We spent £15 on Asda’s controversial new Just Essentials range

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With the cost of living biting hard, many people are on the hunt for cheaper food alternatives. Recently, Asda introduced a new budget range to replace its Smart Price value products.

The Just Essentials products offer an array of foods – poultry meat, bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables, to help shoppers combat rising costs.

But some customers have slammed Asda for “embarrassing poorer families,” with the range’s bright colouring branded a “poverty marker” by one shopper.

The supermarket responded by saying it is proud of Just Essentials and that it is determined to “ensure that families can enjoy nutritious food, no matter their budget”.

With that in mind, Wales Online reporter, Branwen Jones, tried the controversial range to see if shoppers are getting their money’s worth.

Here is how they got on:

Branwen said: “During my grocery shop, I was shocked by how low prices from this range actually were. Bearing in mind that I wasn’t doing a family shop, for 15 items and two bags for life – my shop came to a total of £14.97.

“More importantly however, most of the items that I bought were of good quality, especially the fruit and vegetables, and I would definitely buy most of these items again.”

Orange juice – 69p

“To start things off, I tried the orange juice. 69p for a one-litre carton was more than a bargain and the taste was really good. Its fresh, zingy flavour balanced well with the acidity.

“I couldn’t fault it – it tasted exactly the same as any other own-brand juice and not too far off the big brands you’d find at a supermarket. On a hot summer’s day, it quenched my thirst, so what more do you need from a carton of orange juice?”

Muesli – £1.20

“When I go shopping usually, I often find that cereal is the most expensive thing on my list, so it was nice to see something priced under £3. I opted for the more traditional type of cereal – Muesli, which came in a big bag – 1kg to be precise.

“The softness of the sultanas added a good contrast to the cereal’s crunch. It wasn’t as sweet as you’d get with other muesli brands, but if you were to add a little bit of sugar, honey or cinnamon into the mix – as a lot of people do with their muesli anyway, it would bring out the flavour.”

Strawberry Jam – 31p

“This jam was sweet, fruity and had no bits so ideal for someone who likes their jam super smooth. A small dollop went a long way and was easy to spread on a piece of toast. This type of jam would also be perfect for baking.”

Bread – 39p

“For 39p, this was a good-sized loaf. It had 22 medium-sized sliced, which included both ends. I opted for the white bread and decided to toast it.

“It made good toast – more crunchy than soft, but ideal for breakfast or a snack for when you are feeling a bit peckish. More importantly, it didn’t break or crumble when I spread the butter and the strawberry jam on its surface.”

Cooked ham – £1.69

“I have never seen so many slices of ham in a package until now! This item would be suitable for a family who need packed lunches every day.

“It had the usual saltiness you find in cooked ham, but perhaps a bit too processed for my liking – it resembled the animal-shaped ham I used to eat as a child.”

Cheese – £3.65

“Perhaps the most expensive item on the list, but you do get your money’s worth based on its size. Like the ham, this cheese would be ideal for a family.

“It cut well and made good slices for a sandwich. I am a big fan of cheese and for that reason, I would have liked a stronger, tangier taste which you usually get with mature cheddar cheeses. If you are not like me and you prefer your cheese slightly milder and creamier, then this item is a good option.”

Tomatoes – 75p

“These tomatoes had a great colour on them, and they looked and tasted fresh. Perfect for a salad or sandwich, its sweet, tart flavour complimented the cheese very well.”

Lightly salted tortilla chips – 43p

“Contrary to what the package says, in my opinion, these are saltier than “lightly salted”. I often buy own-brand tortilla chips and I think these are the best I’ve tried so far – they were light and had a good crunch to them. These would be perfect with salsa and other dips.”

Pizza – £1.20

“Next up was the pepperoni pizza, which needed 12 minutes in the oven. The pepperoni was evenly spaced out with a good cheese to tomato sauce ratio. It was great – the base was soft, you could taste all the ingredients and the crust surprisingly had a hard shell but a slightly soft centre.”

Baked beans – 25p

“You either love them or hate them, but in this instance I was indifferent. They had flavour, there was a good amount in the tin and the sauce was of good consistency, but in my opinion, the sauce could have had more of a tomato taste and the beans were slightly too mushy.”

Yoghurt – 79p

“The package had six yoghurt pots that consisted of either strawberry or peach flavour. I went for the peach, which was sweet, very smooth and had no bits. I really enjoyed it and would definitely buy a packet again. This item would be ideal for kids – you could get smaller-sized yoghurts from the same section.”

Macaroni Cheese (ready meal) – £1.18

“It was a good portion for £1.18. Other ready meal options included a chicken curry, chilli con carne and spaghetti bolognese, but I went for the macaroni cheese.

“For me, it had too much sauce and not enough pasta, which made the meal a bit sloppy. The sauce was thick but had a nice creamy taste. However, I was full after eating the meal, which makes it perfect for anyone who has been working all day and just wants to chuck something quick and easy in the microwave.”

Coffee – 75p

“Coffee is always a tricky one and even some of the coffee snobs out there would argue the most expensive instant coffee you can find is not nearly as good as the ones you get from a machine.

“As you opened the jar, you could smell the coffee but this wasn’t matched by its flavour, unfortunately. I added a teaspoon and a half of the instant coffee and a splash of milk, but it did not have a very strong coffee flavour to it.”

Chocolate chip cookies – 39p

“This was a good sized package for 39p. These biscuits were sweet and had a good crunch to them, but not enough chocolate chips.”

Apples – 90p

“Like the tomatoes, these Gala apples had a good colour on them and looked fresh. Not one of the six apples had a bruise on them, and tasted like any other apple you’d buy from the supermarket. In comparison, Asda’s packet of jazz apples cost £2 and a packet of Asda’s Granny Smiths cost £1.50.”

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