The Great MoneySaving Bake Off: How I made a batch of brownies for £4 that tasted BETTER than my usual £8 version

With the return of The Great British Bake Off last week, many have been bitten by the baking bug - whether that's making cakes or just eating them. Yet baking can often become quite expensive once you start looking at all the ingredients you'll need. 

I love baking, and my go-to recipe is triple chocolate brownies, but I always seem to end up spending a small fortune whenever I make them, mainly because the recipe I use demands the ‘best’ dark chocolate, implying I need to buy expensive branded stuff for the brownies to taste good (and they always do, even if I say so myself).

But do the pricier ingredients really make them taste any better, I wondered. So I decided to put it to the taste-test, baking two batches of these brownies - one using all branded, more expensive ingredients and another using own-brand equivalents. 

Buying the ingredients

The recipe I use for the brownies is the ‘Best Ever Chocolate Brownies’ recipe from the BBC Good Food website and I followed the exact same recipe for both batches.

My local supermarket is Sainsbury’s and this is where I usually do most of my food shopping, so I set out to buy the most expensive and cheapest ingredients that were available to me there. Though if I’d been willing to travel, I could have just as easily bought the same kind of items at Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl or Asda, for instance.

Here are photos of the two sets of ingredients I used. Where available, I bought Sainsbury’s Basics items, but for some there was only the standard Sainsbury’s own-brand (still cheaper than buying the household names).

How much did they cost?

I weighed out the correct measurement of each ingredient and calculated exactly how much each item had cost (see image below). The total for the branded ingredients came to £7.79, while the cheaper own-brand equivalents set me back £3.88.

Total cost - £7.79

Total cost - £3.88

As you can see, there’s a difference of £3.91 between the two sets of ingredients. That means the more expensive brownies cost twice as much to make as the cheaper version – it really takes the biscuit!

Of course, different shops and supermarkets sell things for different prices, so you may be able to make these even cheaper if you shop at a different store, or have some coupons, so don’t forget to check our Supermarket Coupons before you head out to do your shop.

The cost of your ingredients may also depend on whether you choose to buy free-range eggs, Fairtrade chocolate etc. For the purposes of my experiment, I focused solely on what was cheapest.

Taste test

I brought the brownies into MSE Towers and put them on two plates labelled ‘A’ (the cheap ones) and ‘B’ (more expensive). I then managed to find 27 of my MSE colleagues willing to carry out the gruelling task of tasting both brownies (we have it really tough here).

I kept it pretty vague and didn’t tell anyone what the difference between the two batches was. I just asked them to try one of each and tell me which they preferred.

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Of the 27 MSE’rs who took part in my taste test, 16 said that they preferred the taste of ‘A’ – the cheap brownies (woohoo!) - and three people said both batches tasted the same. The remaining eight people actually preferred the taste of more expensive brownies, so I’m honestly not sure they should keep their jobs at MSE (just kidding).

So there you have it. Using expensive ingredients doesn’t necessarily mean your bakes will taste any better. I have to admit I was surprised when the cheaper brownies won, but in fairness when I tried one of each for myself, I genuinely couldn’t taste any difference.