compared to last year, it's up from an average of $3.59 to $4.59. A dollar more expensive or 27% increase.

Palmolive Dish Liquid ranged from $4.99 to $2.89. A two dollar saving. The cheapest at Woolworths and Coles in several suburbs. The average price of $3.17 is up 35 cents on last year's survey.

The latest price hikes have even taken marketing guru Barry Urquhart by surprise.

"The competition between the supermarkets has intensified, variations between the least and most expensive has narrowed" says Barry.

It used to pay to shop around, now you may actually save money staying closer to home. The gap between supermarket prices has got so tight, that the extra couple of bucks you pocket driving to a cheaper suburb will only be guzzled up in petrol prices to get you there.

With the price of petrol, you're better off sticking within a certain radius.

Check out these comparisons...

Domestos cost $4.39 at 13 of the 16 stores we checked.

Weetbix cost $4.19 at 14 of the 16 supermarkets surveyed.

Kit e Kat cat food costs between $1.09 and $1.12 in every store. Only a three cent variation.

So how did the supermarkets compare? Here are the top six.

Woolworths in Joondalup and Belmont where a basket costs $91.69.

Woolworths in Kwinana, $91.45

Woolworths in Bull Creek, $91.43

IGA Landsdale, $91.35

The cheapest, IGA Kingsley, $91.19. Also last year's best priced basket.

Incredibly that's just fifty cents between the top six suburbs we surveyed. The closet margin ever, but some suburbs are still pricier. The most expensive basket was $100.95. $9.76 more than the cheapest supermarket.

Keeping ahead of the competition can be confusing, even our supermarket surveys are getting harder. Products change in size, weight, or disappear from the shelves altogether and prices go up and down like a yo yo.

With the official inflation rate at only five percent, the twenty eight percent increase on this year's basket is taking a much bigger bite out of the family budget.

"It's not the retailers who are making the money a lot of these price increases are driven by shortages at the farm gate cost production of food that basic level, and that's what's driven the prices up" says Barry.

So who's making the money? Well, the small retailers reckon they're not making more profits and the farmers are crying poor too.

One thing we know for sure. Customers are paying heaps more, so the fingers pointed at the big supermarket chains as we've reported many times before.

The hard fact is this: To make ends meet, experts agree you need to spend smarter. Save by shopping in your local suburb, take a shopping list and stick to it and check the shelves for specials.