Coles ad from 2017 highlights dire reality for struggling Aussies

It's safe to say the ad for Coles' $10 meal deal won't ever return.

The cost-of-living crisis is hitting Australians hard – and a resurfaced Coles advert from 2017 has highlighted just how much supermarket prices have rocketed.

Most Aussies would remember Coles' now-defunct $10 meal program, spearheaded by Celebrity chef Curtis Stone, and though the program no longer exists, it does provide insight into the way prices have skyrocketed in such a short time.

The supermarket rolled out a number of recipes, backed by the TV personality, which cost a total of $10 or under. Yahoo News Australia has revisited one such recipe, Stone’s granny’s cottage pie from 2017, to see how much some of the prices of products on the list cost in 2023.

A 2017 TV ad is seen with chef Curtis Stone and Coles minced beef.
In 2017, it cost $4 for a 500 gram pack of beef mince from Coles. Source: Coles

The cottage pie ingredient list is as follows:

  • 1kg brushed potatoes, peeled, cut into 3cm pieces

  • ½ cup (125ml) Coles Full Cream Milk, warmed

  • 40g Coles Butter, melted, divided

  • 500g Coles Australian Beef 3 Star Mince

  • 1 small brown onion (about 150g), cut into small dice

  • 2 medium carrots (about 200g), peeled, cut into small dice

  • 2 celery sticks, cut into small dice

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 tbs Coles Tomato Paste

  • 1 tbs Coles Plain Flour

  • 2 cups (500ml) Coles Beef Liquid Stock

Recipe cost more than doubles

Visiting a Sydney Coles store this week, Yahoo purchased a pack of Coles Beef 3 Star Regular Mince for $6.50 alone. Coles full cream milk, in a one-litre bottle cost $1.60, while just under a kilo of potatoes cost $3.61. Just three ingredients in, we're already nearing $12.

Add the smallest available size of Coles brand butter and that's an additional $3.70. A litre of Coles beef stock cost $1.90. Adding up all 11 ingredients, the total bill reached $24.62, more than double the original price.

All the ingredients come in at over $24 in 2023. Source: Yahoo
All the ingredients come in at over $24 in 2023. Source: Yahoo
The cost of the meal has skyrocketed in just six years. Source: Yahoo
The cost of the meal has skyrocketed in just six years. Source: Yahoo

While the smallest available quantities of each item were purchased, some of the measures for the recipe, such as the flour, are far less than the quantities bought. Specials also need to be taken into consideration.

On the launch of Coles' $10 meals promotion, the supermarket faced backlash for assuming some of the pantry staples were already available in people's kitchens. “The catch is you have to already happen to have some of the ingredients in your pantry, which aren’t included in the price,“ Choice said in 2010.

But, the list in today's prices clearly shows the meal is essentially no longer achievable anywhere near the $10 cost.

Joel Gibson, money columnist, author and consumer expert, said it's likely the days of the ultra-cheap, reward programs, not just at Coles but across the board, are over.

An old Coles TV ad is seen.
Some of the ingredients in Curtis Stone's cottage pie recipe. Source: Coles.

"I can see why they've probably done away with that particular promotion," Mr Gibson told Yahoo News Australia.

"There's a very limited range of things one could offer, and unless you were a vegetarian family or family that's eating, you know, no meat Mondays, or something, most of them wouldn't probably appeal to you.

"So I think, there's a reason we don't see the 'down, down prices are down' ads anymore, because prices are up, up, up. And there's a reason we don't see the $10 meal promotions, there's a reason we don't see a whole bunch of things we used to see in supermarkets — they can't hand on heart promise those sorts of savings anymore."

$10 meal kits gone for good, expert says

While it's "not impossible" to cook a family meal for $10, Mr Gibson said it's highly unlikely and would require a particularly savvy shopper.

"How would you make a $10 meal when one product is 70 per cent of the the budget, you know?" Mr Gibson said.Consumer expert Joel Gibson

"There used to be a time when you'd be able to get $5 steaks at pubs on a Tuesday night during the week, and then it became a $10 steak and then it became $15.

"It's partly just a natural result of inflation.

"But we've seen particularly strong inflation in groceries the last couple of years and so it's not surprising. We've seen a whole bunch of those promos that go the way of the dodo.

"I don't know that we'll ever see the range of $10 meals again quite like that. The Woolies CEO did say when they had their results last week, that they may see some prices coming down sometime next year as inflation comes back to earth.

"We might see some prices dropping six to nine months...but it's not going to go back to where it was.

"That's why these things never return to where they were. I don't think we'll see $10 meal kits back in Coles, ever, probably."

Coles confirms program ceased 'years ago'

A spokesperson for the supermarket confirmed the program ended years ago but was unable to say when.

“The Feeding Your Family for Under $10 was retired many years ago now," the spokesperson told Yahoo.

"To help customers with budgeting, we have moved to more of a cost per serve approach. Today we have launched our new 'Great Value Hands Down’ campaign, bringing down the price of more than 500 products across Coles stores and Coles online."

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