Is there such a thing as Australia’s cheapest supermarket?

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As soon as you step off the proverbial “boat”, before you get settled in, before you’ve sorted out your tax file number and certainly before you’ve sourced your first job, you’ll need feeding! Which means if your going to be sensible about it/not living on daddy’s trust fund, you’ll need to avoid expensive takeaways ($16 cheese burgers and the like), so a trip to the supermarket for some low cost supplies is in order. So what is Australia’s cheapest supermarket?

While there isn’t a clean cut answer to that question, as anywhere, one supermarket will be cheaper than another for certain things while another will be cheaper for the rest. Let’s be serious none of us are going to traipes round 3 different supermarkets just to save $3, after all the bar is calling!!

One thing every backpacker must learn to do is live on a shoestring! Well that’s something we’re famous for right!? Give me 5 packs of noodles, a loaf of bread, half a block of cheese and a box of goon….. I’ll be right for the week!

As a backpacker you relinquish the need for material things, in the pursuit of adventure. The money you earn is more valuable than ever, keep you’re iPhone 62! Hire me that campervan and let’s hit the road. All in all wherever you can save a few quid is a few quid towards the next adventure. So eating, being something we need to do constantly to survive is a good place to start being thrifty.

The main three supermarket chains.

In Australia there are a vast range of supermarkets available, some few and far between, some cheap and some down right extortionate. To keep this pretty simple and straight forward, we shall be looking at the big 3. Woolworths, Coles and IGA’s. All 3 of these are dotted around all over Australia and can be found in any decent sized town.

Woolworths: On the whole Woolworths is a little more up-market than the other two, higher quality own brand food and a marginally inflated price. Shopping here is OK but I would definitely try to buy things on special offer and 3 for 2’s or risk a hefty bill at the checkout.

Coles: This is the supermarket of choice among backpackers, cheap home brand food and reasonably priced branded products. I would have to say Coles is the equivalent of Asda in the UK and the place I shopped on a regular basis.

IGA: Now IGA, personally I only ever shopped here when on a road trip and was hoping from village to village, where it was the only supermarket. Most IGA’s are, let’s just say “utilitarian”. Not nice to look at, dirty, racking not shelves, dark and dingy. Now fair enough if your cutting back on “home comforts” to cut costs and pass savings on to the consumer, I’m all for that, but yeah crap food, crap selection and extortionate prices! Begs the question of how are they still in business!?….Avoid like the plague!

Typical backpackers “poverty list”

As a backpacker, living on a shoestring is a skill that you will acquire rather quickly. As stated earlier no one wants to spend all their hard-earned money on food, so let’s have a look at some backpacker staples:


  • Bread: $1 gets you the famous “Coles dollar bread”, pretty sure it comes out of the baking tin already stale! Ideal for toasted sandwiches and not a lot else. If your more the organic rye bread type, then expect to be paying upwards of $6. My recommendation: “The One” around $3.50.


  • Chicken: Starts at $9 kg for fillets rising to $18 kg for organic. I found the price of chicken varied massively dependent on what state you were in.


  • Sausages: $4 gets you 6 rather questionable “sausages”. I personally don’t think they’ve ever seen a pig. $8 gets you some quality butchers sausages.


  • Pasta: $2 for a 500g bag… well pasta is pasta.ham and cheese toasty


  • Rice: $1.50 gets you a 1kg bag.


  • Cooking sauces: $1.50 for a Coles own plain, boring tomato sauce, while $4 will buy you a Dolmio garlic and herb.


  • Super noodles: Not all super noodles are created equal! Luckily for us the best that Coles have to offer are the cheapest. Look for “Indomie BBQ chicken” they come in a blue pack of five for $2.75 and are the best cheap 2 minute super noodles I’ve ever had. 90% of backpackers agree! Alternatively other brands are roughly $1 per pack.


  • Baked beans: Coles own for 90c vs $3 for a tin of Heinz.


  • Cheese: For 1kg of standard Cheddar block type cheese, you’re looking at $11 to $22.


  • Pepperoni: Not really a staple but I found myself making lots of toasted sandwiches (stale Coles dollar bread) and nothing goes better on a toasty than pepperoni, cheese and BBQ sauce. $14-40 per kg.


  • Beef: Forget your “porter house” or “rump”. Diced beef is roughly $16 per kg.


  • Eggs: If your heartless and couldn’t give a crap about the welfare of chickens, then it’s $3 a dozen for caged but if you want the provider of your eggs to have some sort of freedom then it’s $6 a dozen.


  • Bacon: I don’t know what Australians do to their bacon but it’s not good! It’s like it’s pre cooked or something, closer to ham than bacon…. pretty crap!! So yeah if you want some average ham it’ll set you back between $12 and $35 a kg.


  • Water: I include water because a lot of places in Australia still rely on harvesting water from their roofs to drink. There was a few times that the place I was staying, the tanks ran dry (one day we checked the water level and found a dead bird in the tank) and we had to buy water in 10L bottles. Luckily water is pretty cheap, $4 will get you 10L. If you’re a bit of a water snob and want… Well the same water in fancier packaging then you deserve to pay the $10 premium.


  • Goon: Cheap nasty boxed wine, comes in either 4 or 5 litre boxes and costs roughly $15 a box. Golden Oak, Fruity Lexia is the most palatable.


  • Just a tip: 3 three’s BBQ sauce is the best in the world!!

What about fruit and veg!?

There’s a few reasons I’ve left out fruit and veg. Mainly, it’s pretty cheap, it’s prices vary wildly depending on where you are, as most of it is grown somewhere in Australia, so if you’re in the Riverland, oranges are “ten-a-penny” and if in Echuca, tomatoes are rock bottom. Vegetables are not always hostel friendly, imagine you want to cook a sunday roast with all the trimmings, well that’s you clogging up one of the three cookers in the hostel kitchen for 2 hours. The other 100 backpackers you live with may want to stab you with their spoon by the time your carrots are soft enough.

As well, myself always living in rural areas in the working hostels, the 50 people I lived with could be working on 20 different farms. This meant, there was always full sacks of potatoes, onions, oranges and pretty much anything else that someone was working on, for free in the hostel store room.


Sharing a meal!

No! I don’t mean all huddling round one bowl of super noodles, slice of Coles stale dollar bread in hand, all hoping for a forkful to make yourself a super noodle butty so you can survive until payday. Although, don’t pay attention and adhere to this article and this maybe the depths that fate leads you my friend!

What I actually mean is, quite a few times you would get between 5-10 people all chipping in some food and a couple of you would cook a large amount of food and feed all of you. This is a really nice thing that happens, as most of the time, being a backpacker, you are solely fending for yourself, cowering over your bowl of baked beans as if your names Smeagol and you’ve just found the golden ring….

So in a nutshell….

To sum it all up, as a seasoned backpacker you will be trained in the art of living on a pittance and waste, just won’t be in your vocabulary.

The list is just what I considered the essentials, for a fairly balanced backpacker diet. Even at that very basic level, your food shop is still going to set you back $50-60 a week! Start banging on the munchies and, well you can easily add an extra $20 to that.

Even the cheapest supermarket isn’t that cheap. So go to Coles buy everything Coles own brand or on offer and waste nothing!!






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