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Do you buy budget range food?

Food prices can

We’re planning an investigation later this year on the differences between supermarket budget, standard and premium food ranges and we want to hear your experiences. Are you buying more budget food?

Are there certain foods you would happily trade down on, such as fruit and veg? Or are there other foods that you’d always spend as much as you could afford?

In theory I would happily buy budget range fruit and veg, but when I last tried budget potatoes and carrots I found them to be really watery, so I went back to buying standard.

My aunt buys budget range natural yoghurt and says it does the job perfectly and I’ve used budget butter when baking and couldn’t really tell the difference. But I’m not convinced that budget baked beans would be as good. I’m a Heinz girl through and through and I don’t eat them often enough to make any real saving by trading down.

Having said that, when we last taste tested baked beans, Morrisons Value beans scored the same as Heinz so maybe I should just give them a go.

What do you look for in food?

As a family we don’t eat a lot of meat, but when we do I always buy free-range or organic and go for the premium ranges. Why? Because I want to know where my meat is from, that it’s not packed with cheap fillers and that the animal had a fairly decent life.

If you’re considering trading down what would you think about? Is it a decision based entirely on cost? Or would you also consider the quality and nutritional aspect of the food? How about the origin of the food? And if it were meat or fish, would the welfare of the animal play a part in your decision?

Last time we investigated this topic people told us that they regularly bought budget avocados, fruit, pasta, muesli, cornflakes, tinned tomatoes and toffee and chocolate. Are there any other foods that you’re convinced are just as good in the budget range? Or any that you want to know about and would like us to include in our investigation? Let us know and we will incorporate them if possible.

Do you buy budget range supermarket food?

Only occasionally (51%, 580 Votes)

Yes - all the time (40%, 449 Votes)

No - never (9%, 100 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,129

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FC360 says:
18 June 2014

My parents do the shopping for this house and they definitely buy budget brands however it’s only things that we’re not too fussed about, although my dad is kinda strict with finances lol. If a big named brand is better then the budget brands then we’ll just get that however if there is no difference between the brands then we get budget to save some money. It’s amazing how some budget brand products actually taste so much nicer then the big named brand items lol.

Thanks for the comment FC360. Your avatar is pretty cool in that it includes your username 🙂 Did you design it?

And on topic – I can’t help but buy some of the cheaper food, but only if I know it’s good. Still added to Heinz ketchup (despite Which? taste tests!)

We think we make sufficient savings by generally buying own-label foodstuffs instead of major brands, so within the own-label categories we don’t mind getting the premium grade for some products and the middle grade for others, but we rarely choose the budget/value/basics products; we have no personal experience on which to judge whether the budget foods might still be satisfactory so I look forward to the results of your forthcoming investigation. I have always been a little sceptical over whether the top range supermarket produce really is significantly better in taste or quality than the standard equivalents and justifies the higher price and fancy packaging. Again, it will be interesting to see the outcome of your research. I’m not sure that better animal husbandry should in itself put something in the premium category – I don’t expect our preferred supermarket to compromise on this in any way. It gets more difficult when considering organically-grown vegetables, or fair-trade groceries, because these are usually inherently more expensive but not necessarily better products; I think these should stand on their own classification as “Organic” or “Fairtrade” – further differentiation will only confuse the situation further.

I am very suspicious of budget price foods and the possibility that they might not be wholesome. On the other hand, premium products can be expensive and I only buy these regularly if the quality is better.

I try not to buy highly processed food such as ready meals very often, though they can be very convenient. I have a cursory glance at the ingredients and nutritional information when shopping and study this when I get home. Whether I will buy a product again depends not just on taste/texture/price but what is on the label. The ‘traffic light’ labels that are gradually appearing are a great help to alert me to products loaded with fat, salt and sugar.

I agree with what John has said about the need for good animal husbandry, irrespective of price.

I am happy to buy Fairtrade products and do so in the hope/belief that the scheme is run honestly. I On the other hand I am not keen to pay very much extra for organic products.

Aren’t you being rather trusting of the higher priced foods? Who’s to say that the expensive versions are produced in a better way? Companies will economise where they can.

That is a very fair question Erik. Meat is expensive so is a prime target for cost cutting. To take an extreme example, think of what Jamie Oliver told us about turkey twizzlers and other cheap ‘meat’ products fed to school kids. They are made from mechanically recovered meat produced by pressure washing carcases, with ground-up connective tissue, etc. I wonder what’s in sausages or any highly processed meat. Even quite expensive cooked ham consists of bits of ham stuck together and sliced to make it look as if it is from a joint. Look for the air holes and compare the appearance with ham that you have cooked yourself.

I followed the horse meat incident it was generally cheaper products that were affected. Comparing the labels of processed foods will often show that cheaper ingredients such as fat and sugar are used more in budget brands. Ready meals from the expensive supermarkets are often laden with fat too, so we certainly cannot assume that price directly relates to quality.

With meat I prefer to buy stuff that looks like meat. Malcolm has given us a good example of how to buy cheaper cuts of meat, where you can see what you are buying. There’s no need to eat meat in large quantities or every day.

I have tried to explain my view but basically I agree with you. It is difficult to know whether paying a bit more will give us better and more wholesome food.

We enjoy eating (some don’t) and buy what we believe to be decent quality food from what hope is a reliable source. We think it important not to risk food of dubious origins, doubtful constituents and adulteration, so are prepared to pay a little more than we maybe could. It doesn’t mean expensive food – a decent quality casserole steak makes a low-cost meal that is tasty and tender wheras this sort of meat can be tough. So far so good. Amongst that we use own brand beans, tinned tomatos, biscuits, sauces, cereals for example – tried them first compared to Heinz, HP, Crawfords etc and liked them as much, or better, and they were significantly cheaper. To us it is a case of quality and trust, so wouldn’t touch “value” or equivalent branded products.

I go for low sugar/low salt wherever possible but have to admit that I am that tedious old biddy who actually reads the list of ingredients before deciding whether to buy branded goods or not.
We are limited in our choice of supermarket where I live so our choice is not as great as I would like.
I rarely if ever buy the budget end though – Hell, even the cats refuse supermarket budget food!

We regularly buy budget food. Usually fruit and veg is in the budget range because it is in season and there is a glut and therefore they don’t want to waste it. I always buy budget grapes £1.00 to £1.25 per 500g against £2.00 for the regular, and a potato/carrot is a potato/carrot, watery? We do eat quite a lot of baked beans and tinned tomatoes which are clearly sourced from different suppliers, but hey they not a gourmet food, also buy budget biscuits, usually ginger nuts, again not a gourmet food. The only budget cereal we buy are bran flakes (cardboard whoever makes them) and porridge oats, unadulterated food. The supermarket I shop at does a budget crunchy peanut butter which is lower in salt and sugar than the premium brand so I always buy that. I do buy free range eggs and chicken for roasting in the hope that ‘it does what it says on the tin’ and because they seem to taste better. For casserole chicken I may buy a value pack. Organic schmorganic

Kess says:
19 June 2014

Budget ranges can be good but it’s a bit hit and miss and depends on where you shop. As pointed out some items are filled up with bad stuff to make up for the lack of quality.
I find budget meat to be pretty bad and I’d rather spend the odd £2 extra to get better meat. If I don’t have the extra cash I substitute something else for a value range instead (Like an onion or chopped tomatoes)
We have tried lots of ranges over the years and I find Sainsburys basics ok BUT not meat, chocolate or loo roll. I am no loo roll snob but I ended up at the doctors after um an allergic reacting. Something about the bleach they use in any value loo rolls never agree with me.
I tend to stick with own ranges first and then if they don’t have what I need or want it’s bigger brands and then a lot of value where they are OK.
there are hidden sugars and salts in some value stuff so it’s worth the extra 10p for a tin that’s better. If I am desperate well then I don’t have a choice but at least the labels are clear.
This is what I have found and I can’t say for other supermarkets as I don’t shop consistently enough with them to really judge long term. Lidl has been better in the last few years but I find their labels confusing and now I have moved I only really have the large main supermarkets. I also use tins so not to waste food and as I am a carer I never really get help with dinner so it makes sense to keep tinned food for convenience as well as backup if we have less money to spend or none as the case may be. Most value items are ok, some are bad and some are untouchable.
Many people have no choice but to buy value ranges and not just for a few weeks but for many many weeks. I would find it very hard to do this every week constantly.
Sorry for long post but it’s been 8 years of experimentation and really looking at what I am buying, where I am buying it and trying to feed 2 people 3 meals a day and a cat :))
I have learnt a thing or two along the way!
Budget/value ranges of:
Herbs and spices – own range much blander than the more expensive types but at a push will use. Can be false economy as you might need to use much more however if that’s all the cash you got, that’s all the cash you got.
Chopped tomatoes while a bit watery are ok.
Onions, smaller, so need more but ok. Prefer normal own range.
Kidney beans, a bit mushier and size and shape ad hoc but doesn’t bother me and cooks just fine for chilli and other dishes.
Tinned carrots and fresh. Fine, I tend to like baby carrots over sliced but value ranges do the job fine. I use regularly.
Tuna. Not so hot and pretty icky, needs more mayo and plenty of black pepper to make up for lack of texture and taste but ok week on week if it’s mixed in with something. Not responsibly sourced as far as I remember seeing.
Tinned peas have got tons of sugar in them so I don’t buy them. Buy normal own brand.
Same with the sweetcorn.
Fresh Potatoes ok but not as nice obviously. I never use butter/milk/cream so is also why they come out less preferred.
Have used fresh value lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and pretty much most of the fresh fruit and veg I get apart from when they don’t have the option or my partner really feels the need for some nicer apples or something. Or else it’s own brand anyway. Can’t afford organic and free range/fair trade as much as I think It’s nicer and an ethical thing to do.
Meat: Big no no. Only once bought value beef many years ago and it was very disgusting and full of gristle. Partner refused to eat it.
Chicken breasts: Not great but ok. However does the job even though it’s filled with water. I find it better to get a nicer but smaller lot of chicken breasts and fill the dish up with veg instead. Unless times are very tight (which the next 2 weeks will be) then I get the value pack range.
I used to buy Sainsburys corn fed chicken breasts and whole chicken but the last 2 years I just couldn’t stretch it anymore. We both feel terrible and the chicken was much much nicer. But simply not an option now. As above I use more veg to bulk out the dish unless we are desperate.
What else?
Loo roll no
Chocolate/chocolate yogurts/mousse etc no. Not worth it, it’s bland, though I have tried jaffa cakes and some choc bars from Lidl and you get more for your money but quite sweet in comparison. Ok though.
Unless desperate It’s better to have better quality choc.
Value fizzy drinks – nasty and don’t do the Zero ranges. Warm syrups! Own brands ok but tend to stick with big brand for the weekly allowance we give ourselves.
juices, ok actually, it depends on the added stuff.
When we do drink alcohol on the odd occasion, I stick with larger brands. Tried value once and would never try again.
tissues. Hard on your nose but does the job.
cleaning products, does the job though not as strong as others.
laundry liquid&Softener gave me a rash so I stick with normal own brands.
Dishwasher tabs does the job (just about) but dishwasher doesn’t really like it.
Tin foil yes (every month)
Sandwich bags yes (every month)
Black bags 50/50. At a push if no more money left to get usual but false economy as you need to double bag.
Cat litter no as they don’t do clumping in their value range but own brand not big brand
Cat wet food – no. It’s unfair as it really isn’t that great and the cat would rather go hungry. I’d rather do without my chocolate instead. Cat gets Sheba on offer!
Cat dry food own brand hmm ok, but cat wasn’t a fan and better nutrients in larger brands. Better value for money.
bread no, floppy and tasteless but then again I have really cut down on the carbs so if I do have bread it would be wholemeal big brand.
Cereals no. Only own brand.

I cant think of anything else.
For the most part value ranges are ok and as I said, some people use these to stay alive! Some foods are not worth the extra expense when all that’s different is they are shaped exactly alike or don’t bend, over a value range that has different shapes and sizes. I couldn’t care less if my cucumber/banana/potato is a different shape or size!
Other value items like meat is best avoided.

Once years ago tried budget meat, and now never touch? Be brave, have another go!

Happy to go low budget on a few staples, rice, pasta, tinned tomatoes etc but on the whole I prefer to economise in other ways. Some ‘own brands’ are fine but the odd time I’ve picked up anything from a really basic range it’s been disappointing and felt like false economy. There are a few products for which the ‘branded’ ones can’t be beaten, Heinz Beans and Ketchup spring to mnd. I would *never* economise on good bread or tea/coffee and prefer to eat less meat or cheaper cuts than buy ‘budget’ ranges. So my main economies are buying foods reduced on their ‘sell by’ date that go into the freezer or buying nonperishables in bulk when there’s a good deal.

Don’t you read Which? Heinz are not automatically best, just what you’re used to.

there are exceptions to the rule. i once bought sainsburys basics sausages and they were like trifle sponges soaked in fat. when i grilled them most of that fat sprayed itself all over my oven. i then had to buy some oven cleaner on my next visit……hmmm, clever.

KJ says:
20 June 2014

Are you including the budget supermarkets in this? (Aldi and LIDL) If so 95% of the food I buy is budget

Aldi and Tesco are right opposite each other in our town so v. easy to compare. Generally Aldi own brands of many products are nicer than Tesco budget – soups, tomatoes, hot dog sausages, fruit juice, bacon, to name but a few.

The problem with so many budget products is added water, sugar or fat so I am another ‘old biddy’ who reads the labels.

In recent years I have managed to cut the cost of food and essential household products very substantially indeed by buying almost everything at my local Aldi. Having been cautious in the early days, now I have found their quality (almost all of their products are under Aldi’s own brand names) generally very high indeed, so no need to search with suspicion for the big supermarkets’ ‘budget / basic’ etc ranges to make the savings, as my bill is already very substantially less there by comparison. Aldi’s ‘Super 6’ range of vegetables and fruits in season produces a regular range of excellent quality at the most ‘basic’ prices imaginable, unlike the so-called ‘half-price’ etc ‘offers’ shouted by the other supermarkets. I can never understand why a fruit glut in mid-season is regarded as a ‘special offer’ price when slightly lower priced than out-of season prices by the other supermarkets!

The very few ‘big-label’ goods that have recently been introduced into Aldi such as Marmite (does any other company produce an own-label / budget version that is equal to this wonderful product?) helps dissuade me from venturing elsewhere. Whilst their own versions of digestive biscuits are almost as good as my favourite ‘McVities’, the Aldi versions, both plain and chocolate covered, are still delicious and easily less than half the price of that famous brand stocked in the other supermarkets
I am a very enthusiastic ‘foodie’ and love to cook, so am highly critical of all food quality and taste! Whilst there is not the confusing, massive range of the big supermarkets, I actually welcome the more limited selections, as I find the quality and prices in Aldi’s store generally at the level I require. They increasingly stock a broader range of product types, though when previous particular favourites eg goats cheese (with skin), Black Forest smoked ham, rye pumpernickel etc are discontinued, I do feel deprived!

please be explicit, or there is no point or way of answering , budget ,meaning own labels, or what.

Kess says:
20 June 2014

Personally I would assume budget food, being anything that isn’t branded by the large brands. This could mean for those that can afford it, buy own brand. For those that can’t afford own brand, the next level down would be value/basic/essential ranges. This to me is what *budget* food is.
EG instead of buying Heinz you buy own brand or value which are cheaper. So this to me says *budget* food. If you CAN afford to buy all your food top end brands then it’s not budget buying is it.
Same with a cook book called *budget food* recipes. Budget being lower cost brands or value ranges and lower cost cooking.
That’s just my interpretation.

The four major supermarkets have three grades of own label products for many of their food categories. In this article I think Shefalee is referring to the lowest [and probably] cheapest grade in the range and they usually come under a category name like ‘value’, basics’, ‘savers’ or ‘budget’. The premium ranges usually have a fancy name like ‘taste the difference’ or ‘finest’. the in-between grade is the regular or standard product.

Hi Kenneth, I tweaked the poll to clarify it’s ‘budget range’ foods. But happy to hear about everything!

Patrick, Kenneth proposed “budget” meaning “own labels” as I read his post. I had assumed this was actually about the very cheapest ranges of own label foods – such as “value” from Tesco.

You’re right Malcolm – budget ranges, like the value range.

My advice is – Look at what’s in the product from the Ingredients Label. And when it comes to peanuts, what’s the difference between ‘Budget’ and ‘Normal’ ?? Read the label! Make your own choices.

Kess says:
21 June 2014

The ingredients won’t always tell you the quality and doesn’t apply to all products as not all products contain all the information or is very clear or in fact is relevant. Less sugar is not always a good thing. Also some budget items are not relevant in terms of labels and ingredients. Fresh food for example. Basic value carrots are basic value carrots because they are not all the same shape, size or quantity. They may also be a bit dirtier hence you need more time and effort as opposed to more expensive pre cut pre washed same shape organic ones. Are the value carrots worse or better? It’s a cost thing for that example and and in terms of quality? You may only be paying the extra for the convenience. Therefore it is not an exact science to read all the labels.

With vegetables, there is a question of freshness. I have a suspicion that the budget grade have been out of the ground for longer.

Kess says:
21 June 2014

I guess it depends on where you buy them. Personally all the value veg I have bought lasts as long as the other stuff. Like I said, mostly the difference is shape and size.
Just because something costs £1 more doesn’t mean it will last longer. It may just be organic or have been processed to a particular standard. Many farmers actually throw food away or can’t sell them to the supermarkets because it doesn’t come to the standard required.

Ray Cox says:
21 June 2014

LIDLs’ Sweet & Sour Chicken and Rice Meals are excellent value for money.
Two packs for three pounds.
Sainsburys’ cost about that for one pack and have smaller portions.

pol says:
21 June 2014

I don’t buy much precooked foods so looking for raw to prepare can be hit and miss. often packs of meat are one price choice only and it is a case of checking to see if any large fatty or boned bits are making up the weight, easier said then done when you open the pack and find it is hidden underneath the label or on the under side. The Uk are good at this cheating. I have to buy free range as with in our budget rather then organic chicken for myself as the other ones upset my gut that becomes so raw for a week on end, whether diet or injections the animals are given causes it not sure, same with pork, have to be very careful and pay more for it But i do find the chicken looks plump but when cooked it is not that much meat after all. the cheaper chicken my husband can eat is always a lot more meat. I do not buy minced meats etc as prefer to mince my own and not get other stuff added like kidney and extra fat etc. Have bought dearer sausages but now worried about the risk of getting as one ex inspector said absesses in pies and sausages if the full inspection not done anymore at point of kill. So may have to make my own with bought in solid meat minced up. I do buy when I can organic milk as i hate to think cows are just a machine and have to produce double what they should. Once tried Lidl own white sliced bread and it was not nice. Their own Foleys loo paper is good, a bit more paper towel like but less sheets needed and does not create paper dust when torn off that aggros my nose and throat. They also have a very nice ham too it is in a large oval shape pack and very good quality.price wise probably better value. their olive oil is ok too, I use it for gentle frying and soap making. Use their soap powder, dishwasher and rince aid too. Tescos powder custard was not nice a\nd i do not like their only choice in my store of sausage rolls but husband eats them, they have an unpleasant smell when heated up. their own tinned new spuds are good value, and handy when i do not feel like peeling spuds, have used the carrots too. I buy the cheaper pack of tomatoes and let them ripen a bit more. sweet peppers always good value too. own cornflakes, muslie, malties ok too. Frozen fish has become a battle field of value for money and normally we prefer haddock to cod, but the pieces are often less then should be in bag weight, so have recently tried basa or some name like it fish and brilliant for taste and quantity , also had pollock from lidl and good too. so give them a try. My husband has the tesco coffee for percolaters, but i am fussy about my tea and do not buy cheaper, prefering to stick with clipper or even PG tips. Own flour ok. often buy value bag of apples etc a\nd used to buy the value mozerella but it is no longer stocked in my one. not being a cheese eater as such i did actually like this as some are a bit bitter or sort of lemon like, maybe used to turn the milk into a cheese.What I am noticing is lots of foods i used to like as a treat and are sweetened are not as nice as before. the trifle is sickly and a lot of the shelf cakes are over sweetened too, maybe a different sweetner used now. Found this with some yoghurts too. my cat who is a fusspot will eat classic tesco sachet foods, think they may be a well known make with simular boxes.
I think it is a case of buy a small sample and try it, if you like it then you can buy more and save yourself some money. by the way tescos pay for my holiday rental cottage. all the coupons values and 2 for 1 and any loose change under 50p in my purse gets put by and you will be surprised how it all adds up and so pain free too.

I vary my food shopping. Some budget brands are good i.e chopped tomatoes, mushy peas, yoghurts, some biscuits, fruit and veg. I only by budget baked beans if the are going into a shepherds pie or similar , otherwise by own brand. Heinz Tomato soup is generally purchased rather than shop own brand as I think it taste better. Lidl and Aldi – 95% of goods excellent although Lidl’s packet soups are rubbish.

Gill says:
21 June 2014

I do buy budget brands from Sainsburys as I find this particular supermarket budget range is particularly good. I usually buy crackers, sponge cake mix, tinned tomatoes, eating apples, biscuits, cakes, butter, yogurt, brown sauce all of which I would recommend. However there are some items such as meat, tea, coffee, bread, soup, cereals where I am reluctant to try the budget range as I feel these would not be as good as the branded products.

Not even try budget range, because you /feel/ they wouldn’t be as good? There’s a simple way to check – just try some. If you really don’t like the stuff, don’t buy it again; if you do like it, think of all the money you’ve been wasting!

MAK says:
23 June 2014

Thanks to my 1966 O level English and excellent primary and secondary school teachers.

Yes we buy budget range supermarket food, but only on items such as breakfast cereals, toilet rolls, dishwasher tablets and so on. We don’t generally buy supermarket brand items containing meat of fish, except for currys, but then it’s Waitrose or M&S.

MAK – your comment presumably refers to the misspeling of ‘occasionally’ in the third question of the poll at the bottom of the intro to this Conversation. Well, we all make the occasional typographical error, especially when we’re trying to type fast. Sometimes I’ve done it myself and spelt plurals wrongly – for example, “trollies” instead of “trolleys”. I’ve occasionally seen “currys” instead of “curries”, but we all know what the writer means.

You see – I can’t even spell ‘misspelling’ correctly!

daffodil says:
24 June 2014

i do my monthly shop at Sainsburys and usually buy their own brand products. However in Doncaster we have a very good market where i buy meat, fish and fruit and veg. I like my meat to have some fat on it so that it is not dry when cooked and i can usually get what i want from the market. The fish market is second to none and has a very good selection.

I do occasionally visit a sale area of products nearing their end of date especially dried and tinned goods and can find nothing wrong with them. Too many people throw too much food away just because of a date on them. Some tinned stuff from the war has been found to be perfectly edible.

I wouldn’t bother with the National Dried Milk if you find any, Daffodil – it was horrible even when new.