Monday, 14 March 2011

The Tesco Value Challenge


Ever consider what pets must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul - chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth!
Anne Tyler, U.S. Novelist.

On Saturday I set myself a task: Go to Tesco. Get a full food shop in. Only buy from the Value range. Nothing else.

I realise that buying the lowest-priced version of everything might be a weekly occurrence for millions, and they are doing it out of necessity than quirky curiosity. Having said that, maybe I've been a bit frivolous in my food shopping previously, by buying independent brand names and middle-of-the-range Tesco goods. But I figured, why spend more than you need to on what is essentially the same product? Why Heinz beans as opposed to Tesco's budget counterpart? Either will result in Blazing Saddles-style flatulence, you'd have thought. Why shell out more for something with the same, er, function?

Because it tastes nicer, I hear you say.

You might be right there, in a lot of cases. But considering how surprisingly awesome ASDA's Smartprice (budget) canned stewed steak is, I'd say not everything cheap is shit.

And with this mentality, I rolled into Oldham's Huddersfield Road Tesco with the plan to but nothing but Value products.

I learned two things.

1) Half the things you want, you can't have as there are no Value alternatives. Milk is out, unless you want it powdered. I couldn't bring myself to buy it. Certain types of meat are out. Liver from the counter- the cheapest meat Tesco offers- is off the cards.

2) In place of the things you can't have, you notice things that you'd never have thought of buying and end up trying anyway. When have I ever bought noodles? Naan bread? Fish Fingers! I've not had them since I was... oh, 23! Hmm. A plate-sized apple pie! Oh, go on then. Seeing as I'm allowed.

Thankfully, the value range encompasses fresh fruit, so the Challenge has not opened the door to scurvy. I stocked up on pears and a pineapple.

The eggs were from caged hens. Yes, this is snide. Yes, parliament should outlaw battery farming. No, I cannot afford to buy free range. Yes, I would vote against battery-farming, even though this would cost me more money that I don't have. The same goes for things like chocolate- fair-trade goods should be widespread and the fairtrade ethic should be what is legally required for food businesses. I'd vote for it, but if you give me a cheaper option when I'm walking the isles of my local supermarket, I'll always go for what's easier on my wallet as opposed to my conscience. If you've been reading this blog for a few years, you'll know that I stand by the principle that greed- whether a good thing or a bad thing- is part of human nature. We all want as much of what we can get. It's a survival thing. Offer me cheaper eggs, and I'll take them. Then I'll fill out the petition against battery-farming.

This is part and parcel of the Tesco Value Challenge.

So now the shop is in, I spent about twenty quid, my shelves are full and I'm slowly ingesting and digesting the Value goods. Will I be hospitalised through malnutrition? Will my rectum prolapse? Will I thrive, and see no reason to spend more ever again? Will I be branded a cheapskate and shunned by society at large?

Stay tuned to find out. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need the toilet. Again.

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