This was one of NZH Lifestyle's top stories for 2017
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When did buying basics become anything but, well, basic? These days, when it comes to picking up your grocery staples you can end up forking out big bucks for fancy milk, butter and condiment brands.
While grocery prices seem to be on the rise, and can drastically vary based on brand, some basic items are being marketed to us with much larger price tags, but does this mean better quality? Can consumers actually tell the difference, or are we wasting our money and simply paying for the packaging?
We put our panel to the test to try the cheapest and the most expensive of each of these grocery basics to see if they could tell the difference.
The panel compared, milk, butter, peanut butter and a treat item, chocolate ice cream, deciding which tasted better in a blind taste test.
THE TASTE TEST
announced last week the price of the cheapest available 500g block of butter had risen to $5.39, 62 per cent and $2 more than in August last year.
So could our panel tell the difference on this already expensive grocery item?
George, who confessed to not liking butter very much, felt that sample B was saltier compared to A while Gracie described B as a "flavourful mouthful" in comparison to sample A.
The team all correctly guessed that sample B, Lewis Road Creamery Butter, was the most expensive over sample A, Pams butter.
George however felt he would "definitely buy the Pams" unless he wanted "dat [sic] buttery, salty taste" which he felt the Lewis Road butter provided.
We compared two brands of dark blue milk, or "thicc" milk, as George described it in Millennial speak, testing the most expensive product, Lewis Road Organic milk, and the cheapest, Value brand milk, which was over 50 per cent cheaper.
Both George and Gracie believed Value milk was the most expensive due to it's "thicc" qualities, while Liana put her bets on the "not as thicc" Lewis Road offering.
George reasoned that "The thicker the milk, the more cream it might have," thus making it more expensive.
But his theory proved incorrect as it was revealed that the thinner sample was the most pricey.
The panel instantly saw a difference in the two ice creams, with the Value sample appearing a "little discoloured" while the Kohu Road sample looked "thick" and "luscious".
Gracie deemed Kohu Road "richer" and Liana agreed with her when she said it tasted much more like real chocolate.
George said: "The first one felt more watery and icy, the second feels like EXPENSIVE."
It was agreed that sample B was more expensive, though Gracie enjoyed the taste of sample A more, which she felt she could eat "in bulk".
The panel were correct, and Kohu Road had the biggest price tag, coming in at 100 per cent more expensive than it's Value brand counterpart.
Peanut butter is the latest in a series of food items to gain a cult following, with Pics, Fix & Fogg and other boutique companies putting their best nut butters forward with some serious price tags attached.
Liana made it clear that she couldn't stand peanut butter, but took one for the team and tried anyway.
Sample A was the pricey Pics Peanut Butter, which Gracie compared to a "yum nutty gravy".
Sample B, was the Pams option that the team felt the was quite dry, with no real oily or salty flavours.
The panel decided that it all came down to the freshness of the nuts, with sample A tasting much fresher than the "old nuts" in sample B.
George felt that Pams was still really trying and gave them full kudos for their much cheaper peanut butter.
So with all the price and taste information on hand, which items would our panelists be more likely to purchase themselves?
Liana felt that the price didn't really matter and you couldn't tell the difference between the items: "You can't really tell the difference between the taste for some of them. It's your preference, it's what you prefer in taste. I think that it's probably worth it to you if you spend a bit more money on something, if you like it more than a cheap version."
George felt that you could tell the difference in quality, which was reassuring when spending more: "It is good to know that if you are paying more, you are paying for something that is presumably a better quality."
Gracie said knowing what she knows now, she would still happily eat both and would buy the more expensive options if she wanted to while enjoying the cheaper ones too.
George, however, may have put it best stating: "Pics on my birthday, Pams every other day of the year."