Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tesco Value: Challenged

Forget about being world famous, it's hard enough just getting the automatic doors at the supermarket to acknowledge our existence.
Doug Coupland, Author of Generation X

Three weeks ago, I found myself in a penny-pinching predicament. Typically, I had no money. I had a choice: blame everyone around me other than myself for my downfall, then starve to death, or shop on a serious budget. I then came up with a genius idea: the Tesco Value Challenge.

One full food shop. Task: buy only from the budget “Tesco Value” range.

I spent less than £20 on a full shop, which was impressive. But would the budget range allow me to live a full life, or would I degenerate into a withered Senator Palpatine-esque character?

Thankfully, I have retained my Adonis-like figure, although if I’d shopped like this every week I doubt I’d stay that way. Here’s what I strangely enjoyed eating:

The fruit was fine. Kiwis/pineapple: no complaints. The yoghurts were nice, although full of added sugars and stablisers. There was hardly any real fruit in them.

The jam tasted better than the ridiculously expensive Bon Mamon stuff that my mum buys (which is full of lumps and, once, in on holiday in France, contained a dead beetle. Mum has continued buying this brand.)

The pizzas were stingy, with minimal toppings on. I freestyled with value tuna and ham. Suited me. I enjoyed being forced into a bit of culinary creativity through the Challenge's restrictions.

There was nothing different about Value orange juice, as far as I could tell. But who knows. I can’t imagine the benefit of paying more. Fruit juice is fruit juice, right? The Spicy Noodle Snack seemed no different to a Pot Noodle, not that I’ve had many of them. I had to freeze half the loaf (encased in Value Wrap film) to stop it from going off. Tasted like normal bread, though. And for the most part, the baked beans, curry sauce, pasta sauce, chicken, peanut butter, orange juice ad nausea were all fine. I had no complaints over taste, but then, I’m not a big food fan. I eat because I need to. I eat protein because I work out. I drink hot chocolate when I can’t sleep. I eat cereal for breakfast because it stops me from feeling hungry. Taste isn’t something I get worked up over (except flapjack, which I normally love. Value flapjack being tasteless was a real let-down).

Not having milk was hard. I decided I’d rather go without than buy Value powdered, so not being able to have cereal forced me into eating the random snacks that I would normally have left in my cupboard for weeks.

As the days went on, the challenge got harder and harder. The remaining pre-Challenge milk ran out. The cereal sat on the shelf. I ate all the bread. I ate peaches for breakfast and tried strange mixtures of meats and sauces for evening meals. I ate more, as I was eating low-carb foods and feeling hungry sooner. Then I went to London for the weekend, with only a few fish fingers and cans left over. If I’d have got up earlier on each of these days, I could have cooked stuff and put off shopping for longer…

My opinions on Value products changed the next time I went shopping, when I actually bothered to check the ingredients of these items. In each item, the ingredients listed a good chunk of hydrogenated fats, sugars and stablisers. There were hardly any actual nutrients in products like sandwich ham and some canned foods.

The Tesco Value Challenge is not a lifestyle you’d particularly want to stick by. I think the food range is probably just for a quick dirty treat- Oh, okay, I’ll go cheap this one time with this one product- rather than anything sustainable. So I’ve gone back to spending more money on food, goddamn it, in the hope that I’ll be healthier and do better at the gym. I might even have missed the taste of good food.

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