Tip 14: Swap big brands for own brands

Last week I did several posts on changes you can make to your eating habits which are both healthier and save money. This week we’ll be focusing more on how changing your shopping habits can save you money.  And by far the biggest money saving tip is to swap big brands for supermarket own brands.

Without even realising it, we are all influenced by the way food is marketed. Clever marketing gives us all kinds of ideas about different brands – which are healthier, more delicious, or associated with a desirable lifestyle. However, many of the claims made by big brands have little to do with the food inside.

This is especially true of basic ingredients like flour, sugar and milk. People regularly pay double to get Quaker porridge oats (£0.20/100g) instead of just opting for a supermarket own brand (£0.10/100g – or less!). The reality is, there just isn’t that big a difference between the two products. This is true even when you look at more complex foods, like cake or pasta sauce. Bonne Maman strawberry jam costs £2.60 for a 370g jar, whereas you can get a 454g jar of Tesco own brand strawberry jam for £0.75 – more than 4 times less!

Many people believe that they can taste the difference between premium branded products and budget ones. But research and TV shows like Eat Well for Less have consistently shown that we are rubbish at this. When the fancy labels are removed, most people have no idea if they are eating their usual brand or not.

Supermarket own brands can also be healthier than their big branded counterparts. Not always, so you have to read labels, but you’d be surprised how often this happens. Take something as simple as bread. The first four ingredients in Tesco’s Finest wholemeal loaf are wholemeal wheat flour, water, toasted rye flakes, and wheat gluten. But the first four ingredients in Hovis wholemeal medium bread are wholemeal wheat flour, water, caramelised sugar and yeast. Not only is the Tesco loaf lower in sugar, but it’s higher in protein too. All at £0.99 for an 800g loaf, compared to £1.10 for the same sized Hovis loaf.

Today all supermarkets have their own branded foods, and most even have different brands at different price points. For example, you can get Tesco Finest beef rump steaks at £18.50/Kg or Boswell Farms (a Tesco budget brand) rump steaks for £10.80/Kg. We’d all like to think that there is a massive difference in the care of the animals and quality of the meat in the Finest range, but the truth is, most of the time there is no way to know. Free range and organic are legal terms, but most of the words used on food packaging is not regulated and so meaningless. Anything can be labelled as “farm fresh”, “healthy”, or “natural”. My favourite is the “Natural” Confectionary co., where the first ingredient in their jelly snakes is glucose syrup – haven’t seen that growing on trees lately!

So on your next food shop, swap the big brands for supermarket own brands  (or unbranded foods). Check the labels and taste with an open mind. You may be surprised to find just how similar these foods are to your usual brand. The more budget own brand foods you buy, the more you will save!

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*All prices from the Tesco.com website and are correct as of 20/01/2020

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