© Eq Roy/Dreamstime.com
Spending money is easy to do if you’re not careful. One morning coffee can easily set you back $6 if you don’t budget. But the easiest place to spend when you’re actually trying to save is the grocery store. Even if you do everything right like stick to a pre-planned list and use coupons to cut your grocery costs in half, you can still end up spending a small fortune on weekly groceries. Buying brand-name items is a sure-fire way to rack up your grocery bill when you don’t need to. Next time you’re at the supermarket, save money by picking up these items that you should always buy generic.
To put together our list of products you should always buy the generic version of, we selected items with ingredient lists that were nearly identical to their name-brand competitor for a fraction of the price. We also considered products that must conform to safety standards set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whether they are generic or not.
In the United States, baby formula is regulated by a branch of the FDA. All formulas that are marketed in the U.S. must meet federal nutrient requirements. Manufacturers must also notify the FDA prior to marketing a new formula and provide a detailed list of all ingredients and nutrients. Due to this close regulation, families who are trying to save money at the grocery store should consider buying generic formula instead of the name brand.
There are plenty of baking hacks you should know about, including that generic and name-brand sugar are exactly the same. The only ingredient in sugar is, well, sugar and that doesn’t change based on the brand you buy. At the store, you can often purchase generic sugar for a dollar less than its name-brand counterpart and the ingredient lists are identical.
Like with sugar, the ingredient lists for brand-name flour and generic flour are essentially identical — but generic flour is around one to two bucks cheaper than its competitors. Next time you’re whipping up some of these impressive dessert recipes, buy your baking products generic to save.
While a lot of people have a favorite brand when it comes to juices and sodas, the difference between generic and name brand isn’t too significant. Some pricier orange juices are labeled as “100% fresh-squeezed,” which essentially means it’s not made from a concentrate like its generic competitor. But, typically, orange juice made from concentrate has similar levels of vitamin C and potassium — vitamins you’re probably missing — as those not made from concentrate. Just be sure to check the nutrition label to ensure no extra sugar has been added.
Buying generic canned beans and vegetables is unlikely to make a discernible difference in the final dish. Just make sure to compare the listed ingredients to check that one brand isn’t more loaded with sodium than the other. And if you need some inspiration, check out these amazing dinner dishes you can make with canned goods.
If you look at the ingredients and nutritional facts, once again, name-brand and generic boxes of cereal are likely to be almost identical, with the latter costing a fraction of the price. While it may be difficult to forgo cereal that has your kid’s favorite food mascot on it, it may be worth spurning Cap'n Crunch or Snap, Crackle and Pop to save a little bit of dough.
One way to save money on cleaning supplies is by buying generic rather than name brand. And one item you should be buying generic is bleach, which has the same main ingredient whether you buy Clorox or Great Value. The savings can be major. For example, at Walmart, you can find generic bleach for about $3, while its brand-name counterpart can cost more than $6.
Many generic disinfectant wipes claim to kill 99.9% of germs, the exact same number touted on name-brand packaging, meaning generic wipes are just as good for cleaning everyday household items. Check out some of the best grocery stores in America for great generic disinfectant wipes that will give the brand names a run for their money while also saving you money.
Condiments are must-have pantry staples, and buying generic mustard is a great way to stay stocked up on a budget. The ingredients in generic mustard are nearly identical to the most well-known brands like Heinz and French’s. Next time you make a great sandwich or burger, try adding in some generic mustard — the difference is sure to be indiscernible.
Like mustard, the difference between generic and brand-name mayonnaise is essentially non-existent. Next time you whip up an egg salad sandwich or other easy recipes you can make with pantry staples, try using generic mayo.
You can buy generic milk for a fraction of the price of its brand-name counterpart. And, unless you’re buying local and organic milk, the difference between big-name dairy brands and a supermarket’s own generic brand is minimal. However, as always, it’s wise to compare ingredients. And keep in mind that buying organically is one of the best ways to stay eco-friendly at the grocery store.
When considering a cheese like cheddar, the ingredient list of the generic version is nearly identical to other widespread and well-known brands. So the next time you want to whip up some of these over-the-top macaroni and cheese recipes, you’ll know to buy generic cheese.
If you’re an expecting mother, there’s a lot you’re likely stressing over, like what name to pick and what formula to buy. But one thing you shouldn’t be worried about is the price of diapers. Babies can go through a whole lot of diapers in a single day. And buying generic diapers will likely save you a small fortune. However, it may be a good idea to try out a few different generic brands to figure out which one suits your needs best.
As with canned vegetables, it is unlikely that you’ll notice the difference between brand-name frozen produce and the generic stuff once dinner is made and on the plate. And if you’re looking for some dinner inspiration, here is our how-to-guide for making delicious meals out of frozen food items.
Medication is heavily regulated, and all generic versions of pricier name brands must conform to the same safety standards set by the FDA. Most of the time, the active ingredient in generic medication is identical to the name-brand equivalent. But understanding which medication is right for you is one of many questions you should be asking your doctor, but aren’t.
Buying generic pasta is a great way to save some money at the grocery store. Once cooked and on your plate, no one will be able to tell that you did not buy a name-brand product. But no matter which brand you choose, be sure you’re not making any of these mistakes when cooking your pasta.
Like pasta, rice is another place you can save on pantry staples. The main ingredient in rice whether you buy generic or name brand is … wait for it ... rice. And if you’re looking for some ways to use up leftover rice, pasta and other grains, try these amazing recipes.
Stick to generic tissues and other paper products if you want to save that hard-earned cash. As with many other items, if you don’t have a tissue preference, definitely opt for the cheaper generic brand. But, when you’re sick, sometimes it’s nice to have your favorite, dependable brand of tissues. Buying generic brands is all about conscious spending, and you can choose to splurge on those things that matter to you.
Paper towels are just one grocery store item you should never pay full price for. Not only can you find good-quality paper towels generically, but there are also often an array of coupons for paper products. And the best part about these items is they never go bad.
Whether you buy generic oatmeal or the name-brand variety, the ingredients are typically the same. Quaker Oats and generic oatmeals both have the same, singular ingredient — whole grain rolled oats. Buying this amazing breakfast food generically can typically save you a dollar or more per container.
If you already have a pet or you’re about to foster one, you may be wondering what food to buy for them. And if you’re paying a premium price for a well-known brand of pet food, you may want to rethink that. Check the ingredients and see whether your supermarket offers a generic product similar to what you already use.
If you have the option to choose between a heavily branded piece of fruit or bag of vegetables, always opt for the unbranded, unpackaged produce. And if you’re unsure of what’s in season, check out our handy guide, which breaks down produce’s seasonality month to month.
If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth while spending minimal cash, then buying generic cookies is the way to go. You can find pretty decent generic knockoffs of well-known brands that cost a fraction of the price. However, trial and error will reveal which generic brands are best and which ones simply do not live up to their name-brand counterparts. If you’re more of a bake-them-from-scratch kind of person, you can try making cookies using these unexpected ingredients.
Whether you go to the store and purchase Dasani or generic-brand water bottles, the difference is indiscernible. But if you’re looking for a way to cut buying water out of your budget entirely, consider investing in a water filter. It’s a great way to lower costs and help out the environment — plastic water bottles are one of the least eco-friendly things you can buy at a grocery store.
Spices can be expensive, which is why you should compare name-brand spices with the generic offerings before deciding what to buy. The quality of spice can vary significantly depending on freshness and whether they are whole or pre-ground. If you’re on a mission to make your food restaurant-worthy, fresh spices are the way to go. But if you just want some basic red pepper flakes to sprinkle over your pasta, the generic supermarket brand will definitely do the trick.
Sunscreen is another item that is regulated by the FDA, so generic versions have to live up to the same standards as their name-brand counterparts. Make sure any sunscreen you buy offers both UVA and UVB protection and also mentions the phrase broad-spectrum SPF, which protects you from both types of UV rays. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you may develop actinic keratosis and other skin conditions that say a lot about your health.
Changing your kitchen sponges often is key for washing your dishes correctly. But, if you’re on a budget, stocking up on sponges can add up. For this reason, we recommend buying your sponges generic rather than purchasing the name-brand version.
Some of the most beloved childhood desserts are ones loaded with chocolate chips. But should our parents have been buying them generic all along? It’s likely. Well-known name brands often have nearly identical ingredient lists to their generic counterparts.
If you’re in a snacky mood but don’t want to spend a lot of money, then buy your chips generic. While everyone has their preferred brand of their favorite snack food, there really is little difference when it comes to buying things like chips and trail mix generically versus purchasing the brand-name version.
Obviously some foil may be stronger than others, but test your local store’s generic brand and see if there is any discernible difference compared to the name brand you normally buy. Chances are even if the quality is not identical that the cheaper price tag makes it worth buying generic.
Like aluminum foil, generic plastic wrap is a great way to save at the grocery store. But if you’re trying to cut back on plastic, try some of these creative ways to make your food last longer.
Shampoo is a common item stolen from luxury hotels, but maybe you wouldn’t need to swipe it if you bought it generic. You can definitely save a few dollars if you choose a generic shampoo instead of a name-brand item. If you compare the ingredients, you will see that there is a significant overlap between generic shampoo and its name-brand competitor.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and want to whip up a quick and easy dessert like a banana split, then you’re going to need some chocolate syrup. Name-brand chocolate syrup like Hershey’s has nearly an identical list of ingredients to store-brand versions. Just make sure you check the nutritional facts to compare the sugar in each bottle.
A great way to save on your next grocery store trip is by purchasing generic trash bags. For an 80-count of garbage bags from Walmart, the brand name can set you back almost double its generic counterpart. Buying generic is also one of many great ways to make the most of your grocery shopping trip.
More from The Daily Meal: