How to Save A Third on Your Winter Food Bill

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I know money, but I apparently don’t know controversy. Back in September, my cameraman and I headed to the grocery store to document 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic. I never thought I’d hear a complaint about it.

Now, I’ve broken news about the foreclosure mess and robo-signers before most of the nation even knew what was going on. But I heard more heated reader response about that generic shopping report – including one who called me a “fool.”

Why? Because many people hold onto the myth that generic or store-brand products are inferior. But as I reported, for many items (not all), there’s no difference – or at least not enough to justify the extra cost.

Well, this holiday season, a new report backs me up – and another one shows that more Americans are buying generic than ever before.

Most interesting is how a trade group called the Private Label Manufacturers Association decided to add up the savings. The PLMA compared 40 typical grocery items available at a typical supermarket over a six-week span. But the study [PDF] did it seasonally …

“Included in the survey were cold-weather pantry staples like stuffing, cranberry sauce, soup, oatmeal, pancake mix, maple syrup and hot chocolate, as well as wintertime personal necessities such as lip balm, body lotion, cough drops, sinus spray, tissue and nighttime cold medicine.”

The result? “By choosing the store brand version of the products on the list rather than the national brand, consumers could save $43.92 – a savings of 33.6 percent.”

Of course, a group with the term “Private Label” in its name isn’t exactly the most objective source of information. But marketing firm Epsilon has no such allegiances. It’s recent survey shows, “Consumers in the first half of 2010 continued to shift to less expensive private labels in all product categories, including the hard-to-penetrate personal care and baby care segments.”

In Epsilon’s 2009 survey, for example, “51 percent of respondents said they purchased private label personal care products.” This year? It was up to 61 percent. Next year, who knows.

So if I’m a fool, it appears I’m in increasingly good company!

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