We’ve spent many many months and several videos debating the age-old question: where is it best to spend your money when it comes to food? Our normal home cooks have been busy blind taste testing the premium and the budget version of some of the most common ingredients, trying to help you figure it out. 

Now, we all love a bargain. In fact, our Meal Packs app is all about cooking great-tasting food on a budget. But are there some ingredients where price really makes a difference? Should you pick the premium, or would the budget version do you just fine?

1. Coconut Milk

Let’s kick off with coconut milk, the delicious creamy concoction that is the making of curries, soups and sauces the world over. But not all coconut milk is created equal. We were blown away by the difference in texture and flavour between products – and it’s hardly surprising when you find out the premium version is made with 76% coconut extract, while the budget version is only 55%!


2. Olive Oil

Whether it’s for frying, for dipping or for drizzling on salads, olive oil is pretty much the cornerstone of cooking. We sampled 2 different products, a premium extra virgin olive oil and a budget supermarket olive oil. And while the premium product was definitely tastier on its own, it’s not so good for cooking – when you heat extra virgin olive oil, you lose some of its delicious pepperiness and fruitiness. If you can, use a standard one for cooking and keep a premium extra virgin olive oil for the finishing touch.


3. Cooking Wine

There’s a saying that you should only cook with wine you’d be happy to drink. So, we decided to investigate with 2 different white wines at very different price points. When used in a dish, we could hardly tell the difference! Both will do the job. The only other consideration? You’ll probably be drinking the rest of the bottle yourself, so choose wisely…


4. Natural Yoghurt

Natural yoghurt has so many different uses in the kitchen, from your breakfast granola to the final dollop on your dinner. So should you keep it budget or should you splash out? It all depends on application – when we tried 2 different yoghurts on their own, we noticed the difference in taste and texture. But in dips, marinades or even in baked goods, we reckon you’ll hardly tell the difference. 


5. Chicken Stock

Stock is one of those things that gets used a LOT in cooking. And you can really choose how good you want to go. Though the organic chicken broth we tried may be better quality and contain more nutrients, we agreed that a simple budget stock cube would do for your midweek cooking. Or why not go for something completely free – make your own with your leftover chicken scraps. 


6. Meat

Perhaps unsurprisingly, you get what you pay for when it comes to meat. We’ve tried both premium and budget versions of bacon, steak and pork sausages, and the premium nearly always comes out on top for taste. But quite apart from that, premium meat usually means better animal welfare and more sustainable farming practices. And you can’t put a price on that! We say, spend as much on your meat as you can afford to – even if that means enjoying it less often.


7. Dried Pasta

Some of you may disagree with us here, but we really struggled to tell the difference between 55p dried pasta and £5 pasta. In fact, we thought they were the other way around! Though the premium pasta had a slightly different texture, we reckon they tasted roughly the same – especially if you’re covering it with sauce too!


8. Cheese

We tried 2 different Cheddar cheeses, one from a supermarket brand and one more premium cheese from a market in London. The premium was definitely richer and creamier. Our advice? If you’re going to be grating it over your pasta, pick the budget. But if you’re really celebrating the cheese, on a cheeseboard for example, fork out for the premium and blow your diners away. 


9. Black Pepper

Most of us in the western world only really use 2 condiments when it comes to seasoning our food. So how much should you spend on that seasoning? Though your standard pepper will do you fine for most dishes, we reckon a premium Kampot pepper adds a unique citrussy warmth that will really level up your food.


10. Butter

There’s nothing quite like an (un)healthy dose of butter, whether it’s slathered on toast or in your cooking. And again, it depends a lot on how you’re using it. A delicious salty butter on crumpets? The premium product we tried was creamier and more flavourful. But when it comes to cooking, especially at high temperatures? There really wasn’t a lot of difference. 


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