The Cost of Living in Australia: Groceries

In what may be (some of you may wish to argue and suggest other entries) my most boring post to date, I bring you a relatively meaningless grocery price comparison chart. I say boring because it wasn’t much fun writing it and I can’t imagine it makes great reading. But if you are considering coming here to live, this is information you need to know.

I say meaningless because….

  • I don’t normally do the shopping, so what do I know?
  • Items were picked randomly.
  • I have only compared 12 items.
  • I have only compared Australian costs with the UK.
  • UK prices were taken from a Tesco website. (Could it be biased?)
  • Australian prices taken from Coles v Woolworths pricechecker.

Having said all that, the outcome is exactly as I would have predicted. First, here are the results…..

Australian Grocery Prices

oz-grocery-prices
English Grocery Prices

uk-grocery-prices
At the time of writing, one English pound was worth $2.05 AUD. So our little basket full of shopping here in Australia has cost us $76.38. Had we paid the Tesco prices, it would have cost £39.72.

I can convert £39.72 into Australian dollars by multiplying by 2.05. So if we had Tesco prices here, it would have cost us $81.43. So by shopping in Cole’s and Woolworths instead of Tesco, we have saved $5.05.

So on the face of it, Australia wins again. In my first article on the cost of living in Australia, I looked at petrol prices and Australia won hands down. They have just about sneaked it on grocery prices too.

But a closer look will tell you that had it not been for the steak, UK prices would have been cheaper. And as I hinted at earlier, that is the outcome I expected. Beef here is much cheaper but not too many other things are.

Our shopping basket isn’t well balanced, with just 11 day-to-day items plus a kilo of beef! Take that beef out of the basket and the UK wins. Last week I said some things were cheaper, some were dearer, but net you’d probably end up evens in your overall expenditure. That holds true for food shopping too.

For this reason I am calling this particular cost of living battle a draw. There really isn’t much in it.

Update:

You may be interested in reading the updated version of this post…

Petrol Prices – A Quick Update

Whilst we are on the subject of the cost of living in Australia, in my petrol prices post, I predicted the price would rise to a weekend high of $1.45 per litre following the removal of the 8 cent subsidy. I am delighted to report that I was wrong. The highest price I have seen is around $1.28 and the lowest about $1.19.

It’s good to be wrong.

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{ 38 comments… add one }
  • Ayobami June 4, 2015, 10:01 am | Link

    In spite of all this Australian still pretty place to live. Purchasing power might be high but the income is something to fall back on.

  • Steph June 26, 2012, 5:31 pm | Link

    The cost of groceries in Perth is astronomical even compared to Sydney. Some of it can be attributable to the mining activity (increased demand). You don’t come to Perth for an inexpensive lifestyle, perhaps the sun (but I suspect there is more to life than blue skies!). Don’t get me started on the cost of housing here…ouch!

    • BobinOz June 27, 2012, 6:11 pm | Link

      Yes, I’ve heard Perth is quite expensive at the moment, fuelled by the jobs boom I hear. What’s the cost of housing like, Steph?

      Just kidding…

  • Obiwan June 25, 2012, 11:48 pm | Link

    I’m an Aussie living in the UK. The last time I was home back in 2011, I must say the prices in Oz had skyrocketed and it was extremely expensive to go shopping at the supermarket. The pound stirling didn’t stretch far and I thought that people in Oz must get paid a lot for the price that everything was. UK supermarkets also have a lot better specials and discounts that I noticed that Oz supermarkets just didn’t do, so if you take petrol out of the equation (as that will be cheaper in Oz for many years to come), then it is a lot more affordable to live in the UK.

    • BobinOz June 27, 2012, 6:10 pm | Link

      I think the main problem Obiwan is the exchange rate between GBP and AUD, the pound is so weak at the moment, everything would seem expensive to you.

      Prices here haven’t so much skyrocketed here, it’s more a case that the pound has nosedived.

      The cost of living is nowhere near as bad as it would have appeared to you for those of us living here and earning Australian dollars. My research, incidentally, suggests wages are just over 30% higher here than in the UK.

  • BobinOz February 21, 2012, 5:40 pm | Link

    Medical insurance is $1,000? For what? A month, year? We can all pick out individual items that are very expensive here in Australia, but there are plenty of things that are much cheaper here too. I still say it’s swings and roundabouts, there’s not much in it, especially when you take into account the higher wages here.

  • David February 20, 2012, 8:44 am | Link

    Medical cost in Australia are extremely high.
    Medical Insurance is around $1000 per adult and only covers specific treatment. Dental cost are in some cases 10 times higher (Root Canal = $1500). Car Loan =12 %. Mortgage = 7%. Builders are very expensive… I was looking in Target at a Baby Bouncer that in the US cost $80 and 60 quid in the UK, Price = $249 – No way is Australia any cheaper than the UK. I buy mostly online now and even with postage from the UK things are cheaper… Another thing to consider is holidays – Its much further to fly anywhere so its also more expensive.

  • Tracy October 22, 2011, 8:25 pm | Link

    Just moved to Oz from Canada… trying to eat healthfully on meager blogging wages… it’s tough times!!! It seems like my grocery bills are almost twice as much per week than it was back home! And that’s not even organic food or anything :/ That’s shopping at Coles.

    However, my boyfriend, who now works as a casual at Coles makes $22 an hour…. starting wage. Which is outrageous(ly awesome) to me…. the same thing back home would earn probably 11 at the most. So even though food is more expensive here compared to Canada, at least they get paid decently here!

    But yeah…. the point is – it kind of sucks buying groceries in Oz when you are just a struggling blogger without a work visa.

  • retry May 24, 2011, 12:01 pm | Link

    interesting, diesel is cheaper here right now…by about 20 cents a gallon. But diesel is really rare in the US now due to a stigma about air pollution from the 80s. I’m not even sure you can buy a new diesel passenger car anymore.

    Just went to ALDI today in fact. Carried a whole watermelon home about 800 meters. Read a thing in the news about how unemployed can’t afford gas to go job seeking right now. They tried to make me feel sympathy for a girl that had to walk a whole 1.6km to a job interview. I think I walked 5km today just around the hood taking care of usual errands. It’s a pleasure when the weather is good. Americans are mental.

  • COL B. May 23, 2011, 7:17 pm | Link

    Retry- well, I drive a four cylinder vehicle and only ever go out shopping once a fortnight. I stock up well. I thank Bob for giving you the fuel tank costs here in Oz, he pretty well summed it up for you on our behalf. And hey, diesel fuel may cost more than unleaded fuel but it goes much further distance-wise.

  • BobinOz May 23, 2011, 6:10 pm | Link

    Hi Col B and retry

    My wife tends to have a once weekly trip over to our nearest Aldi supermarket, she always comes back with a big bag of goodies including my green tea. But I do have to confess, I’m one of those that thought that Aldi was a bit behind when it comes to quality.

    Mind you, I’ve been very happy with the four glass bathroom shelves I bought from them which cost just $20 each compared with $70 that Bunnings wanted.

    I’ve never seen a Trader Joe’s here, and hopefully one will show up soon. I have been to one in America, so I know that they are pretty good. Retry, petrol here is currently hovering between $1.40 and $1.50 per litre, so that’s over six dollars a gallon. So you’re still getting your petrol cheaper than us.

    Col B, you have given such a fantastic reference to Aldi’s foods, I think my mouth started to water when you were talking about those hotdogs, that I’m going to ask Mrs BobinOz to buy at least two big bags of goodies next time she goes. By the way, our nearest Aldi store is about 20 km away I would think, but we did hear a rumour that one might get built in our suburb.

    But that was before the floods.

    Anyway, thank you both for making me look at Aldi in a different light.

  • retry May 22, 2011, 2:31 pm | Link

    Word.

    If ALDI can do it, these other stores can too. It just goes to show how much they gouge us. Interesting to hear that the same pattern holds in both Oz and the US. 38km away? Wow man, you must burn a lot of gas to get around. Once the weather is good, I can walk to ALDI, TJ’s and coventional grocery stores. They’re all within 800 meters. Now I wonder what you guys pay for gas. It’s up to $4.70 a gallon (roughly 4 liters) here in Chicago, but that’s some of the highest prices in the country. You know us americans expect our gas cheap.

  • COL B. May 22, 2011, 11:28 am | Link

    As far as I know about Trader Joe’s in my country, yes there is. I only go to two separate Aldi Stores the same distances from my home at Elmore which is a small town on the high riverbank side of the Campaspe River in the state of Victoria The two Aldis are thirty-eight kilometres away north & south of here. Both have Trader Joes in the stores but not so yuppie’s prices, in fact Trader Joes here at the two stores (at Bendigo and Echuca) are very competitive for cheap but good quality stuff. There are Trader Joes in Melbourne and in Sydney that I’ve heard of but there are are Aldis all over the Eastern Seaboard of Oz. It is the fastest growing supermarket chain here at the moment. I don’t mind the lack of checkouts where usually only one checkout is functioning (Two on busy days) but they do move quickly. You see, the less workers means less wages which keeps prices down!. Mmmm…. those tasty party pies are the yummiest I’ve ever tasted, it’s actually makes me cringe over my plate so defensively so nobody can snatch one! The American style Hot-Dogs has a clean snap to it and tasty too, not mushy like well known brands. And I can’t get over the best Blueberry Muffins Ive ever tasted either! in fact I hide them from my sisters because they love them & go through a dozen of them in one sitting!. Even the price of those 1-litre cartons of long-life milk are a steal! It was’nt just prices that I choose Aldi for, it’s for taste, and, interesting this is, the chain banned dangerous food additive colouring from its entire food range. Yes, you guessed it, organic. Most of the foodstuff are Australian made with some German treats as well. Aldi’s are heroes, I say to hell with Coles, Woolworths or Safeways all of which are known for unwrapping and turning over their chemical- filled meats when it’s a day old and rewrap them and then put them back for sale again. I might sound like a critic, but hey!, would I wanna b#llsh@t to anyone? I know four supervisers from these stores who, after a few drinks, mate, they actually tell me they’re shoddy and hate their jobs!

  • retry May 21, 2011, 3:00 am | Link

    I agree with the ALDI assessment. Although I live in the USA (Chicago now Bob), but ALDI is full of quality products. I’d characterize it exactly the same way as Col B did. Essentially everything we can get at ALDI we get there. A lot of my friends don’t shop there because they perceive the place as cheap and poor. They’re judging the book by its cover when they should be judging by its superbly tasty german chocolates.

    We also have Trader Joe’s here whose parent company ALDI shares. Do you have TJ’s in Oz? It’s essentially ALDI for yuppies yet still competitively priced.

    We’ve dealt with a lot of grocery inflation here of late due to the increase in oil and corn — both major staples to food production. On top of this, the USD continues to weaken against all the other major foreign currencies. The AUD is doing very well. It is now STRONGER than the USD for the first time ever. You’ve also gained well against the GBP. Way to go Oz.

  • Col B May 21, 2011, 12:44 am | Link

    Shopping is what I do myself. In Oz, I find that the ALDI Supermarket chain are way much cheaper than one thinks for quality food and non-food items (and its aisle of Hardware, Electrical etc – compare ALDI v BIG W) than any other Supermarket chains here (and i’ve shopped at them all). Shopping at Aldi’s makes Coles, Safeway or Woolworths seem like corner shop prices. On quality, for example, say, Aldi’s Washing powder (or in its liquid form) Brands which were the only ones that won hands down in all categories with five stars each and also five stars overall based on quality, stain removal effectiveness, feel of fabrics, price etc etc on the TV Program ‘A Current Affair’ which compared Aldi’s Brands with just about every other major Washing Brands on the market in Coles and Woolworths (which were given lesser stars in all categories and lesser overall). Even the biggest selling Brand – Omo – fared very poorly in all categories and nowhere near top overall. It proves that the most often advertised products are not the best in anything. Now that’s interesting!.

  • BobinOz January 17, 2011, 1:30 am | Link

    Unfortunately, thanks to the floods, I think shopping is going to get a whole lot more expensive for all Australians.

    As for shopping in store, wish I could, but our local Coles will probably be shut for at least two months. It needs a bit of a cleanup.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • Smartshopper January 16, 2011, 3:58 pm | Link

    Well buying from the supermarket chains I’d expect that to be the case but please take into account that the online prices advertised by Coles and Woolworths are not as cheap as what you will find in store. So shopping in store may have seen additional savings for this grocery basket. Of course the reason why meat is so expensive here is because we export all of the good cuts and therefore the locals need to pay export prices to get a similar cut of meat.

    Nice article.

  • BobinOz February 24, 2010, 5:23 pm | Link

    First off, I think we’re up to speed here with hair dressers now, so it’ll probably be off the list soon. I wouldn’t go and train for that one!

    So, you’ve now seen how hard it was for us too, took a good 18 months and many hoops to jump through. I think there’s not much difference between UK and the USA in terms of hoops.

    What did I do? Ready?

    Nothing!

    I think I am what is termed as a freeloader or something. Means I only got in because of my younger, more qualified spouse. Well, I did have to do a couple of things that were quite difficult.

    1) Prove I had no criminal records and 2) Cough while the doctor cradle my unmentionable pair.

    All very stressful but worth the effort. As you said earlier, I am a lucky pomme b*****d.

  • retry February 23, 2010, 10:04 pm | Link

    OK I read your whole blog now…I see that you did have to jump through pretty much all the same hoops I would. You talked about your wife doing the skills test, but what did you do?

  • retry February 23, 2010, 9:30 pm | Link

    Hawaii’s nice, but it’s about the most expensive part of the USA. Real Estate alone assures that. And salaries tend to be lower than the national average, a bad mixture to be sure.

    The only way I can get into Oz as an american is to rack up enough points based on desireable labor skills. If you’re a doctor, engineer, or hair dresser (apparently there’s a shortage), then you’re in luck. The IT skill groups require passing a test administered by some IT group there.

    I’d not have to give up US citizen just to be a permanent resident. Not sure what the rules are for citizenship, but I reckon that’s unnecessary. Just getting landed immigrant status with work authority is all one really needs.

    What did you have to go through? Just pretty much showed up right?

    Anyway I find it wonderfully ironic that a country founded by convicts is now considered one of the most livable societies on earth.

  • BobinOz February 23, 2010, 9:03 pm | Link

    Hawaii! That’s not too rough is it?

    Well, I wouldn’t say my stats are five years out of date, but they may as well be given the chaos caused by the last major financial collapse. I think five years worth of damage was done in about a week!

    Is it that much harder for you to get into Australia as a US citizen? All I’ve heard is that anyone applying for Australian citizenship would have to give up their American passport. Is that true?

    Whatever it takes though, it’s worth the effort. Unless, of course, you already live in Hawaii!

  • retry February 22, 2010, 6:40 pm | Link

    “gave me a headache”

    You and me both, man. And you’re right; this data is 5 years old, pre-dating the recent economic collapse which affected some countries harder than others. Australia has weathered it well — so much so I’ve invested in an Oz ETF.

    The fact that 5 out of the top 10 most livable cities published in 2010 by the EIU are in Oz says a lot about the economic outlook. Countries like the UK and US are dealing with major infrastructure issues that could very well tank those societies.

    I’d love to move to a place like Brisbane one day, but as a US citizen, it’s not so easy without a commonwealth passport. You lucky pomme b*****d.

    Then again, it’s not bad here in Hawaii. Aloha!

  • BobinOz February 22, 2010, 5:23 pm | Link

    It says “Purchasing power parity (PPP) theory is based on a theory proposed by the School of Salamanca in the 16th century” – Hey! I’m 400 years behind the times.

    As for that PDF, I haven’t yet read all 230 pages…….give me until the end of the year.

    But you are right, it is fascinating but quite tricky, gave me a headache. A big problem with it though is there are too many variables. The pound falls, the Aussie dollar rises, salaries and wages change, prices of goods vary ….. so what was written a couple of months ago can be worthless today.

    So it really is a rough guide. But hopefully it helps. Thanks retry.

  • retry February 22, 2010, 7:58 am | Link

    What you are really trying to do by comparing costs and factoring in wages, taxes, and the like is calculate purcashing power parity (ppp).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purchasing_power_parity

    This is a fascinating and difficult thing to measure but is the only real way to compare two societies cost of living.

    Check out this report by the World Bank:
    http://siteresources.worldbank.org/ICPINT/Resources/icp-final.pdf

  • BobinOz February 13, 2010, 8:54 pm | Link

    That was our weekly shop! We just didn’t need any soap or toilet paper that week. As for the sales tax, where I am in Queensland it is always included in the shelf price. Is it different in other states?

  • John Wilkes February 13, 2010, 10:44 am | Link

    Surely instead of comparing food prices the comparison should be ‘The Weeky Shop’. When I’ve seen people doing their weekly shop at the supermarket at least one third of the items are non-food. These items include toiletries, soap powders,and other consumer goods. I’ve found this part of the shop considerably cheaper in the uk and the sales tax, were applicable, is included in the shelf price and not added on at the checkout.

  • vivienne November 7, 2009, 6:44 am | Link

    right i have read some of your blog, i am born and bred aussie melbourne immigrated to uk in 2005 i am 40 now.
    Please mention to your readers about the price of cars compared to uk, oz is known to have the dearest cars in the world.

    Also australia income tax is slighter higher,school term fees,uniforms and stationery,NO NHS on and on it is very expensive country to live in.
    FREE medical,schooling, dental in u.k
    so many people think australia is cheap…NOT.
    vivienne bartlett-nottingham.

    • BobinOz November 9, 2009, 9:50 pm | Link

      Hi Vivienne

      Always good to hear from someone who has gone in the opposite direction. Are you enjoying living in the UK? Or do you pine just a little bit for your homeland?

      I have already mentioned about Australia’s expensive cars, I concluded that they were, on average, around 30% dearer. I also looked at Australian income-tax, and taking everything into account including GST & VAT, I called that one a draw.

      Our little girl has not long been at school, she is fast approaching the end of her first year. But we have sent her to a state school so there is no charge, although we have made a voluntary contribution and paid for some books. About $150 all in.

      Medical/dental fees are dearer here but without a doubt, housing and petrol is cheaper here in Australia. I have also looked at salaries and found them to be something like 31% higher here than in the UK.

      There are swings and roundabouts, but the bottom line is I really don’t think there is that much in it. But then I don’t think either country is “cheap”, but I know plenty of countries that are. Wouldn’t want to live there though.

      Cheers

      Bob

      • BobinOz November 18, 2009, 6:23 pm | Link

        Vivienne did reply to my comment directly in an email. She raised many important issues and was kind enough to allow me to reprint her email in full on this blog. You can read her comments in my post about moving to England.

  • BobinOz October 12, 2009, 9:07 pm | Link

    Hi Shawn

    I like that, “ticket price shock”. It’s a good description of what happens when someone first gets here from the UK. Prices seem astonishingly high, something that previously cost 25 quid now has a price tag of $59.95. It takes some getting used to.

    Your 2.3 theory is pretty accurate and easy to use. Far simpler than my explanation above. But nothing is straightforward, which is why these comparisons get so messy sometimes. So, for example, an electrical engineer buying a 50 inch plasma TV here would think Australia is very cheap. Whereas a retail manager buying that Bosch dishwasher will think it’s hugely expensive.

    But as an average across everything, 2.3 works well.

    Cheers

    Bob

  • Shawn October 12, 2009, 7:57 pm | Link

    Hi vp,

    Though I had roughly the same comment, BobinOz did do a fantastic salary comparison between the UK and Australia. You can read it here https://www.bobinoz.com/2667/cost-of-living-in-australia-wages-compared/ . What Bob found out is highly relevant to this topic; basically with the incomes he was able to compare people in Australia make roughly 2.3 times (local currency) what they do in the UK (on average). So while I feel BobinOz can’t use the currency exchange for this topic, using the 2.3 multiplier does work. So, if a chocolate bar in the UK costs £1 it would have to cost more than $2.30 AUD before Australia was more expensive. If a book cost £7.99 it would have to cost more than $18.53 AUD before Australia was more expensive on that item. So while you may have “ticket price shock” because it ‘seems’ more expensive, you make more money in Oz. I hope this helps.

    Shawn

  • vp October 11, 2009, 9:12 am | Link

    Dollars and cents, make no sense!

    It is illogical to compare what it cost in the UK, in Pounds with what it cost in Australia, in dollars.

    Unless of course you have found a way to live in Australia, and earn in the UK.

    What does make sense is to compare how many hours of work in your given trade or profession it takes in the UK as compared to how many hours of work it takes in Austalia, to buy the same item: dishwasher; music CD; Big Mac.

    • BobinOz October 12, 2009, 8:32 pm | Link

      Hi vp

      It makes sense to someone coming here for a holiday and probably even helps someone coming here on a 12 month work visa. But for those moving here for good, they would also need to look at my article about UK and Australian salaries compared. There, they could calculate how much they might earn a year here compared with the UK.

      Then they could check out the post about tax rates for each country and work out their take home pay. Then, at my article on prices of electrical goods compared they could work out how long they’d have to work to buy a Bosch dishwasher or, say, a Canon digital camera.

      I did it and it turned out that in Australia you would need to work for 38 hours to buy the dishwasher and 12 hours 31 minutes to buy the camera. Whereas in the UK you would be able to buy the dishwasher after just 34 hours and one minute but the camera would take you 21 hours and 54 minutes, all based on average saleries and 40 hours per week with 4 weeks holiday.

      Does that make sense? I’ll look into the Big Mac another time.

      Cheers

      Bob

  • BobinOz September 19, 2009, 1:10 am | Link

    Hey Shawn

    Thanks for the compliments.

    You have made a very important point. I remember having this kind of conversation with someone a few years ago when I was on holiday here. They claimed that one Australian dollar was as hard to earn as one English pound. If that really is the case then the cost of living in Australia is enormous compared to the UK.

    But I am not sure it’s true. Would somebody earning £100,000 in the UK earn $100,000 in Australia in an equivalent job? I don’t know for sure.

    But I am going to try to find out and I’ll make a post about it next week.

    Thanks for reminding me about this issue.

    Cheers

    Bob

  • Shawn September 18, 2009, 10:25 am | Link

    You know, unless you’re making UK wages in Oz you can’t always convert the currency. If you make, say, $40k in Oz and £40 in England, it would be much cheaper in England. I think comparing how far a person’s money would go based on income vs costs is more relevent so on the $40k income, if something costs $2 in Oz and £1 in England, England would win. Just a though.

    You have a great website and I plan on reading as much as possible as we are looking at moving to Australia from New Zealand. Thanks a lot for the effort you put in.

    • Chris November 18, 2011, 9:18 am | Link

      Shawn after living in the U.K on and off for 8 years, I too was so shocked when I came back to Melbourne and spent $40 on about 5 items, in my head I was still spending pounds and could not believe how far the dollar didn’t seem to go anymore. But after getting back to work (as an electrician) and seeing I was now earning around $35 an hour compared to £12.50 it soon became clear you can not compare the living costs on just a straight swap.

      I realise this is 2 years after your post, I only just read this and now the dollar gets you around 65p so things have changed again, but I am very interested in what expat English think of our living costs, it seems to have sky rocketed here, but then again I remember taking 20 quid into Sainsbury’s in 2005 and coming out with two full baskets, you certainly can’t do that anymore, so prices have gone up over there too, but my wage didn’t.

  • BobinOz September 7, 2009, 3:19 pm | Link

    You have English petrol prices! They are the same there? Expensive!

  • Pierre Soderman September 6, 2009, 11:37 pm | Link

    Petrol prices alone with be reason enough to move to Australia from Sweden. One 1 litre of petrol costs around $2 Australian dollars (13 Swedish kronor).

    /Pierre

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