It’s not just the weird and wonderful stocked in the world food aisle at the supermarket, some regular staples can be picked up for a fraction of the price.
It’s easy to forget that when you visit the supermarket some items aren’t always where you’d expect them. Yes, you know where to find the rice say, or the herbs and spices. But the same products, albeit different brands, could also be sitting around the corner in a completely different aisle.
It’s known as the world food aisle and you’ve probably walked passed a number of times, thinking it’s not for you. Random American snacks, strange Caribbean drinks, bizarre Indonesian instant noodles… the list of things you don’t recognise goes on.
But if you take a moment to look properly, you’ll also see everything from gherkins to coconut milk next to a huge choice of spices and sauces. They’ve usually been imported, but sometimes they’re made in the UK but targetted at various ethnic and immigrant groups. And they can be much, much cheaper than their UK counterparts.
What you’ll find in the world food aisle
On whole, it’s long life products that you’ll find. So we’re talking jars, tins and food that have long expiration dates (handy for any emergency stockpiles!). Common items include:
- Grains such as rice and couscous
- Nuts and pulses such as almonds and lentils
- Tins such as coconut milk and chickpeas
- Herbs and spices such as cinnamon sticks and ground coriander
- Sauces such as soy sauce and lemon juice
- Jars such as tahini and olives
- Oils such as sunflower and vegetable
And of course, you’ll also be able to pick up things you won’t find elsewhere. This isn’t just Polish jaffa cakes. You can get non-standard items such as tinned mango pulp or pepper paste.
Often the packs are bigger too. So rather than a small 38g jar of chilli powder, you can buy a 400g bag. Or there are massive 10kg bags of rice.
It’s also worth checking the refrigerated and frozen sections as you might find a range of products there too – though this is often dependent on the cultural make-up of the local area.
How much money you can save
Here are just a few examples I spotted online across a range of supermarkets.
Tinned chopped tomatoes (Asda)
- Napolina – £1 for 400g (£2.50 per kg)
- Asda own brand – 55p for 400g (£1.38 per kg)
- KTC – 39p per 400g (97.5p per kg)
Curry powder (Morrisons)
- Schwartz – £1.65 for 38g (43.4p per 10g)
- Morrisons own brand – £1.13 for 90g (12.6p per 10g)
- Rajah – £50p per 100g (5p per 10g)
Coconut milk (Sainsbury’s)
- Amoy – £1.80 for 400ml (45p per 100ml)
- Sainsbury’s own brand – £1 for 400ml (36p per 100ml)
- Dunn’s River – £75p for 400ml (19p per 100ml)
- Old El Paso – £1.50 for 215g (70p per 100g)
- Tesco own brand – £1 for 220g (45 per 100g)
- Aleyna – £1 for 480g (21p per 100g)
It won’t always be the case that the world food item or the larger item is cheaper. Special offers elsewhere in the supermarket can bring the prices down, and some “basic” own-brand items could be cheaper too, so do check the main shelves.
The other important thing to remember here is only to buy the bigger bags if you’re confident you’ll use them before the expiration date (or soon after).
Where to find the world food products
The big supermarkets often have a set aisle full of these products from loads of different continents and cultures, whether Kosher biscuits or Mediterranean falafel mix.
Smaller shops could just have a few products dotted around, and in all likelihood, you’ll have to hunt for them. Look in the most random areas – they could be aisles away from where you’d expect.
In rare circumstances, you *might* even have the world food items close to the corresponding standard versions. This could even mean that the Asian products are right by the usual Indian/Chinese/Thai products – but there’s no guarantee.
Do remember to look at the top and bottom shelves as they could be hidden in plain sight (as shoppers we tend to only look at eye-level). And check behind you too. At our Asda, the Asian spices are opposite the standard herbs and spices.
Some supermarkets have a section you can browse which groups all the world food items together. And if you search for something, say rice, you’ll get all the different options – standard and world food – together. This really helps!
You can browse online offerings at some of the big supermarkets here:
How to check if the world food aisle is cheaper
Though items often are cheaper, don’t assume they always will be. You’re more likely to find special offers on branded, everyday versions of the products than the world food equivalents. Fortunately, there’s a simple trick to help you compare prices.
Compare the price per unit
On every supermarket label, you should spot a price per unit. This could be per 100g, or maybe per litre. This helps you compare different size packs. If the items are in separate parts of the supermarket you could always snap a photo of the products you first see, and then check the price against the selling price you spot elsewhere in the supermarket.
It’s not a perfect system though. Sometimes you might find different weights used (eg KG vs grams), or even the number in a packet vs the weight. As my Tweet below shows, they can sometimes even be wrong!
Here are four different jalapeno jars on sale on the @Tesco website. All are different prices and sizes, so the obvious way to compare them for value for money is to look at the price per unit (the small print next to the price). But THREE of the comparisons are WRONG. Bad Tesco! pic.twitter.com/dkRseLn0L3
— Andy Webb CleverCash (@AndyCleverCash) August 19, 2019
I’ve written more in detail on these problems and how you can use Price Per Unit to your advantage.