I say tomatoes

August 24, 2008

In Welllington, the cheapest supermarket is Pak’N’Save, and at Pak’N’Save, the cheapest brand is almost always the house brand, Budget.

I am pretty leery of buying house brands, because so often they are such low quality that there is no effective saving in buying them. If you buy food but then go “ew yuk” and throw it out, it is no bargain.

However, the Kilbirnie Pak’N’Save has Budget tinned toms at 64c—almost 30c cheaper than the next cheapest brand. Since my domestic cuisine relies heavily on tinned tomatoes, this is worth investigating. After all, 60c per week is $30 a year. Wouldn’t you like to find $30 down the back of the sofa? I would. That’s a whole lot more tinned tomatoes, for a start. And tomatoes are rich in cancer-preventing lycopenes, which in turn are most available from cooked tomatoes. Clearly, cheap tinned tomatoes posess all the virtues the frugal eater desires. Except, perhaps, taste… read on.

Hitherto my normal brand has been Trident. According to the label, Trident tins are produced in Italy and are 65% tomato (the remainder being tomato juice and who knows what). Budget are also grown in Italy, and admit to 60% tomato. At 400g per tin, that’s only 20 more grammes of tomato. On a unit basis, clearly the Budget ones are still a better deal. But are they good enough?

Yes, dear readers, yes they are. I ventured 64 cents on a trial tin, and I can report that they are at least as good as the quite OK Trident tomatoes I was buying before. In fact, they appear to be identical, leading me to wonder whether the Budget tins are merely rebadged Trident ones. Anyway, bless the European Union’s taxpayers: they are funding our cheap tomatoes.

BONUS TINNED TOMATO FACT: tinned tomatoes are improved by a pinch of white sugar. It may not be that vine-ripened taste, but no one has to know.

Bon appetit. Or, even, Buon appetito!



  1. It may be that we are looking at this through cheapskate tinted spectacles, but whenever my partner and I have had occasion to try more expensive brands (simply because they were out of the budget variety) we found them to be inferior to the budget. The chopped variety is great on pizza.

  2. I generally find that simmering them on a medium-high heat for a few minutes brings out a better taste than sugar, although when I’m in a hurry sugar delivers a similar enough result.

    House brand tinned tomatos are one of the staples of my pantry, and I’ve just calculated I save around $70 per year…

    I’ve found that house brands are usually brand engineered versions of more expensive products, with identical contents. The bad labels are to allow the supermarket to corner those without purchasing power while retaining their more valued customers. A great first tip!

  3. I’ve taken to buying the really really big cans of tomatoes from Moore Wilsons (usually less than $4 a can from memory), running them through the hand mouli, then cooking them gently in some olive oil and garlic, sometimes with some lemon zest for a bit of pizazz. Most of the resulting sauce then goes in the freezer in those unrecyclable #5 plastic pots. Cheap and convenient.

  4. Of course, those tinned Italian tomatos may be picked using slave labour. Better to buy NZ or Australian (or almost anywhere non-Italian) instead.

  5. I think sometimes pack n save is not always the cheapest supermarket in wellington.

    I’m a big fan of stocking up during the regular, new world specials which pack n save never get close to.

  6. Last I looked I/S, you cannot get plain canned tomatoes that were *grown* in NZ. Watties/Oaks only use NZ tomatoes for their flavoured versions (yuk) and they import Italian tomatoes for their plain cans. Take a close look at the fine print on the cans!

    OTOH, during the tomato season – head up to Penrays in Otaki and do some pick-your-own. Cheap as! If you have the freezer space, all you need to do is blanch and skin them, then free-flow freeze them for use all through the winter. Far nicer than canned as they have a fresher taste, but my freezer is too tiny to do the amount I need. Penrays is also great for bulk chilis, eggplants, apples, etc.

  7. And growing tomatoes isn’t particularly hard either, although I still find I need to buy cans – they’re a supplement rather than replacement.

  8. Sue: I have a supermarket post in the works.

    I/S: that is… disconcerting. I have been trying to find out more about this.

    On growing your own: when I was a kid, that’s what we did. Dad had a big garden, and huge amounts ended up in preserving jars as tomato puree. I just can’t see myself producing worthwhile amounts in a Wellington courtyard.

    Of course, perhaps the really frugal person doesn’t eat tinned veg out of season…

  9. There was a great post on tomatoes on The Oil Drum today, encapsulating frugality and enjoyment.

  10. We have a liking for New World’s “la Italiana” peeled plum tomatos packed for NC Ingredients Ltd, Auckland. Ingredients: Tomatoes, tomato juice, citric acid. Net wt 400g, drained 240g, but the drainings aren’t discarded, too rich.

    I’d like to grow our own tomatoes, but for the last few years we’ve had disappointing results. I’m not sure whether it’s the ChCh weather or the available plant varieties. My father never had any problems producing mountains of them, without the aid of glasshouses or sprays.

  11. Psychokiwi: The can of Oak chopped tomatoes in my cupboard (“Made in New Zealand”) says you’re wrong. But they’re a pain to find, and I end up having to go to New World every so often to stock up.

    With Watties, they’re “Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingrediants” (or similar). Which is a pain if you want to eat ethically.

  12. Oooh – thanks I/S for the tip on Oak tomatoes – I’ll take a look next time I’m at NW. The can of Watties tomatoes I resorted to last night (from my earthquake stash) were explicitly from Italy.

  13. Finally catching up on this neat blog, and I want to shout out to “Home Brand” gingernuts from the Woolworths nexus of supermarkets.

    These are gingernuts that taste like ginger. They are great. They are not as good as the luxe spendy gingernuts you can also buy in the baked goods section, but they thoroughly crush the standard competition.


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