A definitive ranking of Oxford’s classic supermarkets

Beyond the Tescalator, Oxford has much to offer

Oxford is known for many things, but something less publicised is the strong opinions students have towards the city’s supermarkets.

The Magdalen Street Tesco? Infamous. Aldi? Worth the trek. M&S? No. Just no.

Here’s one undergraduate’s definitive ranking of the major players in the Oxford supermarket arena. 

7. M&S

Just crap. Not only do you have to walk through the clothes shop to enter, everything is astronomically expensive. Doing your weekly shop here screams ‘trust fund baby who thinks £40 fillet steak is perfectly acceptable student food’. 

Whilst Percy Pigs have a special place in my childhood, this supermarket is obsessed with splashing his face onto everything: paper plates, juice, even wine. This poor pig cannot catch a break, and I refuse to have all my food with a smiling pig’s face slapped onto it. Also, suing Aldi over Colin the Caterpillar cake was the final straw. I just can’t support a supermarket that wields the image of a caterpillar over us. 

Overall: 3/10

6. Magdalen Street Sainsbury’s

Another crap tier. Do I need to say anymore? I’m convinced people only come in here when the next-door Tesco is closed. Or, they are stubbornly convincing themselves that the price makes it inherently superior – spoiler, it doesn’t! 

The aisles are narrow with a cramped and limited array of food (seriously, it’s dire), and it’s painful to part with £20+ for a few items available for half the price at the next door Tesco. I always exit this Sainsbury’s feeling robbed of at least £10 worth of money just thrown at items I either don’t need, are tasteless or are overpriced for no reason. A heartbreaking and soulless experience.

Overall: 1/10.

5. Park End Sainsbury’s

Whilst a better experience than the Magdalen Street imposter Sainsbury’s, it is far from the best supermarket experience in Oxford. It’s mainly useful in its location: close to the station, it’s primary use is to grab something to eat before getting on a train. It also has a coffee machine which is always appreciated before, during or after an essay crisis.  Other than that: the same weird deals, food and overpriced stuff as before. 

Overall: 5/10.

4. Aldi

A West Oxford classic, it pains me to say this is an average Aldi. It’s always heaving and the atmosphere is so fast paced it’s stressful. As soon as the cashier begins scanning, it’s a mad rush to shove everything in the bags as you’re aware that there’s an ever-growing queue of people waiting behind you.  But hey: getting a week’s worth of food for under £10 is a rarity in Oxford, and it is well worth braving the stressful environment for the bargains. 

Overall: 7/10.

3. Cowley Road Tesco

People love this Tesco – a lot. It holds a special place within the Cowley community. As someone who’s never lived in Cowley I can’t fairly judge it, only being in a handful of times in which I had to wait over ten minutes in the COVID-19 queue outside in the rain. Whilst I personally wasn’t overly impressed, since everyone I know in Cowley loves it, it reaches Good tier. 

Overall: 8/10

2. Home Bargains

Controversial, but God tier. The jewel of Botley Road and where I’ve spent most of 2021, I know this shop extremely well. During the Hilary term lockdown my flatmate and I’s favourite topic of conversation of an evening was the various cheap bargains we had managed to score.

From 10p pasta to new plant pots for our ever growing collection of aloe veras, Home Bargains saved us both pennies and from boredom during those dark winter months. Whilst a bit of a walk from the centre out on Botley Road, it’s well worth the trek. 

Overall: 9/10.

1. Magdalen Road Tesco Metro

A classic. The OG. The pinnacle of human achievement. Magdalen Street Tesco has everything a student could desire. You have not experienced a true Oxford experience until you have descended the Tescalator or scanned the reduced section for a reduced sandwich to consume before returning to the college library until 2am. There’s something comforting about the huge array of self-service checkouts and the accompanying massive queue that curls around all the way to the escalators.

My only criticism is that they sell condoms in obnoxiously elaborate anti-theft boxes to the point where no-one seems to ever buy them. However this is a minor criticism of one of the giants of the human experience. 

Overall: 10/10.

Every student has their own secret favourite supermarket. You’re at Oxford, it’s overwhelmingly posh, it’s not unheard of for it to be M&S – although people will still rightly mock you. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, it shows the breadth of Oxford’s supermarket varieties, the good with the bad.

Featured Image: Flickr