savings

How Much Can Buying Generic Brands Save You at the Grocery Store?

8 Minute Read

Generic brands have come a long way since they first came on the scene back in the late 1970s (too bad disco can’t say the same thing). Even their product labeling is drastically different nowadays. What once was a plain, black-and-white box of cornflakes is now a colorful spread that looks pretty similar to its "real deal" name-brand cousin.

According to the Private Label Manufacturers Association, the purchase of store brand items has increased by $5.4 million in the last two years.(1) And with the bigwigs like Costco, Target, Kroger and Aldi all carrying their own store brands, you might not even notice you aren’t purchasing name-brand items.

Still, a lot of us just assume generic brands are cheaper than their name-brand competitors. You might pop the generic box of cereal in your shopping cart and never even think to compare price tags! But are generic brands really cheaper than name-brand items?

Generic-Brand vs. Name-Brand Meal Plan

How does the price of generic pasta compare to the price of name-brand noodles? And can you really taste the difference between store-brand cheese and the name-brand stuff? We compared three dinner recipes for a family of four based on the prices at Kroger (tax not included).
Here’s the breakdown:

Recipe #1: Spaghetti

Ingredients Generic Price Name-Brand Price
Ground Beef 80% (16 ounces) $3.99 $4.99
Spaghetti Noodles (16 ounces) $1.00 $1.49
Onion (1) $0.74 $0.74
Tomato Sauce (1 jar, 24 ounces) $0.99 $2.19
  Total: $6.72 Total: $9.41

Recipe #2: Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

Ingredients Generic Price Name-Brand Price
Chicken Breast (1 can) $1.77 $3.99
Instant White Rice (1 box) $1.69 $2.29
Cream of Chicken Soup (1 can) $0.79 $1.50
Cream of Celery Soup (1 can) $0.79 $1.50
Cream of Mushroom Soup (1 can) $0.79 $1.50
Butter $2.79 $4.79
Frozen Mixed Veggies (1 bag) $1.00 $1.99
  Total: $9.62 Total: $17.56

Recipe #3: Loaded Beef Tacos

Ingredients Generic Price Name-Brand Price
Ground Beef 80% (16 ounces) $3.99 $4.99
Taco Shells (12 count) $1.00 $1.79
Flour Tortillas (8 count) $1.49 $3.29
Taco Seasoning $0.37 $0.99
Shredded Cheddar Cheese $1.99 $3.49
Onion (1) $0.74 $0.74
Tomato (1) $0.50 $0.50
Canned Tomato Sauce (8 ounces) $0.33 $0.49
Shredded Lettuce $1.19 $1.99
Salsa (16 ounces) $1.29 $2.49
Sour Cream (16 ounces) $1.25 $2.19
  Total: $14.14 Total: $22.95
 

Comparing these three meals, you’d save nearly $20 a week by switching to all generic products—just for dinner alone! That’s $80 a month, or $1,040 a year! And that’s not even counting how much you could save by buying store brand for breakfast and lunch items, cleaning supplies, toiletries and snacks.

The money class that will change your life!

Get Started

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!

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.

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 less 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!

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 generic counterparts. A group of Consumer Reports "taste testers" found that most store brands measure up to the name brands in overall taste and quality—and they’re usually 15–30% lower in price!(2)

Are there generic options that are also organic?

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 too! 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.

Are name-brands higher quality?

A recent market research study by IRi found that 75% of those they surveyed believe store brands are just as good in quality as the major national brands.(3)

Even professional chefs have caught the generic-brand bug. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, when buying staples like salt, sugar and baking soda, chefs were more likely to buy generic.(4) If it’s good enough for the pros, than why not for you too?

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 how we perceive the quality of an item.

What are the best items to buy generic?

It’s worth noting that, in some cases, certain generic-brand and name-brand items contain the same ingredients—and they might even be manufactured at the same location! Which means they’re pretty much in the same family . . . just with packaging that’s a little different.

Even if you aren’t ready to convert to purchasing all generic all the time, there are a few staple items you should be buying generic if you’re really trying to save money:

Milk and Juice

Because items like milk and juice are produced regionally, there are usually less processing and transportation costs that come along—which means the cost to you is going to be cheaper than the name-brand options.

Spices, Flour and Sugar

The next time you need to whip up some homemade pancakes or waffles, consider buying all generic products. Generic 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 likely taste like—you guessed it—bananas.

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 taking a good look at 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 generics. In our three-meal example, you could drop over $1,000 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 requires pretty minimal 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!

Are you ready to find even more ways to save? Download our free budgeting app EveryDollar! You can track your spending habits in different categories to help reach your goals. And with EveryDollar Plus, each bank transaction pops up in the app, making it even easier to budget!

More from the Blog

New to Dave? Start Here!

Sign Me Up (It's Free!)

Save Big This Year!

Buy Now

Start Saving Today!

Dave’s #1 bundle, The Starter Special, will help you get rid of your debt, save money and create a plan.

Get Dave’s #1 bundle, The Starter Special for all the books and tools you need to make a plan.

Buy Now

Thank You!

A confirmation email is on its way to !

Next: Save Big This Year!