Pak'nSave is still the cheapest place to buy your groceries, with the cut price giant maintaining the cost of the same 20 items for the past five years.

A Bay of Plenty Times Weekend survey, which was previously conducted at local supermarkets in 2011 and 2013, this week recorded the recommended retail prices of 20 popular grocery items at Tauranga Pak'nSave, Countdown Tauranga and New World Gate Pa.

Owner of Tauranga Pak'nSave Dean Waddell said the survey results reflected the store's lowest price guarantee.

"We're delighted that you've come to that conclusion because that just reinforces what we know," he said.

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"We have trust in our customers and we have to live up to that lowest price offer."

The manager of Gate Pa New World, which was the most expensive in the survey, Wynard Kruger, said customers would find value in the regular specials offered, rather than the recommended retail prices recorded in the survey.

In most cases there was one brand of a product line on special, appealing to shoppers who were driven by cost rather than brand loyalty, he said.

Pak'nSave - which is also owned by parent company Foodstuffs - would always be cheaper, he said. "Their strategy is lowest prices."

However, regular specials at New World would "definitely" be competitive with Countdown, he said.

New World focused on offering a complete shopping experience - including packing customers' bags and considering product requests.

"We want people to feel welcome in the shop. We sweat the small stuff," he said.

Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said in a written statement the chain used specials, promotions on similar products and its Onecard loyalty programme to keep its prices competitive.

"At Countdown, we're very focused on bringing lower prices to our customers. Through our Price Lockdown and Price Drop programme, we've cut the cost of more than 970 items, including the popular $1 bread range.

"We regularly track a theoretical trolley of the 100 items our customers purchase most often, and in the last year the price of these items has dropped at Countdown by 2 per cent.

"We know that people shop around and don't buy a particular brand all the time if there is another on special."

Product prices varied regularly - weekly and sometimes even daily - because of supply and demand and in response to local competition, she said.

Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Diane Bruin said the results reflected what she saw on a daily basis. "Both Pak'nSave and Countdown are what we see our clients using," she said.

"I do agree that they've held their prices, only from personal shopping."

The bulk buys offered at Countdown were often shared among families who shopped, but did not live, together.

She recommended clients took advantage of Christmas Club schemes, offered at all three supermarkets, in preparation for large end-of-year food bills.

Food was often the last thing to be addressed in the family budget - after regular bills such as power and hire purchases - which was why the service worked closely with Tauranga Foodbank, she said.

"What they've got left is what they've got to spend (on food)."

She recommended those on a tight food budget plan their meals before they entered the supermarket and look at alternatives to takeaways such as mince for home-made beef burgers and oven fries.

"You can make up a really nutritious meal at home and get the kids involved," she said.

Products such as mince, tinned tomatoes, powdered milk and produce that was in season were all good options for those on a tight budget.

It was important to avoid the highest priced ranges - placed at eye level in the aisles - and look below those for the home brand alternatives.