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Which Shop Is Cheaper? - The shop which can help you navigate the cost of living crisis | Balance

If you're feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis, you're not alone. Rising prices and stagnant wages are making it harder for families to make ends meet. One area where you can save money is your weekly shop. But with so many options available, it can be hard to know which one is the cheapest.

At Balance, we've taken the time to research this subject to help you continue to make the healthiest food choices you can while not breaking the budget in this harshest of financial climates.

In this article we want to share our findings and show you how you can still achieve a healthy diet using cheaper supermarket brand foods and which supermarkets you may want to stick to.

What is a “healthy” diet?

Before we can determine whether or not supermarket brand foods are capable of helping us achieve a healthy diet, it’s important we have a definition for exactly what a “healthy diet” is.

The NHS (alongside the EatWell Guide) describe a healthy diet as a “balanced diet” and is achieved by striving to;

  • Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day

  • Base meals on higher fibre, starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta

  • Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy based products)

  • Regularly eat portions of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein

  • Opt for unsaturated oils and spreads and aim to eat them in small amounts

  • Drink plenty of fluids (at least 6 to 8 glasses a day)

The NHS and Eat Well Guide also recommended that we limit intakes of processed foods, especially those which are higher in fat, salt and added sugars.

They also recommended that you should aim to keep your intake of drinks rich in sugars to a minimum. These appear to be a particularly significant risk factor when it comes to developing obesity, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

The NHS and EatWell Guide suggest we should try and be diverse in food selection among the five main food groups (Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein Foods, and Dairy) as well as being mindful of energy intake and weight management when selecting foods (both in terms of actual source and portion size).

Can you really have a healthy diet with supermarket value brands?


Yes, I was quite surprised myself but supermarket valude brands turn out to be pretty amazing!

Not just in terms of price but the actual quality parallels, if not surpasses, private label brand products!

One of my personal favourite supermarkets to shop from is Lidl. I was delighted to discover that WHICH magazine have championed Lidl as the UK’s cheapest supermarket (for the last six months running).

WHICH have found that, on average per cost of total goods in a basket, Lidl, Aldi and Asda are the three cheapest UK supermarkets.

The three most expensive supermarkets are Ocado, Tesco and Waitrose. I'm sure a lot of you would have been surprised to see Tesco in the top three most expensive; I know I was!

To show that you can eat a healthy, balanced diet using supermarket value brand foods we’ll use the cheapest products we can find among the supermarkets and detail how, point by point, you can find products which meet the standards set out by the NHS and Eat Well Guide to achieve said diet.

Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day

One of my absolute favourite things about Lidl is their unique scheme to sell “unwanted” fruit and veg. These are roughly 5kg boxes of fruit and veg that are either close to expiry or have had a few bumps and bruises (and still completely fine to eat) which they sell for just £1.50… £1.50!

I really don't understand why every supermarket doesn't run a similar scheme; there’s absolutely zero excuse not to. These boxes alone could help a family achieve their required fruit and veg intake for several days, never mind the affordable own brand fruit and veg products Lidl have.

There are other examples of incredibly affordable fruit and vegetables out there too. Personally, I would advise buying in relation to the season; that is when you should expect to find these foods at their most inexpensive.

For example, because they’re in season currently, you can nab a pack of 5 Gala apples for as little as £0.89 at Lidl. Tescos on the other hand is charging around two to three times that currently!

Another example would be chestnut mushrooms (250g). Supermarket own brands currently retail this product anywhere in the range from £0.65 (Lidl) to £0.95 (Tesco).

Base meals on higher fibre, starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta

When we look at the staple carbohydrates of the western society diet (potatoes, bread, rice, pasta), Lidl still comes out on top and remains relatively affordable.

In Lidl, you can buy a loaf for as little as £0.34. When we look at other supermarkets the cheapest loaf they sell can range all the way up to £0.65 per loaf.

A bag of potatoes is relatively affordable across the board. You can land yourself around 1.5kg of potato from as little as £0.79 (Lidl) all the way up to £1.49 (Waitrose).+

Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy based products)

Supermarkets produce virtually the entire range of dairy / dairy alternative products. From milks to cheeses and even yoghurts, there is rarely a situation in which you’d struggle to find the product you’re looking for.

They’re also incredibly affordable too.

A 2.2l jug of semi skimmed milk will typically cost between £1.29 (Lidl) to £1.40 (Waitrose) depending on which Supermarket you’re shopping from. For those with a lactose intolerance, many supermarkets produce their own brand dairy alternative milks. In my experience, and from what has been advertised online and in store, you can typically nab a litre of these milks around £0.89 to just over £1; compare these to independent brands which will often be two to three times more expensive!

Quality wise, they are also roughly similar; not loaded with added sugars as many would anticipate and fortified with similar levels of nutrients and minerals. They taste identical too. The only time I've ever really noted a difference was with the oat milks. They tend to be a bit thicker / creamier with independent brands but I'm not losing sleep over the texture of an oat milk; especially not one that costs three times as much!

Cheeses, while more expensive across the board, are still far more affordable when opting for a supermarket’s own brand. Looking at low fat cheddar, supermarket value brands will come in as low as £1.79 (Lidl) per 400g block. Named brands can reach as high as double that with one of the most popular costing just under £4 for a 400g block. Nutritionally, there is very little difference too. Per 30g serving (suggested) an example supermarket own brand product provides 92 kcals and 8.1g of protein. In comparison, the aforementioned “named” brand provides 93 kcals and 8.7g of protein (for identical serving).

Yoghurts follow much of the same suit as well as other popular dairy / dairy alternative products. Recently, higher protein yoghurts have become more popular, however they may be quite expensive. Supermarket own brands can be purchased for somewhere between £0.79 (Lidl's protein yoghurts are a must!) to £1 per whereas named brand alternatives can be as much as double this price for virtually the exact same quality product!

Regularly eat portions of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein

This is where the difference between supermarket and private label brands really stands out. The supermarket brand products are routinely half the price of named brands as well as being often more superior in nutritional quality.

Let’s look at the humble baked bean. Lidl's own brand contains, per tin, 18g of protein and 16g of fibre. The well known named brand contains 19.4g of protein and 15.4g of fibre. Notably, the supermarket own brand is significantly lower in sugar as well as being less than half the price (£0.55 compared to £1.19 per tin).

I never thought I'd say this... but Lidl's baked beans are a literal "superfood" *shudders in disgust*

Eggs prices tend to be fairly much the same between supermarket and private label brands. The real differential between the products would be on the quality. While the free range, organic options are similar, if not slightly cheaper on the side of the supermarket’s own brand product range, the non-free range options are significantly cheaper for the supermarket own brands. People may be less inclined to opt for these from an ethical perspective but ethics can go out the door when you’re trying your best to put food on the table.

Meat, fish and other protein sources tend to be significantly cheaper on the side of the Supermarket’s own branded products. Consumers may wish to explore cheaper protein options (such as plant-based products) however as meat, fish and other related protein sources will take up a significant portion of the budget. I'd also be hesistant to suggest the quality is similar especially when it comes to more processed forms of meat products (like ham, sausages etc.).

Opt for unsaturated oils and spreads and aim to eat them in small amounts

Here’s another instance when the supermarket’s own brands are significantly cheaper for the same quality of product.

For example, you can expect to pay out as little as £1.99 for 500ml of extra virgin olive oil for a supermarket’s own brand product. In comparison, for a popular named brand, it’ll cost £4.50 (if not more) for the same amount. Again, similar quality products here so it’s hard to justify the added expenditure for a more presentable bottle…

Looking at olive oil spreads, again, similar price products but significant price differences. Supermarket own brands start at £0.99 whereas named brands typically cost around (and upwards of) £2.50 for similar amounts (500g).

Comparison takeaway

I was surprised to find that supermarket own brands are consistently cheaper and roughly equal to if not superior in quality to named brand alternative products.

Again, reiterating the findings from WHICH, if you are in a tight financial position, it may be best to explore these own brand products at Lidl, Asda and Aldi as they are routinely the cheapest of the major UK supermarkets.

Take home message

Private label brands are often seen as being of higher quality than their non-branded counterparts, but this is not always the case.

In fact, supermarket own-brand products can be just as good – if not better – than those from more expensive brands.

With food prices on the rise, it’s important to explore all of your options and make the most cost-effective choices possible.

So, next time you’re at the supermarket, take some time to explore the different private label brands on offer and see for yourself how they compare in terms of quality and price. You may be surprised!

Balance is Northern Ireland's leading nutritionist and dietician coaching team. We work with everyone from Olympians to office workers to help them achieve their nutrition and diet related goals.

Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you;

- Beat binge eating

- Lose weight and keep it off

- Take your sports performance to the next level and reach your full potential


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