06 May 2015

Deli Counter v Deli Cabinet

Deli foods are delicious, there is no denying that. And most of us buy some form of deli items in our shopping on a regular basis.

But they can be very expensive and add a considerable amount  of money to your weekly or monthly grocery shop. In fact just a few regular deli items can easily add $10, $15, $20 or more to your food bill depending on just where in the supermarket you buy them.

I put the theory to the test yesterday at the Coles supermarket at Tooronga Village for A Current Affair (and you can see the whole story here). I did two identical lots of shopping, one just from the deli counter and one from the deli/chiller cabinets.

The results? The deli counter won hands down, coming in at $92 for 17 items, while the same 17 items from the deli and chiller cabinets came in at $120.36, a huge difference of $28.36!

That's a lot of money. What difference would it make to you to free up $28 a week in your grocery budget?

For example the individual packs of ham or salami or chicken loaf. They are convenient, being pre-packaged and pre-portioned. But when you compare the per kilo cost of that convenient package of ham to the deli counter price it can be anything from 50% to 120% more! Same meat, same store, different packaging.

The same goes for cheeses. A good example is the Jarlsberg from the Coles deli counter for $22 a kilo, sliced. A wedge of Jarlsberg from the dairy cabinet costs $30.20 a kilo - $8.20 a kilo more!

Camembert from the deli costs $32 a kilo, from the dairy cabinet $48 (or more, depending on the brand - some of them were up around $70 a kilo).

Ricotta from the deli is roughly the same price, but you'll find a big difference in price between deli counter Feta and dairy cabinet Feta - $4 a kilo or more, again depending on the brand and type you buy.

I'm sure you are all aware that supermarket meat is expensive, but the difference in price for chicken between the meat cabinet and the deli counter is again huge. Thigh and breast fillets from the meat cabinet were $14/kilo yesterday when I checked, but only $10 a kilo at the deli counter.

Chicken schnitzels are cheaper from the deli counter at $2 each, as is chicken kiev.

But not all things are cheaper at the deli counter.

Shortcut bacon was $17 a kilo at the deli counter and just $15 a kilo, pre-packaged in the chiller section. And a 500g knob of strasburg was just $5.95 or $11.90 a kilo, while the same brand of stras from the deli counter was $14 a kilo.

On the two lots of deli items I bought, one cost $120.36, the other just $92, a difference of $28.36.

The lesson here is that convenience costs, and in a big way.

When you buy from the deli counter you do need to take a number and wait in line. But  you can request the exact quantity you want, have it sliced or shaved fresh to your desired thickness and ask advice from the deli staff, and for the most part pay a whole lot less.

I explain it like this: think about how much your time is worth.

By standing at the deli counter for 5 minutes I saved $28. If I were to earn $28 for five minutes of my time, I'd be earning $330 an hour (and planning a very early retirement)!

Now do you think it's worth taking a ticket and waiting at the deli? I know I do!

Of course you don't need to buy anything from the deli. You can roast and slice your own beef; bake your own ham, slice your own chicken, pastrami and silverside; smoke your own chickens, dry your own tomatoes; roast your own capsicums; make your own ricotta and feta cheese; pickle your own olives. They are all easy to do and will cost you even less than buying them from the deli.

So is it true? Do you prefer to pay for the convenience of pre-packaged deli items regardless of the cost? Or do you prefer to take a few minutes and buy from the deli counter to save around 25%?


  1. Thanks for this Cath! I had no idea that the deli was cheaper. I always assumed that it would be more expensive. I bought half a kilo of bacon today from the deli counter, and it was half price, AND I only had to wait about 30 seconds. Thanks for introducing me to a new way of being a proud cheapskate! Stephanie.

  2. I've always bought deli meats Coles drumsticks & chicken hearts and chicken breasts fillets and fresh ham its fresher and alot cheaper than packaged meats.


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