The cost of basic groceries tracked over a year

The cost of basic groceries tracked over a year

In August 2022, the Drive with Rob and Roz embarked on a year-long exercise to track the cost of a basic basket of groceries.


The hope was to make sense of complex terms like inflation and CPI by buying the same basic basket of goods every month and tracking the price changes.

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Each payday (the 25th of each month for most people), the Drive’s News Cast Editor and news anchor, Christelle du Toit, does the "shopping" and captures the data to make sense of what is happening to our budgets, before unpacking it during Explained Well.

Starting with the major retailers that offered online grocery shopping (Checkers, Pick n Pay, and Woolworths), we eventually found that shopping Pick n Pay on the Mr D app worked better and in May, we also added the Spar2U app.

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The data was captured during the year in an interactive timeline, and now the team has drilled down into what a year’s worth of shopping can tell us about financial developments in the country and world.

In the last month, we found that changing your shopping date (to a few days before the 25th) made a significant impact on the basket price – all our baskets went down! For this reason, the year up to July 2023 was used for the price comparisons below.

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Who was the cheapest?

Checkers was consistently the cheapest, but over the course of the year, the average basket fluctuated significantly. By July 2023, the basket was up 4.8% from August 2022 – which is below the current inflation rate.

Pick n Pay, while not consistently the cheapest and with some glitches along the way before we switched fully to Mr D, finished the year 2% cheaper than August 2023.

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Who was the most consistent?

Woolworths had relatively consistent prices but was also consistently the most expensive - and ended the year 8.9% more expensive – which is above inflation.

For Spar, there still seems to be a fair amount of fluctuation in prices and with only a few months of data, it is hard to say if they have reached stability on the new app yet.

What is eating our money every month?

Sanitary products were consistently expensive and while it ended the period 4% cheaper at Pick n Pay, we learned in March that shopping around for this is well worth the trouble, with Spar doing very well with the pricing of this product every single month.

The price of sugar has been rising steadily – it ended the monitoring period cheapest at Woolworths, where it was 16% up, but at Checkers this was 24% in the tracking period and Pick n Pay 19%.  

Toilet paper prices fluctuated a lot – it ended up the cheapest at Pick n Pay, where it was 37% down over the period, but at Checkers it was 27% up in price from August 2022. At Woolworths, it was the most expensive, but only up 8% over the monitoring period.

Milk saw significant increases – at Checkers it was 35% up over the period, at Pick n Pay 21%, and at Woolworths 9%.

The biggest price increases (and variations) could be seen in grains, which have been steadily rising. While there were some fluctuations, rice ended the period cheapest at Pick n Pay as well as down 23% over the period - at Checkers, it went up by 33% up, and at Woolworths a rather scary 82% up.

Pasta ended the year cheapest at Pick n Pay at 14% up (compared to 38% at Checkers and 21% at Woolworths).

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Is there any good news?

The price of oil went down significantly – 38% down at Checkers from August 2022, compared to 13% down at Pick n Pay and 33% at Woolworths.

The price of soap remained utterly consistent, and while chocolate ended the period roughly 10% up, but we can live with that…

How do we beat the system?

1.     Know your needs – buy bulk/bigger quantities of what you use often.

2.     Shop the specials – and if you can, don’t wait until payday to go basics shopping.

3.     Know your related rewards systems and use them to your benefit. 

Tune in to 'The Drive with Rob & Roz', on weekdays from 16:00 - 19:00. Stream the show live here or download our mobile app here.

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Main image courtesy of iStock

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