What’s wrong with cheap fruit?

Is there any reason to avoid budget fruit and veg in the supermarket? I’ve been taking a look…

I wanted to find out why some fruit and veg costs less. If it’s less thoroughly washed, for example, then that’s important to know.

But all the budget fresh fruit and veg I examined was only cheaper because it was less beautiful. Both the salad bags had been washed in spring water, and there was no difference in shelf life between the pricier and budget brands.

So, the shiniest, biggest, most colourful fruit and veg makes the premium pile and the poor wonky bits get shoved into the budget basket. But is there any difference in taste?

Can you tell the difference?

I bought two portions of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, onions and salad bags; one economy and one premium.

First of all, I was surprised to see that I couldn’t always tell which was the budget option and which cost more. With some it was obvious, but others looked just as tasty as the more expensive deal. Check out these pictures and see if you can guess which is cheaper.

Budget option is on the left
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Felicity Hannah
Thu, Jun 27, 2013 15:00 BST


Did they look any different to you? The strawberries certainly did and I could just about guess which were the cheapest grapes, but it wasn’t obvious. The cheaper blueberries were very slightly smaller, but that wasn’t easy to spot.

How did they taste?

In our house, fruit and veg have to get past the lips of a fussy toddler – so I didn’t want to compromise on taste. If the more expensive fresh fruit and veg was more delicious then the savings would have to be quite substantial before we decided to switch.

We started by taste-testing the grapes and found that the more expensive punnet did taste better and much juicer. However, the budget strawberries were sweeter than the more expensive ones, so we actually preferred those.

With blueberries, cherries, the salad and onions we actually couldn’t guess which was the economy option. They tasted slightly different, as you’d expect when they were grown in different places, but they were easily equally good.

How much can you save?

If you could only save a few pence a punnet then you might choose to buy the more expensive option. After all, the first bite is with the eye and cheaper brands can be wonkier, like those strawberries, or sometimes smaller, like the blueberries.

So what are the savings?

Produce
Premium price
Budget price
Difference
Grapes
£2 for 500g
£1.30 for 500g
70p cheaper for 500g
Strawberries
£2 for 400g
£1 for 250g
50p cheaper for 500g
Blueberries
£2 for 150g
84p for 125g
£3.30 cheaper for 500g
Cherries
£2 for 250g
£1.80 for 250g
40p cheaper for 500g
Onions
£2.22 a kilogram
£1 a kilogram
61p cheaper for 500g
Salad
£1.50 for 80g
£1 for 75g
£2.70 cheaper for 500g

I was surprised at how substantial the savings were on salads, blueberries and grapes.

However, the difference in price between premium and budget cherries was much lower. On the other hand, since they tasted so similar, I can’t think of a reason to not buy the cheaper punnet.

When I do buy fruit and veg in the supermarket (which I often do as I tend to order online) I’ll be perfectly happy ordering the budget brands from now on.

Is fruit and veg cheaper elsewhere?

While it was good to see how much I can save when I’m buying supermarket fruit and veg, I know that I’d still be paying over the odds.

I’ve found that the fruit and veg at my local market can be as much as 50% cheaper than at a supermarket. That’s an incredible saving, far higher than simply buying the cheaper packets at my local supermarket.

So you can save money by buying budget fruit and veg, but if you have the time then it’s even cheaper elsewhere.

Do you buy cheaper groceries or do you only feed your family the best? Have your say using the comments below.