In a bid to make the nation more fit and healthy, the NHS has released hundreds of tasty meal plans and recipes to suit a whole range of dietary requirements, from lunchbox meals for fussy children, to vegan Mediterranean dishes and Punjabi keema using turkey as a lower-fat alternative to the traditional minced meat.
But how much do they cost? Before Christmas, Asian Standard scoured the shelves of the top seven supermarkets and the leading Asian supermarkets in Bradford to see which one is cheapest for a full traditional Christmas dinner and whether Asian supermarkets can compete with their prices (spoiler, it’s Asda and the price of a halal turkey from independent shops are much higher than the nationals).
This time, we’ve gone back to the same grocery stores, Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Lidl, Aldi, Marks and Spencer, Al Halal, SaveCo, Manchester Superstore, and Kanapeena, to see which supermarket fares the best for a healthy twist on bharelu shaak, a classic Gujarati stuffed vegetable dish.
For this recipe, I’ve compared the price of either three aubergines or 1KG, depending on whether the shops sell them individually or by weight, okra, new potatoes, peppers (the recipe calls for Turkish peppers but they have proven very difficult to find), shallots (or normal onions if the store didn’t have them), and unsalted peanuts, gram flour, vegetable oil, garam masala, garlic paste, ginger paste, salt, chillies, turmeric, cumin, and coriander powder for the stuffing.
Most people have the salt, spices, and vegetable oil in their cupboards at home already, but if you don’t and need to go out and buy all the ingredients from scratch, then this meal costs more to make than a full traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and a yule log for dessert.
The recipe only calls for a few teaspoons of flour and a pinch of spices so when you break the per-meal cost it works out to a few pence, but when I go shopping, I look at how much it is going to cost then and there.
In this post-Brexit coronavirus climate that we are all still living through, some people do not have the luxury of being able to bulk purchase, or buy larger quantities of items, to save money in the long run. Other things such as limited space to store the items and having to do small trips because you’re either walking or taking the bus home also plays a factor.
Before delving into this investigation, I half-expected Asda to reign supreme following their win at Christmas, however, out of the big seven, they were the second most expensive, unsurprisingly following behind M&S, who was the most expensive and don’t stock all the products needed to make the dish.
The stuffed vegetable dish would cost £23.35 at the food hall in Marks and Sparks, and you would need to go elsewhere to buy garlic and ginger paste, turmeric powder, and cumin powder. Out of the big seven, their aubergines are the most expensive at £1 a pop.
At Asda the vegetarian meal costs £22.85, however, you can buy all the ingredients needed there, which is a plus. The aubergines cost 69p each, which works out at £2.07 for this meal. Okra is also fairly expensive at this store costing £3.
In third and fourth place are Sainsbury’s and Tesco, with the Gujarati meal costing £21.79 and £19.17, respectively. All the ingredients are available from both shops to buy, and each product is similarly priced.
Scoring first place as the cheapest supermarket for this dish is Morrisons, coming in at £16.22 for all the ingredients.
The price of aubergines is considerably lower than at other supermarkets, at £1.47 for three, and the cost for the various spices is between 30p and 40p cheaper than its competitors.
Lidl and Aldi, both German supermarkets, are hit and miss with their products at the best of times, one minute they stock your (my) favourite vegan sausages, and the next minute they are gone forever, but for this meal, they were especially lacking.
They both stock aubergines, peppers, shallots, and peanuts, but okra, gram flour, and some of the spices were nowhere to be seen, either selling out of the items, having stock issues, or just not selling the items altogether. For the products they do sell, Aldi works out slightly cheaper on average.
As an Asian newspaper based in Bradford, it is only fair to look at Asian supermarkets, too.
Unlike some of the mainstream supermarkets, all four Asian grocery stores had all the products needed to create the dish. However, the cheapest Asian store, SaveCo, is more than £5.26 more than the cheapest mainstream shop.
The most expensive supermarket is Kanapeena, with the meal costing just under £30 if you were to buy all the ingredients from the shop. This is because the aubergines and okra cost £4.99 and £5.99 per KG each. At Al Halal and Manchester Superstore they go for £1.99, and £3 at SaveCo.
Al Halal is the second cheapest supermarket, at £24.65, with Manchester Superstore following closely behind Kanapeena. Despite the expensive aubergines, SaveCo is the cheapest supermarket with the full meal costing £21.48.
SaveCo is cheaper than the other supermarkets because the spices, chillies, and peanuts are slightly less than its competitors.
If you want to shop locally, for the best bang for your buck it is worth shopping around, getting your aubergines from Al Halal or Manchester Superstore and your spices and oil from SaveCo.
Will you be making this delicious meal? Let us know in the comments.