The Power of Generic

Do you buy generic products?

A lot of people are surprisingly funny about purchasing the generic (i.e. store brand) or the ‘plain’ version of items on their shopping lists.

Most of us know, though, that buying generic can save more than a few dollars and while I personally do choose generic pretty frequently, I thought it would be interesting to see how much money I could save if I only bought the generic versions of the items I need.

I usually go to the grocery store to do a full shop about three times per month, or roughly every ten days. I will fill in with quicker shops in between those to grab produce and things we’ve run out of, etc.

I plan to analyze my spending for every grocery trip this month (beginning with my last grocery trip about a week ago) to see how much money I could shave off my bills by choosing the generic (or store brand) version for every item on my list. I typically shop at Walmart as it is the most conveniently located store and has the best prices as compared to nearby competitors (Publix, Winn Dixie and Target).

On my last trip, these are the items that I chose the brand version vs the Walmart brand:

$3.97 – Ocelo Sponges – 4 pack
$3.86 – Mrs. Meyers Hand Soap 12.5 oz
$5.98 – Ore Ida Tater Tots 5 lb. bag
$2.76 Mission Tortillas – 8 count
$5.36 Sara Lee Artesano Bread (2 loaves)
$3.84 Land O’ Lakes Butter with Sea Salt 13 oz.
$4.48 Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter (2)
$3.18 – Fage Greek 0% Yogurt 17.6 oz
$2.94 International Delight Hazelnut Creamer 32 oz
$2.68 Pace Verde Salsa 24 oz.
$2.46 Old El Paso Spicy Cheddar Taco Shells (10 count)
$3.48 Marie’s Caesar Dressing 12 oz.
$8.44 Delimex Beef & Cheese Taquitos (40 count)
$1.48 Campbell’s 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup

Total: $54.91

If I swapped all of these items with the comparable Great Value version:

$1.74 – Great Value sponges (4 pack)
$3.84 – Great Value 56 oz. soap refill (or 4.5 regular soap bottles worth)
$3.92 Great Value Frozen Tater Tots 80 oz.
$1.33 Great Value Burrito Tortillas 8 ct
$3.06 Great Value Sourdough Bread (2 loaves)
$2.36 Great Value Butter 15 oz.
$4.48 Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter (2) — No Walmart generic available
$3.47 Great Value Greek Yogurt 32 oz.
$1.84 Great Value Hazelnut Coffee Creamer 32 oz.
$2.48 Great Value Verde Salsa 24 oz.
$0.92 Great Value Taco Shells (plain) 12 count
$1.53 Great Value Caesar Dressing 16 oz.
$7.72 Great Value Beef Taquitos (20 count– $3.86 x 2 boxes)
$0.98 Great Value Cream of Mushroom Soup 98% Fat Free

Total: $39.67

If I wasn’t concerned with taste and strictly considering my purchases from a monetary standpoint, I would have saved $15.24 simply by buying the generic forms of the same exact products. This could be a potential savings of approximately $40-50 per month.

I found that store availability can affect the ability to choose generic, though. I purchased the Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup on my original trip (when I would normally choose generic) because there wasn’t a 98% fat free generic equivalent available at the particular Walmart store that I shopped at that day.

I found that there was a lack of availability for several items when searching the Walmart website to compile the list of generic prices for this post as well. Considering this information, it may be better to order your groceries for pick up if you are focused on cutting costs on your bill by choosing generic over brand name.

I usually choose the generic version of all products where taste is not a factor or the generic and brand versions are basically identical (paper products, plastic products, milk, eggs, etc.). I have experimented with the store brands of different foods we buy regularly and do buy the store brand of several items because I cannot tell a difference in taste or quality (like canned vegetables, soups, cheese, butter, etc.). They’re also cheaper, so bonus.

Through my experiments, I have realized that some items simply do not have the same taste as the brand name versions (chips, coffee creamer, cookies, bread) and we consequently have switched back to the brand names of these items.

I believe that allowing yourself to enjoy small joys is vitally important (like choosing the more expensive hand soap because it smells better) for our long term mental strength in a world where we are always trying to check off the many boxes on our to-do lists.

That being said, though, perhaps switching between brand and generic every other trip may be an easier way to save a few extra dollars without feeling deprived by doing so.

I found this comparison to be a bit more eye opening for me than I was anticipating, so I encourage you to sit down with your last receipt and do a little research to see where you could trim a few dollars. You might find that the generic version is just as good as the brand name and save yourself money for several trips to come.


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