The Tab ranks every supermarket in Cambridge
An ode to Mainsburys…
You’re a fresher and your parents have waved their goodbyes. Tears may have been shed. Before they left they begged you to make sure that you’d eat well… but where is the best place to buy food in Cambridge? Grab your shopping bags and get ready to Tes-GO to the best supermarkets in the area.
First, some clarity. By ‘every supermarket’, I have selected 15 of the most visited stores in the area (yes, this is a guess). When referring to distance from the centre of Cambridge, I have used Emmanuel College as the so-called ‘centre’ and then a Google Maps estimate as to how long it would take to walk to each store. Yes, Google Maps is known to be pretty bad at guessing these times, but at least the estimates remain consistent. I also tried (emphasis on tried) to take as many pictures as possible, but glandular fever hit me badly. Disclaimers over.
Let’s be real, Farfarawainsbury’s must be a figment of your imagination… that or you might’ve got just a little bit lost on your walk to the train station. This Sainsbury’s branch is a hefty 43 minute walk from the centre of Cambridge (hence the super creative name). I’ve only seen this store once, and my commitment to this article was not great enough for me to walk there again.
14. Little Waitrose (near Grafton)
Although Little Waitrose is only a five minute walk from the centre, it’s a Waitrose. Come on. The only people that ever seem to be in there are either much older than us or my ex-housemate who swore that their instant coffee was worth the trip: he’s my ex-housemate for a reason. In all seriousness, I haven’t dared go beyond the doors so I can’t comment too much on prices, but I’m guessing there’s a reason why we all flock elsewhere.
Again, it’s far away. If you go to Girton then it’s probably worth the trip, but at a sweet 34 minutes from the centre, you wouldn’t catch me there. There’s definitely a greater selection of products compared to the city centre’s smaller shops, but it just isn’t worth the hassle when there are so many options an arm’s reach away. To make this (slightly) more fair, I spoke to Girtonian Izzy Porter about the pros of Farawainsbury’s, to which she replied that “the odds of finding pesto are much higher than those of Mainsbury’s” (let’s be real, isn’t that reason enough to make a trip?).
12. Tesco Express (near Grafton)
I’m convinced that people don’t know that this exists. It’s a decent sized store for an express, and it’s open until eight pm on a Sunday! At only ten minutes away from Emmanuel, it isn’t even that far. If you needed any more reason to go, Tesco meal deals remain THE BEST option amongst the other supermarkets, and they’re an easy grab if you happen to be in the area.
11. The Co-operative
Their Victoria Avenue location is very close to Jesus Green but not the greatest, whereas the store in the image above is nearer to Downing. There are two reasons why The Co-op is not further down the list, and they are their £5 dinner deals and their pizzas. If you haven’t tried a Co-op pizza, just do it (if you have an oven…). So good. The £5 Co-op dinner deal went semi-viral on TikTok and sees shoppers able to purchase a variety of frozen goods (if you have a freezer!) for £5, including chips, ice cream, and a variety of frozen meats. The deal changes from time to time and is worth keeping an eye out for, especially when you get your money’s worth with the ice cream alone sometimes!
10. Mill Road Sainsbury’s
How many Sainsbury’s does this city have?! The answer is too many to include all of them in this article (quite literally!) Mill Road is known for its variety of ethnic food stores and smaller businesses, and is definitely worth a trip. What I didn’t realise was that it had its very own Sainsbury’s. Can we call it Mill Roadsbury’s? I think we can. There are other shops here too (think The Co-op) but they didn’t quite make it onto the list. At 11 minutes away from the city centre, it isn’t quite a trip to Farawainsbury’s but it’ll probably have more food in stock than Mainsbury’s.
9. M&S Food
Some of you may be asking why M&S is even included in this list: it’s a valid question. Yes, the food is quite expensive on a student budget, but Percy Pig is a brand icon. M&S also went semi-viral due to their £1 freshly made garlic bread, but I regret to inform that Cambridge’s store never seems to have any. Am I too slow? Am I looking in the wrong place? I just want to try it 🙁
8. Tesco Express (near Christ’s Pieces)
Again, this Tesco has saved me multiple times when I’ve forgotten that it’s a Sunday night and I need to buy something. It’s literally two minutes away from Emmanuel, so what’s not to love? Clubcard prices are amazing (more on this later) and it’s so CLOSE!!
7. Sainsbury’s Local (near Emmanuel)
Unfortunately the title of the closest store to Emmanuel (our designated ‘city centre’) doesn’t go to Tesco, but instead Sainsbury’s Local. It’s one minute away and it’s open until 11pm on a Sunday… the only other store that has these hours is Mill Roadsbury’s. As much as I love clubcard prices, these stores offer emergency shoppers a place to go.
I would be quite happy to bet on the fact that not enough people know that Cambridge has an ASDA. ASDA may seem like a rogue entry for spot number six, but their price lock means they actually have some really affordable snacks. My personal go to here is £7.50 Sourz: compared to the normal price of £11, it’s a steal. If it wasn’t 21 minutes away I’d make the trip there even more.
5. Aldi (Newmarket Road)
At 25 minutes away from the city centre, Aldi certainly isn’t your quick trip to Mainsbury’s. However, it is one of the most affordable stores in the city (along with Lidl) and offers some pretty good own-brand alternatives to other chains.
4. Aldi (Histon Road)
This Aldi is 26 minutes away from Emmanuel but in the opposite direction. If you fancy a nice walk past Castle Mound, this is the store for you. It’s way closer to Girton than the Aldi on newmarket Road, and you never know what you’ll find in the middle aisle.
There isn’t another supermarket bakery that can hold a candle to Lidl’s offerings. With some of the best (and cheapest!) baked goods in Cambridge, Lidl is a must if you fancy a boule of sourdough or a sweet pastry. It is 22 minutes away but I think it’s more than worth the walk (or cycle if you want to be quicker). Lidl is generally quite an affordable store, so it may be worth exploring.
2. Big Tesco
People joke about Big Tesco trips being an ideal date, but what’s not to love about the place? Clubcard prices are genuinely my favourite thing in the world* (*may not be true) and their reward scheme converts points into vouchers that can be used for railcards, restaurant meals and more. The variety of food and drinks here is arguably the best in the city, and it would definitely be first on my list if not for its location 23 minutes away from the city centre.
Was there ever any doubt? With queues stretching round onto Green Street during Michaelmas and Lent last term, Mainsbury’s is THE place to get your groceries. With a better offering than the smaller Express/Local stores (albeit not quite Big Tesco), the majority of students go here. Also a prime spot for Crushbridge nominations, Mainsbury’s has it all. It’s just under five minutes away from Emmanuel and has deals that change on a weekly basis. The only drawback here is that they never seem to have any rocket, so if you’re as obsessed at recreating The Locker’s toasties as my boyfriend is, you’ll be disappointed.
If you’ve reached the end of this article, I hope you’ve learnt a little bit about the supermarkets on offer in Cambridge. By this time tomorrow you may be able to actually ring home and tell your parents that you’ve been shopping- I bet they’ll be so proud.