20 Products You Should Always Buy Generic

These no-name products are at least as good as the branded competitors — and nearly always cheaper.

11. Baking and cooking supplies

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The researchers who wrote the “Do Pharmacists Buy Bayer?” study also looked at the shopping patterns of chefs and other food professionals. The pros, they found, use store brands more often than the average grocery shopper. (NPR made a chart from the research showing how likely chefs were to purchase certain foods in either generic or brand-name form.)

The top 10 products that professionals most frequently preferred in generic brands include:

  • Baking mixes
  • Baking soda
  • Powdered sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Baking supplies

If these generics are good enough for professional chefs, consider that they’re probably good enough for you, too.

12. Snack foods

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Who doesn’t love frozen pizza, chips and other snacks? In many cases, you can save money and go with store brands. Professional chefs in the “Do Pharmacists Buy Bayer?” study favored multiple types of generic snacks over branded products. In additional to frozen pizza and snacks, they included:

  • Spreads and dips
  • Dried fruit
  • Pickles and olives
  • Nuts
  • Cookies

13. Cleaning products

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Many people use generic or brand-name cleaning products interchangeably, depending on the availability of coupons and sales. Unless you’ve got a favorite cleaner that you believe outperforms all others, you’ll get the job done and save money with generics.

You can save even more with the DIY approach. Case in point: “9 Expensive Cleaning Supplies You Can Easily Make for Pennies.”

14. Personal-care products

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Some store brands of personal-care products have the same active ingredients as name brands and work equally well. Every expensive name-brand product you can drop from your routine –substituting a less-expensive generic version — adds to your bottom line. Try generic or low-cost versions especially of soaps, hand and face creams and moisturizers, facial cleansers, bubble bath and hair products.

Additionally, “Is Cheap Toothpaste a Bargain or a Bad Idea for Your Teeth?” explains how to spot cheap but high-quality toothpaste.

15. Gasoline

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When the Orange County Register examined whether cheaper gas really hurts a car’s engine, as advertising sometimes claims, the newspaper found that highly advertised additives don’t matter.

“Buy the cheapest gas you can get that’s convenient and close,” Steve Mazor, chief automotive engineer with the Automobile Club of Southern California Automotive Research Center, told the Register. Mazor has been testing gas for more than 30 years.

As long as you’re getting the right octane level for your vehicle, “you might as well use the gas that’s the cheapest,” William Green, a chemical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the newspaper.

16. Fresh produce

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Prices for fresh produce vary enormously. Local, no-brand fruits and vegetables usually are your best bet. They don’t have to travel as far to reach your table, so they are likely to be fresher and more flavorful. Look for them at farmers markets, independent grocers and farm stands. Generic produce found at Trader Joe’s and in big-box stores like Costco is often an excellent deal, too.

Does organic matter? With some produce, some experts say organic is worth the added cost. But it is possible to buy organic on a budget.

17. Cereal

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Try out generic versions of your favorite cereal — be that flakes, loops or nuggets. The chances are good you’ll find that store brands and off-brands have the same look and taste for as much as $1 less a box. What’s not to like?

18. Diapers

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Many generic diapers do the job as well as brand-name ones, but at huge savings. Of course, not all generic diapers are created equal. Test the off-brands for yourself, buying a small package before investing in bulk purchases.

19. Soda pop

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Is brand-name soda really better-tasting? The answer, it turns out, is quite complicated.

We are not suggesting that all generic cola is as good as its brand-name equivalents. But consider this: Repeatedly in taste tests, subjects tell researchers they prefer what they think is a brand-name drink when it’s really a generic.

Of one study, the Huffington Post wrote:

“Interestingly, when the scientists scanned the subjects’ brains using MRI technology, drinking what they thought was name brand soda created activity in the reward center of their brains. But drinking what they thought was generic soda triggered activity in … the part of the brain used to make value judgments.

Scientists believe that when we use ‘brand name’ products, we already assume that they’re of good quality, so the part of our brain used to assess whether something is worthy of appreciation shuts off, so we take more pleasure in the experience.”

If you ignored the common prejudice toward famous national soda brands, could you enjoy a generic soda as much as your favorite brand? Why not give it a shot? You’ll certainly save money.

20. Packaged salad and fruit mixes

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Buying a national brand’s cut fruit or prepared salad does not guarantee freshness. Many grocery stores offer their own salads and cut fruit, often prepared on-site. If the price is better, give the store brand a try.

What generics do you recommend? Are there more expensive name-brand products you swear by? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Marilyn Lewis
Marilyn Lewis
After a career in daily newspapers I moved to the world of online news in 2001. I specialize in writing about personal finance, real estate and retirement. I love how the Internet ... More

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