Try the supermarket downshift

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By in Food & Drink, Shopping. Updated .

If you consider yourself a cash-strapped student yet you’re feasting on Tesco’s Finest parma ham and M&S brie – you’re doing something wrong.
supermarket downshift
Your years spent surviving on a student loan budget at university is the prime time to discover the art of supermarket downshifting: swap your luxury buys for cheaper alternatives, and you’ll knock a shedload off the cost of your shopping basket.

By using the supermarket-downshift mentality next time you shop, you can save around a third on your weekly food spending. So if you normally spend £30 a week on food, you can cut that down to roughly £20! That’s a saving of £520 a year!

If you’re really up for a challenge, try living off £10 a week – find out how we did it!

What is supermarket downshifting?

supermarket downshiftThe supermarket downshift method is based on the premise that supermarkets stock four different price levels of loads of their staple products, but the only real difference between the products is the price tag.

The four levels are:

  1. Premium brand: Luxury & organic brands such as Tesco Finest or Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference.
  2. Manufacturer’s brand: The brands we know and love: Heinz, Bird’s Eye, Walkers…
  3. Supermarket own brand: Supermarkets’ own versions of our favourite brands, such as Tesco cornflakes.
  4. No-frills value products: Economy packets with basic packaging, for example Tesco Everyday Value chocolate, Asda Smartprice onions or Sainsbury’s basic bread.

supermarket down shift

More often than not, the only noticeable difference between these brands is the packaging, and supermarkets will trick you into reaching for the more expensive packet by placing these products at eye level (and that’s not the only trick they use, either).

Can’t bear to part with your favourite brands?

Trading down to a shopping basket full of no-frills alternatives can be a massive ask for some people, and if you can’t bear the thought of parting with your Heinz ketchup, that’s ok!

As long as you try downgrading on some items that are less important to you, such as washing up liquid, cooking oil, sugar and chopped tomatoes, you’ll still make a substantial saving. These are all basic student staples that won’t make a difference to your life if you compromise on ‘quality’.

How much can you save?

Groceries and receiptJust in case you don’t believe us, we’ve decided to illustrate the point by comparing some standard student essentials within the same supermarket.

  1. Beans on toast savings at Tesco

    tesco baked beansPremium: Tesco Finest Baked Beans 400g: 85p

    Manufacturer’s: Heinz Baked Beanz 415g: 75p

    Supermarket’s Own: Tesco Baked Beans 420g: 32p

    No Frills: Tesco Everyday Value Baked Beans 420g: 24p

    By switching from Tesco’s Premium brand to their Value beans, you can save 56p, meaning you can afford to treble the amount of tins of beans you include in your weekly shop.

    You’ll need as many tins as you can get if you’re gonna try out our delicious recipes you can make with baked beans.

    Click here to shop at Tesco »

  2. Cheaper late night snacks at ASDA

    chicken noodlesPremium: Asda Good For You Chicken Noodles Singapore 400g: £2.75

    Manufacturer’s: Batchelors Super Noodles Chicken 100g: 81p

    Supermarket’s Own: Asda Chosen by You Chicken Noodles 85g: 39p

    No Frills: Asda Smartprice Instant Noodles Chicken 65g: 29p

    When you’re whipping out 30p noodles up at 3am after a night out to soak up some of the alcohol , you’re not going to notice the difference and will be saving a whopping £2.46 (every little helps!).

    Click here to shop at Asda »

  3. Bargain bread at Sainsbury’s

    Sainsburys basic breadPremium: Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Soft Wholemeal Farmhouse Bread 800g: £1.30

    Manufacturer’s: Hovis Soft White Medium 800g: £1.05

    Supermarket’s Own: Sainsbury’s Medium Soft White Bread 800g: 60p

    No Frills: Sainsbury’s Basics White Sliced Loaf 800g: 35p

    Toast is every student’s comfort food, and saving 95p on every loaf you buy will save you loads in the long run.

    Click here to shop at Sainsbury’s »

  4. Saver-savvy mayo at Waitrose

    Waitrose Cheap MayonnaisePremium: Farrington’s Mellow Yellow Mayonnaise 240g: £2.62

    Manufacturer’s: Hellman’s Real Mayonnaise 200g: £1.39

    Supermarket’s Own: Waitrose Mayonnaise with Virgin olive oil 250ml: 1.15p

    No Frills: Essential Waitrose Mayonnaise 250ml: 69p

    Down-grading a few levels on condiments is a great way to save as they aren’t massively important to a meal, so you won’t notice the difference. Plus, a saving of £1.93 is amazing.

    Click here to shop at Waitrose »

Tips for saving with the supermarket downshift

Challenge-Accepted-Girl-Meme-07So you’re up to the challenge? Here’s a few additional tips to ensure you’re working that downshift like a boss.

  1. Taste test no-frills products – Some supermarkets do no-frills brands better than others, so it’s a good idea to do the rounds of different supermarkets sampling your favourite staples. Keep a shopping diary and rate products out of ten to remind yourself what tastes best, where.
  2. Use your judgement – Whilst store cupboard staples are perfect options for downshifting to value products, you might not want to compromise on the likes of fresh meat. Just make sure you choose which products you down grade wisely.
  3. Downshift to a budget supermarket – Supermarkets like Lidl or Aldi can result in some serious savings, as they’re almost entirely stocked with budget brands you’ve probably never heard of (but taste just as good!). Beware that your Heinz won’t be cheaper here, though, as manufacturer-branded products are generally the same price as in other supermarkets.
  4. Remember to do the maths! – Never assume that no-frills value will undisputedly be the cheapest option. Sometimes supermarkets will have good deals on which mess up the whole downshifting theory – in some circumstances you can find luxury products selling for the same price as no-frills. Make sure you always do the maths!
  5. Use the mysupermarket app  – You can check pricing of an item against other supermarkets (and even within the supermarket you’re in, in case you’re missing something!) using this app. Just scan the barcode and see what comes up before putting it in your basket!

Are you savvy to the dirty tricks that supermarkets pull to try and get you to spend more cash?

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6 Responses to “Try the supermarket downshift”

  1. Dannielle Noonan

    13. Mar, 2012

    Paul I do mention Aldi and Lidl, where the alternative brands they offer can be just as good as the ones we’re all familiar with. I think swapping or down grading the supermarket where you buy the majority of your groceries to a ‘budget’ one is a great way to save further, although some people seem to have something against these supermarkets!
    I agree that for most people will only be willing to downgrade on certain things, like they say sometimes ‘It has to be Heinz’.
    Instead of buying chicken breasts I’ve found it much cheaper to buy a big box of chicken thighs which you can get for as little as £1.80 for 6. I freeze and defrost them individually and they’re great for tasty soups and cheap casseroles although the meat may be less lean.

  2. Alex

    13. Mar, 2012

    A good article on how to save money by changing purchasing habits – however personally I try to save money (and work part time) so that I can buy HEALTHIER options, even when they are more expensive…

    There’s a reason (e.g. nutritional values, GM products) why something is cheap, and in some cases I’ll rather look after my health not my wallet… (not saying it has to be top of the range either tho, and some cheap alternatives are still fine too)

  3. Paul Iddon

    13. Mar, 2012

    Your article does not mention discounters such as Aldi, where very often the branded option will be cheaper anyway, or more importantly the Aldi equivalent brand will be either made by the same manufacturer.
    I would also add that the store cupboard staple items such as Heinz ketchup is best as the familiarity of flavour will be more important to the consumer than the meal it accompanies.
    The main reason why student food gets more expensive than it need be is because of lack of experience/cooking skills.
    Using less familiar and cheaper cuts of meat for example does not mean a drop in quality. Shoulder of Lamb or bacon/gammon joint is much tastier, and often can be the core of 2or3 meals.
    Also try being a ‘bogof’ buddy (buy one get one free). And use the freezer more, as frozen food is very often cheaper than it’s chilled alternative.

    This comment is awaiting moderation.

  4. Mathew

    12. Mar, 2012

    I was refering to the supermarket own brand having a later BBE date compared to the value stuff lol

  5. Dannielle Noonan

    12. Mar, 2012

    You’re right Matthew, its all about being on the ball and taking advantage of special offers to stock up on your favourite brands. I didn’t realise supermarket own brands have later best before dates, I’ll have to watch out for that!

  6. Mathew

    12. Mar, 2012

    I always tend to go for the supermarket own, because its is far better quality then the value stuff, and has a later BBE date (in most cases expecdially bread) and is still great value. also don’t be fooled by thinking that the value stuff is always the cheapest it isn’t you can get branded cheese at asda cheaper then the value stuff, always check the price per 100g/kg to make sure you get the best deal


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