Buying Generic… Sometimes

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My wife and I were in Costco recently and came across the big tubs of laundry detergent. I moved instinctively towards the store-brand Kirkland, but then I got The Look. “Umm… no. We are going to spend the extra 4 bucks and buy the Tide.” Tip for the soon to be married – pick your battles wisely ;). 4 bucks is not worth it. We got the name-brand Bounce dryer sheets too. (Why we even need dryer sheets at all is beyond me)

This came to mind today as I was flipping through a free trial issue of Consumer Reports magazine I received. They compared 24 laundry detergents, and guess which was a CR Best Buy and beat out Tide? Yep, Kirkland Signature. Which got me to thinking, what products are we okay with ‘going generic’ with, and which are we not? Any why? It’s actually pretty funny, and doesn’t really make much sense at times.

Acceptable Generics

  • Drugs. Why there are so many different brand names for Ibuprofen astounds me. Yes, Advil, Motrin, and Nuprin may have nice ads and pretty boxes, but who the heck cares? As long as the active ingredients and amounts are the same, it doesn’t matter. We also buy generics for Tylenol (Acetominophen), Benadryl (Diphenhydramimine), and Nyquil (Combo of stuff). Ask any doctor, it’s all the same, just get over it so the placebo effect doesn’t cost you money.
  • Eggs. Umm… it’s eggs? Although the organic stuff does taste better.
  • Aluminum Foil, Sandwich Bags, Paper plates, etc. It’s all disposable anyways, even if there is a slight difference in quality. If you like thick foil just buy the ‘heavy duty’ generic version.
  • Staples like sugar and flour. I just have a hard time believing there is much of a difference.
  • Apple Juice. For some reason apple juice always tastes good, no matter the brand?
  • Peanut Butter. I think JIF smells better, but they taste about the same.
  • Cannied Veggies like Corn. Again, there may be some quality difference, but I can’t tell.

Close Calls

  • Pasta. I swear I can’t tell the difference between Safeway pasta and Barilla or whatever. She likes the pretty boxes. Recently, one of the other cheaper brands (I forget the name) started packaging their pasta in boxes too. Of course now we can buy that brand. Yay.
  • Cereal. Sometimes we argue over Rice Crispies vs. Bob’s Crisped Rice, or Cheerios vs. Oat-E-Os or whatever. I do like having actual boxes though instead of just bags.
  • Fruit Cocktail. You know the stuff in the cans. Ever wonder why there is only like 1 cherry in the whole can? The proportions of each fruit in fruit cocktail is government-mandated [pdf]! But the wife swears each fruit piece is still smaller and/or of lesser quality in the generic version. Maybe, but… so?

Unacceptable Generics

  • Orange Juice – For some reason, many cheaper brands of OJ (like Safeway) taste really bad, more bitter. I usually just buy whatever is on sale between Minute Maid and Tropicana.
  • Toilet Paper – I am sorry but that cheap Scott brand stuff from Costco is utter crap. We love the Charmin or Charmin Ultra. It’s thicker so you use less anyways.
  • Pop Tarts – This is just me. I don’t like generic Pop-Tarts, or at least the ones I’ve tried.
  • Coffee. She’s gotta have the Macadamia Nut White Chocolate Kona Blend. At least it’s cheaper than going to Starbucks.

For all the frugalites out there, I know that sometimes brand names cost less after coupons or whatever, this is more of an overall fun comparison. Again, I’m fully aware much of our reasoning doesn’t make sense and even conflicts at times. But I bet we aren’t the only people who think like this. Am I right?

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  1. Empty Spaces says

    I totally agree with you on all counts. One thing I still haven’t figured out is batteries. Do some brands last longer than others? I just buy the cheapest ones

  2. I have shopped at Sam’s Club in a couple of different states over the last 6 years. I liked the 1200 minute phone cards which at the time was cheaper the long run than having long distance on the regular phone bill.

    My other likes Tide as well, but we found that one would usually pay more on a per ounce basis at Sam’s Club over waiting for a sale at Wal-Mart. In addition, the smaller container is easier to lug in a laundry basket as opposed to this 40lb monstrosity.

    I have also noted that at Sam’s Club, milk and eggs are usually cheaper than the local Wal-Mart grocery stores, the 3lb roast chicken is a great bargain, and the meat is cheaper than the grocery stores, even compared to Wal-Mart.

    If you buy much of something, make sure to check the unit prices between a Wal-Mart and the Sam’s Club. There may be a meaningful difference.

    Always comparison shop the bigger versus smaller packages. I have not checked for sometime, but I have noticed at one time the disposable razor packages at Wal-Mart work out to a different per unit price regardless of brand. Take a cheap pocket calculator and compare the unit price before merely assuming that the bigger package is cheaper.

    Vitamin supplements: I make sure to always hit the buy one get one free sale at Wal-greens or CVS Pharmacy for Vitam in C, CoEnzQ10, E, multi-vitamin. I have some faith the product sold at a major retail pharmacy has what is says it does even though I’m sure others would argue that this one brand is better than another.

  3. When it comes to food and staples like detergent, I always go with generics, except in cases where another product is clearly marked as hypoallergenic or has some redeeming health benefit that’s clearly not in the generic brand. I’m surprised that you didn’t bring up more expensive items though, like cars, computers, clothes, etc. For those three, I would almost never substitute the truly cheap things.

  4. Forida’s Natural OJ is also a really good brand name.

  5. I get that LOOK too, but it is when I try to buy the branded one! (and a comment: “seems like YOU are rich but WE are not”) I have realised that buying even more generics ( Like the GV great value products) from Walmart is even better. Do you care if your bathroom cleaner, carpet cleaner , pesticide , sugar is branded ? Anyway I guess if you are careful about the small expenses, you will be doing the due diligence about the bigger expenses.

  6. Dryer sheets: to prevent static buildup.

  7. You forgot the mother of all products: cola. Recently my grocer started making 2 generic colas, one that tastes just like Pepsi and comes in a blue can, and another one that tastes like Coke in a red can. Awesome.

  8. About dryer sheets and fabric softner: I’ve heard it said that if you put in a little bit of baking soda with your detergent, your clothes come out a lot softer and smell a lot fresher after they’ve been dried. I’ve also heard it said that a little bit of vinegar in with your whites makes them softer and whiter without bleach. Maybe you could do an internet search for secret housekeeping tips. I’d love to see the results. Like yourself, I don’t trust the miracles promised by brand names. I think their designed to capitalize off of our ignorance.

  9. Batteries – I think there is a difference. The question is price vs. battery life, eh?

    Dryer sheets – I did not use them at all for 4 years in college. I saw a little static maybe, but I didn’t have socks sticking to my backside or anything… Maybe it’s regional.

    Cola – If they make Diet Cherry Generic Coke that tastes okay, I’m totally in!

    Fabric Softener – What is that stuff anyways, some weird chemical? I knew somebody who couldn’t do laundry without it. Our families both never used it, so neither do we.

    Cars, Clothes – Well, I think these are a different story. I think there is a difference in quality, but the question is just if they are worth the extra price difference.

  10. If you’ve ever taken a marketing course you find out the ways companies use marketing to ‘BRAND’ you. The techniques are subtle but very effective. I had an old girl friend who worked for the master of marketing – Proctor & Gamble. She convinced me that there is a lot of research that goes into products like ERA, Tide, etc. But how much are you going to pay for that extra 20%. Generics prove the 80/20 rule of life.

  11. I found your comments amusing and very true. My wife and I sometimes have very different opinions when it comes to buying generic. For me soda, catsup, mayonaise, orange juice, cold cereal, bread, ice cream, and batteries must be name brand. For her its tooth paste, most clothing items, beauty products, and most over the counter medications. We both agree that generic is best for paper and foil products, frozen vegetables, fruit juice, baking products, bacon, butter, and margerine. I used to favor only brand name for bottled tomatoe sauce but soon realized that even the cheapest generic can be doctored up to taste pretty good.

  12. That spec sheet for the fruit cocktail is pretty funny! The things our taxes pay to regulate…

  13. I subscribe to the theory that dryer sheets experience exponential decay. I used to sort my dryer sheets by the number of times they’d been used; I considered two once-used sheets equivalent to 1 new sheet, 4 twice-used sheets equivalent to 1 new sheet, etc.. Eventually my wife got annoyed by this system so I quit. Besides, at best it only doubled the capacity of a given box.
    Anyway, I tend to stick with name brands for food. I tried the off-brands in college and generally didn’t like them. Pretty much everything else I go with off-brands. I do tend to stock up on sales — if I see one of my “name-brand” cereals for under $0.10 per oz, I’ll buy several boxes. Right now our pantry has 6 boxes of Kelloggs Raisin Bran and several of Wheat Chex.
    One thing I’ve found interesting is the gradual promotion of “off-brands” to “name-brand”. For example many brand-conscious households I know (including my own) now consider “Kirkland” to be a name-brand.

  14. I am in love with Whole Foods, thankfully they have a really great store brand: 365.

    Cheaper than the brand-name stuff, but still all-natural and organic. They have an all-natural Key Lime soda that tastes (IMO) better than sprite or 7-up, a really flavorful all-natural Ginger Ale, as well as cola, cherry-creme cola, orange-cream cola, root beer and I think creme soda. And a six pack of regular size cans is about two bucks.

    They also have a 365 store brand Milk, which is from cows untreated with hormones or antibiotics, which we buy when we’re feeling too poor for the Horizon Organic kind. Milk is one place where we will spend the extra money, along with steak, chicken and eggs. Not only does the good stuff taste better, I get to eat it without thinking about how the animal I’m eating was pumped full of drugs and fed ground up parts of others of its kind!

  15. I’m with you on all counts, except for peanut butter. I don’t think much compares to JIF. That being said, it isn’t exactly good for you compared to Adams etc. (My wife likes to get Adams for the health benefits over JIF so I always try to be the one to buy the peanut butter)

    For everything else, it’s generics for us. (Pretty much anyway) Kirkland signature brands have always impressed me. I just don’t think Costco wants to put their name on a substandard quality item. I’m also a big fan of their dish washing detergent. It’s far cheaper than CASCADE and really works well.

  16. Hey Jonathan, don’t know where to post this but saw the article about you in Businessweek!! That’s awesome! Your site was mentioned first and seems to be the best!

  17. Walk through the aisles of a supermarket and at first glance it is amazing to see the huge selection of items – however a closer look reveals that it is the packaging that provides this illusion of variety – the actually food stuffs are pretty much the same in all of the packages. There may be some very minor variations among the products just to provide some advertisable differentiation but in fact the actual variety in your average retail store is far more limited that it appears. This is all the more so since most supermarkets get paid for shelf space so often only the major or store factory foods are available. The profit margins for items that don’t sell in volume are also often not stocked. It speaks volumes about the power of advertising that people still buy “brand” items that cost more than equivalent (in quality) generics.

  18. Generics all the way here. I buy generic whenever I can. We do all of our shopping at a Wal-Mart Supercenter, so we get all the Great Value brand products. One thing that I have not convinced my wife of yet is generic soda. She has to have her Pepsi.

  19. First time reader…saw the BusinesWeek article on you. Good work and good goal.

    Cheer and Cascade I dare not substitute. I broach the subject on occassion and quickly retreat given the screach I hear.

  20. try odwalla orange juice. They sell a gallon container of it at Costco, I find it better than all of the others

  21. secretposter says

    Along with buying generic, if you have plenty of storage, consider buying enough to last you a year (or more). This will save you time, gas, hassle, etc. Plus, if you time it right with coupons, store specials, etc., then it saves you a ton of cash. I put it all on my AmEx at the beginning of the year, and pay it off immediately, after reaping the membership miles.

    Besides saving money and time and effort and gas, I never have to worry about being out of things like air-freshener, toilet paper, shaving blades, etc.

    Also, Costco delivers for free on any orders over $250. I have an agreement with my boss so I tack on my consummables to his business order. He gets a tax benefit (naughty!) and I get more time and gas and effort savings. Note: You should only do this if you know that the quality and unit price is better.

    Someone mentioned buying cars…I have a “pool” of cars I like, along with a list of decent blue-book prices according to their age. It makes it dead easy to buy on the spot when the right deal comes along. It makes it easy to tell the right deal, and because I buy them cheaply, I have no problems selling them on for a decent profit. This gives a nice kick to my savings and I go through 3 or 4 nice cars a year–fooling everyone into thinking I am a wheeler dealer. Be careful, this strategy makes you into a big cynic when you realize how shallow people are in how they stereotype you according to the car you drive, always assuming you bought it brand new and paid MSRP.

  22. We buy generic all the time unless the brand name is less expensive. Many times the generic is made by the same brand name companies but with just a different label. Luckily no fights with my sweetie about this. 🙂

  23. about the only type of generic that I’ve ever noticed a vast difference of quality in = paper towels. Of course, some generic brands are probably much better now (this was several years ago), but i remember doing some simple comparisons (i.e., basic standardized absorbtion tests and the like) and there was a notable difference between the cheapies and a name brand. However, most everything else was always equal quality, or at least close enough that I didn’t care. And. . . some people touch on it in the above comments. . . most branding = just packaging and clever advertisements/loyalty ploys. When it comes right down to it, most of the stuff is produced in the same fashion, with the same materials, using the same working conditions, etc. The differences are frequently so neglible that lifelong devotees to brands quite often fail blind taste tests and the like (though, clearly, there are products that this just won’t work with. . . soda pop coming to mind). Of course. . . All in all, the standardization is probably so complete and across the board (even when things aren’t perfectly the same), that the only real difference is the “status” (if any) that the consumer gets from owning that brand of product, and/or whatever sense of self worth such ownership brings them.

  24. oh man, the Scott toilet paper, is it the 1,000 sheet one?

    those things HURTS

  25. I’ve just posted twice about this topic!

    I agree with marc’s comments about the packaging of similar food. I’ve linked to a 2003 article from Fortune about this store brands becoming “branded.”

  26. I must say that I’m stunned by all the brand-conscious wives out there. Thankfully, my husband and I are of the same mind when it comes to advertising – the less of it in our lives, even the subliminal kind associated with logos, the better. I buy generic whenever I can, as long as there is no discernible difference in quality. Really, why should I pay for their advertising? I also find branded packaging too busy-looking and tend to put most items into clear plastic containers or ceramic jars anyway. The major supermarket in my area is Publix, and I actually like the way they’ve redesigned their store brand packages – they’re kind of retro and nostaglic, with a lot of white space that makes them stand out on the shelves.

  27. LOL Cap. Yep, it’s the Scott brand that fits like 100,000 sheets on one roll. Seriously, who cares how many sheets fit on one roll if you can see through each sheet and it feels like sandpaper?! =)

  28. Regarding cars and computers I would say that brands actually mean something since what you’re buying isn’t a nearly identical product. There is a lot more product differentiation between the companies that produce them. An Apple is not a Dell, I would gladly pay 50% more for an Apple with the same hardware specs as a Dell because their software is better and I work more productively on it. The same with cars, I will pay more for a Toyota in the same class category as a GM simply because they are more gas efficient and have higher resale value down the road.

    One of my major expenses is books, I read a lot. And I’ve found that eBooks are cheaper, usually by half than equivalent paperbacks. The same with digital magazines vs paper ones. They’re not only cheaper but they don’t take up space. If you live in an expensive part of the country (NYC), then living space is precious and having a lot of stuff lying around is going to be expensive.

  29. I would gladly pay 50% more to get anything *other* than an Apple. 🙂

    Being a network engineer and developer for the past many years, I’ve learned the value of good, solid hardware over flashy marketing and fruity colors. 🙂 (And for your next question, my current workstation is a Supermicro SuperWorkstation dual 3.0Ghz Xeon 64 with an array of 10k sata drives, attached to the lan by dual gig-e)

  30. Watchout for that Kirkland container because it’s ver top heavy. We had it on top of the dryer, it slipped off, and essentially exploded all over the laundry room.

  31. Ok guys, no more of this Apple vs. Microsoft religious dispute. I have no idea how these arguments manage to pop up everywhere. Please go to a geek forum where you can also argue emacs vs. vi edit. 🙂

  32. Cereal: I’ll eat the generic cereal, but I do prefer the brands. There are some ridiculously expensive cereals out there (super brand), even more then regular brand names, in small boxes (e.g. Kellog’s low fat Granola or Banana Nut Bread) that I think taste awesome, but are also too expensive for me. I only eat it when I’m at my mom’s because I would never buy it myself. My wife is brand only (but not super brand).

    Generic Soda: I cannot taste the difference, but I still buy brand. I’d feel silly if people came over and I gave them a generic soda, now that I’m out of school. I guess I am a marketing victim. Our nearby supermarket always runs an awesome deal on Soda anyway (4 cases of brand name for $9 is a BAD deal there), to draw people to the store.

    Drink Mix: If you are buying powdered drink mix (Kool-Aid, country time etc) you’re probably already saving some money. But I find it unacceptable to go all the way to the store brand generic. The ones I’ve tried don’t taste as good, cake up in the container, and precipitate out of the solution. I’ll spend for the Country-Time lemonaid. Each time I try the generic, hoping it will be better, I’m let down.

    Other then these three of so things, I’m generic all the way. I’ll even use Scott Toilet paper happily.

  33. Re: toilet paper. I too am 100% loyal to Charmin. In the Army, we referred to the T.P. as “John Wayne” brand: rough, tough, and doesn’t take shit off anybody.

  34. My wife and I have found that the best way to deal with generic or store brands is to just buy one and try it. Sometimes we’re surprised at how good it is and how much money we save. Other times we agree that ‘you get what you pay for’ and stick to our preferred brand. But the only way we know to find the good ones is to try them all and decide which ones we like.

    We’ve tried hard over the last few years to judge every product we use objectively and while we have preference for certain products, it’s not just blind brand loyalty.

  35. It pays to check the prices on generics too. For example, the generic benadryl at CVS is about $4.39; at Target it’s $1.74.

  36. chuck st. arnaud says

    One of my jobs was managing a large grocery chain and generics are a good buy. You would be surprised the number of large companies actually use generics to increase their sales.

    Next time you are in SAMs, checkout their cheese selection…there are some very good deals to be found in the cheese case.

  37. we buy generics for almost everything where possible. I am a big believer in Costco’s Kirkland brand (which I jokingly call the Krusty brand 😉 ). Everything from food, meds, toilet paper, paper towels, dog food, clothing, etc. we get Krusty or equivalent generic brands. The shirt and jeans I’m wearing right now are Kirkland brand, my shoes are Costco’s “Classic Court” brand. I think my wife recently switched the dog food to WalMart’s Ol Roy though. 🙂 We have other Kirkland brand items, like a Kirkland propane patio heater too.

    Generics are indeed the way to go, especially Kirkland brand. Most/all items are every bit as good, or “good enough for me” as the name-brand equivalents, without the hefty price tags.

  38. Generic Laundry Detergent can be very hard on your skin. My husband bought a big box at Sam’s once. We do look for the best deals. However, after a week of using it, I was itching and so uncomfortable, and the only thing that had changed was the detergent. We had to waste the whole box, and buy the tide. When it comes to things that affect your skin, comfort or health, always go with branded. Another big one is suntan lotion. Always be careful when buying it, especially for your children. Also as you age you may get more sensitive. I am only thirty, but my skin is more sensitive as I get older.

  39. Costco Paper Towels: The Kirkland brand is the bomb! You could use it to dry off after a shower, its that good. It’s like Brawny on Steriods.

    Dryer Sheets: My roommate and I were out of dryer sheets one day and just did laundry without ’em. Except for one small blanket, the static cling didn’t last on any of our clothes more than 5 minutes. Also, I’m allergic to strong smells, so it made a huge difference to not have the strong dryer sheet smell. We wash everything with Arm and Hammer Free, which has baking soda, so that might made some kind of difference.

    Also, because of high nat gas bills, we’ve starting washing all our clothes in cold water. Even whites. Except for one white t-shirt that didn’t get as white as usual, everything else was perfectly clean. While our neighbors were paying over $100 a month for nat gas, our bill has stayed around $60.

    Your mileage may vary, of course, but it might be an interesting experiment.

  40. Add Q-tips to the list of unacceptable generics.

  41. Ha, I totally agree. Generic Q-tips have no padding at all.

  42. REgarding batteries — Walmart’s store brand of battery lasts longer (in our experience) than most others and is cheaper than national brands — even if you have a coupon for those brands.

  43. Did you try the Costco Kirkland brand of TP? We’ve been using it for years and we like it much better than Charmin.
    Charmin has a creepy perfume I hate.
    Unless you’re super cheap and using that Scott brand sandpaper, those are for institutional use only (translation: other people’s butts).

  44. NEVER get generic Tostino’s Pizza Rolls. For whatever reason, the generic brands are terrible….

  45. Don’t buy canned corn. The nutritional value, unless it is enriched, sucks for the most part. But, if you already get your vitamins through a daily multivitamin, then the nutritional value shouldn’t really matter anyway.

  46. Let me echo the comment about generic laundry detergent. A previous poster complained about Sam’s laundry made their skin itch. My husband and I had the exact same reaction to Costco’s Kirkland laundry detergent. Which makes me suspect it’s the same company making the laundry detergent. And yes I was aware this laundry detergent got a nice writeup in Consumer Reports. That’s why I bought it. I have since switched to Tide Cold Water. Yes it’s more expensive but it really does work well in cold water. So I hope to make up the cost with the energy savings. Maybe somebody will copy the formula and make a good generic version.

    I also found the Whole Foods generics line, 365 Organics, to be an excellant line. Haven’t tried everything, but pleased with what I have. The shampoo and conditioner for dry hair is great. The peanut butter is the best I have ever tasted. Also, the tv show, America’s Test Kitchen on PBS, rated highly the 365 Organics balsamic vinegar.

  47. Your wife is funny. I like the pretty boxes too, but I still buy the cheaper stuff most of the time. I like getting a lot of stuff from Trader Joe’s

  48. Article in San Francisco Chronicle rating popcorn. 365 Organic popcorn and Safeway O are the top two brands.

  49. My skin has been itching like crazy ever since we bought and used a “Members Mark Original Scent” laundry detergent from Sams Club. We usually buy a some other brand from Sams for about the same price, but they were out that day, so we bought the Members Mark one. In general, generic or brand-name, I like to try things and see what I think..In this particular case, and after the “Googling” on this topic, I am pretty confident that I found what has been making be itch.

  50. I’m just looking for more comparisons on generic sodas…who has the best, why is it better …wanted to look at cost, taste, effervescence, and advertising or lack of it…packaging, that sort of thing. Anyone have anything to offer on this? I find that I, myself have bought generic sodas that also come in half sized pop cans for large birthday or other kid party events, they seem to drink it right up no matter, though there are some brand conscious kids out there who simply refuse. I have mostly purchased whatever is available at Walmart as it is the closest shopping area that has reasonable prices. What’s the word out there?

  51. oh man, that Scott toilet paper from costco still hurts from the first and last time I used it, I would take newspaper over that any day. Charmin is the way to go I agree.

  52. ditto on this one:
    Cereal. Sometimes we argue over Rice Crispies vs. Bob?s Crisped Rice, or Cheerios vs. Oat-E-Os or whatever. I do like having actual boxes though instead of just bags.


  53. Charmin does not have a perfume.

  54. I agree that generics can be a huge waste of money, but I’m sad to hear so many people talk about the great prices at wal-mart and sam’s club. These company’s are unethical and bad for our economy. I would rather pay more and do the right thing.

  55. As far as laundry soap, I tend to use Purex. It’s a good brand, it’s cheap and gets my clothes clean. I like to use All or Arm and Hammer when I can get it on sale. I usually use liquid fabric softener like Purex’s brand or what’s at the store on sale. Yeah, generic works just the same.
    TP, I use what’s on sale and it’s not going to be the cheap stuff. I usually get Quilted Northern, a case of it once a month. It lasts and it costs about 5 bucks on sale. As far as personal soap, I use Dove. Everything else makes me itch and break out. Yeah, it is spendy, but if you buy it on sale/coupon, it does come down in price.

  56. During my first two years in college, I spent my summers working for a wholesale food distributor called Supervalu. Not many people know this but it is the second largest wholesale distributor behind Wal-Mart. My job was to build pallets and fill trucks that would ship food to different grocery stores in the Twin Cities. Virtually all of the Twin Cities grocery stores, from upscale Lunds to big-box Super Target and Albertsons received their food from the same warehouse in Minneapolis.

    Most of the time, the quality of the food was exactly the same. Most generics were unloaded from the same truck coming from the same plant that their name brand counterparts were manufactured at. We then shipped the generic brand and the name brand to a grocery store. The only difference in the end, besides packaging, was price.

    You can figure this out pretty easily in the store. If you see a store brand, look near its UPC label and compare it to the name brand it is trying to replicate. Many times some of the numbers will match, and these are usually the plant or production numbers. Expiration dates and batch numbers are a good indicator as well, since many of the plants use the same machinery to label the generics and the name brands.

    I was talking to a co-worker recently and he insisted that the produce, particularly bananas, at Lunds were far superior to those at Super Target, Cub or Albertsons, because they have a longer shelf life. Therefore, he thought it was worth the increased price. Unbelievable!

    This is how bananas are dealt with: The bananas are stored in different rooms in a perishables warehouse. They all come to the warehouse bright green. Once there, they are ripened in the different rooms using methane gas. All this does is speed up what would naturally happen (ever put them in a brown bag?). The converse is also true. The bananas can be prevented from becoming ripe for a surprising amount of time.

    So the only difference is that the ‘upscale’ stores choose bananas that aren’t ripened as much because they can’t turn them over as quickly.

    Virtually all the stores get the same produce, the upscale stores just sort through it more before presenting it. If you’re willing to look a little harder at a big grocery store, you can often find the same thing you would at an upscale store.

  57. Kleenex toilet paper is definitely the best. Try the kind with aloe in it.

  58. TastingLife says

    Soda: About 70 – 80% of generic soda is nade by Cott.

    OJ: The difference in quality of orange juice is due to the way is is treated after squeezing. Tropicana and most Minute Maid brands are “Not From Concentrate” which means the juice is squeezed, pasturized, packaged. Any “Not From Concentrate” oj should be of similar quality. Most orange juice is “From Concentrate” and this is where it gets its bitter taste (and lower price). In thins case it is squeezed, pasturized, reduced (water evaporated), shipped, reconsitutred (water added) repasturized, packaged. Concentrating makes it cheaper to ship, double pasturization makes it taste bitter (off flavors might also come from the water used to reconstitute it). If you’re looking for a happy medium to save some cash, and have decent water at home, but frozen concentrated orange juice. You avoid the second pasturization, so it tastes better than “from concentrate” oj, and it’s cheaper too.

    Although most generics are indeed made by the same company as the name brand, I believe many companies sell product that does not meet their quality standards as “generic”. This difference may not matter to you, but I’m convinced that there is some difference.

    One generic I can’t do… instant oatmeal. All the generics I’ve had taste salty to me.

    As for cars/computers: You (generally) get what you pay for. If you’re looking to save money I strongly recommend buying used name brand over new cheapo brands.

  59. the dude: I totally agree with you. I haven’t shopped at WalMart in years, and I’ve never had a Sam’s membership. I give a pass to people who are barely making it (and if you have a computer and an internet connection and a phone and a cell phone and a car and cable and a steady place to live in a decent neighborhood, you don’t fall into this category).

    We reuse dryer sheets a couple of times before throwing them out. They work more than once, for the level of static here. I had read you can cut them in half and use just half, but that was one task I wasn’t willing to do…

    Cold water cleans as well to the eye, but if you have items that you’re looking to be germ-free, cold water doesn’t cut it (i.e. handkerchief, underwear, pillowcases, anything after you’ve been sick).

    We’re pretty health-conscious and have learned about a few generic vs. brand things. There is a difference in frozen vegetables, but often it’s marked on the package (so look for the Grade A, as opposed to brand).

    My husband eats a ton of Cheerios, but if you compare nutrition information, the Safeway brand has less sugar and tastes the same (to him – I don’t eat either, so I can’t say for myself).

    We spend less on groceries when we plan out what we’re eating for the week. We plan so that we’re only buying what we’re going to use, and we use all of what we buy. Meals that have leftovers are factored in as lunches later in the week. We generally don’t keep snacks around the house except for popcorn – not good for the budget or the waistline.

  60. I realize that this post is quite old. However, I’d like to offer a counterpoint to the “who-cares” on the drugs part.

    I typically purchase generic for any over-the-counter medications I buy for the same reasons described in your post. However, last year I went to buy some Advil at Walgreens. Comparing the Advil bottle to the Walgreens bottle demonstrated that they had identical active ingredients; the Walgreens bottle had about 10 times as many pills for about the same price (maybe an extra dollar).

    When I got home, however, I tried to take some of the painkillers. Boy, was that a rude awakening. See, the place Walgreens skimps – perhaps on top of the reduced marketing budget – is in the inactive ingredients. Particularly, the coating. There were two problems: first, rather than being slightly sweet (like Advil is) the coating had a vaguely sulfuric smell and flavor – so it tasted like something stinky. On top of that, the coating was so thin that before I could even knock the pills back with a gulp of water, the extremely bitter insides were exposed. It was so intense I nearly vomited, and I consider that to be a big “no” when I’ve already got a medication-required headache.

    I won’t be buying the Walgreens brand again. I think the lesson here is – whatever generic product you decide to swap in for your former name-brand choice, first buy a very small package so you can determine if the stuff that’s not printed neatly on the label is actually the same. Whether that’s freshness for vegetables or coatings for pills or scents for laundry products, you can save yourself a whole lot of money by not buying the big generic bulk pack of something that doesn’t work for you in the end.


  61. The FLash says

    Batteries, the man difference is in Type of battery for example the Carbon Zinc type (ie dollar store heavy duty ones) and alkaline (Duracell.. etc) Costco sells Kirkland brand batteries (alkaline) that always top the consumer reports best buy list for batteries

  62. Costco kirkland batteries are made by Duracell – fact. Costco kirkland laundry detergent is made by P&G who also make Tide – also a fact. Kirkland brands have to be as good (or better) than the leading brand, which is unlike other no name brands that are often of inferior quality.

  63. Actually, Costco Kirkland, Walmart Great Value, Sears, Safeway, Albertsons, Kroger, etc. and many other generic laundry detergents are all made by Huish Labs. They are the same company that makes Sun detergent, and recently bought out a bunch of name brands from Unilever. Brands like Surf, All, Wisk, Snuggle, etc.

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