Brand vs Budget Brand

The bad news this week is that, according to research by Asda, families are £11 a week worse off now compared to last year. And all thanks to a 7.4 per cent jump in the cost of living. The good news, though, is there seems to be a proliferation of supermarket budget brands that could help us all save a few pennies if we switched to them.

But would we sacrifice quality? I’m carrying out my own experiment to test some of these low price products, and determine whether I could see myself switching to them for the longer term.

Shopping in my local Asda I stocked up on an array of Smart Price products, the chain’s own low price brand. My trolley was a sea of plain green and white labels. Here is my shopping list:

Orange squash 16p

Peanut butter 55p

Bourbon biscuits 18p

Baked beans 20p

Tea bags 31p

Butter 50p

Hot chocolate 55p

Mayonnaise 41p

Tomato soup 18p

Chopped tomatoes 21p

Cornflakes 74p

Porridge oats 59p

Sweetcorn 19p

Toilet roll 37p

Washing up liquid 44p

Shower gel 8p

Shampoo 14p

Conditioner 27p

Soap 14p

Total: £6.21

I was pleased with my purchases, especially the shower gel – normally 23p but cut to a credit crunch-busting 8p!

So far I’ve sampled the orange squash, peanut butter, butter, porridge oats, tea bags, bourbon biscuits and hot chocolate. I have to say, I was unimpressed with the 55p peanut butter. Tucking into some on toast, I thought it smelt a bit funny and tasted horrible. It didn’t have enough sugar or salt for my taste, and later on I felt a bit sick. So I think it’s worth spending another 23p to get the Asda crunchy nut brand for 78p.

After that, I had my doubts about the 16p orange squash but was pleasantly surprised. It’s fairly mild in flavour although there’s a slight aftertaste, but it’s not bad at all with no added sugar and or preservatives. The hot chocolate was ok too. Slightly insipid in flavour – I probably needed more than my 3 teaspoons – but good for 55p. Although not necessarily for those watching their weight – at around 141 calories per mug.

I love tea, so I was wary of the 31p tea bags. As a student I bought cheap Happy Shopper tea bags that made grey cups of tea and tasted disgusting. The Smart Price tea looked slightly grey in colour too and lacked flavour but was drinkable. The 18p bourbons were a bit dry but improved when dunked in the 31p tea. The butter and porridge oats, however, stand up to other brands I’ve bought elsewhere.

I’ve yet to test out all the toiletry products and the other food products, so I’ll report back later in the week.

Do you buy supermarket budget items? How well do you rate them?

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34 Responses to Brand vs Budget Brand

  1. Christine says:

    Been there and tried the budget lines. Biggest failure ever was budget baked beans at 9p a tin – tasteless bullets and disgusting. I don\’t go for budget teabags either but then I\’ve found that the ASDA own brand herbal teas are excellent and really good value to date. I\’ve gone down a different route and gone for green cleaner products such as soda crystals which can be bought at Asda, bicarbonate of soda and borax which can be bought in bigger sizes at the other supermarket we don\’t mention (Tesco) which are that bit cheaper and also at Oxfam at the moment. This gives me a few extra coppers for food whilst fidning that the home is just as clean. You also want to keep an eye on that famous store Wilkinsons which often has good cleaning stuff at a competitive price. I\’m a bit choosy on shampoo but if you look around there are some good offers on shampoos. I\’m not one for budget shampoo but will use supermarket own brand if I like it (I found the Asda ones to be a bit on the watery side last time I looked but find that the Co-op own brand at a bit more expensive used to be good value as thicker so went further). I\’ve got a stash of Timotei shampoo which I really like and only paid £1 a bottle which is half price. Will the cheap shower gel last as long as what you are used to? I recently tried some bath foam at 2 for £1 (1 litre bottles) from the Pound Shop and it was so thin and bubbleless it was a bad buy as the 2 didn\’t go as far as the 1 I\’d been buying at 89p – but you have to try these things to find out don\’t you? The ASDA smart biscuits are OK and passable but nothing to feed your mother I fear. I decided that biscuits might be something I would pass on for a while as non essential and bad for my build (too round, too round is the cry). But the question is – have you solved the price of bread? It\’s price has just taken another hike in all the supermarkets again.

  2. Tattyhousehastings says:

    Hello Piper and Christine
    Good luck with the budget hunt – me, I always buy value tinned tomatoes, don\’t mind little bit of skin left on them. Also discovered value English strawberries this year, just as lovely, but random sizes! Oh and as for worse value buy it was the M supermarkets\’ own brand better buy stuff children\’s shampoo. Very runny, made children look like wild things and actually seemed to add knots to their hair.
    Hope everything else is going ok! Me, I\’m bored of credit crunch and a little bored of being broke. But cheered self up by spending some money at car boot sale this weekend £1 for lots of odds and ends. Now just need a plan for the Barbie handbags.

  3. piper says:

    Hello ladies,
    That\’s awful re the kids\’ hair!  Mad!  Are those handbags for barbie or handbags made from barbies…dare I ask?
    Maybe buying the cheap & nasty biscuits is a good idea for watching the waistline Christine – I might find I don\’t want as many as usual!  I\’m with you on the shampoo front. My scalp is very sensitive so I\’ll let you know how I get on. I\’m a bit worried at the prospect of trying them out!  Re bread – luckily we have a breadmaker and while it was a pricey one (£70 I think) when DJ bought it a few years ago making a loaf that way is much cheaper than buying it. A packet of Asda strong white bread flour makes 2 1/2 white loaves and costs 48p – tastes just as good as the more expensive flour from Waitrose or Allinson\’s. Obviously there are other ingredients you need – sugar, yeast, milk powder, butter, salt, but they last for ages. 

  4. derek says:

    Months ago a walk around Aldi was treated with disdain, now shopping regularly there the savings are quite enormous and the quality is just as good, Normal shopping 4 months ago was £70-£80 per week…Aldi, £50-£52 per week. And no plastic bags!!

  5. Chris says:

    Just a quick comment about the Smartprice Peanut Butter. I can\’t believe you don\’t like it. I love Peanut Butter and usually buy SunPat which is 4 times the price of the Asda Smartprice jar. I love the cheaper Asda option, it\’s tasty, crunchy, easy to spead. A bargain!!

  6. piper says:

    Interesting – could I have picked up a duff jar?

  7. Chris says:

    Perhaps! Give it another go, at 55p you haven\’t got much to lose. If you still think the same we\’ll agree to disagree! 🙂

  8. carla says:

    yes the products might not be the best quality, but what do you expect for the price?

  9. carla says:

    hello, this smart price test you doing sounds pretty cool!if it can help, i tried asda\’s smart price chopped and plum tomatoes and they were fine, so i always buy them now.also i found a cheap shampoo, which is about 78p and is still asda\’s own but very good.i reckon some things need to be quality products (toilet rolls, baked beans etc) but some others you can find a sort of middle way… 🙂

  10. Jenny says:

    I love Asda Smart Price stuff!  Admitedly I\’ve never bought the shampoo but I regularly buy the other stuff – and as for the peanut butter comment, it\’s the only one I do like!!  I also by the chocolate spread, which is a little runnier than for example Nutella, but is therefore easier to spread.  All the tinned stuff is brilliant, the tuna, tomatoes, soups, beans, beans and sausages, sweetcorn etc etc and also stuff like pasta and rice, pasata, you can\’t go wrong.  Also the fresh veg is great – veg is veg after all!  SMART PRICE IS FAB – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

  11. gill says:

    id love to know where this woman was shopping because im sure i paid 85p for the butter last week

  12. cider says:

    My husband and myself always buy own brand goodies for most things, beans,tinned toms,pasta,rice,jams,frozen veg.Not keen on the Asda bread but like the Tescos bread,( still cheap) I wont buy own brand hair products or shower gels( husband will use 9p stuff from Asda) though, been there tried them and didn`t like. I think alot of people can be quite snobby about Own Brand. God knows why!!

  13. piper says:

    Hi Gill – it was Asda Basildon.  Just double checked my receipts and definitely paid 50p. But I see online it\’s selling at 84p – must have had a deal on in the store.

  14. Alan says:

    Try the asda own brand organic crunchy peanut butter it\’s slightly more expensive but still a lot cheaper than a lot of others.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    My husband bores me to death with his love of ASDA and all things cheap.  The peanut butter is really disgusting and looks well it looks like an accident. I hate all the ASDA soaps etc and go off and buy stuff myself. However we are saving money if I don\’t go to boots too often. I used to shop in Waitrose nearly every other day. Now my husband does a big shop on Saturday, and yes we do save money. But I think that a lot of own brand things tend to be bland. God what a boring life!

  16. Wendy says:

    I must admit i have bought ASDA smartprice brown bread (it lasts for ages) tomato soup, sweetcorn and baked beans with sausages for ages coz they taste just as good as the \’regular\’ brands. We also buy a lot of the good for you range and adsa own labels coz theyre so tasty and the reduction in price always helps.
    Some of the smartprice stuff is not too good, like toiletries etc, i think its worth paying a little more to protect sensitive skin etc, however Im very pleased with their products as a whole.

  17. Kathryn says:

    I\’m sure most of what\’s putting you off the food is plain old fashioned prejudice. I actually really like the peanut butter & bourbon biscuits. I don\’t buy all Smart Price foods, but things like fruit, veg, tinned sweetcorn, chopped tomatoes, porridge oats, flour and that sort of thing I do. I wouldn\’t buy Smartprice meats or processed food simply because I care about what additives and chemicals I put in my body and I am also passionate about animal welfare.
    I think using the Smartprice range can really reduce you weekly shop & is a valuable asset to Asda and the majority of its customers. I genuinely think the best way to reduce the weekly shop is to eat less meat, there are plenty of alternatives and a couple of days out of the week without meat can even make a nice change.
    I think people that complain about the Smartprice range must be able to afford another choice, perhaps before slagging something off they should consider that for some people it\’s there only choice and why should they be made to feel like there are inferior in some way.
    In the end it\’s just food & it serves a nutritional purpose, I\’m sure that people starving in the world would not turn their noses up at it. How about getting on with our lives and not moaning about trivial things! 

  18. susanne says:

    Some smart price products are not very tasty, but I do buy quite alot of smart price and find nothing wrong with them. I cant believe they said the toilet roll would rub the skin of your face. Thats such a lie. I buy that all the time and find it fine. I dont buy it because im trying to save money i buy it because whats the point in wasting money on expensive double velvet just to wipe your bum. I use very expensive facial creams and have really soft skin, its never damaged my skin. Asda\’s smart price products are alot better than the same products at other supermarkets. Any way why are you slating their products is it because your a food snob who can afford better food, just remember there are people out there who struggle to afford smart price at least Asda are doing there bit for these people.

  19. Bryan says:

    ADSA smart price, tasteless and the meat products disgusting would not give it to my dog.ALDI own brands just as cheap but better quality.

  20. Zubair says:

    As a student and on my own I decided to experiment with the ASDA products as well. Thier slogan cheap prices also has this effect of cheap quality.
    In my opinion as far as cosmetics and toilettries  go it is a better and safer option to go for branded products. They can be distinguished easily. However for food products some of ASDA smart price products are pretty decent.
    The items that ASDA smart price had of average quality or above:
    Tortilla Chips
    Ice Chocos
    Choclate Chip Cookies
    Noodle Packs
    French Fries
    Tomato Pizza
    Items I found not consumable:

    Chicken Curry in Cans (REVOLTING)
    Bread (White)
    Ice Cream
    Fish fingers
    Tuna flakes
    Rice pudding
    Digestive Choclates

  21. sarah says:

     Hi, I am also fond of bargains and look at shops own brands. I think the smart price tinned goods are just as good as expensive ones for instance chopped tomatoes, I only really use them in bolognaise so theyre fine. What my family and I particularly like is the chicken in white sauce for 59p – shops own brands are close to a £1 and branded I\’ve seen for as much as over £2! Also it has white meat where as Morrions for instance is quite brown and doesnt look very appetising. Im proud to say my cupboards are full of plain labels!

  22. Kerri says:

    Like Jenny I\’m a fan of Smart Price (or other value brand) fruit and veg – I\’m really not all that bothered whether my carrots are all one size when I\’m just going to chop them up anyway. The only thing I do find as a drawback though is that often some of the value fruit and veg come in large pre-packed bags – a) not great for the environment b) there\’s only me and my husband at home so it can lead to some stuff being left over which defeats the purpose. I have just discovered JS Basic\’s cheese spread – I previously bought supermarket own brand as that tastes just like Dairylea and was a bit sceptical about the very basic brand, but I must admit I was pleasantly suprised – so much so I\’ve had to re-stock. My philosophy is \’horses for courses\’, some very basic brand stuff I won\’t but, such as moistureiser as I have very dry skin and it just wouldn\’t do the job for me, but other stuff I am quite happy to buy. My suggestion (well from Martin Lewis actually) is try dropping a brand level when you shop – so if you buy own label , try a couple of value products instead – you might notice the difference, you might not.
    I also notice some of you have mentioned that the Smart Price (and other value ranges) don\’t have the same taste as own/premium brands – my advsie is to compare the labels. I have found that a number of value brand items I have checked taste different because they contain less salt ,sugar and other preservatives than more expenisve brands – I\’m not suggesting the value brands are nutritionally superiour but it did make me realise just what gets added to our food and how we become conditioned to the tastes of added salts and sugars.

  23. babs says:

    there is some things i buy at asda( they own make ) some i like but some are rubbish like they mayonnaise you have to go and shop at different super-markets and find the best to your own liking i am a pensioner so i have to be a canny shopper at all times at my age i have to be careful what i eat so over the years ive learnt a lot about cheap food and utilities such as soap-powders and stuff  out of the 4 big super-markets i use .      ( aldi is the best value)***

  24. Julie says:

    Tesco value (Tesco\’s own brand range) is much better quality than ASDA smartprice and are just as cheap! 
    As a student I am speaking from much experience!

  25. kate says:

    I used to buy tesco value range products and have now moved to asda smart price I do think the food is better I like the flavour.
    I use their oven or fry chips and they don\’t go dry like ordinary oven chips.  Also love the smart price spag bol sauce.  The frozen lasagne is also very nice amoungst many products.  I have also found the tea bags are ok when you make the tea in a pot and allow 3 minutes for brewing.  I know that sounds a little to organized but once you have made your pate on toast to go with it, it\’s ready 🙂
    Overall I think the food has good flavour and a good price and with the home delivery costing less than the petrol to get to my nearest supermarket (20 miles) its an easy and affordable option.

  26. Fran says:

    I also use a lot of Asda Smart Price goods and I think a lot of it depends on personal taste in the same way that not everyone likes the same dearer products.  We use the following regularly.
    Value pack of biscuits with 4 packs (though the single pack of smart price custard creams was very disappointing).
    Tea bags (the only moan about them is the dust they leave in the bottom of the canister).  
    Instant custard powder for when time is short as it tastes good but is a bit sweet. 
    Squashes, though it can get boring with the same 3 flavours.
    Baked beans, good flavour but can have a lot of juice.
    Beef mince, can be fatty and "bitty" but can get that out once fried, tastes ok.
    Frozen Oven/Fry chips that don\’t leave as much grease on the tray.
    Frozen chicken breasts, usually rinse these well as they can be a bit salty.
    Frozen sausages, go through a lot of them.
    Frozen peas, various sizes but taste good.
    Lasagne sheets, fine but take a bit longer to soften up.
    Tinned sweet corn, kidney beans and tomatoes.
    Dried fruit such as sultanas and mixed fruit.
    I will also use Tesco Value if I am in there though I do avoid their beans if I can. Like I say it is for the individual to decide as there are some things I don\’t like, like the fish fingers, but I do get the fish cakes.  As for feeding the family for a fiver… I quite often do it for less than that out of necessity though there are only 4 or of us and as someone else said we don\’t have massive appetites.
    My one worry is that if others are cutting back by moving down to these products how do those of us who use them already cut back?

  27. Mike says:

    Why do people think that paying more means better quality, maybe it has something to do with the fact we are told bythe good old media,that it is better because it cost\’s more, not true that is just good old fashioned brain washing. I have been shopping at Aldi\’s for 3 years now and find that all their products are of the highest quailty and at 1/4 of theprice of the major supermarkets.Let\’s face it, it is a matter of taste but when you are constantly being told that this product is better then the cheaperversion you might just start to believe it. The consumer has been buying brands ie like heinz ,parmolive, HP etc ,for so many years now that their taste buds have got used to these flavours so they naturally think anything else just does not taste good, which is a shame because these people do not realise what they are missing and it is costing them alot for the privilige of saying !! I buy heinz etc !!. So come on people do not let the big boy\’s push you around go out and get the best for less. A happy and better off Aldi shopper.

  28. LES says:

    I shop at Asda , and use many of their smartprice range, it also allows me to make an informed choise about products (i.e. I DO  buy free range eggs as opposed to smartprice. )
    For fresh fruit and veg, in my opinion, you cannot beat Aldi. The fruit is ultra fresh and first class, and beats all the other supermarkets (including marks and spencers)  into a cocked hat. Aldi, out of the cheaper retailers, deliver top class value.

  29. Andy says:

    That is really nice: now You can eat frugally snow! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. Pauline says:


  31. Emma says:

    the cheap toiletries ar usually no good i find, but try poundland, they have normal brands much cheaper than normal, or example i bought toothpaste which was 2.50 normally in shops. the cheap stuff is often better, has less unecessary added stuff, like the crisps, say potatos, salt, oil, look at th back of walkers n theres a big ingredients list!

  32. Mark says:

    Having studed, and since lived at home a while with not too much money left over still, I\’ve got a fair handle on this stuff…I must say I think you\’re a little harsh on the peanut butter. It seems perfectly fine for me. A little oily, but then it means you can use less (or no) regular spread underneath. Possibly helps that i tend to mix it either with some smartprice / T-value jam (30-odd pence, a little over sweet otherwise but otherwise decent) american style, or with a bit of vegemite (£2 for a jar that lasts months, it\’s a hidden gem of moneysaving flavour-and-vitamin enhancement, just remember you only need a smear otherwise you\’re piling on sodium and wasting cash). Stick it on some toasted SP / TV bread (keeps for a couple weeks in the fridge if you keep it tightly closed and only open it for the minimum amount of time) with some own brand BUT NON VALUE spread (80-ish pence, lasts for weeks) and it\’s a good, incredibly cheap day-starter. I think I figured it at 8p per round if you were to forgo the electricity and eat this heady, tasty, love-it-or-hate-it mix as sandwiches instead. Cheaper than cornflakes, and just as good for you if you buy brown bread (40p vs 38p for white).It is a telling sign of price rises however that the Peanut butter now costs a comparitively whopping 68p per jar! Maybe they\’ve improved the ingredients slightly though.Other things to go for: Value hobnobs and digestives, Coffee Mate-a-like value creamer, UHT milk if you can take the taste (the studenting helped on this one – i\’d have said Sterilised also, but it also seems to come in bottles with spill-a-riffic neck designs), cereal, ACTUAL value crisps (greasy and high salt, but crunchy and tasty in smaller heart-friendly but snack attack satisfying packs), value orange JUICE, mayo / ketchup / other sauces (like the UHT, the taste is *different*, but not *bad*), own brand midrange beer (not the watery 2% value stuff) which has an enjoyable taste all of its own, basic ingredients which you make full meals out of… spuds, noodles (can make a surprisingly tasty and nutritious meal from a 9p pack of noodles and a handful of cheap frozen veg)… and fresh fruit / veg etc from aldi who do it incredibly cheap for good stuff.Plus ownbrand (non value) shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, dish/clothes washing liquid/powder, other toiletries/cosmetics…To avoid: Value spread (it\’s like watery lard), value tea bags (good ones cost you like a penny a cup more, and if you\’re that stingy you can re-use them…), value coffee (oh good god its disgusting), value cookies (cardboard), own brand non-value crisps (ditto), value spaghetti hoops (yuck), value spirits and fizzy pop – spare yourself pain and wasted cash and just drink water, milk, coffee, juice (& beer) until you can afford the proper stuff again.And value toiletries / cosmetics above. You\’ll regret it once the chemical sting of "anti dandruff" shampoo which lost the "anti" part somewhere in its formulation hits home. You use so little that the price difference is negligble even for the good stuff, but particularly from value to basic levles. I\’m still slowly polishing off a 90p-each pair of huge Tesco Tea Tree (nature\’s anti dandruff) seperate Shampoo and Conditioner bottles I got MONTHS ago, along with a couple bottles of their own brand shower gel at similar price interleaved with some Head & Shoulders that was on super special offer. And Xmas / Birthday presents of nice stuff of course 😀 (the biggest money saving is to get people to GIVE you the pricey consumables you need!). Value washing liquid/powder is just the normal stuff watered down or cut with something inert, so only worth it if you use very small amounts at a time. Value toilet roll …. well …. it\’s your body you\’re going to sandpaper, so your choice. But my money\’s on the own-brand triple velvet.

  33. Mark says:

    Ahhh, Emma way back above (like, 3rd comment) is also right on the money. I forgot about the pound shop! :)Always helps to comparison shop, and if you can find the main brands in there – particularly as she says the cosmetics (and stuff like fairy liquid etc) – for a price competitive with the value lines, it\’s sometimes a better choice. Does help that it\’s usually the things you only need to buy once every few weeks and have a bit of an overlap on that benefit from this, so you can do it even if you\’re busy (poundshops rarely open longer than 8.30 – 5.30) though second-jobbers may still be out of luck. I had the benefit of being a student and a night shifter when doing the bulk of these tests.

  34. Mark says:

    oh wait ….. i thought we were the first ones. instead, we\’re the last. hmph. so emma\’s just two comments DOWN 😉

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