Skip to content   Skip to footer navigation 

The cheap supermarket products to avoid

The discount duds you should dodge and the brilliant bargains to buy instead. 

person with shopping basket in supermarket aisle
Last updated: 26 April 2024

There are some things you can safely skimp on without having to settle for second best, like the home-brand products that beat big-name brands.

But some things that seem like a bargain can actually turn out to be anything but.

Just say you pay a third of the price for a cleaning product than your usual go-to, but you need to use three times as much to get the job done properly. Not exactly a good deal, right?

These household essentials might be the cheapest, but that doesn't mean they're good value for money

You might not lose out financially, but you'll certainly lose out on time (and probably sanity).

These household essentials might be the cheapest on the shelves, but that doesn't mean they're good value for money. 

We've put all these products through extensive testing in our CHOICE labs so we know what's good and what's not.

Here are the bargains to avoid, and which ones to pick up instead.

A note about prices: The prices listed here are what we paid at the time of testing. Grocery prices fluctuate frequently, so double-check prices before you buy to make sure you're getting the best deal.

The cheap dishwashing liquids that make dud suds

No-one likes washing the dishes, but you know what's worse? Having to do it twice because your dishes didn't get clean the first time. 

These dishwashing liquids might be cheap as chips but our testing shows that they're poor performers that'll condemn you to hours slaving over the sink trying to scrub your crockery clean.

At just $1.50 a bottle, these dishwashing detergents won't send your money down the gurgler, but we can't say the same for your patience. 

With a CHOICE Expert Rating of just 65%, they weren't quite the dregs – but they weren't far off. 

What to buy instead:

If you only have $1.50 in your budget for dishwashing liquid, a better option is Woolworths Shine Dishwashing Liquid. It's the same price, but scores slightly higher at 70%, earning it a 'Best Buy' label from our experts. 

Stretch just 30 cents further, though, and you can get better bubble for your buck with Aldi's Tandil Ultra Power Soak and Tandil Ultra Quick Dry. They're $1.79 a bottle but were the highest-rated dishwashing liquids in our entire test, beating even well-known brands like Morning Fresh and Palmolive. 

Just make sure you don't accidentally pick up Aldi Tandil Ultra Antibacterial instead: it came equal-last and actually scored worse than the budget options above. 

Dishwasher detergent

Dishwashers are supposed to save you from the washing up, but if your dishwasher detergent isn't up to scratch you'll end up elbow-deep in suds re-washing plates that were supposed to come out clean. 

The supermarkets strike again in the 'saves you money but not time' department, with the cheapest detergents on the market also being some of the least effective. 

They'll cost you between seven and eight cents a wash, but they'll also cost you time, electricity and water because you'll need to make up for their shortcomings.

What to buy instead:

Aldi Logix Complete 10 in 1 Dishwashing Tablets will deliver sparkling dishes for 15 cents a wash. It scored 71%, annihilating egg yolk, baked-on cheese and mince meat in our testing. 

But if you want the cleanest crockery, spending just 19 cents per wash will buy you the dishwasher tablets that our experts ranked highest in our test: Aldi Logix Platinum 18 in 1 Dishwashing Tablets. They beat products costing nearly 10 times as much in our labs. 

Now that's what we call value for money. 

Laundry detergent

Conquering Laundry Mountain is challenging enough – why make it even harder by having to do the washing twice because your laundry detergent isn't up to scratch?

You might spend less on these products, but you'll need to use twice as much (plus extra in power and water) to re-wash your clothes to get them clean. If you pay a little more it'll all come out in the wash since you'll get a great wash first time.

The prices of these detergents are stellar, but the results are anything but. Avoid these so you don't add to your laundry load.

Detergents for front loader washing machines

These dirt cheap detergents aren't great at shifting dirt from your clothes. They're six cents and nine cents per wash respectively, but even at that price they're not great buys.

The Aldi laundry liquid was so ineffective that it ranked dead last – the same as plain water. 

A product so bad you might as well not use it? That's pretty much the definition of a waste of money. 

What to buy instead:

Bumping up your budget by a little more will buy you a far better wash. Costing just 11 and 15 cents per wash respectively, these two are still bargains in anyone's book:

If you're a Coles shopper and have some extra money to burn, Coles Tropical Paradise Concentrate Laundry Powder is a decent buy. It's 25 cents per wash and was rated 76% by our experts. 

Laundry detergents for top loaders

Top loaders and front loaders wash in very different ways, so we assess laundry detergents on how they perform in both types of machine. 

That's why you'll find two scores for each detergent in our review – one for top loaders and one for front loaders.

The top loader results can vary wildly from front loader results, so what's best in one machine might be terrible in another. 

Plain water scored 45% in our top loader test, so these are barely better than using nothing at all

These detergents are undeniable bargains at less than 15 cents per wash, but along with their low prices comes low scores. Plain water scored 45% in our top loader test, so these are barely better than using nothing at all.

What to buy instead:

If you want a top detergent for your top loader at a top price, these are the ones to buy. They all cost less than 25 cents per wash and they're recommended by our experts. 

Toilet paper

Cheap toilet paper is the butt of many jokes, and for good reason: by choosing cheap, you're potentially playing with fire. (Well, playing with another substance – but we won't mention that here). 

You don't want to flush money down the toilet, but equally you don't want rough rolls or TP that tears when you're on the throne. 

So which products will leave you in the proverbial, and which ones will give you a worry-free wipe?

The bargains you don't want in your bog:

Both these budget basics are rough around the edges and lacking in structural integrity. In our puncture test (aka a measure of how likely your finger is to go through the paper), the Vevelle was right at the bottom of the pile, with a score of just 45%. 

With results like that, you'll probably end up using twice as much as insurance against ill-timed tears – in which case you might as well have opted for a more expensive product in the first place.

What to buy instead:

If you'd prefer to buy toilet paper that's kind to your budget as well as your behind, these are the products that tick all the boxes: they're recommended by our experts, and they cost less than 30 cents per 100 sheets:

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.