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5 store-brand items to skip

Store brands may be cheaper than brand names, but they don't always offer a better value.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 12, 2012 12:31PM

This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


SmartMoney on MSN MoneyGrocery-shopping experts have long touted buying store brands as a great savings strategy, and consumers are finally paying attention -- maybe too much attention.


Image: Assorted Cleaning Products Without Labels (© Ocean/Corbis)Nearly 40% of shoppers purchased more store-brand items in the past year, according to a new survey from research firm Accenture. Two-thirds of shoppers say half of what they buy carries a store-brand label.


The main reason: The prices beat those of the big brand names. In most cases, consumers aren't sacrificing taste, either, because the same big brand producing say, canned veggies, is also responsible for packaging the store's line. "Quality has really gone up," says Jill Cataldo, the founder of Super Couponing workshops.


Stephanie Nelson, the founder of, agrees. "Some stores actually have several tiers of private labels," including gourmet and organic products, she says.


But in some cases, consumers are better off sticking with the brand names they know and love, experts say. Those trying out store brands should "start small," Cataldo says. "Buy one, not 12, to make sure you like it." (Post continues below video.)

Here are five product categories that may warrant caution:


Paper products

Store-brand paper towels, paper plates and other goods can be of varying quality. The toilet paper rolls are often smaller and lighter, says Teri Gault, the founder of price-tracking site The Grocery Game. Plates might be flimsier, and towels and tissues may be less absorbent, meaning you'll need to use more than you might with a brand name, negating savings.


Cleaning products

Consumers tend to prefer brand-name laundry detergent and other cleaning products, Nelson says. The risk: Store brands are often not as effective, she says.


Coupon-heavy items

Store-brand items might not be cheaper after all. "The right coupon and sale combo is key," Cataldo says. "I still do better, on the whole, buying national brand instead of house brand." That combination beats even low store-brand prices. Some stores do offer coupons on their own brands, too, so be sure to compare prices regularly, she says.

Macaroni and cheese

Boxed macaroni and cheese is one of the few categories where shoppers across the board tend to be brand-loyal, says Nelson. "It's Kraft all the way," she says. Gault says complaints she has heard fault store brands for being "too orange," and not that cheesy.



Some parents love store-brand diapers, Nelson says, but others complain of leaks. Retailers and manufacturers market heavily to new parents with coupons and loyalty rewards, too, so buying store-brand diapers may not be the cheaper option.


More from SmartMoney and MSN Money:

Jul 13, 2012 12:36PM
When is MSN going to do something about all this SPAM? Seems like they could use a filtering system or better moderate thier articles!
Jul 12, 2012 5:17PM
My ex-husband worked for Sunshine Saltine Crackers.  He said all brands of the saltines, including Sunshine, came from the same batch of dough, but each brand was sent down a different conveyor belt!  They all came from the same batch.  I've always wondered how many other generic products have been made the same way.
Jul 12, 2012 6:24PM
In most cases, I find store brands completely acceptable and usually considerably cheaper.  People are such suckers for advertising by the national manufacturers that they convince themselves that national brands are always better, which is not the case.  What does bother me, though, is that the price gap between store brands and national brands is getting smaller all the time.  I even saw an item recently where the store brand actually cost more than the national brand.  Store chains are getting smarter and raising prices on their store brands.  Also, people often let their children bully them into buying national brands because the kids say they won't eat the equivalent store brands.  Believe me, when I was a child, my mother fed us nothing but store brands or generics, and we would eat them without complaint or live to regret it.
Jul 13, 2012 1:59PM

13 of the first 17 responses where SPAM

MSN is getting crappier by the day

either someone isn't paying attention to the site or they are getting paid to much to avoid

Jul 12, 2012 5:47PM
Pure BS!!!!  I use them all s a single man for the past 20 years and the savings make a difference.  Maybe my taste buds have gone awry. but  I change what goes into so much of it that starting off cheaper make sense anyway.  These days of rising prices in smart about it..or go broke!!
Jul 13, 2012 2:32PM

Click on the word SPAM to collapse these friggin "life is so lonely" ads and to send a report. It might not do any good, but we got nothing to lose. Maybe MSNBC will get tired of all these reports clogging up the system and finally boot these idiots out of here.

I search out every spam ad on every page of every article i go to and report them. If that doesn't work after a few weeks, i'll start sending emails to MSNBC.

Guess it's illegal to shoot the posters, darn it.

Jul 13, 2012 2:04PM
Jul 12, 2012 6:47PM

things i wont buy in generic are


Cream Cheese (Philadelphia only)

Mayonasie (Hellmans only)

Jul 13, 2012 12:59PM

Th Kroger brand is probably one of the better house brands available. No, I would not recommend toilet paper or cleaners which are cheaper at WalMart, but canned, or frozen fruits and veggies are good quality products.


The off-brand window cleaners available at most dollar stores are every bit as good as Windex.

Dollar stores can also match WalMart for the quality of plastic forks, etc as long as you are only needing a few.


If you are in Southern California, the baked goods such as sliced bread, doughnuts, etc at Stater Bros are baked by Wonder and the leftovers show up at the Hostess/Wonder Thriftstores.

Jul 12, 2012 4:56PM
I will not buy store brand canned veggies. I have had green beans with the stems still on them and they are tough besides also i have had corn that had pieces of husk in it. Brand name veggies taste better.
Jul 12, 2012 3:54PM

Depends on the store brand - Kirkland which is Costco's TP is one of their highest selling items.  I buy a lot of store brands meaning like Safeway, Fred Meyer, Albertson, Thriftway and many others there is little difference anymore.  I do have to admit if you're going to settle for a mac & cheese from the box Kraft is the only way to go but then I prefer the quality of made from scratch.  This article sounds more like someone is getting paid to market name brands than any actual beneficial information.  Something’s are still best if they are brand name but I have found over the last 3 or 4 years most store brands and brand names products very little in quality.  Besides the pain in my pocket book usually out ways the difference my taste buds can detect.

Jul 12, 2012 4:40PM
Wal Mart Mac N Cheese?...LOL...nasty... i bet you are one of the WalMartians I saw online.

But seriously...Aluminum Foil ... Got to stay w/ Reynolds  ... All store brand blow

Jul 12, 2012 5:24PM
The worst part is that they will not let you decide for yourself whether you want a cheaper store brand or the name brand. I have more that one left the store empty handed when they did not offer the name brand I use all the time. I have been burned more than once on the store brands, and it's not just food products. It seems the cosmetics, medicines, etc all want a piece of the cake. Same goes there. You are not saving any money if you have to throw it away.
Jul 13, 2012 12:12AM
I buy a lot of store brands. They usually are cheaper, but be careful. Sometimes when a brand name is on sale it will be cheaper than the store brand.  You have to check all the prices to be certain. There are some things that I won't buy store brand though. Cream Cheese, any other cheese and toilet paper. I don't like the way the cheese tastes at all. There is something that's always off about it. Store brand toilet paper is often tiny rolls and one ply. So you go through it like crazy. That's no savings.

I wouldn't buy ANYTHING from Walmart. I won't even walk into a Walmart. ALL the ones that I've been in are filthy and the people shopping in them are scary!!

Jul 12, 2012 4:39PM
i agree with most but kroger has good mac n cheese
Jul 12, 2012 5:41PM
I buy walmart salsa. It's as good as the most popular brand name.
Jul 13, 2012 3:36PM

When my boys were still in diapers (over 13 years ago, at least), the Wal-Mart brand diapers were just as good as Pampers and a whole lot cheaper even with coupons.  Don't know about now, but I never had a problem with them then.

and I TOTALLY agree about all the Spam.  We, who have lives, don't care if you're lonely and searching - go to church or the grocery store or even the library instead of sitting in front of a computer waiting for someone to email you.....

Jul 12, 2012 5:04PM
Walmarts Great Value, Sam's Sams Choice and Krogers Always save or Best Choice products are still very comparable to national brands. In some cases the store brand is a national brand just sold as the store brand ie: Walmarts great value sandwhich bread is actually wonder bread. This is not an urban legend!! I switch between both brands all the time but when I buy store brands, I have never seen less value or usage, mostly good and in some cases better bang for my buck.
Jul 13, 2012 12:40PM
I will take Kirkland at Costco quality wise over many name brand items. Thier canned Tuna Fish is absolutely the best of any out there. It is a solid tuna steak in a can.
Jul 13, 2012 6:55AM
I love CVS store brand diapers!  They work just as well as the name brand, are cheaper, and there are two CVS stores on my way home from work!
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