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How Much Does Buying Generic Save You in 2022?

Generic brands have come a long way since they first popped up in the late 1970s (too bad disco can’t say the same thing). What once was a plain black-and-white box of corn flakes is now a colorful spread that looks pretty similar to its real-deal name-brand cousin. And with bigwigs like Target, Kroger and Aldi all carrying their own store brands, you might not even notice you aren’t purchasing name-brand items.

Whether it’s the updated look or the idea that generic brands will save you a few bucks, more Americans seem to be ditching the name-brand items in favor of generic products. Recent consumer data showed an 11.4% increase in generic brand purchases in 2020.1 Two years later, with the price of food currently up nearly 9% year over year, everyone is looking to save money on groceries.2

But the question is . . . are generic brands really cheaper than name-brand items in 2022? And can you really taste the difference between off-brand cheese and the name-brand stuff?

First, let’s address a common myth:

Is It Always Cheaper to Buy Generic?

As much as you might think this is an easy yes, the simple answer here is actually no. That is, if you’re into couponing.

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Most coupons are for name-brand items, and if you have a good coupon (or several that you can stack!), it can drastically lower the price—sometimes even lower than the store brand. So don’t automatically assume generic will be the least expensive option every time. It pays to compare prices, coupons and sales flyers.

What Are the Best Items to Buy Generic?

Did you know that certain generic-brand and name-brand items contain the same ingredients and are sometimes even made at the same factory? That means they’re pretty much in the same family . . . just with packaging that’s a little different.

If you’re still worried that shopping generic might slash the quality of your meal, listen to this: A lot of chefs admit to buying generic for staple items, like salt, sugar and baking soda. Yep, it’s true! And if it’s good enough for the pros, then why not for you too?

Even if you aren’t ready to buy all generic all the time, it’s worth checking into the generic versions of these staple items so you can save money too:

Milk and Juice

Because items like milk and juice are produced regionally, they usually have lower processing and transportation costs factored into their price—which means the cost to you is cheaper than the name-brand options.

Spices, Flour, Sugar and Cooking Oils

The next time you need to whip up some homemade cookies or pancakes, consider buying all generic products. Generic cooking oils, flour, sugar and salt are basically the same as that precious name-brand you’re always drawn to anyway.

Produce

Your local grocery store won’t always have fruits and vegetables that are name-brand or generic. Sometimes an onion is just an onion. But when it comes to other items like certain name-brand bananas, you’ll find that the batch of no-name bananas will still taste like—you guessed it—bananas.

Rice and Beans

Living off of rice and beans (and beans and rice) is maybe one of Dave Ramsey’s most famous pieces of advice for saving money to pay off debt, and you can save even more on those rice and beans when you buy generic!

Generic-Brand vs. Name-Brand Meal Plan

We’ve found that you can save time and money when you meal plan in advance, but it’s time to really put generic and name-brand prices to the test: Can you actually save more by buying generic ingredients for meals?

We compared three dinner recipes for a family of four based on the prices at Kroger in Nashville, Tennessee (tax not included). Here’s the breakdown:

Recipe #1: Spaghetti

Ingredients

Generic Price

Name-Brand Price

Ground Beef 80% (16 oz.)

$5.99

$6.49

Spaghetti Noodles (16 oz.)

$1.25

$1.79

Onion (1)

$0.65

$0.65

Tomato Sauce (1 jar, 24 oz.)

$1.59

$2.69

 

Total: $9.48

Total: $11.62

Recipe #2: Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Ingredients

Generic Price

Name-Brand Price

Chicken Breast (1 can, 5 oz.)

$1.79

$2.69

Instant White Rice (1 box)

$1.89

$2.19

Cream of Chicken Soup (1 can)

$1.19

$1.49

Cream of Celery Soup (1 can)

$1.25

$1.89

Cream of Mushroom Soup (1 can)

$1.19

$1.49

Butter (4 oz.)

$3.49

$4.99

Frozen Mixed Veggies (1 bag)

$1

$1

 

Total: $11.80

Total: $15.74

Recipe #3: Loaded Beef Tacos

Ingredients

Generic Price

Name-Brand Price

Ground Beef 80% (16 oz.)

$5.99

$6.49

Taco Shells (12 count)

$1

$1.49

Flour Tortillas (10 count)

$1.89

$1.99

Taco Seasoning

$0.39

$1

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

$2.29

$3.49

Onion (1)

$0.65

$0.65

Tomato (1)

$1.29

$1.29

Canned Tomato Sauce (8 oz.)

$0.39

$0.69

Shredded Lettuce

$1.99

$1.89

Salsa (16 oz.)

$1.39

$2.99

Sour Cream (16 oz.)

$1.89

$2.19

 

Total: $19.16

Total: $24.16

Comparing these three meals shows that you’d save over $11 a week by switching to all generic products just for dinner alone. That’s about $44 a month or $528 a year! And that’s not even counting how much you could save by buying store brands for breakfast and lunch items, cleaning supplies, toiletries and snacks.

So, if you can’t seem to trim your grocery budget, try going completely generic for a few months. You might end up with a little more breathing room!

Which Tastes Better: Generic or Name Brand?

This really all comes down to personal preference. There will be loyalists who believe baked cheese crackers only taste good when made by that one certain name brand of choice.

But the truth is, a lot of our beloved name brands taste just as good as their off-brand counterparts. Consumer Reports says most store brands can measure up to the name brands in overall taste and quality—and they’re usually 20% to 25% lower in price!3

Plus, as we mentioned earlier, many grocery stores sell products under new labels that promise higher-quality ingredients but still tend to be cheaper than other name brands. For example, Kroger-brand tomato sauce is $1.59, but Kroger’s Private Selection-brand tomato sauce is $2.49, which is still 20 cents cheaper than the name-brand sauce.

That said, there are certain items that you should buy generic and some that you should stick to your trusted name brand on. Use your best judgement, and be sure to compare nutrition labels along with price tags.

Are Name Brands Higher Quality?

A market research study by IRi found that 75% of us believe store brands are just as good in quality as the major national brands.4 And again, sometimes the store brands are even manufactured in the same factories as the name-brand stuff—that’s the case with many Trader Joe’s-brand products.5

In other words, there are times you might be paying extra to get the exact same ingredient in different packaging. No, thank you.

But again, this is really based on your personal preference and the way you feel about the brand itself. The marketing and even packaging of the product can play a large role in what we think about the quality of an item.

Are There Generic Organic Options?

Yes! Some of the big-box stores have generic store brands that include organic options. And many grocery stores are now offering their own organic store brands, like Simple Truth at Kroger or GreenWise at Publix.

So, the next time you’re in the grocery store, take a look around to see if they carry their own generic organic options. It can be a great way to get some dollars back in your budget and get the benefit of eating organic. Win-win!

Will Buying Generic Really Impact Your Budget?

Like a lot of things that look budget friendly, you have to weigh it against your family’s own personal budget and consider what works for you. Maybe you can get name-brand cereal at a fraction of the cost when your store doubles coupons. That’s pretty tough to beat! So, read the labels and start comparing generic and name-brand products item by item.

The truth is, one of the easiest ways to drastically cut your food budget is by switching to generic. In our three-meal example, you could drop over $500 a year from your food budget. And that’s only dinner!

Think about how much you could save if you bought generic for all your grocery needs. It doesn’t take a ton of effort on your part, and it can save you big bucks in the long run. All you have to do is make the choice to grab the generic item off the shelf. That’s pretty easy! And it’s a difference you’ll be able to notice right away in your budget.

Speaking of budget, do you have one yet? Because we know a great (free!) budgeting tool called EveryDollar. Download it today, and track just how much money you’re saving at the grocery store. And everywhere else.

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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