4 Rules for Buying Generic

Date Tue, July 8 2014
my secret food shame

My friend Collin always says generic cereal has names such as “crispy hexagons.” He’s not wrong LOL

Some call us thrifty. Others might use the word “cheap.” I’ve been known to laugh at myself for trying to save a few cents. No, I will not forget my CVS coupons, thank-you-very-much. But I’m not a savvy couponer, so I often look for store brands and generic names.

1. You Won’t Love Every Product from a Generic Brand

You know, I don’t think there’s a single generic brand that I swear by. To be honest, the same might be true for any brand. I rarely swear allegiance. Although, I do love me some Stouffer’s. Back to my point, though.

There are brands that make things I really like. The quality is as good as the brand name or at least as good as I want for the price. But there will always be a product or two or five where they just miss the mark. It’s not a good substitute or the price isn’t any better, really. Examples include Up and Up (Target brand) toilet paper. But I love their cookies! Walmart’s brand, Great Value, has decent toilet paper, but most of their freezer meals gross me out.

Generic store brand

Store brands from Pathmark.

2. Discount Stores Don’t Always Offer a Better Deal

You know all those stores with “dollar” in their name, but nothing is actually  a dollar? In fact, it’s not any cheaper than shopping at your local grocery store or Target on the way home? Dollar General, Family Dollar and a whole slew of other discount stores use their name to convince you it’s a good deal when, in reality, it’s just not.

I talked about this in my article about dollar store deals, but chemicals are almost always a ripoff from generic brands because they’re replaced active ingredients with water. So you have to use more to get things as clean. It’s a waste of time and time is money, right?

3. There Is Such a Thing As Too Generic

Yep, you know what I’m talking about here. Half ply toilet paper (okay, maybe I exaggerate). $2 packaging tape that smells like it came straight out of a sweatshop and works about as well as just spitting on your box to keep it closed. Magnets that break. Suction cup with no suction. Sponges that, well, you get my point. There is a clear point at which I draw the line because I can pretty much see the loss of quality. If you wind up buying 4 times as many or having to replace the generic version, it’s really not worth it in the end.

4. Some Things Really Are Worth Name Brand

For me, it took some wasted money and refunds to realize that sometimes it just made more sense to buy the name brand. Scotch Brite products? Yep. Other spongers and dish wands can go straight to the trash. The same goes for Swiffer refills (although, I can use just about any disinfecting wipes!) Bertolli freezer meals are just about the best. I have tried various other brands, and they never stack up. Similarly, I often have a harder time with “generic” jeans.

And what’s worth it to you may not be the same for me, but your house isn’t mine, and our needs aren’t the same. When you find a name brand you like, whether it’s because of quality, customer service or because the company’s values align with your own, you’ll know when it’s right.

So what tips do you have for shopping generic?

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