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31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget: Don’t Be Brand Dependent

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85 Comments

  • leigh anne says:

    great tips! i’ve found that not being loyal to brands allows me to get the cheapest yogurt, bread and other commonly bought items each week at the grocery store! i’ve done this and haven’t had to buy store brand yogurt for a year (well until this past week when the coupons for yogurt weren’t as plenty as they have been).

  • Becky says:

    There is one thing that I am brand snobber-ish about and that is Dawn Dish soap. I got some Gain free at CVS and now I have to mix it half and half with my Dawn to get the same grease removal.
    Even if i get it free, if I”m using twice or three times as much, is doesn’t really save me (or the environment) anything.

    • Crystal says:

      Great point! That’s too funny about dish soap; I’ve never noticed a difference!

    • Emily says:

      Becky – I am so glad to hear I’m not the only one who is a Dawn snob! I have gotten so many free bottles of Gain, but it just doesn’t cut through the grease like my trusty Dawn! 🙂

      I keep a bottle of each out now by the sink and choose the best soap for that night of dishes. Lol!

    • Sarah says:

      I have only just become brand loyal to Dawn. I was using Ajax or store brand (and the occasional free Gain), and I used it up so fast! But the bottle of Dawn is lasting forever. The bubbles stay longer and it really really does cut grease better.

      • Patti says:

        I buy Aldi’s brand and use it when I don’t have greasy dishes… saving the Dawn for them. So I am sort of a Dawn snob…LOL!

    • Now that I think about it, I like Dawn the best too. Luckily it’s always on sale and there are usually coupons. 🙂

  • Valarie says:

    One point to add–
    Nearly every store brand I can think of offers a money back guarantee on their product if you are not satisfied with it, for any reason. Even Aldi offers this. Some might say that it’s too much trouble to bother with returning something to the grocery store but in most cases it wouldn’t require a special trip since you would likely be returning to the store to purchase other items within a week or two. The way I see it…this really eliminates the “I don’t want to risk not liking something and therefore wasting money ” argument against trying store brands. Just my two cents! =)

    • Crystal says:

      Very good point. Thanks so much for bringing that up!

    • Angie says:

      Speaking of returning something to the grocery store: I bought a 3 lb bag of apples once, and all but like 3 of the apples were mushy. You know what? I returned them the next day. I was so annoyed. I try to inspect my produce but somehow the mushy apples got by me. If there were only 1-2 mush apples, I would have tossed those apples and kept the rest and went on with my life, but I find 80% mushy apples in a bag completely unacceptable, and I made the trip to return them, since I don’t live that far from that particular store. I didn’t want to wait too long because I want the store to be sure that the apples were in fact mushy when I bought them.

      The store took them back – no questions asked. I guess my point is, some people do go to the trouble to return things to the grocery store.

      • melissa says:

        I have absolutley returned produce if an excess of it is bad. Seinfeld said, “fruit is a gamble”, but it doesn’t hurt to try returning it.

        I also bought a value pack of chicken breasts at Safeway that was bad. They took it back without question. The smell of off chicken was all the convincing they needed!

  • I’m a toilet paper snob (only Charmin for us!) and that’s about it…oh, and mayonnaise-I definitely taste a difference when it’s not Hellmans/Best Foods. Other than that, we’re pretty equal opportunity. Some store brands I even prefer to name brands! (anything Kirkland is high quality, and the Target brands are always comparable if not better than brand name.

    • Mary Ellen says:

      Me too! #1, some older homes have to be brand dependent as their older sewer system/toilet cannot take certain brands of toilet paper. #2, after growing up on thin Angel Soft I only buy Charmin

    • Claire says:

      I’m a toilet paper snob too simply b/c when I buy (for the month) 12 double rolls of Angel Soft, it doesn’t last the whole month, but when I buy 12 double rolls of Scott TP it does! So its simply a matter not of price (b/c in my area, the difference between the two is about a $1 or less…even with coupons) but what is the best investment of my money. Scott wins almost every time (unless there’s a phenomenal deal on Charmin or Cottenelle:-P which is every few months or so but again, even those don’t seem to last as long as Scott)

    • Wendy says:

      It has to be Charmin Sensitive in our house because it’s the only one I don’t have an allergic reaction to. And with only 1 bathroom, it doesn’t work to hide it and try to keep another brand out for my hubby and son. I know this because I’ve tried! But somehow they always end up finding the Charmin and using it! LOL

  • My mom was very brand snobby, and that’s how I grew up, so I thought that was the way it was. I’ve learned that doing away with this does save us TONS on money. There are some things we like the name brand of better (Coke, Eggo waffles) and others that we actually like the off brand better (Aldi’s chicken nuggets, some cereals).
    This is a great tip! 🙂

    • Krysten says:

      I could have written the first part of your comment! My mom is VERY stuck on her certain name brands, and I can tell when she comes to my house that she tries hard not to turn her nose up at my pantry that is usually at least half store brand items. She refuses to believe me when I tell her that store brand green beans taste the same as Del Monte! 🙂

      • melissa says:

        Serve her store brand green beans but leave an empty can of Del Monte beans on the counter, then laugh when she tells you how much better the “Del Monte” beans taste! lol!

  • Erin says:

    We’ve found we like a lot of off brands we like better (Aldi yogurt and fruit pies, most cereals, and Price Chopper cold cuts), but there are also name brands we prefer (my husband and I are very picky about our shampoo and I love my Turkey Hill tea!).

  • MomofTwoPreciousGirls says:

    Not sure about the rest of you, but local Publix is doing a “Buy Theirs, Get Ours Free” this week. They are giving away their store brands of certain things so you can compare it to the name brand! I did a very tiny shopping so I did not check it out deeper….figured I will when I do my big one.

  • Traci says:

    I’ve always been a brand snob towards Tide. I really don’t know why but it’s just what I’ve always used! But recently I’ve been able to get some good deals on other detergents so I’m now willing to give them a try. I’m finishing up my last box of Tide right now so we’ll see how the other brands go… I’m sure they will be fine. 🙂

    Another thing I’m kind of snobbish about is cheese. I’m willing to try other cheaper brands but I’m finding that I just don’t like them as much as a few of my favorites. I’ve gotten several great deals recently, but it can be a disappointment when I have a craving and the texture or flavor just isn’t the same.

    • Heather says:

      You really do get what you pay for with cheese. That said, I do get the cheap stuff frequently. In a casserole, it’s not as noticeable. But if you’re going to eat it plain . . . .

    • DeAnna says:

      yep,total cheese snob here. Only Kraft slices, and only Sargento shreds and snack cheeses. The store brands all taste plastic-y to me!

    • melissa says:

      I used to only buy Tillamook Cheddar. Love it, but Costco’s Kirkland Sharp Cheddar comes in way cheaper than even sale/coupon combos I can get on any brand here in the Bay Area. And it’s perfectly fine. 2# for $5.54 is my best price for cheddar so far.

  • Trish Conard says:

    I’ll admit that I tend to stick to the same brands when it comes to grooming products. I can only use certain kinds of deodorant because other brands make my armpits sweat and breakout, but I also find myself buying the same brand of toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, body wash, etc just because it is a habit to buy a certain brand, not because we do not like the other brands.

    • Moriah Lazik says:

      yeah I can only use one kind of detergent and one kind of body wash because of my sensitive skin. I find myself looking for sales! But I know that if I could use just *any* detergent or body wash that it’d be easier and a lot cheaper!

    • I do that too sometimes….There are some brands that I like much better. I just try to make sure that I stock up on those things when they are on sale and I have coupons. The name brand stuff ends up being much cheaper sometimes if you do it that way.

  • Karrie says:

    No kidding! My mother-in-law is always asking me about how I get my great deals. One day she happened to be at CVS with me, so I told her to grab some Crest toothpaste and I’d show her how she can get it free. She was super-excited at first, and then she said, “Oh, bummer, that’s not the kind we use.” I said, “Buuuuuut, it’s FREE. And it’s not a weird, unknown brand, it’s Crest!” When she utterly refused, I told her to call me when she’s serious. 🙂

    • Jodi says:

      I always used Colgate when I lived with my parents. Now that I get my tp for free, I buy whatever is on sale. And now my favorite brand is actually Crest! I love the Scope Outlast version.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Good advice!! My favorite brand of those little green olives with pimentos in them, in our area, I have only found them at Walgreens and they often have a store coupon for them at that and I am pretty able to keep stocked during those coupon times!! You never know if you do not try them. When it comes to black olives, there are brands I far prefer over others, having tried most kinds, but even the brands I am not as fond of, do just fine in cooked things…when I want olives for eating alone, THEN is the time to just use those certain kinds I like the best.

  • A says:

    This makes me recall my first shopping trip with my husband when we were one week married. On item after item, we discovered that his mom preferred one brand while mine had preferred another. 🙂 We had lots of good laughs on that trip!

    Now, fifteen years later, we are brand-snobs on very, very few items. We’ve found what “our” choice is in nearly every category, and we often find generics to be just as satisfying as name brands.

    Thanks!

  • Rachel says:

    My husband teases me about toilet paper. I have to have Scotts (regular, not quilted) and he hates it. So I end up buying two brands; Scotts for me and anything on sale that is soft for him.

    • Jennifer says:

      Ha! I know how you feel! I grew up using what my husband calls “butt-scratcher” toilet paper (which, coincidentally, he grew up using, too!). Well, now he will have nothing to do with that kind of toilet paper so we have to use the soft, quilted kind, which sometimes, frankly, is just too soft and little pieces go everywhere. But I guess it keeps him happy! :o)

  • Jessica says:

    Most of the time I really don’t care what I buy and buy whatever is cheapest. I am a brand snob on: TP (only Scott- lasts SO much longer), Dawn dish doap, Electrasol dishwasher soap, and Dove deodorant as I break out.

    Everything else is up for grabs!

  • Rae says:

    I am only completely brand loyal on one thing… Dove deodorant. Every other brand I have tried (Suave, Secret, Degree, Mitchum, Lady Speed Stick, Sure, etc, etc) have not worked well on me. It’s funny though because last time this topic came up on this blog, some people said the same thing and others said that they could use anything except Dove. It’s great that everybody has different preferences though because it means that there will continue to be a variety at the stores.

    Other things that I have a brand preference on but will not pay more for them (luckily they also go on sale the cheapest for me): Dawn dish detergent, husband likes Old Spice deodorant (though he’ll use whatever I get), Yoplait yogurt, Cottonelle toilet paper.

  • There was an interesting article about Aldi brand olive oil on a UK website (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2008458/Why-priciest-olive-oil-isnt-best.html). Not exactly about choosing off-brands, but it does tie in to the topic at hand here! I thought it was good encouragement (and proof??) that name brand doesn’t always equal best.

    • melissa says:

      And I read on a Yahoo olive oil comparison recently that Trader Joe’s brand Spanish olive oil was top-rated. I happen to think it’s the best I’ve tried, and it’s a great price…$5.99/liter!

  • Sharyn says:

    I’m brand snobish too on a few things, but if ‘m having a week where I only have $20 for aything (like this week!) I can’t affrod to be piky! I get only things we desperately need & no specialities! My kids don’t like it, but they’ll understand someday! And they still love me at the end of the day!

  • Karen says:

    My daughter is allergic to corn so I really have to watch the ingredients in items I buy. I have found that off brands (store, generic etc) usually have LESS high fructose corn syrup and dextrose (just a few of the ingredients we have to watch out for) in them than the name brands. It has become habit when buying items to grab the off brand first before looking at the store brand! I am a brand snob on Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup (she can’t have it, but I can 😉 ) and Cottonelle tp. We used to only buy Tide, but decided to try Purex and are now saving loads of money, literally..lol

  • Karen says:

    * I meant: It has become habit when buying items to grab the off brand first before looking at the name brand!

  • Christie Jester says:

    For most things, we’re not brand picky. I would say that I have a few brands that I just don’t like, so I avoid those and use whatever other brand is on sale (even the store brands.) For example, I really don’t care how many coupons there are, Pantene shampoo dries out my hair too much, and I won’t buy it. Just about anything else will work though. I also tried an eco-friendly brand of dishwasher detergent that really didn’t work at all, so I’ll skip that too. But there are so many other brands to try, there’s usually a coupon for at least one of them =)

  • Natalie says:

    My first job out of college was in a meat processing plant (not my dream job, but it paid the bills). One thing that I learned was that often times, generics are exactly the same as name brand, produced by the name brand company on the same manufacturing line, only with a different label. For example, when we processed bologna, the meat mixture for name brand vs. store brand was the same, they just changed the package and label color depending on who it was being packaged for. For some products, there really is no difference!

    • I found that out too! Sometimes check the labels, sometimes they are made in the same plant, which just a different label on them. Things like green beans, pickles, ketchup etc. I have read this about!

    • Mary Ellen says:

      And between store generics as well. I noticed that Target and Walmart’s generic baby formula has the exact same taste, texture, scoop and stamp on the bottom of their can.

    • Nickeletta says:

      I learned this many years ago when I worked at a grocery store. We got to tour a few manufacturing companies. One was a dairy that was packing milk where the only difference was the label on the gallon, another was a plastics company that packaged ziploc-style sandwich bags under many different names. For things like canned vegetables the national name brand usually get the best products and the house generic brand will get the not as high quality odds and ends.

      I am brand loyal to Cottonelle toilet paper, certain kinds of feminine products, and Pepsi products.

  • Tammy says:

    PUREX is the only laundry detergent I use.Somebody else mentioned grooming products are brand loyal until they change their brands on us and then you pick a new razor,feminine product etcc.Food I can change all of the time.Good thing because our Kroger closed.

  • Rachel says:

    When I’m tempted to be Brand Dependent I am always reminded of the local Pretzel factory we toured when I was a kid. We watched how the pretzels were made and then we’d get to see how they were packaged….in a huge room where they were filling dozens of different kinds of bags (with different names on them) with the exact same pretzels. I’m sure this happens a lot with other things as well.

    • Rae says:

      yep I went to a cookie factory where they had the cookies packed as different brands 🙂

      • DeAnna says:

        Me too, Rae. It was in Kentucky and I remember taking pictures with my phone so I could show my brand dependent parents that they were the exact some cookies in all bags!

  • Kaitlyn says:

    I completely agree! One thing I try to tell people is not to be all about one brand. I have this friend who is an complete brand snob in every way that you can think of. She will buy the most expensive brand because she thinks it tastes better. She came to be a little while ago and she was telling me how her family has no food, and she can’t get any because she doesn’t even have any money. So I told her that there’s this great sale going on at a local store and with my coupons she will get the items for free plus overage and I’d let her use my coupons. Well she wanted to know what brand it was, so I mentioned it (a very popular one) and she told me she refused to eat any of that because it wasn’t the brand she always gets regardless of if it was free. She had no food or no money to get food and she turned down food because it wasn’t the expensive brand that she liked. I understand being brand dependent on some things, but to the point where you refuse to eat because it’s not a certain brand? Little bit extreme in my opinion.

    • Michelle says:

      Totally off topic, but it reminded me of this time that I was eating outside for lunch. We were in a large courtyard and a homeless man called out to the crowd “Hungry and homeless can someone buy me a sandwich!” I wasn’t very hungry for the lunch that I had brought so I called him over and handed him a few things out of my bag. I handed him a yogurt and a spoon and he handed it back to me and said that he didn’t do yogurt! Guess he wasn’t that hungry and was just looking for a payout…kinda like your friend! (Totally not meaning to be rude or anything!)

      • Crystal says:

        We had a similar experience. A homeless man came up in a food court and asked if we had any food he could have, so we offered him the food we hadn’t yet touched (big bowl of fruit and some other good food) and he said, “No, I don’t eat that sort of stuff, I want meat” and then he walked off. We were a little taken aback!

        • melissa says:

          Someone should really tell these homeless people that beggars can’t be choosers!

        • DeAnna says:

          We had a homeless person begging for money “to eat” along the road by a bunch of fast food places. When we pulled over and offered to take him in and buy his lunch somewhere he promptly replied “no,just give me the money.” I was pretty disappointed with him and we did not give him anything. Likewise, we were at McDonald’s once (kids wanted to play and I feel guilty using the play area w/o purchasing so we got happy meals) and we saw a homeless man digging through the garbage outside. Both kids,on their own, decided to share one happy meal and give the other to the man. I was very proud of them, and the man graciously accepted and thanked us. I felt good about helping him, and I still believe we should help others even if there are crappy people out there taking advantage of someone’s kindness.

    • wow, that is kind of ridiculous. I can understand a little more if she was rich and didn’t mind spending the extra money…but when people have nothing they aren’t usually too picky.

  • Wendy says:

    I really enjoy to learn all these wonderful tips from all of you. I also want to share something that my father in law shared with me a few weeks ago when he used to work for a Dairy company before owning his own company, he is financially well, but every time I go to their house to visit, most of the time he buys store brand products including milk, dish soap, veggies and fruit cans. I asked him one day why he was not doing organic milk instead of the cheap Safeway brand, and for my surprise he told me that all the milk is the same. He used to be the plant supervisor for that dairy company (Very well known company) and what they did was to put a different label on every the gallon of milk , that included name brands and store brands. Same thing with the water bottles….I know people that work for a water company near my house, and they use the same water that costco, safeway, alaska airlines, haggens, nestle, and so many more companies sell. I hope it helps to encourage you to try different brands and see if that can save you money. It def. made a difference in my grocery budget. Good luck! Thanks Crystal for the encouragement and ideas that you give us to save more $ 🙂

    • melissa says:

      he said organic milk is the same as conventional milk? if that’s the case, there should be a class action suit filed against the sellers of organic.

      • Emily says:

        She must be mistaken on the organic verses conventional. If milk is USDA certified organic, it can’t be the same as conventional. I can believe that the brand name and store brand milk is just the same stuff with different labels, but not organic verses conventional. That is pretty regulated, at least if it is certified organic.

  • Angie says:

    I’m not very brand loyal. There used to be exceptions. For example, for years I never found a ketchup that tastes quite like Heinz until I discovered the BJ’s brand. And now I get my ketchup at BJ’s. I noticed with macaroni and cheese, I feel the store brands are better. I had been buying store brand macaroni and cheese for years, and then found a great sale on Kraft. The Kraft was disappointing. Ironically, I think the store brands are cheesier.

    • Angie says:

      Oh – and I hate Yoplait yogurt and avoid it with a passion – even though I always see sales and coupons on Yoplait. But besides that, there are several other brands of yogurt I like and always seem to find yogurt at a decent price. But those many Yoplait coupons – I leave those alone.

  • Kimberly says:

    I grew up in a brand-loyal family. Cheer-free/clear laundry b/c my dad had sensitive skin,Dawn dish detergent, Crest toothpaste, etc. I didn’t know any better….I was just a kid. As I got older and began buying my own groceries in college, it became clear to me that certain brands were more expensive than others, so I began to experiment with what i bought. Now that I have a family of my own, I am more free with what I buy. I still think Crest toothpaste and PeterPan peanut butter tastes better than any other brands (and trust me…I’ve tried others).
    And if I can get the store brand cheaper than a name brand item on sale and/or with a coupon, I still buy store brand. And most of the time,we can’t tell a difference!

  • Alex says:

    Actually for me, the whole reason I do sales and couponing is so that I can buy the name brand at the same price or cheaper than the generic. We are mostly name brand products (what products don’t matter to me tend somehow to matter to my husband and vice-versa) To me, the most amazing thing about shopping with sales, couopons, and stockpiling is that you can buy all name brands for the same price or cheaper than the generic if your careful. Now there may be a couple of name brands we’ll use for each product, but I’ve not had a problem keeping my budget and buying all name brands.

    • I agree with you Alex! My husband & I are the same. He is very adamant on certain things, I allow him that and don’t expect him to change anytime soon. We see cheap to free detergent ALL the time but he will only use tide, so I buy that especially with drugstore cash, we can still do that without spending a fortune. We tend to stick with brands as opposed to the store brand for most things but Crystal is totally right, for certain things it really doesn’t matter and I would totally buy store brand baking soda for instance. Those things tend not go really go on sale all that much nor are there many coupons. At the same time, it appears that buying brand names for cheap seems to be more impressive to my family, makes couponing all the more worthwhile. I like it even better when I can buy organic or all natural products for a cheap after sales and coupons. At the end of the day, we can’t really force other family members to be open minded about the products we bring home. I’ve tried so many times to do this. I accommodate what they want and that seems to work out better for us. Kids would probably be a little different, as we can direct their tastes from an early age.

  • Steph says:

    We are totally willing to buy store brand items to try out but if we don’t care for it’s quality/taste I won’t buy it again. It does not save me money if no one will eat it. Take mayo for example – I have tried 4 different “off” brands but nothing even comes close to Hellmann’s. Yes, it usually cost more but the jar gets licked clean so it is not a waste in my book because none of it gets thrown away.

  • Kelli says:

    I feel like I am missing so much with these videos that you are doing now….my computer doesn’t have speakers so I can only watch you just not able to hear what you are saying… I just wish would also offer your suggestions in print. 🙁

  • Sakura says:

    I love this video. I grew up as a brand snob because of my mom. It’s only been in the last 2 years that I’ve changed due to using coupons and shopping better. Like Alex I’m not brand loyal, but I seem to be able to get name brand for less.

    I really decided to save even more money by growing and home canning some veggies, fruits, pickles, salsas, sauces, juices, nectars and jams. This has been awesome year with my kids, since we only eat my canned fruits and don’t buy store brand or name brand canned fruits any more, they have gotten to be home canned snobs! I thought it was kind of funny. My next adventure is homemade and canned ketchup. We’ll see how that goes over!

  • Terri says:

    One thing I always tell people is that if you have something that you are a “brand” snob about – get educated about how often it goes on sale or has coupons. This goes without saying for all products, but becomes particularly important when you are a brand snob b/c you might end up paying full retail for something when you could just “max out” your purchasing of the preferred product when the opportunity is there. So, while I normally would get products to last us 3-6 months for our stockpile. For something we are “snobby” about, I might get a year’s worth, if a good deal comes along.

  • melissa says:

    Back before kids, when I practiced optometry, I had a lot of patients ask me about store brand contact lens solutions. The store, Target, Safeway, what have you, will enter into a contract with the makers of the name brand. The companies would sell off the formula for their older formulations, saving the newer “recipe” for their own label. And so the store brands may change in formulation without your knowledge. For people with sensitive eyes, this didn’t always work out too well for them. I heard over and over anecdotes such as, “I always used the Target brand ‘Renu’, but then it started bothering my eyes”. Well, that is why…because they changed it without any indication on the label. So I would always suggest what type of solutions they should be using, and tell them about how store brands work so they were fully informed, and then they can make their own decision. My point being that store brands are often made by the name brand companies and just relabeled, as many others have pointed out, but that sometimes they change who they do business with, so the product quality can change with no notice.

  • Julie in IN says:

    Crystal, How is your homemade laundry soap experiment going? Are you brand name loyal on anything else?

    • Crystal says:

      It’s going well, so far. I don’t love it, but I also don’t loathe it. Other than Pampers, I do love Dove Intensive Care shampoo and Mary Kay foundation, but I can live without those if need be. I think that’s about it for us, though. 🙂

      • Julie in IN says:

        Is the Dove Intensive Care Shampoo for color treated hair?

        Ah, bareMinerals foundation and powder is a must have for my skin these days. I can fall asleep in it and still don’t break out; it is my splurge and gives me less stress from no breakouts.

  • mary c says:

    We aren’t brand loyal to anything EXCEPT for feminine products. My daughter likes Always brand and I must have Tampax pearl (no leakage) as for the panty liners-whatever is free 😀

    Food-we aren’t brand loyal . Whatever is the cheapest that week. If it brand name and I have a coupon that makes it cheaper then yes we will get that brand or it might be store brand or a totally different “brand” name.

  • Catherine says:

    My biggest brand-loyalty is Reese’s Peanut Butter…mmmm… so good. Everything else tastes funny now (Although, it is probably the worst brand for you, we don’t eat it very often).

    Crystal – This spot on the couch has the best lighting! The last two videos looked great. I’m glad you finally worked that out. 🙂

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