Friday, 17 August 2012

Frugal Friday (17th August)

I have the shopping list for our visit to the supermarket finalised now, and looking through it, we don't have an enormous amount of things to buy.  Most of what we need is things we need to get each week - fresh fruit and vegetables, toiletries, things for the animals, the odd treat!  Not an expensive shop at all!  Which is just as well, as we have a few extra expenses coming up over the next months.

Recently I've been able to make some savings when planning our menus and the consequent shopping lists by substituting the supermarket's "value" range products for the more expensive versions wherever possible.  This has led to some considerable savings, which has been good, because although we have a fixed weekly budget for our food, we don't always reach that limit, and the money not spent can go towards other things.  So far Papa Bear has paid for a wonderful treat for us all which we will be enjoying this Christmas!  I can't wait to share about it - but I won't until closer to the time!  I am very much looking forward to this though, and extremely grateful to my wonderful husband, who has been able to work out a budget that allows us to stretch our pennies far enough to be able to have a little over for nice treats at the end of the year!

By using the "value" products I've been able to save a lot on simple basic ingredients for our meals.  For example, the "value" pasta, rice, flour and potatoes really are well worth the savings (in general they are about 1/4 of the price of the stores regular own-brand item).  But there are products we've bought that really are not worth spending the money on, and so for today's Frugal Friday, I thought I would share with you what our best and worst "value" buys have been!

Best Buys ...
Potatoes (fine but sold in a much larger pack than the more expensive versions, so per purchase you won't be spending any less, though the unit value of the items is smaller).
Pears (no noticeable difference when compared to pricier alternatives)
Bananas (no noticeable difference)
Mixed salad (very good)
Strawberries (fine for smoothies/sauces, though not so great for eating as they are)
Lemons (no noticeable difference)
Tomatoes (no noticeable difference, especially if stored on a windowsill
Avocadoes (usually unripe, but will ripen quickly at home)
Flour (no difference at all)
Pasta (fine but no wholegrain version available)
Rice (fine but as above, no wholegrain version)
Dried fruit (I wouldn't buy this to eat as a snack but in baking it is absolutely fine.  Try soaking it to plump it out beforehand)
Oats (no difference at all)
Margarine and butter (both great for baking, but not spreading)
Cheese (all kinds.  We only eat cheese when it has been used in a recipe.  I wouldn't ever waste money on more expensive cheeses as the "value" ones are so good).
Toilet tissue (basic, but why on earth spend more?).
Kitchen paper (as above.  It's thinner than the more expensive kind, but does the job just as well).
Hand soap (doesn't smell so wonderful as the pricier versions but does the job).
Washing powder (not very scented, but does the job and actually rinses out better than the pricer versions).
Fabric conditioner (actually smells nicer than the pricier versions, though the scent doesn't last quite as long.  Rinses well).
Canned mushrooms (no noticeable difference).
Frozen vegetables (all versions look and taste fine).
Canned tomatoes (they are a bit thinner than the pricier versions, but for most all recipes they are perfectly adequate).
White vinegar (in English supermarkets I have never seen a version that wasn't "value", so I can't compare it, but for the purposes we use it - mostly cleaning - it is absolutely fine).
Chocolate (for baking - better than using the "chocolate flavoured covering" and tastes fine).

Don't Waste Your Money ...
Apples (very unpredictable.  Some are fine, but even within the same half dozen you will get maybe one nice one, four OK ones and one that is really inedible.  I'd rather go without if I can't afford decent ones).
Stone fruit, such as peaches, plums and apricots (so hard, and never seem to ripen no matter how long you keep them).
Fruit squash (it is 1/4 of the price of the own brand version, but 1/4 of the size, and much weaker.  The amount needed cancels out any potential saving).
Tea bags (again, 1/4 of the price, but you need to use two to get a decent cup of tea, so they are used twice as fast as the ones that are more expensive, and they don't taste as good either).
Mince (don't.  Just don't.  We'd sooner be vegetarians than eat this again.  Greasy, gristly, tasteless and I don't like to think what the poor cow suffered before it was made into this grey, gloopy mush.  EWWWW).
Bubble bath (it's so thin you need to use half a bottle to get a reasonable amount of bubbles, and it smells like cheap washing up liquid - which is another product not worth wasting money on).
Shampoo and conditioner (they feels as if they of reasonable quality, but they don't contain the same nourishing products that our family's varying hair types require.  Using them over time this becomes very apparent.  Not worth the small saving).
Toothpaste (1/4 of the price of the own brand, but 1/4 of the size!  No saving when this is taken into account - and it tastes kind of "chalky".  Only worth buying if you are travelling and need to pack a small tube for an overnight stop).
Canned baked beans (tomato sauce is extremely watery and sweet).
Foil (useless - too thin to use to wrap anything, and the roll is tiny).

I am sure there are more, so this is definitely a topic to revisit!

And now I am off to add a couple of last minute things to that list ...