The Outlier grocery basket: our methodology

Note: Please be aware that we are re-evaluating the methodology after discussion with a number of retailers with a view to future editions. We will only publish future updates to the comparison once we have concluded this re-evaluation.

Around the 24th of every month, we collect the prices of 12 products from eight major retailers: Shoprite, Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar, Food Lover’s Market, Woolworths, Makro and Boxer Superstores.

The list of products we collect is limited and not intended to be an absolute measure of affordability. We aim for products to be broadly comparable, though there are always edge cases. 

In almost all cases it is possible to find any of these products at a cheaper price or to find cheaper alternatives, depending on location or time of month. Our sample is intended to simply reflect the total price of the basket in a single visit on a particular day.

We do collect prices from other branches of a retailer for comparison, but the prices we use in the final presentation are based on one store only.

We collect prices in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Our shopping list

The Outlier grocery basket contains

  • 700g loaf of Albany Superior Sliced White Bread, or store brand
  • 2-litre sunflower oil (cheapest option*)
  • 2.5kg Iwisa maize meal
  • 2.5kg Selati white sugar
  • 2-litre milk (cheapest option*)
  • 2kg Tastic rice
  • 2.5kg Snowflake cake flour
  • 175g bar of Dettol herbal soap
  • 500g Fatti’s and Moni’s spaghetti
  • 400g smooth Black Cat peanut butter
  • 1kg Jungle Oats
  • 100 tagless Joko teabags

* We collect the cheapest, most comparable product in these cases. We exclude products that are substantially different in price to keep things consistent.

Why we do this comparison

We compare the prices of 12 products from different retailers to look at what a basket of basic goods costs the South African consumer. We then rank the retailers from most expensive to the cheapest, based only on the goods on our list. We keep track of how these prices have increased over time. 

What we don’t do

We aren’t telling our readers which is the cheapest and most expensive retailer in the country. Our list only looks at 12 staple items. There are thousands more, of course. 

Republication: an important note

If you wish to reproduce or quote any part of this project and data please contact us at The scope of this project is limited so while we are happy for others to reference it, we do want to be sure that the intention and results are not misrepresented in any way that suggests it is more than it is. 

Notes on collection

We do not take specials or loyalty card discounts into consideration. When we do find certain goods on special, for example, ‘Get R5 off when buying milk and pay R25’, we log the price as R30 to exclude the special.

As Boxer does not stock Iwisa maize meal, we record the price of the Ace brand.

June 2023: As we added more retailers to the survey, it became increasingly difficult to find comparable products across the different stores. As of June 2023, we’re no longer comparing the price of a 9-pack of two-ply toilet paper. Instead, added four new items to the basket, bringing it to a total of 12 items.

May 2023: We switched over to the cheapest sunflower oil, milk and toilet paper brands on the shelf on the day we collect prices. We did this because it was difficult to compare the same brands from store to store. The brands of the other six items – bread, maize meal, white sugar, rice, cake flour and soap – stayed exactly the same.

February and April 2023: We averaged the prices of 9-pack two-ply toilet papers because the same brand was not available across all retailers.

August 2022: In June and July 2022, we used the prices of an 18-pack of two-ply toilet paper. We switched to a 9-pack in August 2022.

June and July 2022: We used the prices of an 18-pack of two-ply toilet paper. After that, we switched over to a 9-pack.

  • When we are unable to find a particular product, we choose an alternative. You can see the list of alternatives below.
  • If you have any questions or suggestions please contact us: 

Last updated: 29 June 2023