Nov 26 2007

Must you buy Brand-X? Or are you fine with generic?

I really appreciate all of the lovely products ALDI has to offer. Just about everything on the shelves there is a generic or private label.

When I go to other groceries and try to use coupons, they’re always for some name-brand item. You’ll rarely find a coupon for a generic product.

Still, I’m curious: What products do you buy absolutely have to be a certain brand? How loyal are you to certain brands?

For me, if a generic item is the same price as the brand-name item (and they are the exact same quantities) I’ll almost always go with the brand-name. Do I think that the brand-name product is any better? Not necessarily.

Still, for = price, I’ll probably buy the brand-name.

If they aren’t the same price (which is much more common), I’ll buy the lower-costing item, whether it’s lower thanks to a sale or coupons or both.

An important element of being frugal means shedding your brand loyalties. If you’re always buying a pack of Charmin simply because you love how it handles your bum, then you could be paying considerably more than if you went with the lowest-costing item.

Actually, toilet paper is a bad example. Some TP should never come into contact with a bum–especially that 1-ply rough stuff that’s often found in public restrooms. Don’t buy that stuff.

But, be flexible. If another brand boasts double-ply softness, give them a try if the price is right.

Still, it isn’t frugal to take a huge sacrifice on quality to save a few nickels. If the lower-costing item is simply cheap and terrible, it isn’t worth a cent.

I don’t have any allegiance to any particular toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, razor, or most other toiletries/goods.

Through trial and error, I’ve discovered that I must remain loyal to a few brands. Here are a few:

Velveeta cheese. This cheese food product (isn’t that what they call it?) is delicious. I don’t care if it’s bad for me. I love it. Anyway, once I bought the Kroger brand. It didn’t melt right, in fact, it looked sort of like melted plastic. The taste was awful, and the consistency indescribable.

I won’t try another brand unless someone can convince me another brand really is Velveeta in different packaging.

Kraft or Hellmann’s mayonnaise–why do other brands taste funky? I don’t use much of this, but when I do, it’s either of these brands only.

Tampax. Probably too much info there, but I’ve used store brands in a pinch. Did not like. Kotex is ok, and I might buy some in the future if the price is right on, but I just feel really suckered into brand loyalty here. Someone wanna talk me out of this?

What brands do you absolutely have to have?



32 Responses to “Must you buy Brand-X? Or are you fine with generic?”

  1. I’m loyal to Tampax too, lol (specifically Pearl). I’m also pretty loyal to my Mach 3 razorblades–I have very quick-growing hair and have to shave my legs very often. Mach 3 is the only razor that gets so close and is able to stave off the growth a bit. Everything else is pretty much up for grabs!

  2. I have very few brand loyalties, but a couple of the ‘biggies’ that come to mind are Glad brand trash bags (especially now that the children are old enough to take out the trash. If you want your 8 yo to successfully take the trash out, it’s not fair to give him a bag that will bust open halfway out the door).

    Kikkoman soy sauce. Husband will not eat La Choy; also Kikkoman is one of the few that is ACTUAL soy sauce and not a bunch of chemicals/yeast extracts/MSG.

    Kraft Miracle Whip.

    Anything else, I’ll pretty much take whatever is cheapest. We do have some special diet requirements around here, so most name brands that I buy are because they don’t have food dyes, MSG, BHA/BHT/TBHQ rather than because I love that particular brand.

  3. I was just talking about this subject with my husband! I want to start using the CVS program, but that will definately mean shedding the many brand loyalties I’ve developed in the past couple of years. i absolutely won’t use any deoderant but Secret, and I’ve come to love Neutrogena face wash, shampoo, moisturizer. I’m not sure why I’d care so much, but it’s difficult to think about changing. As for food, Campbell’s definately has my loyalty, particularly for any soup I’m going to eat as soup, and not cook with.

    One problem I’ve found with switching around brands for toiletries is that I like to buy cruelty-free/non-animal tested hygiene items, and it’s very difficult to keep track. (Last month, I found out Neutrogena isn’t cruelty free, so I’d have had to switch from them anyway.) I’ve been telling myself that if I’m getting it for free and donating it, that will cancel out some of the “wrongness” of the animal testing.

  4. I am also a big Kikoman fan. Hubby hates it. He only likes La Choy.

  5. I do most of my shopping at Aldi and will buy most of their generic items. One of the items that has a very distingiushable diffrence between generic and name brand would be their generic Raisin Bran. The Aldi brand is very tough compared to Post and Kellog’s.

  6. I have always been brand loyal to Duke’s Mayo…a lot of southerners are. However, I tried Aldi brand mayo and it taste pretty darn close. So, if I get Duke’s on sale and with coupon I buy it. Otherwise I buy Aldi now. So, Kacie you may want to try Aldi’s cheese food product (I haven’t)it may be as good as Velveeta.

  7. I’m really weird about anything used in the bathroom (toilet paper, razors, makeup remover, etc.) so I always buy the same brands.

    I also will only use the Cascade Action Packs even though they are significantly more expensive. I almost always have a coupon for them though.

    I only like Hellman’s mayo so I don’t mind splurging a little for it. Also, store brand artificial sweeteners taste weird to me so I go for Equal.

  8. I’m definitely a Tampax/Always kind of girl–is it weird that that’s my “splurge”??? Other than that–Dove moisturizer, and name brand soda (including RC products)–store brand soda just tastes funky to me.

  9. I pretty much do generic/lowest price for everything, unless it doesn’t come in generic or I’ve tried the generic brand and it wasn’t good. Actually, there are some name brands I won’t buy because of taste (Ragu is one). I always stick to the same feminine products (OB and Always) because every time I’ve gone for a cheaper product, I regretted it. I think those products are all made differently, so it’s really about personal preference. They just work for me. I also stick to the same razor, because I only have to buy refills for it and so far I’m satisfied with it. But I do try to make the razors go as long as they can, so I have to buy them less.
    Otherwise, I’m not loyal to much. I do have some food items I buy for special occasions — brands I know are awesome, but not worth it for everyday purchases and uses. Lately I’ve been buying Haagen Daz, to avoid all the fakey, bad ingredients in regular ice cream, since it’s all natural (unless their mix-ins aren’t — I check the labels). That’s how I try to be healthy — there’s give and take with what is healthy and slightly more expensive and what is cheap and very bad for you.

  10. I’m with you on the Velveeta. And I don’t care about shampoo or soap either. Long as I get clean, I’m good. However, I am picky about a few things…..

    Tide with bleach–with four kids, there’s no comparison. I’ve tried Wal-mart brand but it isn’t the same.

    Kotex tampons–LOVE them. It’s all I use.

    Heinz ketchup–generics are just plain GROSS

    Palmolive liquid dishwasher soap–it works best for me and I’ve tried them ALL!

    Curel lotion–the only one that REALLY cures dry skin

    Gee–I guess I’m pretty picky after all!

    FYI: Walmart kleenex and TP are really fine. I think Charmin is too thick and worry about it clogging!

    Has anyone tried Aldi detergent/fabric softener/dishwashing soap. How is it?

  11. I just switched to Scott TP (1000 roll) from the WalMart brand. Scott 1000 roll is cheaper! It doesn’t have fakey flowers embossed but works the same. I’m all about the cheap TP – you’re just going to throw it out anyway, and the littles tend to use… more than their fair share.

    And… I’m a hillbilly. I use the TP for Kleenex (but I keep THAT roll out of the bathroom!)

    No Aldi around here. Wish there was!

  12. I will usually try generics but I am extremely brand loyal to a few products. Those being:

    Tide detergent
    Downey fabric softener
    Hellmanns mayo
    Heinz ketchup
    Glad Force Flex bags
    Either Jiff or Skippy peanut butter.

    Hey, thats more than a few. I thought up six products in about two minutes. Maybe I’m pickier than I thought.

  13. I used to think I was brand loyal, but I’ve changed my ways. I’m loyal to:
    Heinz ketsup
    Crest with scope toothpaste
    dove moisturizer

    OMgosh, that’s it LOL. I’ve tried the Walmart velveeta and to me it’s just as good as the regular. I was a big Blue Plate Mayo fan till I tried the Walmart brand, which is just as good or better (I even wrote a whole blog post about it LOL). As long as the tp is 2 ply, I’m good. I use the Equate brand pads with wings, works just as good as Always (to me). I buy whatever shampoo I have a coupon for and is onsale at CVS.

    I guess I’m easy. Or maybe just cheap :)

  14. I have to use Dove deo, because others I’ve tried make me break out. The only food item I think I’m picky about is Kraft mac & cheese. Publix brand is just as good, but we don’t have a Publix here yet, and all others I’ve tried are disgusting!

    My husband, however, is picky about many more things. On top of his specific requests which I’m happy to be on the lookout for (Kikkoman, Jif PB, Ritz crackers), he thinks that name brand foods are always better than any generic brands. After he was unable to tell the difference between Fig Netwons and Aldi fig bars, I’ve considered fooling him by putting store brand food into empty name brand containers, but that wouldn’t change his mind about anything and I don’t want to lie to him anyway. Any ideas on how to “convert” him???

  15. Oh, I also have to say, I’m so glad I discovered CVS because now I get to “treat” myself to ritzy shampoos like Garnier for less than the Suave that I’ve always been perfectly content to use. Thanks for paving the way with your excellent scouting!

  16. I actually like CVS tampons. They work just like Tampax. I haven’t had good experiences with other stores’ feminine products or CVS Maxi pads. But they do ok for tampons. I took the plunge and was pleasantly surprised. The applicators are slightly more awkward, but that’s maybe a second more per tampon.

  17. Funny, I just went through a similar experience. After using Always pads for years, I found myself going through them at lightning speed postpartum and decided to give Target’s store brand a try since it was so much cheaper. The packaging is a little less convenient, but the pads work fine. So I picked up a box of the Target brand tampons, which are supposed to be like Playtex, my preferred brand. Haven’t used them yet, though. (I have to say, I hated Tampax, which my mom always used, but I love Playtex.) Also, I had memories of thick Kotex pads from when I was a kid, so I never bought them. But I recently got a free sample and it’s comparable to the Target brand. The sample came with a $2 coupon, and I happened upon a 2/$7 sale at Ralphs a few weeks ago. With double coupons up to $1, I got a package for 50 cents – something that never would have happened if I’d stuck to brand loyalty.

  18. I agree with both you on the Velveeta i tried Walmart and it did not melt the same either.I love Kotex i have enough to last the rest of this year and half of next thank’s to Walgreen’s Kotex deal earlier this year. Heniz ketchup is another i will only buy. There is another thing that i will not buy generic and that is sliced cheese. I will only name-brand (ie Kraft or the one with the cow). However will buy generic shredded cheese.

  19. I have been thinking about this for a while because we have been switching brands on a few things. But I guess we consistently use Miracle Whip, Heinz Ketchup, Newman’s Own Pasta Sauce, among others. My husband won’t switch to Scott tp, so it’s charmin but he has agreed that Northern Quilted is a good enough alternative. He also has to have Bounty paper towels. For food items, I have to say that we look a lot at ingredients list. He is a food scientist after all. So our decision on what we buy is based on that mostly. You will be surprised though that many times generic brands have better ingredients than brand items. One quick example is Kraft cheeses, they have so many fillers in them. Oh! and because he works with cheese he would die if I ever used Velveeta. I swear the product is like the devil for him. He won’t touch it.
    I think I am more flexible than he is. But he is so flexible in so many other things that finding sales on these items and stocking up then is no trouble for me. It’s just one of those things you compromise, while getting your way in others.

  20. The other brand names we use are for health purposes – Annies Organics Mac and Cheese (which I keep on hand for emergencies). All of the other brands have Yellow #5 in it which my son cannot have.

    We recently switched to Skippy Natural PB because I’m working on eliminating partially hydrogenated vegetable oils from our diet…. it’s either that one or way pricier organic ones (and Simply Jif is no longer just smooshed peanuts like it used to be!)

    Likewise, I buy Knott’s Berry Farm jelly because it is just fruit (and I can get it at Sam’s for cheaper than the fake stuff with Red Dye #40 in it). But I would buy any jelly that was fruit only – Knott’s just happens to come the cheapest.

  21. I’m only in my 30s, but I feel like an old pro shopper when I list my must-have brands because I tried a lot before I arrived at these! Otherwise, I buy what’s cheapest with a coupon or a store special.

    Ajax lemon dish soap
    Dove or Oil of Olay face moisturizer
    OB tampons
    Healthy Harvest whole wheat pasta
    China Swan soy sauce (from the Asian store)
    Crisco shortening (the kind with no trans-fat)
    Colman’s dry mustard
    Ken’s Steakhouse Dressing

  22. I was just thinking about this subject the other day! More often than not, I’ll buy generic (I used to shop pretty much only at Save-a-Lot which is probably a lot like Aldi, and that’s where my mom shopped most of the time when I was growing up, so I’m used to generic. Funny because my dad refuses to buy the “cheap” stuff lol). If I have a really good coupon or there’s a good sale, I’ll go name brand.

    One thing my fiance, Mark, won’t do generic on is ketchup. It has to be Heinz.

    I hate to buy generic pads (I know, TMI) I’m pretty loyal to the Stayfree brand when it comes to that. I can’t stand anything else. I used to buy them at Dollar General for .25-.50 cheaper than Wal-Mart, but I think it’s about the same now. I guess I can stand to spend $3 on something that’ll last me several months.

    I’m also kind of loyal to Pure Silk (by Barbasol) shave cream. I will not buy it anywhere but dollar stores though. They used to come in 14oz cans for less than a dollar, now it’s a 9oz can for sometimes over $.50 more! (My dad pointed out how silly it is that I complain about that, but so what! lol) We typically go to stores like Deals, Dollar Tree, etc. about once a month, so I just pick up a couple cans then if I need ’em

    We don’t usually buy generic cereal either, but we only buy cereal when it’s on sale or we have a coupon. We usually get a lot at one time too.

    We never buy 1-ply tp. Even though Mark will eat pretty much anything, I prefer Ragu pasta sauce (all pasta sauces seem to taste the same to me so I got sick of them. I bought a couple Ragu jars when they were on sale at Meijer, and really liked them.. so I’m hooked!). I can’t think of anytime we’ve bought generic toothpaste or deodorant..

    I like Suave’s version of Brilliant Brunette shampoo and conditioner. I’ve used both brands and wasn’t disappointed with Sauve, so I typically buy that.. for, what, $4 cheaper than John Freida?

    We save a lot of money by buying our laundry detergent at Meijer when it’s on sale. I forget the brand, but it’s the big jugs buy one get two free.. so we spend $11 for three of those big jugs which last us a LONG time.

    Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking I’m getting a deal just because something is cheaper. Dish soap, for example. I would buy whatever was cheapest. Mark’s mom bought us some Dawn one time when she went shopping for us (she’s our neighbor so sometimes it makes things easier since I don’t drive) and I realized that it’s worth the extra dollar I’d spend on that. I tend to think more about price than value.

    Wow, this is getting long! haha. Anyway, there are lots of things that I prefer name-brand too because sometimes it is better to spend a little more, but I’ve been known to go cheap on just about everything. (It’s only been since I’ve been with my fiance that I’ve been “splurging” more on stuff)

  23. This was a really great post! I even wrote about it :) Generic VS. Brand Name Groceries

    I do have to say though, I used to be really picky about the velveeta too, but I’ve used Aldi’s brand several times and it’s pretty good! You should give it a try :)

  24. There are just some things that store brands can not beat, I’ve comparison shopped, I’ve tried store brands, I’ve tried other brands, but these are what I will scrape and pay for no matter how broke I am.

    Hellmans Mayo (any type)
    Heinz Ketchup
    Tide Laundry Detergent (powder or liquid)
    Pedigree Dry Dog food (the dogs actually prefer it to the higher priced brands and over the store brands)

    TP as long as it is safe for septic systems, I’m ok on, I usually use Marcal or Scott Tissue. They have more sheets per roll. The other brands usually don’t have as many sheets.

    I’ve been shopping more & more at the Aldi for my basics and staples (sugar, eggs, rice, canned veg,dairy products,salsas, various snack foods) and some of their store brands are very good. Some items are not, I think you have to at least try the generic.

  25. I’m actually loyal to the generics for the most part. Especially toilet paper. I don’t know why but the only kind I like and thus use is the $1 generic Dollar General brand. I’ve tried other brands and hate them. I won’t even use generics from other stores. I’m learning to be a little less loyal since I started shopping at CVS. I buy brandnames a lot now when they’re on sale at CVS, but if I don’t see a sale, I’d much rather buy a generic.

  26. The beauty of doing CVS means you can still stick to your brand loyalties. You just have to wait for the item to go on sale and generate extra care bucks (or you can use your ECB to buy the item).

    Woo hoo!

  27. I do generic brands whenever I can to save money. I am very loyal to several brand names though…

    Pepsi Products
    Heinz Ketchup
    Cottonelle TP
    Glad Trash bags
    Velveeta
    Tampax
    Jiff PB

    Sometimes it really is about the quality vs savings!

  28. I mostly use store brand or generic, but since I buy secondhand clothes, I make sure I use the Cheer laundry detergent that doesn’t fade your clothes. That’s even better than turning clothes inside out to wash, which I also do.

    I found out the hard way not to use any old dishwasher detergent — all my glassware became cloudy and etched and this milky look was non-reversable. Had to buy new glassware. Therefore, I now use the kind of Cascade that prevents etching.

    Other than that, I’ve found only two products I don’t like in store brands. One is the Wal-mart Great Value version of Silk chocolate soy milk. I compared ingredients and they were the same. But the GV version has 10 extra calories and I believe they put in more sugar.However, another food store in my hometown, HEB, has a store brand chocolate soy milk that tastes identical to Silk’s and I buy that –it’s about 30 cents cheaper than Silk brand. HEB has a lot of copy cat foods with its various store brands and they’re great.

    The second product I disliked, Wal-mart Equate’s version of Neutragena acne wash, didn’t have the same “tingle” feeling to it. I compared both tubes at the store and discovered a key ingredient is listed lower on Equate’s ingredients list; that means they’re using a lesser amount of it.

    I buy most of my OTC medicines from Wal-mart; you can really save on their Equate version of Benedryl pills for your allergies — at about $3 a bottle, it’s much, much cheaper than any other store’s brand. Other stores usually charge $6 or $7 for their store brand while the name brand is $10.

    I get most of my beauty products from Wal-mart, too: their Equate version of Head & Shoulders is dirt cheap but I wish they’d bottle it in larger sizes. Tres-somme shampoo at Wal-mart comes in large bottles, very thrifty.

    I’ve found I can buy Great Value food products at Wal-mart cheaper than using a coupon to buy their name brand equivalent. So I’ve stopped clipping coupons.

    I believe Walgreen’s 1000 sheet per roll toilet tissue is nothing more than ScotTissue and sometimes they really have good sales on that product.

  29. For the most part I have no real brand loyalty except for Renoylds aluminum foil,try other brands and they smell like burning aluminum in my oven. Clorox bleach is the only one that make my whites WHITE!! And last but not least is Dawn dish detergent not only cleans,but it also does wonders with plastcware.

  30. I totally agree. I do have a few brand loyalties (many of them good quality clothing) and I have a few products I WON’T buy the generic but otherwise I don’t care too much.

  31. There is absolutley no other acceptable brand of ketchup besides Heinz for me. As well as JiF PB. I have no Kuhn’s locally that I am aware of, or I would try your generic suggestion.
    Aluminum Foil- Reynolds all the way. For all the mom’s out there – I use Pampers for overnight diapers, since we don’t change him over night unless absolutely necessarey. THey really do an amazing job of leak protection. During the day we use Target or Walmart brand. He gets a new diaper at least every 2 hours, so it really is silly to spend twice as much on name brand diapers.
    FYI everyone – on the rare occasions they have it in stock, Aldi’s Sugar-Free “Red Thunder” – $2.99/4 pack is = Sugar Free Red Bull 4.99/4 pack :)

  32. Please remember not all toothpaste is the same. I will only buy a brand and flavor/type that is ADA (American Dental Assocoation) approved. Not all Crest or Colgate is approved.

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife to Shane and mother to Jonathan (7), Vivienne (5) and Amelia (2) . I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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