Budget vs premium food – can you taste the difference?
Almost nine in ten respondents to our latest survey said that, compared with a year ago, their grocery bill has increased. So, can you save cash by swapping premium for budget supermarket food without sacrificing taste?
We also found that four in ten shoppers now buy more food from supermarket own-brand economy ranges than they did 12 months ago.
So we decided to test over 200 everyday items from the big four supermarkets (Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco) to see whether their discount ranges could compete with their more expensive, premium offerings.
We put supermarket’s premium and budget ranges head-to-head by comparing nutritional value, ingredients and their origins, and animal welfare standards. We also conducted a taste-test with The Good Food Guide award-winning chef, Ryan Simpson, to see whether differences were obvious.
Budget meat, vegetables and yoghurt
Before we started this investigation I had never bought budget, as I assumed ‘you get what you pay for’. However, following the results, I’ve bought budget butter for cooking and budget cheese to use in a sauce – both were perfectly fine.
However, I still won’t buy budget meat. We found that premium meats had fewer added ingredients (including water) and were generally from prime cuts of meat. For example, premium sausages contained twice as much meat as their budget counterparts.
Whereas differences between premium and budget versions of plain yoghurt and vegetables were difficult to spot. In fact, when it came to spaghetti, Ryan actually preferred Tesco’s Value range over its Finest spaghetti range, finding the former ‘less rubbery’.
The differences between budget and standard vegetables are mainly down to appearance – standard veg (class 1) is more uniform in appearance and budget veg (class 2) allows more irregularities in size and some broken pieces.
It’s actually quite possible that the two vegetable ranges come from the very same farm! Surely it’s all the same once a carrot has been chopped up and put in a stew?
What budget foods would you buy?
So, as you can see from our research, there are plenty of foods you can buy cheap without sacrificing taste. In fact, you may not even notice the difference.
Ryan also said it’s a good idea to think about what you’re going to use an item for. Using premium cheese to melt into a sauce is a waste, as you’ll lose the texture you’re paying extra for. But if you want it for a cheese board, it’s definitely worth paying a little bit more.
Do you regularly combine value and premium supermarket foods in your shopping basket, and if so, how do decide which ones to budget on?
Which of the following foods would you buy from a budget range?
Store cupboard groceries (67%, 685 Votes)
Tinned food (61%, 625 Votes)
Fresh fruit and vegetables (61%, 623 Votes)
Dairy (38%, 386 Votes)
None (15%, 154 Votes)
Fish (14%, 144 Votes)
Meat (14%, 140 Votes)
Ready Meals (13%, 135 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,018
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