The items to avoid if you want to dodge supermarket price hikes

If you feel like the cost of putting Sunday lunch on the table has increased,you’re right.

ASun-Herald andThe Ageanalysis has found the price of a Sunday roast with all the trimmings for an extended family has shot up by nearly $30 in the past three years to $107.50.

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That includes a 1.6-kilogram leg of lamb,roast potatoes,carrots and onions,broccoli,a garden salad,a vegetarian option,vanilla ice cream and fresh blueberries,lemonade for the children,and a couple of bottles of Barossa Valley shiraz.

The analysis compared prices on the Coles and Woolworths websites and current catalogues,with archived 2019 catalogues.

The overall bill was 37.9 per cent higher than 2019,while price rises for fresh vegetables were up between 30 per cent and 200 per cent. The exception was avocado,which is cheaper than it was in winter 2019.

Other non-food grocery items have also seen large price rises,including disposable nappies,baby formula and toilet paper.

Inflation has seen the price of a Sunday roast lunch increase by $30 in three years.

Inflation has seen the price of a Sunday roast lunch increase by $30 in three years.William Meppem

Robert Reid,senior strategist at retail consultancy Retail Oasis,said fresh produce was usually an anchor rather than a profit driver for a supermarket,attracting customers who would hopefully buy items with higher margins.

“The challenge isn’t necessarily to maintain margins on fresh produce but to ensure prices are seen as reasonable or at least not too expensive,” Reid said.

“The seasonality of produce provides the supermarkets some levers,promoting select products that haven’t seen price increases,like bananas,grapes and avocado,while downplaying items like tomatoes and lettuce that have seen large price increases.”

Supermarkets did this by shifting lower-priced produce to the ends of tables and putting higher-priced items in the middle,or giving expensive varieties of tomato a narrow row and cheaper Roma tomatoes a larger area.

They also changed unit measurements – for example,labelling the price of a whole capsicum rather than the price per kilogram.

Another strategy was to promote produce with odd shapes,blemishes or bruises that can be sold at discounted prices.

Meanwhile,Reid said consumers were shifting behaviour to save money,including bulk buying,shopping at lower-priced outlets such as ALDI,and switching to cheaper alternatives,but noted different consumer groups behaved differently.

“Consumers affected by price inflation typically tend to shift to alternatives to fresh,such as purchasing lower-priced frozen and canned food,” Reid said.

“For example,opting for frozen fish over fresh fish,buying canned tomatoes to make pasta sauce versus fresh tomatoes and using dried herbs over fresh.”

He said that was more common than shifting where and how people shop,such as making bulk purchases rather than a weekly Coles shop,or visiting the fishmonger rather than the supermarket.

The crisis is worse for people on low incomes who already choose the cheapest food and cannot make these swaps.

Jack de Groot,the chief executive of St Vincent de Paul Society NSW,said one-in-four people that approached the charity for help this financial year did so for the first time.

Of those came to Vinnies this year,84 per cent had asked for assistance with food,up from about 60 per cent in normal times,De Groot said.

The charity had spent 60 per cent of its 2021-2022 assistance on food,with other supports such as power bills and accommodation making up the remainder.

“It’s clearly a real struggle[to put] enough food on the table each day,and we know that a number of people reduce the number of meals they have each day,” De Groot said.

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Caitlin Fitzsimmons was the former deputy editor of BRW and a writer on entrepreneurship for The Australian Financial Review.

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