Store brand or name brand? 5 tips
You’re caught between two prices: a well-known name brand and a generic that’s cheaper but may not be as good. Here are 5 winners and 5 losers.
This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News.
I’ll admit it: I can be cheap.
If I see three prices on the shelf, I’m normally going to pick the lowest -- more often than not, the generic or store brand.
I've got plenty of company. With store brands about 25% cheaper than name brands, two-thirds of Americans are choosing them, says Consumer Reports.
But store brands and generics come with risks.
While they're often just as good, that's not always the case, and you don’t want to get shortchanged when it comes to quality or taste.
Through trial and error, here are five things I always buy generic:
- Alkaline batteries -- The major difference between name brand and store brand is cost. Don’t bother shelling out the extra few bucks; in many cases, you’ll end up getting the same amount of energy for less.
- Eggs -- If you cook at home a lot, you should always have eggs in your fridge. And if you’re not concerned with buying organic eggs, use the store brand.
- Sugar -- It seems store brands tend to clump together more, but since it dissolves anyway, buying the store brand is smart.
- Plates and bowls -- As long as the plates look decent, are dishwasher-safe and don’t blow up in the microwave, there’s no reason to pay top dollar for plates and bowls. You can pay $75 for a single Ralph Lauren dinner plate, or less than $25 for 12.
- Pasta -- Pasta goes for about $1.35 a pound, according to the BLS. But I get it cheaper when I buy store brands. Locally, pasta goes on sale for $1 per 1-pound box. The main ingredients are the same: durum wheat and semolina.
Now, being cheap doesn’t always result in a win. Sometimes I buy something and realize I’d have been better off with a name brand. Here are five from my never-again list:
- Flour -- If you’re using flour for basic cooking, such as breading chicken or making waffles, store-brand flour is fine. But if you bake your own bread or make your own pasta, buy the name-brand, unbleached stuff. It has a silkier-feeling, finer grain that bakes into a tasty texture.
- Light bulbs -- One or two store-brand incandescent light bulbs will do in a pinch, but if you’re buying a bunch, you’re better off buying an energy-efficient bulb. They last about six times longer and can save about $6 a year in energy cost compared to a traditional light bulb, according to EnergyStar.gov.
- Juice -- This is a tossup, so check the ingredients. For example, quality orange juice should have one ingredient: orange juice. Watch for brands with high-fructose corn syrup or a water ingredient listed before the juice ingredient.
- Silverware -- I'll pay more for silverware that's dishwasher-safe. Check it for a grade of 18/10. It has a better corrosion rate, according to the Cutlery and Allied Trade Research Association.
- Socks -- I don’t mind paying more for socks. Store-brand socks tend to unravel and wear out more quickly than name brands. Name brands also offer more options, such as odor absorption and thicker padding, which could be important if you have an active lifestyle. And in winter, my feet freeze, so I’ll opt for thicker, name-brand socks.
How to decide
The lists above work for me, but your priorities and tastes may differ. Follow these generic tips and you’ll walk out of the store with the best values:
- Compare and contrast. The best way to tell if you’re buying a good value? Compare the ingredients. Store-brand acetaminophen shares identical ingredients with name brands like Tylenol. If you're comparing something like clothing, feel them side by side. Look at the stitching. While it's not always possible for the untrained eye to spot the difference, it often is.
- Stick to trusted ingredients. I avoid foods with high-fructose corn syrup, mechanically separated meats and hydrogenated oils. Compare nutritional value labels and see if the two match up. You don’t want a high-fat product loaded with sugar when the name brand is more nutritious.
- Ask your friends. You’re not limited to one store. Ask your friends what generic brands they like and why.
- Compare unit price. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Look at both brands’ unit price, not the overall price. Sometimes container size distorts the cost.
- Try before you buy (a lot). Generics aren't cheaper if they're not as good and as a result, go unused. Don't be tempted by super-sized discounted generic packaging until you're sure you're going to be happy. Start small. And when you find something that works, or doesn't, make a note of it.
Store brands are typically produced by the same manufacturers as store brands. As a teen I worked in a tomato canning plant where I saw paletts of store brand label cans right next to name brands.
However, don't fooled by this article in regards to batteries. Generic brands may be produced in the same plant, but proper storage and length of storage differ considerably; which affects battery life.
Also, most grocery items (even chemical items) made outside the US are not of the same quality.
I try most store brand items first: if one is not as good as the brand name it's usually tolerable and I'll know not to buy that item in the future. But for 90% of food items, the store item is my choice. I'll spend extra for certain things like Bush's Baked Beans or Claussen Pickles, but when it comes to most canned soups and veggies, pasta and pasta sauces, bread and snacks, and even some frozen food items, the store brand is as good or better to my tastes.
only thing i buy name brand is PB...
NOTHING is BETTER than JIF....NOTHING...i mean NOTHING....
all the other "generic" are made by "name brand" anyway...so why wasted your money!!!!!!
This is a lesson I learned long ago. I have been cooking since I was seven years old. My mother was sick a lot and if I wanted to eat I had to learn to cook. Later my late wife was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and the last ten years of her life were spent in a wheel chair unable to do much of anything so cooking was an absolute necessity. So when shopping for groceries I became pretty proficient in picking and choosing. In almost every case store brand canned goods have proven equal or even better than the name brands. I also often notice less water in these canned goods than in the expensive ones.
Paper products like paper towels and toilet tissue are also good savers. I buy in bulk from the club type stores. I save a lot on the unit price and also by not having to make repeated trips to the store for more. Meats are another area ripe for savings if you have the time and patience to dig a bit. A professional butcher once told me that I should never cook fresh meat if I want it to be flavorful and tender. He recommended putting it in the refrigerator once thawed and keeping it under forty degrees for several days until it turned grey before cooking. Keeping that in mind I never hesitate to shop the manager's special area where old and re-wrapped meat is sold. It is usually marked down sometimes more than half price and if I take it home and cook it within a day or so it is just fine. I do this with beef but am a bit more careful with pork and chicken though and I definitely would not do this with any seafood products.
Finally rice and beans are best bought by the bag. Buying preprocessed and prepackaged stuff is costly and really is no better tasting. You just pay a lot more for convenience. Take a little more time and just cook it and save the money. It only takes me about fifteen more minutes to cook regular rice versus the boil-in-bag stuff for instance. Also those single serve coffee makers are a real scam. You wind up paying nearly $30.00 a pound for coffee for crying out loud. Reheated coffee is just fine for me and with a good Bunn maker it only takes about 3 minutes to brew up a 10 cup pot. The trick is don't just let it sit on the burner when done. Turn it off and decant off the remaining into another pot for reheating later and set the Bunn up to brew a fresh pot when ready. These are just a few of my saving tips. Hope they help someone else.
Most store brands are made by the brand names anyway. In order for the store bands to be sold cheaper the brand names who are making the store brands skimp on things. The article mentions socks, I bet for instance Hanes made those store brand socks and inorder to offer those socks so cheap they used less material. The past mentioned probably had thinner packaging than brand name packaging or less of a certain ingredient to justify the lower cost. Store brands are CHEAP because they are CHEAP. If you can afford brand names, stick with them.
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