Shakespeare was ahead of his time. He asked if a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. And guess what? Call it what you will, a rose is a rose is…. You get the idea.
Maybe the same goes for name brands of products versus generic brands. Are they equal in quality? Well, the answer to that one is: not always. But the good news is that aspirin is aspirin and bleach is bleach and only the price label on the shelf is different. No, I’m not giving up my Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, or my Honey Nut Cheerios. But I am making some changes when it comes to generic versus name brands when it comes to weekly shopping. On a recent foray through my local King Soopers (a Colorado chain owned by Kroger and sister to City Market), I found some pretty stunning price differences:
Over-the-counter drugs: The ingredients must meet strict standards regardless of the label. Prilosec OTC (42 tablets) were on sale for $26.27. The generic brand, labeled omeprazole, was $17.99. Tums antacid tablets sat beside generic ones, looking identical (same packaging and same colored tabs), for $4.24 and $2.14, respectively. A bottle of 50 coated Advil tablets (200 mg) was $6.99 while the generic ibuprofen, same coating and number, was $1.69. Bayer aspirin was $6.69 for 40 tablets. The Kroger brand was $2.99 for 300. Wow.
Dairy: Eggland’s Best extra-large eggs were $2.79 a dozen, while the generic were $2.19. I’ve tried both. The generic are fine for baking and deviled eggs, but I prefer EBs for my morning breakfast. Milk, a carefully controlled and monitored industry, can’t vary that much from one brand to another. The Viva 2 percent half-gallon was $2.19 and the generic was $1.99. The price point got even narrower with the organic milk. Horizon was $2.69 and the store-brand Simple Truth was $2.59.
Cleaning supplies: We found Windex 26-ounce spray bottles for $3.49 and the house brand, called Home, at $2.39. Clorox bleach (two quarts) was $2.18 and the Kroger brand was 89 cents. I’m thinking: bleach is bleach.
Health: I’ve tried generic toilet paper and tissues. No thanks. But paper towels? Bring it on. Viva towels (48 square feet) were $1.99 a roll. The Home brand was 99 cents for TWO rolls (110 Square feet). I use them all the time and they’re great. A box of 22-count Glad tall kitchen trash bags were $6.99. The Home brand were $4.59 for 45 bags. The Glad bags had handle ties. Big deal. For that price, I can tie the top shut myself.
Grains and canned goods: Uncle Ben is a nice guy, but he charges $3.49 for 14 ounces of instant brown rice. The Kroger brand is $1.49 and I can’t tell the difference. American Beauty lasagna noodles were $3.29 for 16 ounces; Kroger’s were $1.74. Hunt’s tomato sauce (15 ounces) was $1.39; the generic was 89 cents.
Spices: These are a real head-scratcher. Just finding two comparable products is a mystery (what size, or what kind of cinnamon?) but we did find that Spice Islands garlic powder was regularly $7.19 for 2.25 ounces; it was on sale for $4.99; the generic was 1.75 ounces at $1. Always check out the bulk sections for deals on spices. The per pound price might look scary, but spices are light and a few ounces go a long way. Compare the cost per gram or pound to bottled spices.
Baking: We found Heinz apple cider vinegar (32 ounces) for $2.89 and the Kroger brand for $1.99 (but on sale for 3 for $5). If you are using vinegar to bake or clean, the brand doesn’t matter. Save the Bragg’s ACV for your health and nutritional needs.
Meats: Jennie-O lean ground turkey (93 percent lean) was priced at $4.99 for 20 ounces. The Kroger ground turkey (only 80 percent lean) was $3.99 for 19 ounces or $7.19 for a three-pound package. The Simple Truth organic ground turkey was $5.99. That’s where you have to make the call on whether you want organic, lower fat or whatever.
We found huge price differences in boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The Red Bird brand was $7.99 a pound for a smaller package (3 or 4); the generic big packs (with maybe a dozen or more) were $1.79 a pound. Worth taking it home and repackaging into smaller portions for your family.
The results: The generic brands were often on the lowest shelves in the store, or sort of hidden behind posts. Some generic brands were just as effective or tasty as the name brand equivalents. And some weren’t. But try them out. Yes, I’ve had some negative reactions to generic products (a can of green chiles full of seeds and skin comes to mind), but for the most part, they’re worth trying, anyway. What have you got to lose?
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