Why Buying Generic Brands Makes Sense to Me


generic brands are often the smartest choice

generic brands are often the smartest choice

Why would I pay $4.69 for a 42-ounce container of Quaker brand rolled oats when I can have the grocery store’s generic brand for $2.60? Why would anyone? When there is no appreciable difference between the actual products, it is financial blindness not to opt for buying generic brands and banking the cost difference. So what in the world keeps Quaker brand rolled oats on grocery shelves?

The money I save by buying generic brands really adds up. Rolled oats: $2.09 saved over Quaker’s $4.69 price for a 42-ounce container. Strawberry jam: $1.57 saved over Smucker’s $3.99 price for a 32-ounce jar. Sliced swiss cheese: $1.19 saved over Sargento’s $3.87 price for an 8-ounce package. Cream cheese: $0.80 saved over Philadelphia’s $2.79 price for an 8-ounce package. Milk: $1.70 saved over Pet’s $4.69 price for a 1-gallon jug. The list goes on and on. The money I save goes on and on. And the ingredients listed on the name brand labels are exactly the same as those listed on the generic brand labels.

There are no “secret” ingredients or special processes involved here. I am not talking about drinking generic cola instead of Coke or Pepsi. I am not talking about eating generic 100% whole wheat bread instead of Arnold’s. I am talking about everyday staples that are demonstrably identical except for the containers they come in. Regardless of how filthy rich one may be, why not save the money by buying generic brands since one is giving up nothing to do so?

And this doesn’t just apply to food staples. For example, every month I dose my septic system with a bacterial culture that eats down the stuff. If I buy the Ridx name brand, it will cost me $7.00 a dose. But if I buy the discount store’s generic brand, I’ll only pay $3.50. I choose to save the $3.50 difference. And why not? In this, as in every case that I’ve opted for a household generic product, the ingredients on the labels are the same.

This applies even more so to pharmaceuticals. My (Equate) generic brand coated aspirin saves me $3.30 per 100 tablets over Bayer’s $5.88 price. That’s over 50% saved. The savings on prescription drugs can be even more astronomical. And the ingredients are all the same.

Those small savings add up quickly. For me, twenty dollars, thirty dollars, maybe even forty dollars every month. How much more could a family of four save by buying generic brands? A hundred dollars a month? More? That is good money that can be used to reduce debt, have a nice family outing, or beef up the financial independence stash.

Bit by bit, one can either waste a bunch of money or save it. I choose to save. And why not? I am not giving up anything by buying generic brands. I am just keeping more of my money in my wallet.

So. Check the label. Buy based on content, not on brand. And bank the savings. Why leave that money, literally, on the store’s shelves? Why?

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image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. I totally agree with you. I buy generic on anything I can. I just don’t get paying extra for a name brand. There are a few items though, where generic doesn’t seem quite as good as the name brand… like Oreos. I don’t know what it is, but real Oreos always seem to taste better and have a better cream!

    1. Well, I would group Oreos together with Coca-Cola. The generic imitation is not the same formulation. It IS an imitation. We won’t drink generic cola, either.

      So, there you go.

    1. I hear you. I’m very glad I like the store’s generic lime soda even better than I like Sprite or 7-Up!

  2. I agree. There are some things that just don’t make a difference. Milk, Rice Krispies compared to Crispy Cereal, eggs, and even canned fruits and vegetables. What are you going to do with canned fruits and vegetables to make them different?

    1. Well, make sure to read the labels. One can of canned peaches could be packed in fruit juice while the other one could be packed in heavy syrup made with high-fructose corn syrup. Those 2 cans would definitely not contain the same thing. Even though both of them would read “canned peaches.” 😉

  3. Sometimes generic is the exact same product. We toured a pretzel factory once and they told about how they would turn off the baggers and switch bags for the generic products. There are a few things, however, that I do not care for that are generic. One such example is Kroger brand “Captain Crunch”; it seems greasy. I keep a list of these things to remind me not to buy them. But I do save a lot of money buying generic, also.

  4. We buy mostly generic items too. That’s why I don’t think Costco is such a great deal. It’s cheaper to buy in bulk, but buying generic cost about the same really.
    The only brand name I buy is Sensodyne toothpaste because I need it for sensitive teeth. Hopefully, there will be generic at some point.

  5. We buy a lot of generic items as well. The quality usually isn’t different at all, so I will always opt for whatever is cheaper if the quality is the same.

  6. I prefer generic most of the time, but if I try a product and it is not the same taste wise, I will go back to the non-generic. I will then keep my eyes out for another generic alternative in another store. If a generic works out taste wise for food, and is cheaper, I will stick with it. Add up those savings and put them in your investment account is what I say. Good luck.

  7. I agree with you. I learned about paint when I built a new home 13 yrs ago. My contractor advised me about the Co-op brand paint that was the same as General paint; like the pretzels, the same paint with a different label. Some products don’t measure up, like the no-name brand cheerios I bought one time only to have my son say in his most sarcastic tone, “You get what you pay for, Mom.” That’s true about some things. It also depends what I’m using the product for.

    1. Baked goods — including breads — is one product category where I think there are strong differences in brands, even when the ingredients on the label all read the same. But there are a lot of other product categories where that “just ain’t so.” One just has to pick one’s shots.

  8. I agree 100%. I used to still buy Tide detergent, but now buy what is on sale. There is very little that I will buy a brand name of any more (though I have found designer clothes seem to last longer).

    I work in health care and it is a struggle to convince our employees and patients that the generic brand is essentially the same thing!

    1. I can’t believe what you’ve writing about resistance to generic pharmaceuticals. That is one category of product where the contents label makes it absolutely irrefutable (even to percentage composition) that the generic is the same as the brand name product.

  9. We are trying many Aldi brands, many are great!!! Ones we dd not like — mayo and English muffins. Generic Doritos and soda. Otherwise the store brands are great. We taste tested 3 generic strawberry jams and found a favorite and I’m hoping we can find a spaghetti sauce and peanut butter that we like.

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