Shoppers, of course, have been watching the pennies this year. Yet, with the trend leaning towards staying in rather than going out to restaurants, the grocers have still achieved growth in sales of quality food.

After all, if you’re not eating out with friends and family, you’re probably entertaining at home – and you’re aiming to impress with top-notch ingredients or cheat ranges such as Waitrose’s As Good As Going Out meals.

But, according to TNS figures released this week, the hard discounters are prospering as the economic squeeze tightens. Instead of going for the quality offers of Sainsbury’s or Tesco, shoppers are turning to the likes of Aldi and Lidl.

Aldi put in a phenomenal performance for the 12 weeks to May 18 – 19 per cent growth in sales – to take its market share to 2.8 per cent, up from 2.5 per cent a year ago. Lidl also advanced with 9.6 per cent growth, while sales at competitor discount player Iceland climbed 12.2 per cent.

Interestingly, TNS reports that Aldi’s growth has come almost entirely from new customers. Yes, the grocer has invested heavily in store development and advertising in the past few months, but that is not the sole reason it has shown such a marked improvement. In the same way that retailers are all seeking to cut costs, so are shoppers. If consumers’ bills – be it mortgage, gas or electricity – are rising, they need to find areas where they can reduce their overheads.

As conditions remain tough for consumers, the hard discounters are likely to prosper further. Some reports this week have suggested that Tesco is shifting its value products to the front of the store – further evidence that consumers are seeking out the cheaper products.

Meanwhile, the battle between the big four grocers continues to hot up. Of the big four, the northerners have beaten the southerners. Morrisons showed annual sales growth of 8.7 per cent for the comparable period in 2007, while Asda was up 7.6 per cent.

Tesco and Sainsbury’s showed less growth and both lost market share. Tesco was down 0.2 percentage points to 31.1 per cent and Sainsbury’s was down 0.3 points to 16 per cent – 0.9 points behind Asda.

Asda continues to increase its market share over Sainsbury’s – up from 0.4 per cent a year ago. While the battle for the title of the UK’s second-biggest grocer remains as fierce as ever, it looks like Asda is not ready to stop polishing its crown just yet.