Denise Van Outen shares one change we can all make to our supermarket shop to save a 'massive' amount of money

The host and mum-of-one is fronting a new Channel 4 documentary exploring a particular food shopping habit

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We’re all looking for ways to save money right now, as the cost of living crisis continues to bite - especially when it comes to the price of our food bills. UK inflation may have fallen slightly for the first time in months, and supermarkets may be slashing the prices of some goods, but the cost of stocking our cupboards and fridge freezers still feels incredibly high.

If you are looking to lower the amount of money you pay for your groceries, but still want a basket or trolley full of all of your favourite items then switching from branded products to store's own-brand products could be a way to go. But, how much money could you actually save by doing this?

Actor and TV presenter Denise Van Outen sets out to find the answer to this in a new Channel 4 documentary which explores the real value of own brand products. Like many of us, Van Outen says she “completely changed” her shopping habits when the cost of living crisis first began. She admits she was once guilty of “snobbery when it comes to shopping” – but that’s now changed as she attempts to save money.

She adds: “There are now what they call ‘budget supermarkets’ and when they first came out, I remember I was a little bit of a shopping snob and I thought ‘oh I wouldn’t really shop in there’. Now I will never hesitate to shop in what would be considered a budget supermarket and buy their own brand [products], and I’ve actually converted a few of my friends and family as well.”

‘Most of us are trying to watch our spending’

The mother-of-one, aged 49, hosts the documentary, called Secrets Of The Supermarket Own Brands, which is set to air later this month. It follows the 2022 documentary Secrets Of The Middle Aisle, where she had a look at the eclectic items that can be found in the middle aisles of budget stores Aldi and Lidl.

Through fronting these shows, Van Outen says she has found her niche as a consumer champion, something she says is “important” to her. She adds: “I come from a working-class family, and all my friends as well. A lot of them are struggling at the moment. So I feel really connected to the fact we really need to try and support people and help them. I do feel passionate about that. Most of us at the moment are trying to watch our spending.”

She adds that during filming for the programme she found own brand products are increasingly “dominating the shelves” and also found out “a few surprises”. “Pretty much 90% of the supermarket own brands come from the same factories as the known brands, which I think a lot of people wouldn’t be aware of,” she says.

Denise Van Outen is hosting a new Channel 4 documentary called Secrets Of The Supermarket Own Brands. Photo by Holly Wren/Channel 4/PA.Denise Van Outen is hosting a new Channel 4 documentary called Secrets Of The Supermarket Own Brands. Photo by Holly Wren/Channel 4/PA.
Denise Van Outen is hosting a new Channel 4 documentary called Secrets Of The Supermarket Own Brands. Photo by Holly Wren/Channel 4/PA.

‘It's snobbery when it comes to shopping’

For those who are wondering about the taste difference between branded and own brand products, Van Outen assures that there’s no need to worry. “People would think they’d be compromising on quality (when buying own brands), but actually you’re not because a lot of the time there’s a slight tweak with the ingredients with certain produce. Generally you’re paying for the packaging and the big advertising campaigns (with known brands).”

During the documentary, Van Outen asks members of the public to try two different ice creams, one that looks like it’s from a fancy brand, and another from a supermarket own brand. In reality, they’re the same ice cream, but the tasters say they believe there’s a difference - and that the supposed branded item tastes better.

“I was standing there watching it, and I thought I’d be exactly the same,” Van Outen admits. “I’ve been guilty of it. It's snobbery when it comes to shopping. You think because sometimes things haven’t got fancy packaging, it’s not necessarily as good. But actually, the product inside is the same quality.”

There is also a way that all shoppers can shop savvier and work out if an own brand product is the same as the branded version. Van Outen says people should check the addresses listed on the packaging of each comparable product, and if they are made in the same place it’s highly likely that they’ll taste either exactly the same, or extremely similar. “If they’re made in the same place, there could be a slight tweak in the ingredients, but it could be something so minor your tastebuds wouldn’t even notice it,” adds Van Outen.

‘The amount of money people can save is massive’

Van Outen is now an own brand convert and regularly fills her shopping trolley with these goods. She’s also convinced her daughter Betsy, who she shares with former husband actor Lee Mead, to also enjoy these products - and they’ll not all food based. She said the 13-year-old would previously always buy branded body wash and make-up remover but she’s now happy to buy own-brand.

“With her pocket money, if she’s buying anything she’ll go to the own brand now,” says Van Outen. “Which I think is good, because she’s going to grow up shopping and being a bit more sensible, rather than spending money frivolously on something that’s just an advertising campaign, essentially.”

Van Outen has also filmed a Christmas episode on the topic, which viewers will be looking forward to as the Christmas season is always a time when our budgets are stretched to their limits as we seek to enjoy the festivities and treat our loved ones. She says: “We might be buying because we’ve got guests coming over, and we want them to think we’re buying known brands because we think they’re better quality.

“It’s a little bit like showing off to your friends. When in fact you don’t need to – that to me was even more of an eye-opener,” she adds. “The amount of money people can save when they’re doing a Christmas shop, there’s a massive difference.”

Secrets Of The Supermarket Own Brands airs on Channel 4 on Monday 31 July at 8pm. A release date for the Christmas edition of the show will be announced later in the year.

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