The 6 Best Foods to Buy Generic Brands, According to Our Editors
It's no secret that inflation is making food costs rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of food has risen 10.4% between June 2021 and June 2022—and you've likely noticed that on every trip you've made to the grocery store lately. While there are ways to help beat inflation at the grocery store, like mapping out your shopping beforehand and using coupons, another way to cut costs is opting for the generic, store-brand versions of the products in your cart.
While the price differences might seem minimal between generic and name-brand options, those savings can quickly add up. To help you figure out when to buy generic and when to buy name brand, I reached out to my EatingWell co-workers, from food editors to registered dietitians, to ask what's on their grocery list. Here are the six foods they say they always buy store brands of. (Note: To calculate prices, I referred to the website of my local grocery store, Hannaford, and compared their store-brand product to a similar name-brand product in the same size.)
Canned beans are a great, budget-friendly staple to keep stocked in your pantry, and Jessica Ball, M.S., RD, EatingWell's nutrition editor, always chooses the generic option when she's shopping. Ball says there is a marginal difference between the store-brand and name-brand cans, so it's easy to make the swap. Plus, she usually finds the store brand on sale, which helps increase the savings. Use canned beans in place of meat for plant-based protein in burrito bowls, salads and more.
Total savings: $0.74 ($0.95 for store-brand canned black beans vs. $1.69 for name-brand)
Go down the cereal aisle and you're sure to be met with dozens of options. Sure, the name-brand boxes are usually more colorful, but EatingWell's senior food editor, Sean Kenniff, only has eyes for the generic. Kenniff says, "I'm always shocked at how much the [name-brand cereal] is. I like that the generics are cheaper and that they also come in bags instead of boxes, which makes storage easier."
Total savings: $1.80 ($1.99 for store-brand toasted-oat cereal vs. $3.79 for name-brand)
For those who need to choose alternative milk as part of a dietary restriction, it can get pricy to opt for name-brand options. Luckily, according to Danielle DeAngelis, EatingWell's fellow, buying the generic version of lactose-free milk is a great deal. In fact, DeAngelis says the generic brand lactose-free milk tastes better than the name brand.
Total savings: $0.90 ($3.99 for store-brand lactose-free reduced-fat milk vs. $4.89 for name-brand)
Sticking to the dairy aisle, one item that I always buy generically is yogurt. While some people might have strong feelings about their favorite name brand for its taste or texture, store-brand yogurt works well for my needs. I like to add a serving of yogurt to my morning smoothie for creaminess and protein, and oftentimes, I don't end up tasting it over the other ingredients, so using the cheaper version is an easy choice. Plus, I buy yogurt on a weekly basis, so the monthly savings quickly add up.
Total savings: $3.00 ($3.99 for store-brand vanilla nonfat Greek yogurt vs. $6.99 for name-brand)
For Victoria Seaver, M.S., RD, EatingWell's associate editorial director, pasta is one item where she'll choose the store brand every time. According to Seaver, "It all tastes the same in my opinion. The savings between brand-name and store-brand isn't incredibly significant, but saving some money here helps offset those ingredients where I do prefer to buy brand-name."
Total savings: $1.30 ($1.49 for store-brand elbow macaroni vs. $2.79 for name-brand)
Frozen Fruit & Vegetables
Whether you're picking up fruit for a smoothie or veggies for a stir-fry, buying the generic versions of frozen produce is another easy way to save money. Frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and frozen in their prime, so they're packed with the same nutrients as their fresh counterparts. Many of our editors, including Ball, DeAngelis and myself, choose the store brand whenever they're in the frozen food aisle.
Total savings for frozen fruit: $1.40 ($2.99 for store-brand frozen blueberries vs. $4.39 for name-brand
Total savings for frozen vegetables: $0.76 ($1.39 for store-brand frozen broccoli vs. $2.15 for name-brand)
While the savings between a name-brand product and its generic counterpart may seem minimal, choosing the latter can help reduce your weekly grocery bill, especially as inflation continues to impact costs. The next time you shop, look for the generic option of these foods that our editors swear by. As the saying goes, every penny counts!