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19th November 2011

Basics Bible

James Watts weighs the ups and downs of Sainsbury’s Basics

The products that you wouldn’t dream of buying before you came to university have somehow become essentials in your weekly shop. Despite the bland, unappealing packaging – which is probably psychological to entice you into buying the more expensive version – students hunt out Sainsbury’s Basics versions of their favourite food and temporarily disregard the blow to their pride. I’ve always been intrigued by Sainsbury’s Basics products, and since coming to Manchester I made it my mission to get acquainted with the products that have the somewhat cheesy one line descriptions. So here is my compiled list of what I consider to be the Basics products that you can easily substitute into your weekly shop, and those that shouldn’t be touched with a barge pole.

When times are hard, you can count on:

Basics Biscuits

With a cup of tea, as a substitute for lunch or because you simply can’t watch a film without eating something, Basics biscuits are great. If you can notice a difference it’s marginal as these are everything you expect a decent biscuit to be: crunchy and full of sugar. From digestives to bourbons and custard creams to Jaffa cakes, the only problem is that a packet doesn’t last too long. Not because Sainsbury’s have sneakily reduced the quantity; simply that they’re so moreish.

Basics Pizza

I consider myself to be an amateur pizza connoisseur as Italian food is my runaway favourite cuisine. Whilst I’m not saying that Sainsbury’s Basics Pizza is on a par with the likes of Croma and Strada, I will admit that trying it was a pleasant surprise in the face of my initial skepticism. Whether it’s fresh or frozen, Basics pizza frequently ends up in my shopping basket and is ideal for when I can’t be bothered to cook properly.

Basics Fruit and Vegetables

On the whole, I’ve been very impressed by Basics fruit and vegetables. Whilst you do need to carefully choose your bag of apples or carrots to avoid damaged ones, I would heartily recommend switching to Basics especially because fruit and vegetables are not normally the cheapest items on the shelves. Also, if you’re cooking vegetables as part of a stew or casserole, Basics are no different to Sainsbury’s own brand in my opinion.

Basics Squash and Fruit Juice

Squash is one of my favourite drinks and I love all the varieties of Basics squash, particularly now they sell the double strength versions. There’s no obvious difference and it’s great for mixing and making water taste that little bit fruitier. Basics Fruit juice is also good; whilst it’s nothing on the likes of Tropicana and Copella, it’s most definitely drinkable and only a fraction of the price.

Stay clear of:

Basics Cheese

One of the mantras that I live my life by is that cheese improves every savoury meal. Whether it’s baked potato, pasta, Mexican food, beans on toast – the list is endless. However, I’ve always found the blocks of Basics cheese to be on the rubbery side. Although cheese is sadly an expensive commodity, I would strongly recommend choosing an alternative brand even if it does cost slightly more.

Basics Pasta Sauce

Pasta was my staple food in my first year of university, but I have to admit that despite costing 18p Basics Pasta Sauce is really not good. It’s very sweet and artificial so I would suggest spending a bit more on pasta sauces, or better still: make it yourself.

Basics Alcohol

Personally I’m put off by simply the appearance of Basics alcohol, whether it’s lager, cider or vodka. From my experience if you’re wanting anything from a glass of wine with a nice meal to a night out that the Wolfpack would be proud of, upgrade to at least Sainsbury’s own versions so that you don’t have to worry about what you’re pumping through your body.

Basics Toilet Roll

Unless you like the idea of using sandpaper when you go to the bathroom, avoid this.


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