This is the first of two posts exploring the age-old question of whether expensive brands are worth the extra money over supermarket own products. I have been asked by Debt Free Direct to take part in their campaign to help our money go a little further, by experimenting with a meal that I like to make that I would normally choose an expensive brand over a cheaper supermarket-own alternative.
I do my “big shop” every few weeks in Sainsbury’s. Well I say in Sainsbury’s – actually they come to me thanks to the wonders of online grocery ordering. I do use my local farm shop for vegetables (can’t beat having a farm shop within half a mile) and a lovely butchers in Lincoln for meat, but pretty much everything else – all those store cupboard bits and bobs that are bulky and can be expensive – come from a supermarket.
Like many people I am attracted to branded products because of the perceived higher quality over supermarket own products. For some things – such as toilet paper, washing powder, frozen vegetables, pasta – I will happily save my pennies and get Sainsbury’s own products. But for other things – fabric conditioner, tissues, cooking sauces, ice cream – I will nearly always choose a well-known brand in an attempt to buy quality rather than save money. Quality isn’t the only reason we spend more money on brands, of course. Ethics is another – do producers and workers get a better deal if you buy a product with a higher price point? Take the current milk-pricing issue, for example – four pints for £1; is that good for our dairy farmers?
I decided that a great comparison for this challenge would be branded versus supermarket own lasagne. This is a meal I make fairly regularly. It’s easy and very tasty and one bake will last two evening meals for us. Also, I’ve seen the new Dolmio lasagne kits advertised and fancied trying one (I did say brands get you!). I purchased everything (except the meat and vegetables) from Sainsbury’s at the same time, courtesy of a voucher from Debt Free Direct to help me take part. This post concentrates on the branded side of things… I figured four days of lasagne in a row was too much so I’ll make the Sainsbury’s version of the meal next week and you’ll get a second blog post!
The Branded Lasagne Menu
- Beef and vegetable lasagne made using a Dolmio Lasagne Kit and topped with The Lake District Dairy Company Mature Cheddar, served with Pizza Express Garlic and Mozzarella Bread.
- Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough or Caramel Chew Chew Ice Cream.
- Innocent Apple Juice.
I have to say (and this is not really meant to be a review of the Dolmio Lasagne Kit, just a comparison of it with the Sainsbury’s version) that our lasagne was really tasty. I made mine with lean beef mince and sliced courgette and mushrooms and it was very good. The crunchy topping made a massive difference to what I’m used to – the added bit of texture and flavour was very enjoyable. Even without the comparison to a cheap version I think I’ll be getting this again – it was simple to use, included everything I needed, and provided me with a perfect Wednesday (and Thursday) night meal. The Lake District Dairy Company Mature Cheddar I used on top had a great tang to it and was lovely and crumbly. The Pizza Express bread was new to me (I didn’t even know you could get branded garlic bread!); a fluffy bake-at-home soft bread with a good flavour that probably could have done with more mozzarella. We love Innocent juices and buy them when they’re on offer, they have a lovely fresh taste. And as for the Ben and Jerry’s, well I never need an excuse to indulge in an expensive ice cream but this was the perfect opportunity!
In total I spent a whopping £24.25 on the branded meal (this was the branded goods only; it doesn’t include the beef, courgette or mushrooms which I sourced elsewhere and will not include when I make my comparison meal). To give you an idea, the Dolmio Lasagne Kit itself was £4.50, the bread was £2.70, each tub of ice cream was £4.70 (we had one each!) and the juice was £3.25. Of course that is actually for two evening meals for two people and there is half a block of cheese left to use for something else. Expensive? Absolutely.
It’ll be interesting to see how the supermarket own version of this meal compares – I know it will cost significantly less for starters. So, until next week… happy shopping for your branded goods!
There is lots of advice about making your money go further over on the Debt Free Direct website.