Downshifting challenge – Day one

On Monday I headed to my local supermarket, my shopping list in my hand and a new mission to fulfil. My task this week is to try to save money by shifting down a brand from the items that I might usually buy. I want to see if this approach can save me money and how the quality of the products compares. Over the next few weeks I will also be trying to apply the principles of downshifting to other areas of my life, but first things first.

Normally I zoom around the supermarket but this particular shopping trip took a lot longer than usual. That’s because I had to examine each item on my list carefully to determine which product I should replace it with and whether it was actually cheaper than the usual brand I might buy. As a few of you said on the blog last week, sometimes it can be hard to determine if an item is cheaper than another one because the weights and measures can be different. I went shopping with a notebook and wrote down the price of each item and its price per 100g, 100ml or kg.

This was my shopping list:

8 flour tortillas

Old El Paso £1.56

Store brand £1.00

Tinned tomatoes

Napoli 50p

Store brand 33p

Baked beans

Heinz 64p

Store brand 44p


R Whites 80p

Store brand 48p

Tomato ketchup

Heinz £1.61 (35p per 100g)

Branston 98p (21p per 100g)


Head & Shoulders £4.70 (95.2p per 100g)

Store brand anti-dandruff £1 (25p per 100g)

Washing powder tablets

Fairy non-bio £3.88 (12.9p each)

Store non-bio £2.56 (7.1p each)

Cat food

Felix £4.35 a box (£3.62 per kg)

Store brand £2.46 a box (£2.05 per kg)

Pork sausages

Broadoak £2.78 (£5.68 per kg)

Store brand £1.97 (£2.20 per kg)


Activia £1.60 for 4 (32p per kg)

Store brand £1 (20p per 100g)

Usual brand total cost = £22.42

Store brand cost = £12.22

Wow. I have to say that I am amazed by the difference in total cost because I didn’t even go for the very cheapest store ‘value’ brand products as replacements but the supermarket’s main own brand. In the case of the tomato ketchup, I actually plumped for the next brand down in price, which happened to be Branston (in my ignorance, I thought they only made pickle!). As I was shopping, I didn’t feel as though I was actively scrimping either. Last week we talked about the packaging tricks that retailers use to get you to buy more expensive items, but I didn’t feel from the effect of the packaging that my shopping trolley was filled with cheap, inferior products.

That said, washing powder was one of the most difficult things for me to switch. DJ is very sensitive to it. He won’t thank me for telling you this, but he once came out in terrible hives after changing powders, so I was a bit nervous about buying the supermarket non-bio, even though it states on the packet that it’s for sensitive skin. I’m also curious about the anti-dandruff hair shampoo (which claims to be for sensitive scalps and yet is only £1) and food items such as the tinned tomatoes and sausages. One of my foodie friends tells me that she always buys the cheapest tinned tomatoes and never notices the difference but DJ is quite fussy about them, especially about the ones he puts in his Bolognese recipe. Will Dougal eat the store brand cat food or turn his nose up at it? I let you know later in the week how the quality of the downshifted items compared to the branded products.

Which supermarket items are you comfortable downshifting and which ones do you prefer to pay more for?

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7 Responses to Downshifting challenge – Day one

  1. Clay says:

    I\’m surprised it took you so long to realise this! You clearly need me (or my mother) as your shopping fairy!

  2. Clay says:

    As a substantive answer, though, the only brands I insist on are Hellman\’s mayonnaise, Schweppes tonic and Lea & Perrins Worcester sauce. Own-label is fine for everything else, although not always the cheapest "value" range.

  3. Christine says:

    Haven\’t bought anything but store own brand baked beans (red kidney beans, butter beans, chick peas, tinned tomatoes) for the last million years. Life can be a bit more complicated when like me you are shopping for vegan ranges because you do have to read the contents list.

  4. Christine says:

    Don\’t usually buy cleaning items from the supermarket usually as buy these from a specialist brand which goes further and is environmentally friendly. Buy in bulk or through the local wholefood co-operative. My only nod to the supermarket is to buy soda crystals for cleaning and there is only one brand of these so the charge is whatever the company feels like. Sad but it\’s good stuff for cleaning and as a laundry softener.

  5. Pratab says:

    Downshifting: Through out the year, there are always various (some of which leading) brands that have promotions on. i.e 33% extra free, buy-one-get-one-free. Are you downshifting a brand-level full stop? Or will you tweak your shopping to take advantage of such offers, which will save you money overall but maybe not in the weekly shop?

  6. Kerri says:

    In my experience it won\’t matter how much or how little you pay for cat food, it seems there is no rhyme nor reason to what each kit prefers. The only thing you can be sure of is that as soon as you stock up on a brand they seem to like when it\’s on special offer…said kitty will turn his/her nose up at it and refuse to eat it ever again….

  7. Piper says:

    My cat seems to get bored each week with the food I buy regardless of whether it\’s an expensive or cheap brand. I find its best to mix and match to avoid uneaten food. Good point about the offers, Pratab. Actually, now I remember, the store brand tinned tomatoes were part of a three for £1 deal.

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