April 23rd, 2008

userinfo senji
2008/04/23 17:37:00 - A basket of 24 staples.
In my earlier article I discussed the BBC's reporting of some research done by mysupermarket.co.uk on food prices. I omitted detailed discussion of the research and the validity of the conclusions based upon it because it wasn't relevant there, however some people may be interested so I include that here.

We base this on 24 items and portion sizes enough for a family of four for a weekly shop (items listed below and full breakdown attached). … Almost all of the items were own branded where possible, but to make it a fair comparison we had to chose products that were most alike in all three supermarkets, and available during those specific months.
— Personal email from mysupermarket.co.uk

From this description I deduce that they selected their baskets after the period in question. My scientific principles tell me that it would be much better if they had selected them before the period started as then their experiment cannot be biased by the data. However I have no evidence that they have in fact, consciously or unconsciously, selected things in order to support any particular hypothesis.

The contents of their baskets are slightly strange however:
  • 800g White Loaf
  • Packet of 7 or 8 "Kids" Bananas
  • Bag of Golden Delicious Apples
  • 3 Mixed Peppers
  • A Cucumber Portion
  • An Iceburg Lettuce
  • 6 Tomatoes
  • 2.5kg Maris Piper Potatoes
  • 6pts Semi-Skimmed Fresh Milk (single bottle, I think)
  • 12 Medium Free Range Eggs
  • 250g Salted/Creamy Butter
  • 500g Fresh British Beef Mince
  • 170g Bernard Matthews Wafer Thin Turkey Ham
  • 900g-1kg Garden Peas
  • 420g Baked Beans
  • 500g Dolmio Original Bolognese Sauce
  • 454g Strawberry Jam
  • 500g Silver Spoon Half Spoon Granulated Sugar
  • 500g Corn Flakes
  • 500g Fusilli Pasta
  • 1kg Basmati Rice
  • 80 Tea Bags
  • 1l Orange Juice

Except where mentioned an own-brand item was used. All three baskets were approximately £24 in April 2007 and were approximately £28 in April 2008.

Now I have two problems with this:– firstly how was that list selected as a representative list of staple foodstuffs purchased weekly, in particular I can't even imagine getting through 500g of Sugar in a week; and secondly, even assuming that that is a representative list of staples, how valid is it to generalise and assume that the prices in it are representative for an entire £100 weekly shop as they do in the section of the email quoted in the other post.
Entry Tags: criticism, mysupermarket.co.uk, statistics

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userinfo kaet
2008/04/23 17:26:18
Well researched. It does seem rather strange. Perhaps the sugar is substituting for sugar-dominated misc products like sweets?

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userinfo pizza.maircrosoft.com
2008/04/23 17:59:42
the whole thing doesn't seem to be Hard Science. However on the choice of shopping - perhaps they are all things that /might/ be included in the weekly shop - one week you would run out of sugar and buy 500g and another week run out of rice and pick up a kg pack. only considering packages small enough to be consumed during a week might result in some bias.

I have an image of several people sitting around in an office, calling out "what should we include in a 'weekly' shop", starting with the easy ones, bread, fruit, milk, and then winding down a bit; one person saying "have you put in jam yet? My kids eat /loads/ of jam!" and someone else saying "omg! Tea! We forgot tea!" and so on.
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userinfo robert_jones
2008/04/23 18:25:04
In addition isn't it odd that they've scaled up a £24 a week basket of goods to £100 a week? Presumably a family spending £100 a week buy significantly different things from a family spending £24 a week.

I do however find it very odd that CPI inflation is 2.5%, when everything seems to be getting expensive much faster than that. I haven't done any analysis, it just doesn't feel right.
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userinfo hmmm_tea
2008/04/23 18:35:57
The £24 is based on a family of 4, so perhaps the £100 is for a family of 16/17.
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userinfo robert_jones
2008/04/23 18:44:46
Oh yes, of course. That would represent the typical British family.
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userinfo ghoti
2008/04/23 19:01:22
That basket does not read like a family spending £24 a week so much as a section of a family spending £100 a week. Cook in sauces, for example, are much more expensive that making one's own, and there's not nearly enough food.
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userinfo geekette8
2008/04/23 20:17:19
Indeed. I couldn't feed a family of four out of that basket for a week. 500g of mince would maybe stretch to 2 dinners with the addition of the baked beans, and 170g of turkey ham with the bread would make sandwiches for one dinner. And I guess with 12 eggs you could have omelettes for two dinners. But where on earth would your protein come from for the other two dinners? And what about lunches and breakfasts?
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userinfo geekette8
2008/04/23 20:18:04
and a kilogram of peas! Blimey. You could eat peas every night.
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userinfo yrieithydd
2008/04/23 22:57:59
And over 10 teabags a day seems excessive.
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userinfo yrieithydd
2008/04/23 22:59:13
I will also say that I had a very strange mental image of a basket containing 24 bent pieces of metal used to join paper together.
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A basket of 24 staples. - Squaring the circle...

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