Here at Casual Kitchen we are always seeking painless ways to save money. And one of the most painless of all is to drop higher-priced branded products in favor of store-brand products.
It's may not true for every product, but there is a surprisingly broad range of products out there where the store brand or generic product is equivalent--or even superior--to the branded product. And of course in almost every instance, that unbranded product often sells at an enormous discount.
And thanks to the "miracle" of outsourced manufacturing, which many food companies use with reckless abandon (see my popular post The Do-Nothing Brand to see what I mean) you'll find many instances where both the branded and store-brand products are produced at the very same production facility. In these cases, the branded and unbranded product are essentially identical... uh, except for a fancy label and a 20-100% higher price.
Obviously in cases like these, an empowered consumer should drop the higher-priced branded product and run screaming from the store. Listen: if there's one iron-clad money-saving lesson I can offer readers, it's that habituated buying patterns of branded products needlessly separates you from your money.
If you are a flexible buyer, and you don't have an attachment to brands (or worse, an attachment to the status you think you get from buying certain brands), there's no easier way to save money. Heck, you hardly even have to move--after all, the lower priced product is usually right there within a few inches of your regular product.
Okay. This anti-brand philosophy makes tons of sense, but with what types of products does it really work?
Well, that's where you come in, my dear readers. What I'd like to with this post is identify a list of products where:
a) the store-brand products are worth trying, and
b) where there's equivalent or better value available to consumers if they ditch the branded product.
One quick final word: there is no accounting for taste. If you have a favorite branded pasta sauce or favorite brand of canned mushrooms and are happy paying a meaningful price premium for this product, by all means continue to do so. Opinions differ, and that's okay. (After all, you'll never catch me buying generic dark chocolate). The goal here is simply to identify ideas for other readers to save easy money--if they want to--by trying a much cheaper version of products that we aren't all that particular about. This way, we can all find easy and obvious savings on our grocery bills.
With that, here are some of the products where the store brand product, in CK's view, is equal (or even better) than the branded product. Below that, I have a list of products where I've found going generic has not worked well for us.
Where Going Generic Works:
Almost all types of canned beans
Canned vegetables, tomatoes, canned fruits
Canned stewed tomatoes
Tomato paste, tomato sauce, other processed tomato products
Some canned specialty foods: artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, etc.
Commodity juices, like apple, grape and grapefruit juices
Commodity oils, excluding olive oil
Some dairy products: cottage cheese, packaged cheddar cheese, etc.
Some commodity cleaning products: Bleach, liquid handwashing soap, sponges
Pain-relievers, aspirin, over-the-counter meds
Where Going Generic Doesn't Work:
Cleaning products: window cleaners, dish detergents, etc.
Branded ice cream
Certain cookies and candy
As you can see, our list of products where we are particular about the specific brand we buy is a lot shorter than the list of products where we don't care. That, to me, is the definition of a flexible, empowered consumer. What's your take?
Readers, now it's your turn: how do you think about this issue? And when do you buy generic, and when do you find more value sticking with a higher priced branded product? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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