Where growing, making & good living come together

“Value” or “Taste the Difference”?

Posted by on Wednesday 27 July 2011 in Featured, frugal | 13 comments

This month’s Which magazine* includes a section about supermarket food prices (apparently 57% of people are looking for reduced price food more now than they were a year ago, and 60% are using offers more – but 43% think most supermarket promotions are on unhealthy food) and an article about whether we should pick the value version, the standard one or the premium brand of various food products.

The Which people compared the prices and made relevant ingredient comparisons (eg, the amount of meat in a lasagne ready meal) between each of the different levels, and also did taste tests.

I obviously won’t type out the whole article here but they did recommend the budget option for: butter, natural (not fruit) yogurt, frozen peas, spaghetti and for use when cooking stews etc, carrots, frozen fish, cheddar cheese, kidney beans and tinned tomatoes.

And they suggested the following premium products were worth splashing out on: bacon (less water), beef mince (less fat), sausages (less bulking agents), ham (less water/additives) and ready-meal quiche. They added that you should go premium or at least standard on teabags, fruit yogurts, cornflakes and ready meals like lasagne.

Funnily enough, this roughly matches where we spend our money – John has a thing about expensive bacon & sausages but we’re happy with cheap yoghurt and butter, and use budget carrots and cheese for cooking.

One thing I’d possibly disagree on is the tomatoes: I find the cheapest ones tend to include a lot of “stalk” ends (not a problem in a curry, more of a problem in a quick sauce) and more citric acid & other acidic preservatives (John has an intolerance to lots of acids like that), so we tend to go for standard or premium ones if they’re on offer so as cheap as standard.

Aside from the things they looked at, I often buy value plain flour for basic baking (especially for dusting) and in the non-food sphere, the cleaning products I buy (including washing powder) tend to be the basic range too. Back in the day, when we used to buy them frequently, I also used to rate value oven chips over branded ones. We also buy a lot of super cheap brand stuff – the cost equivalent of value brands, just not from the major supermarkets – like rice, vegetable oil and pickled vegetables or chutneys (mostly from shops specialising in Asian or Mediterranean food stuffs).

Having said that, a peek into our cupboards to “research” this post showed me that by far the most common label is Morrisons standard own brand. I know from experience that most things were bought on offer so they’d have been cheaper or about equal to the budget brands – but bearing in mind Which’s findings, I think we could swap to budget in a few more areas.

What do you think? Do you always go for one product class or mix and match for different things? Do you actually prefer the value option of anything? And is there anything you always pick premium for?

I would love to hear people’s value product recommendations – and ones where the extra money really is worth it for premium!

* I don’t buy Which magazine, or any magazines, regularly but signed up for a subscription in June when we were buying a few things for the house. I don’t swear by Which but lacking any other up-to-date information sources, we thought it was worth at least checking out. I like that Which is about buying quality items that will last; I dislike that it promotes consumption, often in the form of gadgets – whenever John & I read it, we both feel “well, maybe I do need a new camera…” pangs. Baaaaaaaad.

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Things I spotted at the supermarket

Posted by on Thursday 16 December 2010 in frugal | 4 comments

Yes, I know I’m having a no spend week/fortnight+ at the moment but one of my exceptions was food because it was an impromptu decision not to spend anything and I knew we’d be off to the supermarket this week for our once-monthly shop. If I’d planned the week more, we’d have gone last week but we didn’t really want to leave it any later than this week because it’ll be crazy busy next week and the week after.

So, anyway, during our visit to the supermarket last night, I spotted the following things:

  • 1kg of their normal (not best or basic) own-brand carrots cost 98p. 1.5kg of own-brand carrots (same level) were £1. (My mum spotted this last week so I was looking out for it.)
  • 1kg of own-brand sod-the-peasants demerara sugar was £1.55. 1kg of branded Fairtrade demerara sugar was £1.50.
  • Similarly, a 1kg jar of organic, fairtrade own-brand hot chocolate was nearly half the price of some non-organic, non-fairtrade branded stuff — that’s a lot of money for just a name on the jar.
  • Some breakfast muffins were on the reduced for quick sale shelf – apparently 40p reduced to 39p. Super-saving! ;)
  • A few weeks ago, I got some discounted-for-quick-sale cat treats at Home Bargain for 29p and the cats (and dog) love them – they were basically strips of dried meat, not too much crap. John asked about buying more of them and we saw them at the supermarket yesterday – they cost £1.50 a pack, equal to £15.30 a kg. You could buy fresh steak for less than that! I think we’ll make homemade dried treats for them as well as the dog…

We felt like we were being quite conservative – applying the “no spend” ethos to unessentials – but the bill ended up being more than normal. We did buy 5.5kg of flour, nearly a year’s supply of stock cubes/bouillon (to supplement stuff we make at home – they were on offer and are something we always forget to … stock up on), £12 worth of sausages (mostly long-lasting chorizo for cooking & lunches and Polish kabanos), two months worth of decaff Earl Grey, and some household supplies we’d usually get elsewhere – but it was still strangely high. The shape of things to come? Sigh.

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What do you never pay full price for?

Posted by on Thursday 9 December 2010 in frugal | 6 comments

There are some things that I never, ever pay full price for.

Due to a lifetime of “this is what that tastes like”, I’m brand loyal in about five cases: orange squash has to be Robinsons, baked beans have to be Heinz, brown sauce as to be HP, chocolate digestives have to be McVities and my breakfast cereal has to be Mornflake Chocolate Squares because first thing in the morning, I’m a big kid who hates nutrients and fibre. Out of those, it’s only the cereal that I ever buy full price – all of the rest come up on offer regularly enough that I just stock up when it’s on offer and that’s enough to tide me over to the next time the offers come around.

With other things, I don’t care about the brand – I’ll just buy whatever is on offer. Canned tuna for example, or pasta or butter or toilet rolls. It’s rare that there isn’t one brand on some sort of offer and if there isn’t, and we don’t *really* need it (which we rarely do, as we tend to keep good stores), then we don’t buy it. Again, the offers come up regularly enough that it’s never really worth paying full price just to have it then. I don’t think I’ve ever bought tuna or toilet rolls at full price, *ever*.

There are other things we rarely pay full price for: sugar, cat food, sweet treats (like chocolate biscuits or cakes), cooking oil, cleaning products (particularly washing powder, soap and shampoo) and jam (when we have to buy it).

Away from food and groceries, it’s very rare that I pay full (new) price for clothes – they’re either on sale, I have a discount code or second-hand through a charity shop or eBay (although that’s not without its problems…). And books – I buy more books than I should but they’re mostly from Amazon‘s marketplace or Abebooks.

What do you never pay full price for? What do you only buy when it’s on offer? Do you have any offer-surfing tricks to share?

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