Downshifting Challenge Begins

I know what you’ve been thinking…It’s high time for a new challenge on the Frugal Life blog, and you’re quite right. So, here goes…!

A popular buzzword during the recession has been on my mind lately. You’ve probably heard it banded about a lot over the past few years – it’s the phrase ‘downshifting’. Downshifting can refer to people selling their homes and opting to live in a smaller residence and on a smaller budget, just like downsizing. But the phrase is also used to mean saving money by moving down a brand or two in the supermarket. So, for example, instead of buying an expensive branded hair shampoo, you save cash by buying the next brand down in price or a non-branded supermarket version.

Some financial pundits claim that you can save 15 per cent on your shopping bill or more over a year by doing so. Ideally, some argue, if downshifting is carried out particularly cleverly, you should not be able to see a marked difference in the quality or taste of the product but just the price. Supermarkets rely on us using our eyes to do the shopping and tricking us into buying items because of how beautiful and sophisticated the packaging looks, rather than simply the taste or quality of the product. The trick, some say, is to look beyond the packaging to try out cheaper products and find out if they are just as delicious or as effective at washing our clothes, for example, as the more expensive, better-looking brands.

But my challenge, if I choose to accept it (which I do!), is not just to downshift on the weekly grocery shop. I also want to see if it’s possible to apply the same principles and downshift in other areas of life. Can I save myself money by downshifting on the clothes that I buy, the places I choose to eat out and the types of hobbies or activities that I engage in? What’s more, are the cheaper alternatives as satisfying as the pricier versions or will I lose out on quality where I might save on price? It will be interesting to find out. In my first week of the challenge, I will be downshifting on my supermarket shop and I’ll let you know how I get on next week!

Have you ‘downshifted’ on your supermarket shop? How much money did you save and how did the quality of the products compare? Leave a message and let me know.

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17 Responses to Downshifting Challenge Begins

  1. Christine says:

    Supermarket shopping is subjective – people like the taste of certain brands and not others which will affect their habits. Likewise, some people shop through wholefood co-operatives because they want to buy certain standards but find that bulk buying saves money. Therefore they have the best of both worlds. One way to downshift at the supermarket is to turn in very early and late so that you pick up the mark downs and keep an eye open for the whoopsie shelves.

  2. Christine says:

    You can, of course, downshift your supermarket and make use of discount shops – Aldi, Lidl, Heron, Netto – if there is one near you. But beware of the Pound Shop where some items can be more expensive, end of line, past sell by date or sometimes altered so that they are not what they seem. Pound shop bleach is one item where I\’ve found that downshifting has not been good value and have upshifted again.

  3. Pratab says:

    Piper, aren\’t you already the ultimate downshifter. I thought you grew your own food. I once tried Tesco Value Tomatoes to save 50p, but they tasted of nothing. So, I went back to the other lot. But I don\’t buy the posh tomatoes (unless they\’re reduced in price in a promo)

  4. Kerri says:

    Apparently there are only 2 factories in the uk that make baked beans so whatever brand, they will come from one or the other. Also, I don\’t always find the discount shops like Aldi etc cheaper than our big 4 supermarkets. I try to buy to what I will use the item for – cheap chopped toms are fine in spag bol or chilli.

  5. Kerri says:

    One word of warning, Value/Basics etc aren\’t ALWAYS cheaper than store standard products, the SEL might read cheaper but check out the price per g or per ltr etc and sometimes they actually work out MORE expensive, sneaky eh?!

  6. Piper says:

    Thanks for the tips everyone. I do my best, Pratab, but even we can\’t grow everything yet! We just tend to supplement really. Not having to buy tomatoes, cucumbers, sweetcorn or courgettes at the mo which is nice.

  7. Pratab says:

    Kerri OKane is right about checking the price per g/ltr. At my local Tesco I was annoyed to find that Tesco brand 8pk baked beans actually cost 2.7p more per tin than the 4pk version. But Tesco go further to confuse you. In many sections I found that on different brands of the same product they use a different unit of measurement for the price per label.

  8. Pratab says:

    …continued….For instance I was in the pasta section. And one brand of pasta had price per KG where as another had price per GRAM. So, making the already confused and busy shopper ever more confused. Fortunately my maths ability isn\’t too bad. And I can convert these in my head.

  9. Bill says:

    Christine, I am long since converted ter the mark downs, & am not alone. I oft find it difficult ter access these shelves, short of hitting the Fire Alarm!! It oft reminds me of flies & dung-heap. We oft had the same situation in the East Block, except that if there was no queue at the bakery, it meant that there would be no more bread that day. Only if the shop had a long queue back down the street was it worth waiting.

  10. Bill says:

    Pratab, I only buy the cheapest loose toms, 7 sort \’em thro\’ fers the cleanest & firmest. They have plenty of time ter ripen on me window sill, & I do not like cooking toms. I love em fresh & raw on salad or sarnau. If they do pass their best, I can immediately mince & freeze \’em, fers soup or sauce. Minced with black pepper & fresh Basilicum, mixed with an equal measure of fresh cold water, even a tadge of fresh garlic, toms make a fantastic refreshing drink, any-time or place.

  11. Bill says:

    If cooking toms, or tom soup or bechamel, I always steam it, in a nylon basin, in the micro-w pressure cooker. This prevents burning & boiling over!I like Beef toms but only buy when they are heavilly marked down. Cherry toms are also good fers fresh salad, but they need ter be clean, fresh & firm, & I only purchase on the vine, at a heavy mark-down.

  12. Bill says:

    In the "old" East Block of yesteryear, most shops were State owned, & operated at almost cost price, as a Social Enterprise. Any small local independent (private) had no choice but to compete against these low prices, leaving very little room fers a mark-up. In Italy, most raw material comes from the State Agricultural Co-operative, & is retailed/wholesaled by the State Co-op. . . . . continued

  13. Bill says:

    . Very few small Independent private not only have ter compete against the large, therefore fairly efficient, State Social Enterprise, but are also slapped with the State maximum retail price. If caught retailing above this cap, they could be facing a custodial sentence. . . . . continued

  14. Bill says:

    There is virtually no financial penalty in Italy, it is almost always a custodial sentence!It works!The entire catering industry is also subject ter the identical retail price cap, which leaves a top 5 star hotel selling hot chocolate fers the same low price as cold chocolate at the Co-op supermarket. The only hope of improving mark-up is ter improve efficiency, & customer service!. . . . end, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !!!!!!!!!!

  15. moira says:

    Try shopping at the butchers, the bakers and buy your fruit and vedge from the cut price super markets. Buy the cheapest cuts of meat for stews and suop, cook them slowly and nobody will notice the difference.

  16. moira says:

    Try shopping at the butchers, the bakers and buy your fruit and vedge from the cut price super markets. Buy the cheapest cuts of meat for stews and suop, cook them slowly and nobody will notice the difference.

  17. moira says:

    Always cook from scratch and you will save a fortune. stocking up on your store cupboard may be expensive to start with but you won\’t have to carry all those ready made meals home from the super market which costs a fortune

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