I know that we grow up knowing certain brands. And when we think of some foods, we immediately think of some brand names. Like Kleenex for tissues, Chiquita for bananas, or Arm and Hammer for baking soda. That’s just because these companies have done an amazing job with their marketing campaign. Kleenex did such an incredible job that we now use the words Kleenex and tissue interchangeably! But Kleenex doesn’t mean tissue. It is a brand name. Whoever was behind their marketing strategy, I’d love them on my team. Imagine having the whole world think that you are the creator of a product, when you’re just one of the hundreds of companies who put their label on a product? Now, on the consumer side, we aren’t as lucky. Because we’re so quick to grab the brand names we know and love, we wind up spending more money. And we don’t ask ourselves why we love them more. Or what brand we love them more than. We haven’t even tried the other ones. There are certainly times when the brand name matters. Some brands have propriety ingredients and formulas that you can only get from them. But in some cases, a product from one brand is not at all different from another. Only the sticker and packaging changes. Here are things you should always buy generic.
There are certainly differences in meat. Grass-fed. Organic. No hormones added. Free-range. Aged. Local. Humanely raised. You get the idea. But none of those qualities are specific to any one brand. And you can often find all of the qualities you want, in the no-name, saran-wrapped meat offered by the butcher inside of your grocery store. It doesn’t have to be Foster Farms or Tyson or Hebrew International.
Paper towels/toilet paper
Think of what happens with these in the end. You wipe up sauce spills. You use them as napkins. You flush them down the toilet. These are items that go in the trash and down the toilet. You should not be shelling out extra bucks for brand name on any of these. Your store’s generic package is likely just as good, so long as it offers the things you like, like two-ply and things like that.
When it comes to milk, what you want is the closest distributor. That will yield the freshest milk. Again, you can look for things like no hormones added and organic. But you don’t need any particular brand to get those qualities. Lesser-known names can offer just as quality milk as those ones who have risen to the top.
When it comes down to it, spices are just dried up herbs and other things that grow in the ground or on trees. No one brand invented pepper. Or oregano. Or chili flakes. Mother Nature invented those. Then different brands dried them, bottled them, and put their labels on them to charge a few bucks more than the next guy. Don’t fall for it. Your store-brand turmeric is just fine.
Admittedly, there are brands that have become known for certain cereal recipes, like Raisin Bran or Kashi. They mix together grains and dried fruits in a way we like. But they don’t have a patent on grains or dried fruit or coconut slivers or chopped almonds. Your grocery store likely carries generic cereal that has the exact same ingredients as a name-brand one you like.
Baking powder/baking soda
Your baking staples like baking powder, baking soda, all-purpose flour, and cornstarch – there’s no need to go brand name on these. These all have the exact same ingredients. And very limited ones at that. Furthermore, by the time you eat these, they’ve been whipped up, blended in, heated at 400 degrees, and dissipated. You don’t even taste them.
Like many of the foods we’ve discussed on this list, you may have preferences, like low-sodium or organic. But, again, you don’t need to rely on any particular brand to give you those. When it comes down to it, canned beans are very simple food, and the generic vs the brand-name will taste identical. So save yourself some money and get the generic pinto beans for your nachos or garbanzo means for your homemade hummus.
The FDA requires any generic medication that makes it into your pharmacy – over the counter or prescription – to have the exact same ingredients as the brand name medication that addresses the same problem. The exact same ingredients. They have to. Imagine the world of trouble they’d be in if there was any shortage in quality on a product that was supposed to, say, prevent pregnancy or heart disease.
Produce is another item that Mother Nature created, but some companies like to pretend they came up with. Do not buy the tomatoes or tiny tangerines that have been packaged in cute boxes with some brand’s playful sticker on them, and that cost twice as much as the loose ones in bins. They are the same food.
Cleaning products, like medication, must also follow strict guidelines from the FDA, and have the same ingredients as their brand-name competitors. It really doesn’t matter what packaging your blue liquid window cleaner comes in, or your toilet bowl cleaner. They all contain the same active ingredients to clear grime and dirt away.
This is one people can get sensitive about because a low-quality diaper can result in a huge mess. You certainly don’t want to buy just any diaper. Do, however, keep in mind that these wind up filled with poop, and in the trash, so you don’t want to go pricey on them, either. Almost every major store like Target or Walmart has their own store-brand version of the name-brand diapers. It’ll say so right on the package, like “Compare to Pampers!” And if you put the ingredients lists side by side, you will find that they’re identical.
We can forget it came from the ground or trees because it’s packaged and frozen now, but frozen fruit is Mother Nature’s creation, too. Furthermore, once it’s frozen, it loses a lot of its flavor, so this is one food in which the brand name really doesn’t matter. If organic is important to you, look for that, but your store brand should offer one.
The FDA requires that any sunscreen that winds up on the shelves offers just as much protection as any other sunscreen. So your CVS brand 50 SPF is just as potent as your Neutrogena 50 SPF. When it comes to items that greatly impact your health and wellbeing, the FDA doesn’t mess around. And within the generic choices, you can find the properties you like, such as non-greasy or unscented.
These three condiments
Mayonnaise, mustard, and soy sauce are made of very limited, very simple ingredients. Soy sauce is little more than soybeans, grains, and brine. Mustard is made from a seed so, again, another one compliments of Mother Nature. Mayonnaise is just eggs whites, oil, and vinegar. Nobody has a patent on this stuff.
While many pasta enthusiasts would argue that some pasta on the shelves is absolute garbage and this or that particular brand is the way to go, in terms of what you’re actually putting in your body, there’s little difference between one and the other. Pasta is just wheat flour, water, and eggs.