What Products Do YOU Buy Generic?

by heather

A few days ago, WalletPop posted an interesting article about buying generics. It was a “Top 10” list of things you should think about buying generic.

The article had some great suggestions in there, and it certainly got me thinking. What do I always buy generic? And what do I refuse to buy generic because I don’t want to skimp on flavor?

These are subtle decisions I always make in the grocery store. But until the WalletPop article, I’d never really stopped to think about them.

Well, I decided to take a looky-loo through my house to see what I’ve been buying.


1. Medicine

This was a WalletPop suggestion that I follow as well. I always buy generic medicine. It’s significantly cheaper than name-brand, and does just as good a job.

2. Pasta

I almost never buy name-brand pasta anymore. The generic is just as good to me!

3. Canned Foods

Being vegetarians, we eat a lot of beans. One look into my pantry and I saw tons of generic labels for garbanzo beans, black beans, northern beans…

We also buy generic diced red tomatoes (more so in the winter than now). We were addicted to Red Gold until our local grocery store went insane and started charging $1.47 per can. So, we buy generic for 99 cents. And you know what? They’re just as delicious.

4. Post-Consumer Recycled Toilet Paper

I wish I could tell you how hard it is to get recycled toilet paper where I live. No major stores carry it. My little local grocery stocks it from time to time, but only in the expensive packs of 4 rolls. And, they’re rolled really loose so we go through them fast.

My find of the year?

CVS-brand recycled toilet paper.

I stalk the weekend flyers and wait for this stuff to go on sale (I got this mondo pack of recycled tp for $5 last month).

Is it worth it? You bet.

5. Organic, Fair Trade Coffee

I have a serious addiction to Newman’s Own Organic Coffee. But there are several problems with this.

1. It’s expensive ($10/bag-not even 1 lb.!)

2. I have to drive 15 minutes to get it. Not good.

So imagine my surprise when I saw local-chain Meijer with their own organic, fair trade coffee. And the best part? $6.39/lb, and it regularly goes on sale for less than that.

Is it as good as Newman’s? Well, no. But it gets me through the morning.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad. It’s just…not Newman’s. I’m only on my second bag, so I’m hoping that the constant comparison I’m doing with the lusciousness of Newman’s will fade over time.

5. Spices

Want to know an awesome place to get spices?


I get staples like red pepper flakes, regular pepper, and cinnamon there for 99 cents. That’s a fraction what I’d pay at the grocery store. And yes, they’re just as good as name brand.

You can also get great deals on spices sometimes at CVS. I’ve seen them on sale there for 99 cents, or 2 for $1.


So, what do I hands-down refuse to buy generic?

There are a couple of things.

Olive oil, for one. Hard cheese, for another.

Really, that’s about it.


As I said, WalletPop had some great suggestions for buying generic.

My favorite was electrical cables.

Case in point: a few months ago we needed a HDMI cable for our TV. One trip to Target and I cringed. They were $28! For a cord! And that was a bargain compared to what they were charging over at Best Buy.

I looked on Amazon, and found one for $5. We had it within days. And it works just great.

Electrical cables, like HDMI, are super expensive for some reason. But look on eBay to find used ones. You’ll save a bundle.

Generic Gas?

One thing I didn’t get about the WalletPop article was that of generic gas. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Are there really places you can get “generic” gas?

If you guys know anything about this, please fill me in. Maybe they just don’t offer generic gas here in Michigan, but I sure felt out of the loop on this one.

What Do YOU Buy Generic?

I’d love to hear what you guys always buy generic. And, what do you refuse to buy generic?

For instance, Vince over at Scordo.com is Italian. This means he’s a pasta connoisseur. We had a brief discussion about pasta once, and he would never buy generic pasta. Why? Because he can taste the difference.

And well he should. He regularly makes his own pasta, so to he’s able to pick up on the nuanced flavors. For him, it’s worth it to spend more on high quality pasta and skimp on other areas.

Me? It all tastes the same. But then again, I’m from Louisiana, not Italy.

So, let’s hear it! And if you’ve managed to find a generic product that really IS better than the name-brand, I’d love to hear about that too!


John July 15, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I’ll buy almost anything generic if the cost is saving is there.

Tightwad July 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I’m all over the generic! I love generic! I nominated you for an award.. come visit!

Jenny July 15, 2010 at 8:24 pm

If they sold generic cars, furniture and homes, I would probably have Equate brand of all that as well.

Isabelle July 15, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Does Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value brand count as generic? I buy tons of that. I buy generic drugs all the time, too. Probably wouldn’t buy generic wine, wouldn’t want to take a chance on that :-)!

c. July 15, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Actually, the biggest thing is to avoid the “upsell” when you do go to Best Buy, etc. Avoid it like the plague. “just say no” “just say no again” pay for item. leave store asap.

Or put an all call out to friends and freecycle for cables and cords. So many people have them but they’re not matched to their current needs/equipment. That hand me down dvd player – ask around. The bottom will have your voltage requirements etc. Or go to a place like microcenter that sells all the basics and doesn’t upsell you even 1/8th of what best buy does.

As for generics. I won’t buy generic milk, butter, eggs. I buy bulk beans, dried fruit, flour, nuts etc.. organic is stocked next to the regular at my local grocery store and the price difference is 10-30 cents a pound. Totally livable.

Scordo July 16, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Hi Heather,

Great article on buying generic. Overall, I think there are some consumer products that are commodities and should be bought on a “cheapest” price basis. However, there are a ton of consumer products that do offer better value and, frankly, a better end product (pasta in my view is a given, but you can include coffee, bread, milk, eggs, meats, etc.). I buy local eggs and they taste better and are fresher (I pay a premium); the same is true for the bread, milk, and meats I purchase (I don’t want to save 80 cents per pound on the food that I consume; but I’ve been programmed to see eating well as a huge living well component!).

My two cents,
Vince Scordo

heather July 16, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Wow, you guys have written in with some great tips! Thanks so much!

Alicia July 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I love all your topics here! I have been an advocate of generic for many years. They are budget friendly, economical and most foods taste exactly the same. I read somewhere many years ago that generic brands are owned by name brand companies and sell it at a lower price. Whether you buy your favorite store’s brand or any other generic brand, you are saving a bundle.

I shop Aldi Foods, which is almost all off-brand and generic foods and taste just as good as the name brand. I do like to buy fresh produce, eggs, yogurt and some cheese from local farmer’s markets and grow herbs myself when I can. We have an all year market nearby, so it’s nice to buy fresh when I can.

Foxmom July 19, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Personally my favorite “house brand” is kirkland at Costco. I get 2.5 pouds of organic coffee for $9.99. Before my kids were born that was the real reason I had the membership in the first place. LOL The Sumatra blend is amazing.
I stay away from canned foods for the most part due to the bpa but I’m looking forward to a day when I can stock up with them in whatever brand is avail.

heather July 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm

@Foxmom- Wow, I had no idea Kirkland had organic coffee! I’ll definitely look for that next time I’m in there. All I’ve seen in mine is the gigantic tubs of Folger’s, which is NOT organic. Thanks for the tip! 🙂

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