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Supermarket Shopping: Generics Versus “Name” Brands

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The question of whether or not it is worth saving the money buying pure generic products at the supermarket or paying more to buy the “name” brands is one that we all struggle with. Still another option is to purchase the store brand, whose price will typically fall somewhere between the other two. What is the answer?

In my house, the responsibility for going to the supermarket falls on my shoulders (my wife gets the laundry), and from growing up the way that I did my bias will typically push me towards the pure generic names. I started slowly by buying the store brands, and then moved to many of the pure generics when I saw the potential savings to my bottom line. On average I will buy some of each type, but the savings are very real.

Is The Taste and Quality Of Generics an Issue?

The question is whether the quality or taste of these products can compare to the name brands, and this is actually a question that people need to answer for themselves. While I am more of a gourmand than gourmet, I typically find the difference in the consistency or taste of generics or name brands to be very minor.

My kids complain, but I am sure that if I conducted a blind taste test they would not be able to tell the difference. Of course, among different brands and different foods there may be more or less of a difference for every consumer.

Some of My Generic Buying Experiences

Breakfast Cereal: With the increase in the price of breakfast cereals the last couple of years, I started to go with the store brands that could be $1.00 or more in savings off a single box. The quality is for the most part very good with very little difference between the taste of these versus the brand names. There was a store equivalent to Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Rice Krispies and more. At some point I tried the pure generic cereals that were available for Honey Nut Cheerios and Cocoa Krispies, and the taste was fine and the savings even better.

Laundry Detergent: When I started going to the supermarket, the prices for this item were astounding to me. I know that they advertise quite a bit, but I also know that in many cases the off brands are made in the exact same factory as the name brands. For Tide, a 100-ounce bottle could cost in the neighborhood of $12 or more. Smells great and I am sure it does whatever the commercials say that it does. The store brand is in the $9 range, and also has a pretty good smell and the same color packaging as the Tide. When I saw the generic bottle, it was white with a minimal amount of writing on it, no clean fresh smell, but a price for the same 100-ounce bottle of around $2.99. For a $10 savings over the Tide. I can do without the smell, and so far, there have been no complaints on the way that it cleans.

Fruit: On a recent trip to the supermarket, while I was walking through the produce aisle, I saw a bag of generic oranges. Other than the packaging that did not say Sunkist, what could the difference possibly be between two oranges that are grown on the same vines? Maybe it has something to do with the color or other appearance of the generic orange? Possibly the generic has some imperfections on the outside that prevents it from being called Sunkist. The bottom line is that I bought them and they tasted great for a much lower price.

These are just a few of the examples of the money that can be saved if you are willing to move away from name brands, and at the very least consider store brands. Once you have been convinced that the quality is basically the same for many products, try the generics as well.

Some you may like and some you may not like, but the bottom line is that the savings are very real.

Michael Haltmanhttp://politicsandfinance.blogspot.com
Former fixed income analyst/trader and institutional salesman for some of the largest firms on Wall Street, some of which no longer exist. Was a proprietary equity trader for Opus Trading for fifteen years until opening my own commercial lending firm, and mortgage title insurance firm.Contribute articles to many publications including Money Crashers, and have had articles picked up by The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Sun-Times and Houston Chronicle to name a few. Also created and write The Political Commentator which examines the world from the right.

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