Generic vs Name Brand: What to Buy and What to Avoid

I buy a lot of brand name groceries, since I can get incredible deals when combining coupons and sale prices. But, if coupons aren’t your thing — or you need to replenish your pantry in between bargains — store brands may be the solution.

They’re less expensive, available in any store, and are often just as good as their name brand counterparts. But not always! So, how do you know what to buy and what to avoid?

Denise, from Shopper Strategy, has put together great list of 5 items you should buy generic — and 5 things you should stay away from.

      OTC medication

    Most people choose to spend more money on branded over-the-counter (OTC) medication. After all, it’s your health you’re dealing with, right? What consumers aren’t aware of is that the Food and Drug Administration requires generic medicine to contain the same ingredients as branded ones. Generic drugs work just as quickly, are just as effective, and are a whole lot cheaper.


    Purchasing generic cereal can save you anywhere from 25 to 50% or more off regular price. When compared to its branded counterpart, generic cereal looks the same and tastes very similar. It also often comes in a bigger package for less money. In some cases, branded and generic cereals are actually made by the same manufacturers, just with different packaging.

    If your young ones insist on the branded cereal, then you may want to consider purchasing the branded version the first time, and then replacing it with the generic stuff inside the branded box the next time around!

      Pantry staples

    Pantry staples such as sugar, salt, flour and spices are generally all the same. These items follow the same standards for ingredients, production and storage mandated by the FDA, and it is highly unlikely that generic and branded pantry staples differ greatly from each other.

For two more items you should buy generic, click here.

Oh, but not so fast! Not all store brands are created equal. Here are a few things Denise says you’ll want to avoid:

      Toilet paper and paper towels

    Toilet paper and paper towels are two items you don’t want to scrimp on. Generic brands of these paper products have fewer fibers, resulting in less absorbency. Sure it will cost you less, but you’ll likely use up more sheets than you would with a branded counterpart. If you want to save on these two paper products, purchase them with coupons from your favorite grocery store.


    Are you about to give your home a facelift? A generic bucket of paint may cost a lot less than brand-name paint, but it’s not worth the possible headaches. Generic paint is often watered down or thinner, requiring more coats to cover the same area. It’s also more prone to chipping and fading. The one-time premium you pay for branded paint is definitely worth it.

For three more generics you should avoid, click here.

Photo Credit: Flickr user pyxopotamus

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More from Heather:
Whale of a Tale: The Experience of a Lifetime My Frugality Almost Missed
Why Buy Brand Names

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