Slash your grocery bill with store-brand products

Name Brands vs. Store Brands The October 2009 issue of Consumer Reports contains an article extolling the virtues of generic store-brand products. While shoppers used to sacrifice quality when choosing generic, that’s no longer the case. From the article:

If concern about taste has kept you from trying store-brand foods, hesitate no more. In blind tests, our trained tasters compared a big national brand with a store brand in 29 food categories. Store and national brands tasted about equally good 19 times. Four times, the store brand won; six times, the national brand won.

In other words, store brands offer roughly the same quality as national brands, but at a much-reduced cost. How much reduced? Consumer Reports says that the store brands they tested cost an average of 27 percent less than the name brand equivalents.

How Much Can You Save?

Sometimes theory is one thing and reality another. It’s nice that Consumer Reports can score great deals on store brands. But could I? Last week, I walked to two local grocery stores to do my own research. First I looked at Safeway, where Kris and I shop most often. Next, I walked across the street to Fred Meyer, a store we usually try to avoid. (The store is huge and its layout makes little sense to me.)

I spent an hour in each store, roaming the aisles, looking for representative prices on a variety of items. I tried to pick one item at random from every section of the store. When I’d finished, I had a list of 25 products for which each store carried the same name brand and their own store-brand equivalent.

The results actually surprised me. You can save a lot of money with store-brand products — far more than I suspected. Here’s the raw data from my research:

Click to open larger image in new window

The first column lists the name-brand item I used as a basis for comparison. I’ve given each store two columns, one for the price of the name-brand item, and one for the generic item. On each line, red text indicates the highest-priced option and green text indicates the least expensive option.

Here’s a closer look at some of these comparisons:

  • I’m out of my Head and Shoulders shampoo. I just threw away the bottle this morning. Normally I buy actual Head and Shoulders at Safeway, which costs me $5.99 if it’s not on sale. If I were to instead buy the Fred Meyer store brand, I’d only pay $2.49 — a savings of nearly 60%!
  • At Safeway, standard Charmin two-ply toilet paper costs $10.99 for 12 rolls. At $9.49, the store brand isn’t much cheaper. But if I were to go across the street to Fred Meyer, I’d pay just $4.89 for the store brand. (Actually, Kris and I get our toilet paper at Costco, and I have no idea what we pay.)
  • Hungry? For $2.17, you could buy a can of generic chicken noodle soup, a box of generic saltine crackers, and a bottle of generic root beer at Fred Meyer. To buy name-brand equivalents at Safeway would cost you $6.18. (You could eat three of those meals using generic Fred Meyer food for the price of one meal from Safeway.)

You get the idea. Buying store brands at Safeway would save nearly 22% for the items on this list. At Fred Meyer, I could save over 36%. And Fred Meyer store brands cost 44% less than name brands at Safeway — without the need for a “loyalty card”.

A note on methodology: While conducting this survey, I faced a tough choice. Which price should I list? The non-sale price for each item? Or the sale price? Of the 25 name-brand items listed, 15 were on sale at Safeway and 14 were on sale at Fred Meyer. (There was a lot of overlap on the sales, too.) At Safeway, 20 of the generics were on sale; 10 were on sale at Fred Meyer. I chose to list non-sale prices because it’s impossible to know which items are on sale when.

Running the Numbers

I learned a number of things from this project. First off, we’re shopping at the wrong grocery store. Buying name-brand products at Safeway is the most expensive way to go. Based on this list, shopping at Fred Meyer instead would save us nearly 12%, even without moving to generics.

Second, generics are not always a bargain. On 10 out of the 25 items, the Safeway generic cost as much (or more!) than the name-brand equivalent at Fred Meyer. On the other hand, Fred Meyer store-brand items offer fantastic savings, especially when compared to Safeway’s name-brand selections. (The items on this list were 44% less expensive!)

Another factor to consider is that some stores have a better selection of store brands than others. Subjectively speaking, Fred Meyer seemed to have about double the number of generic items that Safeway had — and often had multiple sizes or varieties. They carried several types of store brand salsa, for example, while Safeway’s selection was more limited. At both stores, the generics were generally staple items: rice, toilet paper, tomato sauce, etc.


“We should buy more generics,” I told Kris after collating my data.

“We do buy generics,” she said.

“We do? Like what?”

“…” she said (proving for once that Kris is not always right!).

Though Kris and I do a lot of things to save money, we don’t actually buy a lot of store brands. We’re not opposed to them — we just stick to brands we trust. This brand loyalty costs us money. Here’s how Consumer Reports put it in the article that inspired my research: “Switching to store brands can be a painless way to cut your grocery bill.” They’re right.

After conducting this experiment, I realize there are four key steps to saving big bucks on groceries. More than anything else, these actions can help struggling families cut costs:

  1. Grow whatever produce you are able. The more you grow, the more you save.
  2. Buy store brands whenever possible.
  3. For everything else, do your best to purchase items only when they’re on sale. (This may mean developing a grocery price book.)
  4. Learn to clip coupons, especially for processed foods.

This exercise was eye-opening in another way. I discovered that shopping at Safeway costs us money. If the data here is representative, then switching to Fred Meyer could save us over 10% on our grocery bill. That’s enough to let us dine out one extra time per month. Or it’s more money we can save for our trip to France next year.

Kris and I are both wary of switching from Safeway to Fred Meyer — as I mentioned, there’s more to this decision than price — but I suspect that if we give it a chance, we’ll find ways to deal with Fred Meyer’s annoyances and save money in the process.

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There are 136 comments to "Slash your grocery bill with store-brand products".

  1. sewingirl says 15 September 2009 at 05:35

    Keep in mind that generics are similar but not identical. I don’t like generic cornstarch, it doesn’t thicken like the national brand. Now what would be in cornstarch except corn…starch?

  2. Kim says 15 September 2009 at 05:44

    We try store brand, but sometimes – i.e. when there are more than 4 ingredients – the taste is just not there! Thus we buy everything non-edible in store brand, and edible items if it has less than 4-ingredients (oatmeal, milk, pasta, flour, canned tomatoes, olives, frozen veggies); if more than 4 ingredients, then we get to decide (yogurt, frozen pizza). If you don’t buy a lot of processed food, you’ll be surprised how many store brand items you’ll buy! Last thing – for cereal, we just couldn’t do store brand. We tried, very very hard. Now we buy brand name cereal only when it’s on sale.

  3. Four Pillars says 15 September 2009 at 05:45

    I did a similar study a couple of years ago in my area although I only compared different stores – I didn’t compare generics/brand names.

    I didn’t get the same results as you – some stores were cheaper than our normal store but not by much and not on everything. Given our time contraints and the convenience of the closest store we decided to just pay a bit more and save a lot of time.

  4. Kim says 15 September 2009 at 05:48

    One more thing – I once sopke w/ a person who worked in a lightbulb factory. He said that the lightbulbs stamped “GE” and the ones stamped “CVS” came out of hte same factory, made the same exact way. The same point you quoted in your article “More Things Your Supermarket Won’t Tell You.” So storebrand is sometimes the same quality!

  5. Alexandra says 15 September 2009 at 05:48

    I do try the generic brand on occassion. Some of them are okay – I don’t mind stuff like canned tomatoes, corn or other veggies, or dry pasta, or some cleaning products. But a lot of the generic brands just don’t taste very good. I once tried to buy generic breaded chicken breasts – they honestly tasted like cardboard. Generic ketchup – no way – I will pay the extra $3.00 for my Heinz.

    I suggest that you actually BUY both the generic brand and the brand name, do a taste test and then get back to us.

    For me, generic brands are often not worth the money you pay for them, because they taste terrible and often end up in the garbage.

  6. Khürt Williams says 15 September 2009 at 05:48

    But … what if you CAN taste a difference? Should you just buy and eat the “not so good” tasting stuff just to save the money? As for growing your own food for savings … there is no guarantee as we found out this year.

    Each year we plant something in our small garden patch. Usually we can get some tomatoes, peppers and some herbs in the small space we have. For the rest, we rely on a farm that uses community supported organic agriculture. We’ve been doing it for at least 4 years. We purchase an individual share for about $350 for the year and we either pick our own or get from the farm stand. In past years we’ve had a good bounty of crops.

    This year, our own garden, and all the farms in the area had large crop failures. No tomatoes. No peppers. No okras. No eggplant. No blackberries. A few raspberries. The rains that fell in Spring and summer drowned the crop and the lack of sunlight just ruined everything. Our home garden failed completely. So between the cost of own garden, the cost of the CSA, and then making up for the those by shopping at the grocery store at elevated prices … our produce bill was high.

    Savings = 0.

    Here’s the farmers account of what happened:

  7. Christina @ Northern Cheapskate says 15 September 2009 at 05:54

    Thanks for the great chart! I’ve always known that buying generic can save you money, but it’s nice to see it in print.

    Couponing can make the prices comparable to (or even beat) name brands. The question then becomes what is your time worth? It’s nice to know that store brands offer a time-saving alternative to clipping coupons.

    A couple of other thoughts:

    Many generics are actually manufactured by the name brand company – so you may even be getting a nearly identical product for much less when you buy the store brand.

    Many store brands come with a satisfaction guarantee – if you try it and don’t like it, you can get your money back!

  8. DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad says 15 September 2009 at 05:54

    Great post! I try store brands quite often. When we find ones we like– we stick with ’em. However, Heinz and Hellman’s are still our ketchup and mayo, unless we make our own.

    How To Make Your Own: Mayonnaise
    How To Make Your Own: Ketchup

  9. Adrienne says 15 September 2009 at 05:58

    By only looking at the “list” price you are skewing the results. A certain % of brands are always on sale (sometimes for even less than generics). You will not save that much because you will never have a grocery cart full of “full price” items.

    That said I use a lot of generics (esp. for things I don’t eat) but for some items there is a huge difference in taste. I’d rather bulk up during sales for those items.

    Also companies change their generic suppliers frequently. If you didn’t like a product last year it’s worth trying again because it’s probably made by someone else by now…

  10. April Dykman says 15 September 2009 at 06:07

    I figure that generic and name-brand taste pretty similar, but we don’t really buy processed food. We do buy generic non-food items such as floss, parchment paper and foil, allergy meds, etc. Most of the time it’s the same thing, though we did buy generic paper towels once and they were worthless. Trial and error!

  11. Foxie@CarsxGirl says 15 September 2009 at 06:08

    And this is why I like the military perk of a commissary to shop at. 🙂 Prices are usually lower than other stores, AND they’re mostly national-branded items. Win-win for military families.

    Not only are the prices cheaper for most national brands, but you can still use coupons and there’s no tax. It’s really the one perk that I use quite a bit to save us some money on groceries. (Since we really don’t buy a lot and eat out fairly often.)

  12. Cindy says 15 September 2009 at 06:11

    We always compare store brand to the brand name. Sometimes the taste is not worth the savings. Especially if the item ends up in the trash. Two items we will not purchase store brand on are Oreo cookies and Hershey candy bars. My family is not too picky but these items do not compare.

  13. RJ says 15 September 2009 at 06:20

    I have to disagree with your conclusion that “store brands offer roughly the same quality as national brands.” Your source article is about name brand versus generics in taste tests. Taste does not equal quality. Both the name brand and the generic could taste the same, but be made of heavily-processed “food” of poor quality; or the generic could be made of different ingredients of lesser quality.

  14. Edward Bussa says 15 September 2009 at 06:29

    We have store in our are named Aldi. It’s of German origin and they have their own store brand. Frequently we find its store brands are of higher quality and far cheaper price than better known name brands. This experience has led me to be a believer in trying new stores and their brands.

  15. Beth says 15 September 2009 at 06:40

    JD, I’m a die-hard Fred Meyer shopper. It makes me happy to think you’re coming around! Next step: Food 4 Less!

  16. Lulu says 15 September 2009 at 06:43

    Like most of your commentors have said, it is good to save when you can but the generics are not always of the same quality.

    I can buy generic milk but I have very sensitive skin so I only use Olay brand things on my face. It just depends on your taste and I did find some things where the brand on sale with a coupon was MUCH cheaper than the generic…but that is very rare.

  17. Peter says 15 September 2009 at 06:48

    Your claim that most generics taste about the same as name brands it true for a reason. Most store brands are made in the same plants, by the same people, with the same ingredients or materials as the name brands. The company I work for, like many others, makes both store and name brand products. The store brands are roughly 15-20% cheaper and it’s both the store and our company that takes a small cut in profits to make this happen. For shoppers I would give the advice to try a small amount of a store or generic product to see if you like it before committing to a large purchase. Keep in mind not all name brands will be to your liking either, so be fair.

    Stores have different pricing practices that will effect the non-sale price. If you like putting in the work to take advantage of sales then shopping at stores with higher non-sale prices that slash prices heavily every couple weeks may be for you. If not, try shopping at a discount store where prices are always low and goods are never on sale. In the Portland area Winco Foods would fit into this category. They offer name brand products with prices that are usually about as low as the sale prices at other grocers. Also, they are employee owned, so the markup goes to the workers.

  18. Abby says 15 September 2009 at 06:49

    Thanks for this chart. Locally, I’ve found that Target has rock bottom prices on their Market Pantry/Up & Up brand for a couple of things – baby wipes and crackers are two that spring to mind. Rotating your shopping among a few stores, and knowing what to buy at each, is another way to stretch a buck.

  19. Jeff says 15 September 2009 at 06:49

    We buy generic whenever we can, with very few exceptions. The biggest mistake I ever made with generics was when I decided to get the store brand equivalent of Cheerios, which were about half the price. They tasted fine to me, but my 18-month-old (by far the biggest consumer of Cheerios in our house) would spit them out whenever I tried to give them to him, even when I mixed them in with real Cheerios. So like Kim mentioned before me, we now try to stock up on cereal when it’s on sale.

    In other situations, I usually just do a quick price check to make sure I’m not getting fooled by different portion sizes, sale prices, etc.

    Thank you for a great article!

  20. Brenda says 15 September 2009 at 07:00

    You can save HUGE by buying generic brands of OTC medicine instead of name brands. The ingredients are usually *exactly* the same, but the difference in price is enormous.

    For example, I had to buy cough syrup today at Walmart. The Name Brand (Robitussin) cost around $7.50 for an 8 ounce bottle. The Generic Brand (Equate) cost $2.97 for the same 8 ounces with the same ingredients. That’s a $4.53 saving on just ONE item. Likewise, Name Brand Ibuprofen (such as Advil) is often 4 or 5 dollars MORE than the store brand of “ibuprofen”, and I’ve never been able to tell a difference in quality, so I always buy generic ibuprofen.

    Other places where I *always* go generic: Plastic food storage bags. Aluminum foil. Garbage bags (on the rare occasion I use big ones. I usually use the FREE plastic shopping bags). Paper Towels. These are the sorts of goods where you can’t “taste” any differences, obviously, and the generic is just as good and often much cheaper than the name brand.
    Lower-end Name brand Toilet Paper can often be cheaper than generic if you have a good coupon.

    Other great places to go generic: Canned fruits and vegetables (really, once they’re in a can, they all pretty much taste the same), canned meats (same thing), frozen pizza (I can’t tell a difference), rice, bread/hot dog buns/hamburger buns, salt/pepper/sugar/flour/garlic powder. (I bought a generic garlic powder for 50 cents, and it tastes the same as a regular store brand. You can’t screw up garlic powder.)

    I’d say Pasta is a great generic too, but Barilla Plus is so darn full of iron, fiber, and other healthy things that it’s worth the extra money. If they made generic that was just as healthy as Barilla Plus, I’d say go for it.

    SOME cereals are ok, but you have to try ’em before you find out. For example, Walmart’s Great Value Rice chex tastes the *exact* same as the name brand (Kellogg’s) Rice Chex. However, Walmart’s Great Value equivalent of froot loops tastes HORRIBLE. Nothing at all like the real Froot Loops from Kellogg’s.

    Food I never go generic on, because trust me, I CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE: Kraft Mac n’ Cheese (which is often on sale for 50 cents, so it doesn’t make sense to suffer the taste of generic, which isn’t much less), Kraft Singles, Kellogg’s Froot Loops (there just isn’t anything that tastes like them), milk (unfortunately, I need lactose-free milk, so I CAN’T buy the generic, sadly.)

    Foods I should try the generic version of: Oatmeal. I’ve been oddly loyal to Quaker. I really should give the store brand a try. Anyone have any experience in generic vs. Quaker oatmeal?

    Stuff that I always get at the Dollar Store for just a DOLLAR each: Hair brushes, toothbrushes, laundry baskets. Really, you pay $3-$5 for this stuff in a normal store. You can go to the dollar store, and get brand names (colgate, suave, rubbermaid) for a BUCK. It’s so worth it.

  21. Josh says 15 September 2009 at 07:04

    The claim that generics taste the same as national brands is generally true in my experience, but is clearly not universal. In particular, equality of taste can not be claimed for most (or all?) generic sodas. Wal-mart’s brand is barely passable, and Save-A-Lot’s “Bubba cola” – what an attractive brand name! – was almost enough to make one gag. Since I drink one or two cans per week, I won’t accept something that tastes bad, because tasting an enjoyable flavor matters more than just geting a caffeine fix. If I can save money through other means, I’ll use those instead (like drinking less soda…).

  22. reinkefj says 15 September 2009 at 07:07

    Agree on generics EXCEPT when it comes to vegetables. I “think” there is a different taste between CERTAIN ones — brand versus generic. Catch them on sale and it’s not SO bad. imho.

  23. Phenomenality says 15 September 2009 at 07:16

    I would love for someone to redo this article but from the healthy lifestyle perspective. I buy organic and local about 90% of the time… organic is VERY expensive. I probably spend over $500 a month on groceries between myself and my 2 young daughters.

    Is there a way to eat and live HEALTHIER on a budget?? Without washing with carcinogenic chemicals and buying processed flour and high fructose corn syrup? (if you think you don’t, read the lables) 🙂

  24. Patrick says 15 September 2009 at 07:21

    My uncle works for a large local New England grocery chain, and has told us for years that the store brands and the national brands of just about everything are made and packaged in the same factories.

    Also, don’t forget coupons and store circulars. If you invest a Sunday morning and/or Wednesday night (when our circulars come out), you can get away with eating for just about free some weeks.

  25. Di says 15 September 2009 at 07:31

    I have to agree that generics taste the same, sometimes better than brand name products. But then I only shop at Trader Joes & Vons. I prefer natural organic products from Trader Joes. It goes both ways I guess. I used to be a die hard Heinz ketchup only fan till I tried the Trader Joes organic ketchup, now Heinz tastes disgusting and I get the healthier option (no corn syrup or chemicals). I think buying generic saves a lot of money IF you buy a lot of processed foods. We don’t.

  26. Kevin@OutOfYourRut says 15 September 2009 at 07:31

    We do a lot of shopping at Sam’s, but it isn’t always cheaper there either. As much as we might rebel against the concept, there’s no substitute for knowing your prices, and there is some work involved in doing that. I think that’s why so many people default to the name brands, pay full price, then complain later.

    Sometimes the generics at the grocery store are even cheaper than what you can get at the food warehouses. So you also need to shop at 2-3 different stores if you want to maximize savings.

    But on the generic thing, we pay 69 cents a bottle for generic soda, verses 1.89 for name brand sodas. Since we have teenagers who drink in incredible volume, the savings from just this one switch are substantial. In fact, I don’t think we’d be buying soda were it not for the generics. OK Coke tastes a little better, but it’s also all in what you’re used to.

  27. Jonathan Vaudreuil says 15 September 2009 at 07:33

    My fiancée and I were talking about this last night over buying CVS brand hand cream vs the stuff in mall stores that costs 5x more.

    Considering generics is more important as part of your philosophy in life than it is in practice. Odds are I will always buy Heinz ketchup, Garelick Farms all-natural milk, Cheerios, etc. Being open to generics means more than just buying some (or all) generic products.

    Beyond those, here’s what I mean: Second-hand suits and sports coats make up most of my dressier wardrobe. I buy other dress clothing on sale or clearance. I bought my current car with under 20k miles on it and paid about 25% less than a new one (it’s needed one repair and has lasted 110k miles now). When we moved into our new apartment I scoured craigslist and discount stores for deals on the things we needed. Heck, my bedside lamp for the past 4 years I found on a curb and looks like I bought it new.

    You don’t have to buy all generic, just be open to it in all areas of your life.

  28. Dustin says 15 September 2009 at 07:38

    In general, I am fine with most generic/store brand items, although it does take some experimentation to weed out the nasty stuff when you switch brands.

    Based on an article I read recently in our local newspaper, I would bet that we will see more and more store brand items. Despite the lower price, the grocer makes much bigger margins on those products and prefers to sell them versus name brand.


  29. K Man says 15 September 2009 at 07:39

    FYI – A correction – store brands and “generics” shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Store brands are just that – a brand that is associated with the store, only found there and often slightly higher in quality/price than a generic which is an item with no “brand” associated with it and can be found at any store.

  30. TheOzz says 15 September 2009 at 07:42


    I was glad to see your related article on the Grocery Game. As with other commenters on that post I would say that you can save way more money (50%) with coupons as oppsed to generic products. Yes, it is more work, but in my experiecne you get what you pay fopr with many generic products. I am a food snob and I like my brands. I realize that some companies produce the generic products but if it does not say “manufactured by [some brand] for [some chain]” on the label then it probably is not.

  31. J says 15 September 2009 at 07:42

    Just a heads up that Listerine does not make a generic of their product – so the store brand is not the same – it could be fairly similar, but it does say on the Listerine bottle that they do not authorize generics.

    re: the Oatmeal question – I have had luck with generic containers of Oatmeal as long as you are only buying the unflavored plain quick oats. I noticed any of the flavored packets didn’t taste as good (although that could be Acme and not representative of other store brands).

    If anyone is near a Weis markets (PA stores) they have good generics because they have their own bakery and dairy – so breads, milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, etc are all good if you get the Weis Quality brand. I haven’t had a bad Weis product yet. However, I won’t deviate from Jif peanut butter or name brand cereals.

  32. Bri says 15 September 2009 at 07:44

    You may want to try Winco if there’s one close enough. I shop almost exclusively at Winco and am SHOCKED when I go to a “regular” grocery store like Albertsons, Safeway or Fred Meyer. For example, my husband really wanted string cheese the other day, so I stopped at Albertsons on the way home from work. A 24 pack of string cheese was $9.99! Same brand, same size at Winco? $4.25. If it’s an option for you and Kris, you may put Winco into the mix. (Their produce is sometimes hit or miss, but the garden and the farmer’s market easily remedy this deficiency).

  33. Marie says 15 September 2009 at 07:48

    We’ve found that generic versus brand becomes less of an issue as we try to eat healthier, because fresh food isn’t branded. There are less than 5 items I can immediately think of that I buy at the grocery store by brand name.

  34. ebyt says 15 September 2009 at 07:49

    I buy generics for some things, but I guess when I find something I like I tend to stick with it, so that’s why I buy a lot of name brand items too. I don’t really have much against the no name brand per se, though. I haven’t had many bad experiences with generic vs. brand name.

    I’ll keep this post in mind and look for more generic items on my next shopping trip. A lot of what I buy is fresh produce and meat anyway, so you don’t have too much selection in brands. I do find that with meats, often the “prime” brand chicken has way less fat, though.

  35. April says 15 September 2009 at 07:49

    @ Brenda, You can taste the difference between Quaker and the kroger generic. Not worth the savings.

    Also there is a huge difference in taste between Mt. Dew and the generic versions, so you have to stock pile when its on sale. I’ve seen Mt. Dew regularly for $5 a 12-pack and have managed to pick it up on sale for $2.50.

  36. Lesley says 15 September 2009 at 08:01

    I’ve been making the switch to generic as well, in large part because I’ve switched to a grocery store that does generic very, very well.

    I have actually had people comment on it, and while the wording is neutral there’s always a slightly negative tone to it. I guess there’s still a bit of a stigma, at least among my friends.

    Re: oatmeal: I buy the generic brand steel-cut oats and they are just the same. Can’t speak to the packaged flavoured stuff though.

  37. Amber says 15 September 2009 at 08:02

    Here’s a tip for making shopping at Fred Meyer easier if you find their set-up unintuitive. Type up a grocery list with all of the items you normally buy. Arrange it by aisle at Fred Meyer. When you are ready to go shopping, simply highlight the items you need to purchase in this trip. As you walk through the store, you’ll know exactly which aisles you need to go down and which you can skip (saves time!) and you won’t have any, “I missed the . I wonder where it is” type of moments.

    For generics, I generally buy a smaller quantity of the generic once to see if it is acceptable. I will only through it away if it is totally unacceptable. If it is just not preferable, we’ll use it up and then maybe go back to name-brand.

    I do think that almost ALL tastes are acquired so disliking something at the first taste does not mean it is inherently bad. Some people prefer Coke and others prefer Pepsi. Both are name brand. Does that make one bad? Or does it mean some people have acquired and prefer a taste for one over the other? How many people actually LIKED beer when they tasted it the first time? My kids spit out raw tomatoes the first few times they tasted them. Now they ask for them! Tastes are acquired. 🙂

  38. Lily says 15 September 2009 at 08:04

    “Many generics are actually manufactured by the name brand company – so you may even be getting a nearly identical product for much less when you buy the store brand.”
    True. I learnt that when my father had a greengrocery.

    I agree the situation is quite complex. I’ve been mainly shopping (here, in Italy) at Coop and Carrefour (French store chain). Coop is quite expensive as a rule, but their generics are wonderful quality. In all areas. On the other hand, Carrefour is quite cheap as a rule, but their brand products are generally hideous (food, and others). So I tend to go grocery-shopping at Carrefour, buy brand names and save much money nonetheless (though I miss Coop…)

  39. Brooke says 15 September 2009 at 08:09

    I use generic/store brand oatmeal all the time, and it’s fine. Tastes the same and much cheaper. I only buy the large containers of it, because I make my own granola with it. My kids will also eat it cooked in the microwave and add their own toppings, cinnamon, etc. Never any complaints.

    When I was in Las Vegas, the choices were Albertsons, Vons, Smiths (Kroger), and Walmart. Albertsons and Vons were consistently overpriced. I always shopped the sales at Smiths, including the store brand, and only occasionally shopped for groceries at Walmart.

    Now I live in Virginia and the closest grocery store is Bloom, which seems very expensive to me. Even store brand prices seem much higher. Luckily we can shop at the commissary and we have a Kroger that isn’t too far away as well.

  40. Brenda says 15 September 2009 at 08:15

    Thank you, J, April and Lesley (and Brooke!) for your comments on the oatmeal. I should have clarified: I don’t buy the flavored stuff (just the regular oatmeal…sometimes the 3 minute stuff and sometimes the stuff that takes longer to cook). I might try the generic steel-cut. Oats are oats, right?

    @April: I have to admit, one of my few non-frugal food weaknesses is Pepsi. I don’t like generic cola much (you’re right, there’s a big difference), although I *could* drink it. I do like you do, and wait til my soda of choice (Pepsi) goes on sale, and then I stock up. I also try to keep my drinking of it down as low as possible (it takes a few weeks to get through one 24-pack). I really should drink more water though, and far less sweet drinks.

  41. Beth says 15 September 2009 at 08:16

    I took a quick peak in my cupboard as I was making lunch and noticed I’ve got an interesting mix of brand names and generics. It really depends on the product.

    The grocery store where I shop has an in-house brand for organic food and green products, so I save a fair bit of money there.

  42. Diane says 15 September 2009 at 08:20

    Just want to mention that Fred Meyer’s loyalty program is pretty good – every quarter they send you coupons that spend like money on anything, depending on how much you spend. Also, some FM’s have gas stations, and spending something like $100 in a month will get you 10c/gallon discount. Here (Eugene) their regular price is the same as the cheapest gas in town, so the discount beats it.

    Also, different FM’s have different layouts – I like one much better than the other here.

  43. Erica Douglass says 15 September 2009 at 08:24

    For Heinz ketchup, Trader Joe’s organic tastes just as good, if not better, and does not have high-fructose corn syrup.

    Generic stuff really doesn’t work for me in most cases since I am gluten intolerant. I buy Trader Joe’s because they have a great list online of whether ALL of their products contain gluten.

    But I do buy non-perishable staples in bulk (toilet paper, Kleenex, aluminum foil, etc.)


  44. Steve says 15 September 2009 at 08:25

    I’m surprised at all the anti-generics comments.

    Yes, there are some products that aren’t as high quality. However, they usually have a 100% satisfaction policy for their store brands (at Fred Meyer at least) – if you buy one and don’t like it, take it in and they’ll give you the name brand product. So even if you don’t like it, you still save a bit!

    To the commenter who said generics use worse ingredients – unless you specifically know otherwise, the name brands have just as many chemicals and whatnot.

    I use the store brand oatmeal and I can’t tell any difference. However, like another commenter said, I only do that for the unflavored oatmeal. (I flavor mine with store brand brown sugar.)

    One product I have found that’s not as good is Fred Meyer canned beans. It seems to have half as many beans as the name brand. Of course if I was really trying to save money, I would be cooking my own beans from dried.

    Part of the reason name brands cost so much is because of the money they spend on advertising to subconsciously convince you that their products are higher quality. Part of it is sometimes also higher quality – but it’s possibly past the point of diminishing returns.

    Anyways, I buy generics whenever I can, except in a few specific situations: if I have tried that particular generic product personally and found it unacceptable; or if the name brand is on sale that week for less than the generic (which does happen sometimes, even without coupons.)

  45. Jesse says 15 September 2009 at 08:29

    Excellent idea and great post. My family have been buying generics since we started shopping 😉 In different areas, at different stores, there are certainly more selection of generics. Walmart’s Great Value brand it taking over their store. They have generics for about 80% of products they sell! They are usually a third of the cost and taste just the same, if not better in some cases. There are also places were bulk buying plus generics can save even more such as with cold cereal products.

  46. Dotty says 15 September 2009 at 08:32

    This was an interesting test. I’m wondering, though, did you examine the unit prices?

    Because sometimes an item can appear “cheaper” but it’s actually just smaller, regardless of whether it’s name brand or generic.

  47. Will says 15 September 2009 at 08:33

    Also, if you have a brand name product that you HAVE to stick with, check out It’s a website that sells brand name, non-perishable items at a significant discount from the grocery store. On top of that, all shipping is completely free.

    I promise I’m not advertising for them. My wife and I switched to them for all our non-perishable stuff, and we’re saving tens of dollars a week for the same brand name items.

    I believe the site was set up as a defense against exactly what this post says about store brands. Just another example where competition means a win for the consumer.

  48. Tiffany says 15 September 2009 at 08:40

    I have some personal insight to your location and Safeway to Fred Meyer comparison and I have a bet for you. I bet that the square footage given to food at FM is very close to the size of the Safeway. It only seems HUGE to you because you are including the space used for clothes, garden and household items (like sheets and paint). I go into the Safeway can can’t find anything, but I know where everything is in the FM. Give FM a few more trips and you will be able to find everything too.

  49. Anna says 15 September 2009 at 08:41

    The comments are so interesting! I couldn’t possibly respond to all of the ones I’d like to do.

    Here are my thoughts: Yes, some generics are the same as the brands. Tuna is another one- they sit in the warehouse until there’s an order, slap a label on it and ship it out.

    Yes, generic Mt Dew tastes HORRID.

    Yep- Safeway is much more expensive, in my experience. I shop at a Fred Meyer/Kroger affiliate, and I’d expect to see Oreos at $2.50 for shelf price. Often, they’re under $2 on sale.
    I happened to walk into a Safeway this week, and Oreos are over $4 for shelf price, and the “sale” price was still over $3!!!

    My philosophy is this: Buy generic first. If it tastes alright, stick with that. If not, buy name brand. If that’s what you’d like to use, only buy it on sale and stock up. I feed a family of 5 on $500 a month (which includes some household items- bad me) , so I think I’m getting decent savings.

  50. MoneyNing says 15 September 2009 at 08:50

    An annoying layout actually may be beneficial. A very well thought-out display of goods just means that you are able to browse the store and buy lots of stuff easily, which doesn’t save you money at all.

    You will get used to even the most annoying layout because if you always buy the same stuff, they will always be in the same place. You go in, get what you need and get out. When everything is displayed in an awkward way, you actually won’t end up buying every related item just because they seem good at the time, which in my opinion is better for our wallet.

  51. Todd says 15 September 2009 at 08:52

    One item that I will never buy generic: dry pasta.

    Every single time I buy off brand, like American Beauty, Creamette, Kroger, etc, I regret it.

    Pasta is so cheap anyway, no reason to be miserable eating it.

  52. Linear Girl says 15 September 2009 at 09:00

    Wherever you shop, whatever you buy, shop your values. Sometimes lowest price is the most important thing, but sometimes an increased price comes with an increased value. I’ve been shopping more at a small local grocery, despite the slightly higher prices, because they’re just barely holding on. I value their presence in my neighborhood and see the many elderly people able to walk there. The closest big store is about 2 miles away, nearest discount grocery about 6 miles. If this store closes many people will lose their independence and it matters to me that they don’t.

    I’m not suggesting that everyone here should share my values (not that I’d object, mind you), but just that you consider all the costs associated with your choices. Maybe you value local jobs, a tighter community, keeping your money in your local economy, increased competition and choices, or maybe you don’t or don’t think your grocery choices affect these things. Maybe you can’t afford my luxury of choice, or maybe all your local stores have already closed. It’s just that I forsee a dystopia of our only shopping choices being WalMart, HomeDepot and Costco, and if this admittedly somewhat paranoid vision comes to pass, I don’t see how my choices will be any less limited than they would have been in, for example, the Soviet Union in the 80s.

  53. urpwnd says 15 September 2009 at 09:16

    another good solution, for many families, is to fix your diet.

    stop eating processed foods entirely, and stick to the outside of the store. all the fresh food (vegetables and meat) are along the outside edge. Doing this alone will do a few things for you.

    1.) save you a ton of money
    2.) keep you from eating crap food
    3.) makes it easy to go to the grocery store, regardless of whatever stupid layout they use.

    then you only have to go down the aisles for a couple things, like spices and personal products.

    it also makes it super easy to find the best deals in town, because you are buying the raw ingredients, and comparing “apples to apples”.

  54. Nancy says 15 September 2009 at 09:16

    I live in the Seattle area and enjoyed this post–it was interesting to see Freddy’s and Safeway matched up like that. I switched from Safeway to FM a couple of years ago because little by little I started noticing price differences on many of the items I bought regularly. Your chart confirmed my decision. Certain items at Target and Fred Meyer are cheaper (or better) than at FM, too.

  55. J.D. says 15 September 2009 at 09:23

    The point about unit pricing is a good one. We had a guest post about unit pricing last year. But for this experiment, all package sizes were equivalent, which makes unit pricing moot.

  56. Donna says 15 September 2009 at 09:24

    We’ve always been a fan of store brands, especially Target, Kroger and now Safeway. I don’t have a Trader Joe’s near by or I would go get the ketchup everyone is raving about. Instead I’ll wait till we can get over to that neighborhood. For the most part, we use store brand canned stuff in recipes like casseroles and crock-pot dishes. Many times though we can get brand name cheaper with coupons when the items are on sale. That’s actually what my DH loves to do. He pours over the coupons and ads everyweek and usually ends up with a good amount of stuff super cheap. Last time he went he saved 47% on the bill. Plus he will go to 3 different stores to keep our weekly bill between $50-75 for the 3 of us.

    And, although, I would love to go organic or just plain super-healthy, we can’t due to our debt. We do go to a produce market and get as much fresh fruit and veggies that we can purchase on sale. I mean how can you pass up a $1.99 pineapple?

  57. Kate says 15 September 2009 at 09:35

    If anyone lives near a Wegmans (mostly in the northeastern part of the country), I suggest you try their store brands. My fiance and I used to only buy name brands, but we’ve found that all the Wegmans brand foods we’ve tried are excellent and much cheaper. In fact, I don’t think our favorite Blueberry Muffin Squares cereal even has a name brand counterpart 🙂

  58. Tyler@Frugally Green says 15 September 2009 at 09:44

    So now it’s down to the decision: Do I jump in the car to make the trip over to Fred Meyers or do I continue to just walk across the street to Safeway?

    One option is certainly more convenient, but the potential savings are enticing.

  59. MichaelM says 15 September 2009 at 09:56

    I’ll do generics for just about anything except Oreos.

    For oatmeal, we get whole rolled oats (I like the texture!) and I have never noticed a taste difference.

  60. LaDonna says 15 September 2009 at 09:56

    #1: We moved from the PNW to Cali a few years ago and, without a doubt, miss Freddie’s more than anything else. There’s no equivalent down here. You have to go to several stores to find all the stuff you can get there. I heart Fred Meyer.

    #2: I started a little mini-pricebook recently and was shocked to find that Safeway had nearly identical, if not higher, prices than Whole Foods! I would highly recommend that everyone challenge their assumptions, and perform their own ‘scientific’ research on neighborhood stores’ pricing.

  61. bethh says 15 September 2009 at 10:08

    As a former Portlander, I implore you to shop at Fred Meyer. I miss it sooooooo much.

    I hate Safeway if only for that blasted intrusive pain in the neck membership card. I boycott them as much as possible. (which is: very)

  62. reinkefj says 15 September 2009 at 10:14

    @amber if you don’t like it, I suggest bringing it back. Why should you treat the grocery store unlike every other store. I’ve started to do this. Once, when the cold cuts were disgusting. Looked OK; taste lousy. Next time, I bought SUGARED pepsi; mistaking it for caffeine free diet coke. (Yeah, I know blind and stupid.) Since I’ve retired again (unemployed?), I’ve become very picky!

  63. Financial Samurai says 15 September 2009 at 10:17

    The Walgreen’s mouth wash I bought for $1.5 just doesn’t taste the same as ACT though 🙂

  64. chacha1 says 15 September 2009 at 10:25

    I admire all of you who are willing to shop at three or four different places to get the best prices. Have to confess I don’t … between full time & part time jobs, I feel my time is so overcommitted anyway!

    This weekend I discovered I can get duck breast at Whole Foods for just over half the price that Bristol Farms charges. I was appalled. These are the only two local stores that carry it and I haven’t gone into Whole Foods before because 1) I assumed it would be even more expensive and 2) it’s annoying and inconvenient to get in and out of.

    Fortunately, my DH goes to WF often for his raw milk products, so now I can just ask him to pick up some duck once in a while, and I won’t ever need to go to BF again.

    One other thing … a lot of commenters have mentioned soda (I would include “sports drinks” and “tea drinks” in the category). This is zero-nutrition, high-cost, high-waste stuff and it’s well worth trying to break the habit. You might try “stepping down” by getting seltzer water (not club soda) with natural lime or lemon flavor … then plain seltzer … finally plain (tap) water.

  65. J.D. says 15 September 2009 at 10:27

    @Tyler (#58)
    Dude, I know roughly where you live. You have a Fred Meyer within about a mile of your house, right? I walk a mile to my Fred Meyer. You can, too! 🙂

    But you’re right: These sorts of decisions involve a variety of variables. Kris and I really would like to shop at the Thriftway in Canby, which is where we bought most of our groceries for a decade. But we don’t live in Canby anymore. Now it’s a 20-minute drive. That doesn’t make much sense. So we stick to the two stores within a mile of our house. We do try to squeeze in a couple of Thriftway trips each year, but they’re few and far between.

  66. Andrea says 15 September 2009 at 10:44

    I like buying generics or store brands whenever I can. I really dig the Market Basket/DeMoula’s brand of natural shells & cheese as a substitute for Annie’s Mac & Cheese, and their no salt added canned diced tomatoes are the best by the numbers, nutritionally, gustatorially, and economically.

    I do have many of the same issues as people have already expressed in terms of quality (taste, durability, etc.), but it’s especially true when it comes to the nutritional information. I’ve noticed that many generic/store brand items will often, but not always, contain significantly more fat and/or sodium (especially sodium, which irks me a lot), than name brands. Sometimes — again, not always — the ingredients listing in the store/generic products contains more additives and/or coloring than name brands.

    Sometimes you get what you pay for when it comes to less expensive brands. However, as is the way with items like the mac & cheese (no extra coloring or other weird preservatives and not high in sodium for a processed food), diced tomatoes, and even Target paper towels I like so much, I save money and get I you want. Just be sure to read the labels to see exactly what you’re getting for your money, brand name or not, when you’re checking the prices.

  67. Debbie M says 15 September 2009 at 11:01

    I would expand your steps into these:

    1. Waste less — Find ways to use any leftovers instead of throwing them in the garbage. Many can be mixed into soups, salads or pasta dishes.
    3. Eat less — Don’t overeat and don’t consume empty calories. (I could use a lot of work on this one!)
    4. Grow more of your own food — Focus on things that grow well in your area.
    5. Do more of your own processing — Do your own cooking if you eat out, cook more from scratch if you cook at home.
    6. Choose less expensive dishes — When choosing between dishes with similar levels of nutrition and satisfaction, choose the cheaper one. (For example, I choose spaghetti over lasagna at home, usually.) Try more new recipes with cheaper ingredients and fewer with more expensive ingredients.
    7. Use expensive ingredients as a treat instead of a regular thing or as a flavoring instead of a main dish. Substitute less expensive ingredients when they are just as nutritious and tasty.
    8. Comparison shop — Use a price book, check your sales and coupons, compare store brands, check the bulk section of the store, find the clearance section, and try farmer’s markets, ethnic grocers, warehouse stores, and online sellers. (Don’t forget to include the cost in time, gas, and frustration.)

  68. John says 15 September 2009 at 11:05

    My wife and I moved into an apartment complex right by an Aldi and we checked it out. All I can say is wow. We’ve had fantastic luck on all sorts of off-brand food and it’s made a big difference in our budget.

    We actually started keeping a blog and rating all the new foods we try out, so if you aren’t sure about a food, check first and see if we’ve tried it 🙂

  69. Matt says 15 September 2009 at 11:10

    Slightly off topic but if you really want to save money on shampoo you might want to try going without it.

    I fought with dry flaking scalp for seemingly my first 35 years of life. Then one day at a random barber shop the older Ukrainian-born owner suggested that my hair just didn’t need the shampoo. Just rinse and scrub by hand and that’s it.

    It’s now been about 4 years since then and I couldn’t be happier. No flaking, no problems, and saving money to boot!

    No, my hair isn’t greasy. No, my hair doesn’t stink.

    This trick might not work for everyone but if you are constantly fighting with dry flaking scalp give it a month or two and see what happens…

  70. Amber says 15 September 2009 at 11:16

    Re: the cheaper store being farther away

    I do infrequent trips to the cheaper store to stock up on staples and non-perishables. I go to the closer, more expensive store for perishables and anything I’ve missed during the larger trip. I’m not always getting the absolute best price, but I’ve found it to be a good compromise when considering the time and gas spent.

  71. Kim says 15 September 2009 at 11:20

    I got hooked on store brands when I found that kroger (Smith’s, Fred Meyer) brand tuna, just the basic light tuna in water, is so much better than either chicken of the sea or starkist! It’s flaky, and really “chunk light tuna” and not like crumbled up cat food.

    Our local Walmart will also match any local grocery specials, so we take the ads for all the stores with us, and get all the best deals in one fell swoop!

  72. Scott R. says 15 September 2009 at 11:33

    Just to offer a different opinion here… I don’t really think it’s “worth” skimping on your food sources. And I don’t mean “name brand” vs. “generic”, I mean buying the highly processed junk food you find in most of the Safeway and Fred Meyer aisles to begin with.

    Americans in general already spend a much lower percentage of their monthly income on food than other first-world citizens do, and a lot of that is absolute garbage like 100-calorie snack packs and “go-gurt”.

    Frugality is great, but we shouldn’t forget that good, wholesome, nutritious food is a “need”, not a “want”, and that it’s almost always “worth” putting better quality food in your body. Clip coupons, shop farmer’s markets, avoid “luxury” items, sure, but surely there are less important things to cut from a budget before quality food? I’d much rather eat locally-sourced produce and organic mac and cheese than anything made by Kraft or Frito-Lay, and if that means getting all my clothes at Goodwill and going without cable TV, I’m happy to do it.

  73. K.L. says 15 September 2009 at 11:55

    I grew up on cheap, off-brand ice cream. When I went off to college, I was introduced to Breyer’s. I WILL NEVER GO BACK. Dairy products, in my opinion, must be name brand. Store/generic brands are… UGH. Anything but Tillamook cheese makes me shudder.

    I live in the Portland area and prefer to shop at Fred Meyer. I can pick up needed household items at the same time, and their prices are definitely better than other grocery stores (save Winco, which I find annoying and time consuming to shop) in the area. I often buy store brand household items, however.

    I agree with Linear Girl re: shopping your values, however. I don’t care how cheap it is – I will not shop Walmart. I try to buy better quality items that won’t fall apart the first time you use them, and as for food, you are what you eat…not to mention their impact on local businesses, etc.

  74. elisabeth51 says 15 September 2009 at 12:25

    I read the Consumer Reports article, too, and had to wonder if my tastes would agree with theirs — taste really is individual…
    One thing about generics/store brands is that some stores have different levels, a “really inexpensive” level, a “comparable to national brands level,” and sometimes even a “specialty level” (terms I just made up…). Also, at least here in the midwest, there are store brand organics, and we’ve had great success with those, although we do buy a lot of our organic stuff from the local coop which also tries to source locally as much as possible, even for things like honey, jam, etc. …

  75. Etc says 15 September 2009 at 12:33

    I’m willing to bet that you will only buy non-name brand anti-dandruff shampoo once. It’s oddly gloopy.

  76. Charlotte says 15 September 2009 at 12:41

    I agree that most generics are about the same as brand names but you still have to be conscious of what you are buying.

    We like these generics:

    365 – Whole Food Market
    O Organics – Safeway
    Trader Joe’s
    Non – Food Paper towels, toilet paper, mouthwash, other toiletries
    Up – Target
    Trader Joe’s
    Some Fred Meyer non-food items are good and cheap!

    Bottom line – read the ingredients. For those of you loyal to heinz you should try Trader Joe’s organic ketchup. heinz is made of corn syrup!

  77. Charlotte says 15 September 2009 at 12:47


    I’ve never read about Trader Joe’s here. Do you ever go there? If not, you are missing A LOT. I’m curiouse to see if you guys shop there. If it is too far then at least give it a try and compare the quality and prices.


  78. Tracy says 15 September 2009 at 12:48

    I used to buy store brands all the time to save money – and it did help a lot.

    What I’ve found recentely, though, is that I can save even more money buy shopping sales and combining them with coupons. I’m frequently buying name brand products these days and still saving 30%-60% off of my total grocery bill.

    Store brands and generics are not always less expensive!

  79. meggan says 15 September 2009 at 12:52

    Fred Meyer and Safeway are our chain options for grocery stores in Anchorage. Fred Meyer is almost always significantly cheaper and the prices at Safeway tend to blow me away. Safeway meat, when you shop the loss leaders and sales, is always of a higher quality than Fred Meyer, and I buy grade B eggs there [repackaged Eggland’s Best and organic when one breaks.] Safeway is much closer to us, and we do our emergency shopping there, but I prefer Fred Meyer. Truly though, Costco tends to be cheaper overall with much higher quality, so for a family of 6, we buy most things there.
    It’s true that the store brands are not all equal: you have safeway, then safeway SELECT, and sometimes the quality is really different. I’m lucky enough to have the freedom these days to be picky. We haven’t always been that lucky. And yes, generic dandruff shampoo is extremely drying and kinda gross. Try the no-shampoo that guy mentioned. I’ve had success with it different times of the year.

  80. Chris says 15 September 2009 at 13:18

    I shop at two nearby grocery stores, usually rotating between the two.

    One store, Hen House, is local to this area, carries a lot of local foods including a brand of meats, milk, chickens, and eggs that are raised without non-therapeutic antibiotics or hormones. I know something about the farms that these products come from and I choose to use less but better quality animal products. Per pound they cost more but the way the animals are raised is important to me. The meat isn’t pumped up with water either. And it tastes better.

    The alternative week I shop at HyVee which has more generics and I buy more packaged goods there. They actually carry more organic canned goods and sometimes I make that choice. I’m not a purist but like to be mindful about the impact of my habits. By switching back and forth I balance economy with quality. When I was younger and poorer, I was more likely to focus only on cost and I understand some people have to do that.

    Another reason that I enjoy switching between the two stores – only about a mile apart – is that they have very different, but overlapping, clientelle and I like seeing a broader range of the city’s inhabitants.

  81. J.D. says 15 September 2009 at 13:31

    @Charlotte (#77)
    Kris and I love Trader Joe’s, and I’ve mentioned them a couple of times. I only eat two types of salsa: our homemade best salsa ever and Trader Joe’s salsa autentica. Yum. I also love their salty rosemary bread, their blueberry instant oatmeal, and more. The only drawback is that the nearest store is about 15 minutes away. Still, with my newfound love of biking and busing, I may try to make more trips to TJ’s.

    Today, though, I biked on errands around my house. One of those errands was a trip to Fred Meyer, where I purchased store-brand shampoo (the very shampoo listed above), store-brand raisin bran, store-brand garbage bags, and store-brand milk. (I wish I could have walked on my errands, as I have been doing, but I seem to have hurt my foot somehow. I’m limping around!)

  82. KAD says 15 September 2009 at 13:45

    On a totally different note:

    I almost didn’t read this article because the title was so generic! Ho-hum, I thought, I already know that store brands are cheaper. I only kept reading because *you* were writing, JD. Turns out you were testing that assumption, not just repeating it. I wish you had worked the “Test” aspect into the title!

  83. Monique says 15 September 2009 at 13:47

    I always at least try the no name brand but have not found the quality as good on some of the products.

  84. joe says 15 September 2009 at 14:11

    The bottom line: It all depends.

    In our area, we have a 99 cent store. Beats almost all ‘generic brands at big name stores.’ Many times the brand name items are there too!

    You might recall that during the depths of the recession panic earlier this year, there were TV commercials promoting brands in general. No specific brands, just to use brand-name products. It’s obvious why… when people want to cut back, the right way is to cut out unnecessary expenses.

  85. Sam says 15 September 2009 at 14:35

    I hate going to the grocery store, Mr. Sam does most of our shopping, but I am a big fan of the Publix generic products, all super yummy and most of the time you can’t tell the difference but there are not a whole lot of generic began products so we are limited in how much we can save on my veggie products.

  86. InsiderInformation says 15 September 2009 at 14:45
    It may be helpful to know a bit about the grocery industry in Portland:

    Safeway – traditional hi/low retailer, uses promotions to bring in shoppers and makes margin on high everyday prices. Usually makes 30-40% margin on everything they sell.

    Thriftway – traditional hi/low retailer, pricing comes directly from Safeway. These guys do have a middle-man, Unified Grocers, who places an upcharge on all products in order to make their money. These are locally-owned stores

    Wal-Mart – everyday low price (EDLP) retailer, uses all promotion money from consumer goods manufacturers and smoothes it out over the entire year so, while you won’t see hot promotions, you’ll get a price that reflects a portion of those savings everyday

    Fred Meyer – owned by Kroger, used to be traditional hi/low but is not moving to a hybrid strategy where some of their items are EDLP but some are still hi/low

    Winco – hybrid retailer, employee owned company (not publicly held) so each employee has a stake in the company’s success, these guys are growing fast so manufacturers are giving them extra money because they can really move product

    Albertsons – traditional hi/low retailer

    Costco – EDLP but you have to buy in large quantities to get the discount

    IMO, the best way to shop would be to cherry pick the best deals using the ads provided by the various grocery stores. As for the stuff that you need as it runs out such as PAM spray, flour, butter, deodorant, shampoo, etc., you should buy from Costco, Wal-Mart, or a hybrid retailer that has those items at an everyday low price. With produce and fresh meats/fish you can once again cherry pick the best deals but you’ll want to scout a store out before deciding to buy because one look at their butcher or fish counter will tell you how fresh, clean, and tasty their product will be.

    One last point. Promotions at retailers are funded almost exclusively by the manufacturers. This being the case, those manufacturers try to make sure the deals line up with coupon inserts in the Sunday paper. This means you’ll usually receive a valuable manufacturer’s coupon at about the same time the grocery store is running a promo on those items. Stacking the coupons on top of the promotion is key in maximizing your ability to cherry pick deals.

  87. Peggy says 15 September 2009 at 14:48

    We live overseas, moving from place to place on average every three years due to my job. We go back to the States in between, always to the east coast. I have to say that those trips back to the US put the largest dent in our pockets. While in the US, when possible, we shop at places like BJs (similar to Costco), and try to shop as little as possible. The less often I shop, the less I spend!

    Some things we’ve learned through living overseas. Wherever possible, get a store card and use it. Those points add up and mean savings or gifts.

    What we buy and where/when we buy it are driven sometimes by need, other times by a great bargain on things we like/trust being on sale or just being available (then we stock up).

    I am very ingredient conscious and very health conscious. How will ingredients in any product affect us not just now, but years down the road if we continue using it. Recent food news in Asia focused on tainted milk products which caused severe illness in children. These same ingredients are used in products around the world. It is always a challenge to find healthy local products, but we do our best.

    Currently we buy beef in the local market (imagine the work area of a US butcher) and prepare it ourselves. I invested in a Waring Pro meat grinder. This was a costly initial outlay, but I know exactly what is going into my ground beef. I also invested in a Zojirushi bread maker and a yogurt maker and now make all our bread and yogurt as local brands didn’t taste right, and I had concerns as to the origin of ingredients.

    For me, there are several issues that I take into consideration when shopping: how healthy is it, how does it taste, how well does it work for our family, how much does it cost. I try to find a good balance. I too, frequent Salvos stores, garage sales and flea markets. We don’t care so much about styles as quality and an item serving the purpose for which it is bought (shoes, for example, do they support the foot well? do clothes hold up? we have four sons and as they outgrew shirts/pants, they often passed them on to a sibling. Initially I may have spent more on the original purchase, but some items last six years, and then are recycled as rags!).

    Many times I do internet research seeking customer comments on items we buy. The GRS forum is also a great source of information and ideas! I ask locals for recommendations. We are frugal by necessity, but also by choice, and take those other aspects I mentioned into consideration when shopping.

  88. yourfinances101 says 15 September 2009 at 14:48

    Anybody unwilling to use generics at least for a short period of time in order to save money must not want to save money that bad.

    First, there is no real difference in taste. Second, any minimal differences can be gotten used to in only a matter of time.

    I made the switch to save money, and though I could easily afford to go back to brand name items, I have yet to because there is no reason to.

  89. Todd the QA Guy says 15 September 2009 at 14:49

    WARNING !!!!!

    Store brands, generics are not always about “it tastes the same” or “it is the same thing with a different label”…

    Brand names go to a very high level of safety and sanitation levels to make sure that they keep the risk to their brand name as low as they can.

    For instance, cinnamon is cinnamon, right? It all tastes the same, yes?

    …but cinnamon A, the more expensive, comes from a high quality source, and has a lower incidence of particulate matter.

    Cinnamon B comes from a cheap source, and is full of bug parts and rodent hair. But it all gets ground up so why worry, right?? Might still meet safety standards, but it was cheap for a reason !!

    The Name Brand would never use this for fear of damaging their reputation of wholesomeness if something like that were to come out.

    2. Name Brands, run their own facilities so they can keep strict control over the manufacturing process, the sanitation of the facility, the cleanliness of their employees.

    Store brands, or generics use “contracted facilities” where they send their packaging material and the privately owned manufacturer just fills the box and ships.
    Conditions at these type of facilities is typically “variable” to say the least. Hairnets, rodent control, infestation control, etc. is all left up to someone else.

    Is the .50 you save worth this? Not to me.

  90. Budgie says 15 September 2009 at 14:54

    Sometimes, the store brand is literally the same exact thing as the national brand. Remember the Peter Pan scare last year (It was last year, wasn’t it?)? They were recalling Peter Pan AND Wal-Mart store brand peanut butter. Obviously this was made by the same people, with the only difference (Besides price) being a different label slapped on each jar. One of my co-workers used to work in a food plant, and they would literally run generics and then national brands on the same line, and just use a different label.

  91. J.D. says 15 September 2009 at 15:12

    @KAD (#82)
    Titles are my weakest link. I feel like if I could create better titles (or headlines, if you prefer), I could get more attention for GRS out in the world at large.

    For this article, my original title was “Store Brand vs. Name Brand: How Much Can You Really Save?” I think that would have implied the testing aspect of the post. In the end, I opted to go with something more…I don’t know, sensational I guess. I feel like I need a class in headline writing! 🙂

  92. Diana says 15 September 2009 at 15:36

    Want to save even more money. In the east we have a grocery store called Aldi. They are all store brands, with occasional name brands. The prices are almost 30-50% of what you would pay even for many store brands in other places. They keep costs down by making you bag your own groceries and requiring $.25 deposit so you will return the cart to the corral. The store is small with great choices of different foods. It fast and easy to shop because you only have one brand of every item.

  93. Charlotte says 15 September 2009 at 15:53


    You can learn to write titles from my husband’s blog about green living:

    Titles Include:
    Soda is So 80s
    Microwave Unsafe
    Bridge to Somewhere
    Water Down the Drain
    Compact Fluorescent Lights – A Billiant Idea

  94. Marie says 15 September 2009 at 16:10

    I wish we had a Trader Joe’s. Everyone raves about it online.

    I’m always surprised when people say there’s no taste difference with generics. Maybe some people just aren’t that sensitive. Some things I can deal with crappier taste, like junky snacks I shouldn’t be eating anyway, but some things aren’t worth it. Like our local generic ketchup, which is so cut with vinegar that it gives me an acid stomach ache.

  95. Donna says 15 September 2009 at 16:10

    I agree with Scott that quality food matters, and not in the sense of generic versus store brand. I also found J.D.’s comment about “trusting” certain brands interesting. I think he meant that in the sense of “it’s familiar and we know we like it”, but it still made me think: why do we trust a lot of these brands/companies at all? It’s so disheartening to realize all of the harmful things that are put in our food.

    Still, I don’t make a lot of money, so I compromise on the food question: I buy the healthier foods whenever I can afford them, but when emergencies come up (for example, last month my dog needed surgery) I temporarily switch to the cheapest foods I can eat that are reasonably healthy– the key word being temporary. I’ve found it a great way to avoid/reduce tapping into my emergency fund.

  96. bjs1109 says 15 September 2009 at 16:47

    For all those saying if you combine a sale with coupons, it’s cheaper…..I’m constantly reminding the housemate to do the math. Many times even on sale, with a coupon, the store or non-national brand is cheaper. Always check. On sale is not automatically good price.

  97. hanna says 15 September 2009 at 16:54

    We shop a lot at Trader Joe’s and BJs; I feel like the local supermarkets (Hannaford, Stop & Shop) are outrageously priced — what I really don’t understand is the coupon thing.
    I’m happy to use BJs coupons when possible and I always look at them. Trader Joe’s doesn’t offer them (that I know of, but a lot of their prices are better anyway and have fewer ingredients).
    I can’t see how people pay 10 or 15% of their total bill by using coupons unless they’re buying processed foods. I do not buy those. I buy (GASP) fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, cheese, eggs, fish, meat. I buy things on sale and freeze them. I have been known to buy my kids Trader Joe’s brand cereal bars and pretzels. Given that this is how I shop, could I really cut my grocery budget by clipping coupons? I would really love to know. I should also add that if possible I prefer to be environment-friendly — shop local and locally grown foods and not produce tons of waste like extra plastic containers.

  98. cph says 15 September 2009 at 17:16

    The bottom line is we all have different tolerances. When I shop, I don’t see a point of cheaping out on “pleasure items” (soda, desserts, etc.), since the whole purpose of buying that item is to enjoy it. If I can’t afford the brand I like, I’ll cut it out until I can afford it. The same goes for condiments: the whole purpose is flavor. However lightly processed staples like oats, pasta, oil, vinegar, sugar, peanut butter etc. I always buy store brand.

    However, I think it would be a good experiment to buy *everything* store brand for a month, just to see what I really can tolerate. That’s the only way I can decide what does and and doesn’t work for me personally.

  99. Tyler says 15 September 2009 at 17:46

    Clearly the right choice to make when buying products to remain financially sound. Been buying generic OTC drugs and perishables for years. They are great!

  100. Katie says 15 September 2009 at 18:15

    Don’t know if someone said this already, but you can definitely save more $$$ by buying a lot of non-food items like shampoo, deodorant, shave gel, etc. AWAY from the supermarket. Stores like Target and Wal-Mart almost always have these things cheaper, even when they are not on sale. Pharmacies like Rite-Aid also have great deals, but generally only when there is an advertised special.

    Also, Target and Wal-Mart have good store versions of many of these products. I’ve heard supermarkets usually mark up toiletries as much as 40% PERCENT! Stick to just buying food there…

  101. Alice says 15 September 2009 at 18:18

    Store brands and generics are NOT the same thing.

    It’s my understanding that a store brand is usually a name brand, just marketed under the store’s name for less. I see no difference at all in quality between store brand foods and name brands, although if the store brand is actually name brand X and you are used to name brand Y, the taste may be different.

    Generics are not name brands. I find their quality often quite inferior.

    I buy store brands all the time, and I’m sure I save a lot of money by doing so. Frankly, name brand loyalty makes no sense to me. I’m much more careful about buying generics. I think some generics are so much less tasty than store brand equivalents that buying them is not a bargain worth making.

    There is one big store where I won’t buy the store brand. I don’t trust their quality control, and I’m not willing to risk that I’m getting contaminated food from China. So I rarely buy groceries there, and when I do, I buy name brands, so it winds up costing me more than the store brands at my local grocery.

    Of course, the real way to save money is to cook from scratch, using as much unprocessed food as you can.

  102. harm says 15 September 2009 at 18:34

    Try generic salt…NaCl is NaCl, no matter how you slice it. (My Mom had some trouble with the packaging,
    the little spouts would sometimes break off, but I’ve never had that happen.) Also, I’d advise against
    antibacterial soap. It’s FAR more expensive than just
    plain, and ecologically questionable. We don’t need more super-bacteria…..

  103. Jenzer says 15 September 2009 at 19:14

    I second Andrea’s suggestion (#66) to check out the nutrition information and ingredient lists when comparing store brand versus name brand (and when comparing one store brand to another store brand). For example, our local grocery’s store brand tomato soup has more calories per serving than Campbell’s. Their store brand canned kidney beans contain high-fructose corn syrup, while organic name brands (like Eden) don’t. Several years ago, I bought canned tuna at Aldi and found it included texturized vegetable protein, rather than just tuna and water.

    Re: urpwnd’s suggestion (#53) to shop the outside edge of the grocery store … it’s possible to do that and still come away with a pile of “crap food” (donuts, fried chicken, slice and bake cookie dough, cheesecake bars, french onion dip). I prefer to focus on foods with a short list of ingredients, which still snags me the fresh produce and unprocessed meats from the perimeter, but it also gets me the oatmeal, brown rice, raisins, dry beans, frozen vegetables, and unsweetened seltzer water from the center aisles.

  104. Karen says 15 September 2009 at 19:56

    You should recycle your shampoo bottle.

  105. Janette says 15 September 2009 at 20:03

    I can give up alot- but NOT my Charmin! After years of overseas toilet paper I will search high and low for the best deals of Charmin and buy it in bulk!

  106. David@DINKS Finance says 15 September 2009 at 21:31

    Even if you can’t switch over for everything (I’m loyal to a few brands, such as Mountain Dew and Cherry Coke and wouldn’t imagine drinking store-brand soda) try switching over for just ten items. Work your way up. The dollars you save you can invest and imagine the gains in 20 years!

    Even small savings can turn into big investments.

  107. Scott Simmons says 15 September 2009 at 21:45

    @Jeff #19: “The biggest mistake I ever made with generics was when I decided to get the store brand equivalent of Cheerios, which were about half the price. They tasted fine to me, but my 18-month-old (by far the biggest consumer of Cheerios in our house) would spit them out whenever I tried to give them to him, even when I mixed them in with real Cheerios.”
    Children are never happy about change. The trick is to buy the store-brand stuff from the day the stork drops the little buggers on your doorstep. If what they’re used to is the inexpensive store-brand, then they spit out the name-brand stuff because it ‘tastes funny’. 🙂

  108. allen says 15 September 2009 at 21:52

    My ONLY issue/concern when we start to talk about things like this is, “What about those of us who are already doing this?” It’s the same thing with tips on cutting your cable, or downgrading your cell plan, &c. Some of us have been doing these things for YEARS, just to make ends meet, and there’s no more fat to be trimmed, at least from the low hanging fruit.

    That being said, I must admit I’m surprised that your family isn’t already using Generics, JD! Think of all the extra comics you could buy with that money! 😉

  109. Stu says 15 September 2009 at 23:50

    JD, I think you should give Fred Mayer a definite go, over a few weeks so you can get used to it. I’ve noticed a pattern in your dealings with money, where you’ll acknowledge that something makes a lot more sense than what you’re currently doing… but you don’t want to try changing, so you justify why you should stay the same and say “I’m okay with it costing me more”. From the order you paid off your credit cards to not doing research before buying your mini to many other little examples, sometimes you really don’t like to get out of your comfort zone.

  110. Lily says 16 September 2009 at 05:01

    Generics: sometimes the no-brand stuff is produced locally, tastes nice and is made with good ingredients. You just have to read the labels to spot the good generics.

  111. poorcollegestudent says 16 September 2009 at 05:26

    this is all fine and dandy, but when you already are buying mostly generics it’s hard to save anything more. i have found that buy name brands has saved me more money more times than not. i watch when things go on sale and use coupons. i normally pay less for name brand item than the generic cost anyway. there are very few staples that i purchase as name brands when they are not on sale and/or i do not have a coupon. generics rarely have coupons and sales are not often that great in magnitude compared to name brands. so all that said, cutting your grocery bill in half is hard to do when you are already buying generics and name brands on sale/w coupons.

  112. prufock says 16 September 2009 at 05:33

    @Todd the Q&A Guy:
    Do you have a citation for these claims about the quality control differences between generics and name brands? I’d like to see a reliable source before taking this at face value.

  113. Amber says 16 September 2009 at 06:05

    @Alice – Your comments don’t make any sense.

    First you say,
    “It’s my understanding that a store brand is usually a name brand, just marketed under the store’s name for less. I see no difference at all in quality between store brand foods and name brands”

    And then you proceed to not trust a specific store brand.

    “There is one big store where I won’t buy the store brand. I don’t trust their quality control, and I’m not willing to risk that I’m getting contaminated food from China.”

    If the store brand is just a name brand in a different box, then how is the store brand riskier?

  114. Joshua Shear says 16 September 2009 at 07:41

    Really? It took you doing an in-depth study of the prices to figure out Safeway is overpriced and generics are a good deal? Have you heard of Wal-Mart? Glad you came to your senses though, good luck with the switch.

  115. Don says 16 September 2009 at 07:41

    I wonder at all the comments stating that store brands taste so different that they just aren’t worth it. Frankly, I’m reminded of this Wired article that the placebo response has doubled in the last few decades:

    Are you absolutely sure that taste is significantly different? Placebo effect is very real. Some products are different, but we are also conditioned by advertising to perceive more difference than there is.

    Even if prices are different, that doesn’t rule out a store brand of course. The question is not really about which product is better in an absolute sense. The question is, is the more expensive product enough better to garner my hard earned cash?

    I can’t recommend too much keeping a shopping book. Our local choices are Walmart, Aldi, and Hy Vee. I know a lot of people who swear by all of them, but I shopped my shopping list at all of the stores and put them in a spreadsheet (making sure to compare sizes so the comparison was fair). Almost all of my items were equal or cheaper at Walmart, and I know what few select items to pick up at Hy Vee or Aldi. I also know what sale prices to wait for on frivolous purchases like soda.

    So I do my day-to-day shopping at Walmart, but make quick runs to Hy Vee (which is closer) when in a hurry. I always grab those few items that are cheaper when I’m in, no matter what is on my list.

  116. Mushroom104 says 16 September 2009 at 07:55

    This is a response to Brenda. I agree with you completely. I have tried Harris Teeter oatmeal and I could tell the difference. The savings wasn’t worth it to me. I’d rather just save by buying my Quaker in bulk at Costco. But for the majority of things I find the generic or store brand to be on par with the name brands. Cereal is hit or miss. I can’t tell a difference between Harris Teeter frosted mini-wheats and Kellogg’s.

    You just have to experiment with the generics. Try it once and if you aren’t satisfied you’ll know not to do that again.

    I also use the plastic grocery bags for trash bags. Another thing I can add for those of you with small dogs, this is kind of gross so be warned, I store my used ziplock sandwich bags in a drawer and use them to pick up dog poop before I throw them away. I think that washing them out is a ridiculous way to reuse them. This allows me to use them twice before throwing them out without involving soap and drying time.

    A few things I would add to the dollar store list would be hand sanitizers and hand and bath soaps.

  117. Jill says 16 September 2009 at 08:01

    Target has some very good products under their Archer Farms store brand. Their ingredient lists are short and pronouncable, their prices are better than comprable premium goods, and their bronze cut whole wheat pasta is the only whole wheat pasta I’ve had that I actually enjoyed eating. (though their potato crisps aren’y nearly as good as Baked Lays)

    For Southeastern readers, a couple times a year, Publix runs promotions where if you buy the national brand of something, they’ll give you the same size of their house brand for free. Good way to test out the waters on their house brands, and we give high marks to their premium ice cream (still two quarts and a $1 less a carton price than Breyers’ 1.5 quart cartons) not from concentrate orange juice (still 100% from Florida and spouse swears it tastes better than Tropicana) goat cheese, Greenwise ketchup, raisins, and parchment paper, among other things.

  118. Bill Nalen says 16 September 2009 at 08:32

    This is the reason I created a PriceBook app for my iPhone 🙂 I know iPhones are not generally considered frugal, so I try hard to get as much savings out of mine as I can.

    (shameless and hopefully useful plug)

  119. m says 16 September 2009 at 08:36

    for UK readers Lidles a discount store has the most fantastic bargains in fruit and veg as well as canned items. Bread flour is nearly half the price of other supermakets.

  120. Kevin@OutOfYourRut says 16 September 2009 at 11:02

    Jill (117)–We scoped out a new Super Target in our area over the weekend, and they are the best on some prices (eggs most notably). On some items they were out in orbit. We were very disappointed at the meat counter.

    The problem is that each chain has the best prices on one thing or another, and it can get expensive just trying to get the best deals where they are (gasoline costs!). We try to keep it to 2-3 stores, Publix being one. They’re also very good on coupons.

  121. Karen says 16 September 2009 at 11:06

    I have also discovered that Safeway is the most expensive grocery store near my house. Unfortunately, it’s the only one that’s walkable for this one-car family.

  122. EscapeVelocity says 16 September 2009 at 11:31

    You know, if you have frugal friends, you could put together a blind taste testing of some of these products for a party sometime. Maybe have each person shop for one category of product and bring in a national brand, a few store brands, and generic if available.

  123. Sarah says 16 September 2009 at 12:29

    I have found that some store brands taste great and are less expensive. However, after being enlightened to the unhealthy effects of high fructose corn syrup, I have found that a lot of the store brands have HFCS. It is a lot cheaper to use HFCS than regular sugar. So, in some instances you are saving money, but in the long run is it really worth the price? I buy organic whenever possible and avoid HFCS. This causes my grocery bill to be considerably higher than I would like. However, I believe it’s worth it because it’s healthier for my family.

  124. Andrea H says 16 September 2009 at 12:58

    I find that with my couponing I can get name brand items for cheaper then the generic. I follow the cheapest route so what ever I need for the cheapest price I can get it works for me.
    A little effort makes it all worth it. I went to Target last week and spent $1.40 for $65 worth of items. Couldn’t do that if I relied on using cheaper generics.

  125. wolfgirl says 16 September 2009 at 14:40

    I guess coupons savemoeny if you use the products. I use almost nothing that I see coupons for

  126. Judy says 17 September 2009 at 03:40

    I shop store brands quite a bit, but I also have a very busy schedule and like to keep my list to a minium. I’ve found, which is great especally for those who like brand name products. It won’t keep you out of the store, but it certainly cuts down your shopping list. Shipping is free and the prices are great. They also automaticly use any coupons that are available and remind you of when things are getting low.

  127. Cyllya says 17 September 2009 at 09:39

    I always considered Safeway a rich people’s grocery store (more accurately, expensive lifestyle grocery store). I don’t know if it still does, but their advertising used to reflect this. Their selling points were friendlier, more helpful staff and fresher, more uniform produce, not low prices. Frugal people aren’t their target audience.

    Everyone should try the store brands of everything, since even if someone else notices a difference, you may not. Someone else had a problem with Wal-Mart soda and flavored instant oatmeal, but I think those are great. I was thrilled when I finally found a Sam’s Choice cherry cola.

    The only name brand groceries I prefer are Taco Bell refried beans, Kraft cheese slices (very important!), Always maxis, any high-end toilet paper.

    I think I need to do some more comparisons with plastic food storage bags. I think I’ve had more problems with Great Value’s than with Ziploc or Glad.

  128. Lesley says 18 September 2009 at 09:45

    Had to throw in another endorsement for the Grocery Game. I use their stockpiling strategies, with a freezer and a shelf in my garage.

    Since I started Grocery Game in February, I figure that I’ve saved more than 50 percent on groceries, cleaning products, and health and beauty (excluding prescription drugs).

    At first, it was way too time-consuming. I clipped every coupon every weekend and filed them away. Now, I simply don’t have time for that. So I file the coupon inserts into a binder by date. On the Grocery Game lists each week, it tells you what date the coupon was in the paper, so I just pull out the one insert and clip the one coupon.

    Instead of shopping for 1 hour each week, a trip takes about 1.5 hours (extra time for printing lists and clipping coupons). But the big benefits are:
    – huge savings (50 percent or more)
    – almost all high-quality and brand-name groceries
    – incredible meat deals that I never paid attention to before (the web site tells you what % off and when something is actually a good deal – not just an advertising come-on)
    – more variety in our diets, since I shop for sale prices
    – we never run out of something to eat, since I stock up on staples and meats at low prices

    Just my two cents …

  129. Sara says 19 September 2009 at 07:41

    I am open to buying store brands of many items, but I have found that it is often cheaper to buy name brands on sale and/or with coupons. The trade-off is that it takes more time and effort.

    I used to live in an area that had Safeway stores, and I recall that Safeway had great sales (I’ve never shopped at Fred Meyer, so I don’t know about them). If you pay attention to the sales, you’ll learn what goes on sale and how often, so you can stock up enough that you rarely have to buy things at full price. In that case, it can actually be cheaper to shop at a store with higher everyday prices but better sales. And if you live near more than one store, you can hit the best sales at both but buy the non-sale items at the store with lower prices.

  130. katiya says 20 September 2009 at 01:07

    I think everyone has covered everything just about. I’m in Seattle and live 5 minutes walking distance to Fred Meyer. I usually shop Fred’s unless its my once a month Trader Joe trip. It’s just me and my husband and I think Wal-Mart is too far but Target is 10 minutes down the road. I’ve found Fred’s is pretty close in price to Target (on Tolietries) so most of the time I avoid Target as well. I shop the perimeter of the store being vegan but my husband still has his favourites in the dairy aisle as he dislikes soy milk still. I don’t use most disposable products like plastic bags, paper towels etc so I save money there and don’t use shampoo much as I wash my hair once every week and a half or so. If I have tried it and can live without it then I do. Certain hand soaps and body washes have the exact same ingredients as well so no need to duplicate there. I use Fred Meyer natural peanut butter and eat as little processed crap food as possible.

    I find Fred’s cheaper than Safeway, Alberstsons, Whole Foods, PCC etc. I rarely use coupons since eating this way eliminates what coupons are available but my grocery bill is about $30-40 a week anyhow and sometimes less. When you eat well and exercise you don’t have cravings for junk since your blood sugar is fairly stable.

    I think if one wants to reduce your grocery bill trying the store brand is good with non edibles and then comparing ingredients against name brands for foods and then trying those out by trial and error.

  131. Rick in Northville says 23 September 2009 at 21:29

    We live just outside Detroit, and have many stores to pick from, Meijer Thrifty Acres that I use the most. Also, just across the road a Costco. Their Kirkland Signature brand is very good for most things. They also have an excellent bakery, if you can use the large quantities. 2 miles down the road is Kroger’s. We both drink cola all day. Usually we find Pepsi 2-liters for $.99 or Kroger will have it every now and then for I forget the price structure it winds up $.74/2-liter. I always stock up when they do. I find Kroger bakery not very good, but dairy items, sour cream, dips ok. I use Hunt’s or Red Gold instead of Heinz ketchup (after I learned that John Kerry (who served in Viet-nam) makes money on every bottle.) Like many have said a small garden works wonders for flavor on tomatoes, peppers, zuccini, green beans during the summer and fall. I also make big pots of spaghetti sauce and chili while things are in season and freeze them for the rest of the year. Costco paper towels are a very good buy( bigger and more sheets per $.) but the T.P. is very flimsy. I bought it after reading Consumer Reports article saying that it disintegrates better in a septic system, much cheaper but very flimsy, you have to use more. I also used to always make my trips to a different store on my way home from work and just getting the things that each store had on sale each week then hitting a different store on a different day. Noe retired I can usually hit 2-3 store on one day and getting sale items in each one using coupons to double savings. And I hit a low cost fruit market , Randazzo’s.about every 10 days 2-weeks.

  132. Michele says 03 October 2009 at 17:14

    We have created a free grocery price book website that helps users track grocery unit prices paid by item and also shows which items have increased in unit price and units purchased. Among the features of the website are:

    1). A grocery list that shows the lowest unit price paid to facilitate comparison between the current store unit price and previous unit prices paid. Very helpful at the store!

    2). Analysis on spending trends to provide a list of grocery items where unit prices have increased and total units purchased have increased, among other areas. Helpful at home for figuring out where to cut costs and why the bill is increasing.

    3). Item detail and trend analysis for additional detail.

    The site is

    Please let us know what you think!

  133. Heather says 04 October 2009 at 16:30

    Safeway is horrible, I try to stay away from there as much as possible. I can’t believe how high their prices are, and if they do have a sale, the different restrictions (have the club card, a minimum amount spent or 3 of items purchased) are ridiculous.
    However, I love Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand and Target’s store brand as well. Whole Foods 365 is great, too (esp. the peanut butter).
    I def. concur about Trader Joe’s ketchup- that’s all I buy now and it tastes great! Anything Trader Joe’s is good; the Jo Joes (their Oreo’s)and their granolas are excellent!

  134. Big AL says 08 October 2009 at 00:08

    i tri shop…yes TRI… I shop at 3 stores… each store has generics I value and brand name products I value that are cheaper vs the other 2 stores….i have my trusty little PDA and keep track of what i like to buy where (its mostly in my head after doing it so many times)…. so i get the best products at the best prices…generic or not… i mostly use generic though… and since many large cities have 2-3 types of stores all in similar areas (or one on the way to work…one on the way to your gym or whatever make it so you dont make single trips to each store unless they are on the way to something else)… use the weekly ads as well to see if anything is super cheap at one store (compare to your price notebook if you arent sure whats a good or great price)….

  135. TheRoosterChick says 12 October 2009 at 09:44

    We definitely try store/generic brands. Although I find some things I just prefer to buy the name brand, most of the time you cant tell any difference.

  136. Anonymous says 29 March 2010 at 18:17

    Really interesting read! I also read about this process called “gleaning” Has anyone else tried this, and been successful at keeping grocery expenses at a minimum?

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