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Learning to Love Generics

Wegmans Molasses Cookies You should be jealous! Why? Because right now I’m eating the world’s most delicious and softest molasses cookie ever. Many molasses cookies have come before it in my life, but this one is the best. And I got a whole 12 pack of them from Wegmans for $1.79!

I realize that I am blessed, in a way. Wegmans is a grocery chain that started in my city (Rochester), but hasn’t yet expanded out of the Northeast United States. Personally, I think they should take over the whole world! Their dedication to customer service and quality is legendary. And when I lived in California for two summers? I pined for a visit to Wegmans. Other grocery stores just don’t add up.

For this reason, I hesitate to write about the value of buying generics (“store brand” products). I’m well aware that my local grocery chain offers super-high-quality generics, and that some others don’t. But I’ve been in other grocery stores (had to eat somehow in California), so my experience isn’t totally limited.

Generics are Good/Tasty

Try generics! Most of the time, you won’t notice a difference, because there isn’t one. If the peanut butter and pet food recalls taught us anything, it’s that most foods, no matter what the brand, come from just a small handful of processing centers. Which means that sometimes, the only difference between the store brand and the name brand is literally the packaging. I hate the idea of paying more just for a fancy logo on my shelf, so I always try the generic.

And 99% of the time, I’ve found the generic to be a good substitute. Over the past five years, I’ve only purchased one generic item that didn’t measure up to the name brand (sorry Wegmans, but your Raisin Bran Crunch knock-off needs some work. Too much bran, not enough sugary-crunch).

And generics can save you big money, of course! I haven’t done any scientific study on this, but generics seem to be at least 10% cheaper. That’s a quick way to knock some change off of your grocery bill, without sacrificing quality.

Not convinced? No one’s asking you to switch everything you love to generics right away. And even if you do switch, you might have a “Raisin Bran Crunch” scenario on your hands, and find that you like the name brand better for that particular product. But the best feeling in the world is knowing that you’re buying a product because you like it, and not because you’ve unwittingly become a victim to advertising and branding.

And for some things, you totally know there’s zero difference between the name brand and the generic. Name brand vinegar? Give me a break!

P.S. These molasses cookies are mine and no, you can’t have any.

19 responses to “Learning to Love Generics”

  1. Nate @ Debt-free Scholar

    I agree, buying generics is a good frugal strategy. Even if you are buying organic foods, there are generic brands, and they are cheaper.


  2. Ian

    I agree that buying generic foods is a great frugality strategy. That being said, I almost always buy Jif brand peanut butter. I’ve purchased store brand PB before, but it never matches the taste and texture. On any other food, though, I’m all about the store brand.

  3. esperanza

    i agree FULLY about JIF!!!!

  4. Les@spillingbuckets

    I don’t like Wegman’s Honey Nut Cheerios, they are a little soggier than the name brand… Walmart version though is Great!

    We buy almost exclusively Wegman’s brand stuff – its so much cheaper and usually good quality.

    One day I was pulling up to Wegs and saw a Tyson chicken truck unloading… half the boxes were Tyson brand half were Wegmans labels. You’re right the only difference was litteraly the package, it even came from the same truck!

    When I go home to my parents in CT I miss it here – it’s expanded to NJ, but not Connecticut. (sorry for the long comment)

  5. Kris

    I love generics! For some reason, there are two generic brands at the store where I shop. That, or else a “name brand” is undercutting the store brand by 10 cents each package.

    I agree about peanut butter. I get Peter Pan or Jif, never store brand. Also, beware of generic Triscuits. Not tasty.

  6. MK

    It seems like the quality of generics has really gotten better over the years. I remember when I was younger and living at home and my mother would buy some of the generics and they’d be DISGUSTING! but store brands have really stepped up their game! and you are correct, a good majority of the store brands are the exact same as the name brands with different, less obtrusive, packaging.

  7. Maveth

    We don’t have a Wegman’s, but three out of five of my immediate family members work for Wal-Mart, so I buy everything at a discount, except for groceries. I haven’t had any generic failures, but that’s because I make most things from scratch. When you make your own, using generic doesn’t really make a difference.

    😛 You keep your cookies, not a big fan of molasses.

  8. Roger

    Ah, no molasses cookies? Now I’m sad.

    The main point of this column is right on target, though; generics are just as good and usually much cheaper. You don’t have to spend lots of money to get yummy, yummy food.

    Of course, now I’m hungry and want some cookies…

  9. michelle

    I totally agree! I’ve found the store brands to be equally as good as their name brand counterparts. You’re right that not *every* product will be to your liking, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many products are. On a related note, a family friend worked in a labelling factory and a lot of the times, the label is the only difference between store brand and name brand.

  10. Meari

    When I buy groceries, 95% of what I buy are generics and store brands. However, I have to disagree with you on the generics. They all don’t taste good. It’s just not a matter of packaging. Peanut butter for instance… there is a BIG difference. For the most part, however, if you are making meals from scratch… you’ll never know a difference if you use generic ingredients and know how to cook a good meal.

  11. catie voglio

    All i have to say is:
    Quaker oatmeal= $4.59
    generic= $1.99

    no competition.

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  13. Peter Mottola

    Actually, I just had a friend do a blind taste-test yesterday between Market Pantry (i.e. Target brand Peanut Butter) and Skippy. And the generic brand won!

    So yes, taste tests would be cool to see here.

  14. Nate @ Money Young

    I agree totally. I always start buying the cheapest item, if I don’t like it I move up, but 9/10 I do like it.

    At work they make fun of me for my name brand cereal… it’s the same thing as theirs without the cool name. I have ‘Healthy Morning’ instead of ‘Special K’ and ‘Wheat flakes’ instead of ‘Wheaties’.

    Oh and I pay $2 less per box. When you eat cereal every day like I do. it adds up quick!


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  16. My Life ROI

    Great suggestion.

    The only generic that I have ever disliked is the Pathmark brand Poptarts.

    The crust tastes off, I don’t know why.

    And for me to admit that is a big deal… I give my g/f a stare when she comes back with some “General Mills” or “Kraft” branded item :p

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