Buying Generic

Chalk this one up to a Frugal Fail!  One of my strategies for keeping our spending down is to buy generic when I can’t match a sale with a coupon to get a better deal on a favorite name brand.  I’m not terribly brand loyal, so buying generic generally works for me.

Not this time.

I have fallen in love with the ease and effectiveness of Cascade Dishwasher Gel Packs.  The price, however?  Not a fan, unless I can match a sale with a coupon.  When I last ran out, the lower-priced generic beckoned, and I bit.  12 loads of only mostly-clean dishes later, I gladly paid full-price for my beloved Cascade!  With the generic brand, I had to double up on packs and still ended up washing a lot of dishes, which cost me both time and money (in extra soap and water.)  Frugal fail! (And yes, I am just stubborn enough to use the whole blasted ineffective package.) 

And that bar soap you see?  Moisturizing bar is moisturizing bar is moisturizing bar, right?  Wrong!  2/3 of my 3-pack has been sitting in my linen closet for over a year(Declutter much?!) I don’t think I even used all of the first bar.  Feeling more coated in scum after showering is simply not the goal.  Frugal Fail! The Frugal Franny side of me would really like to find a use for the rest of the soap (that doesn’t include my skin) but really?  It needs to go in the trash.

Do you buy generic or are you brand loyal?  Are there certain items worth buying even at full (much higher) price?  Do tell!

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  1. For cleaning products, we use green cleaning products, so I haven’t really found generic products for those. Maybe I’m just missing them?

    For food products (we’re gluten free), I’ve found that many of the generic brands have filler/ingredients we can’t have, so generally, we need to stick to name brands.

  2. My mother had the same problem with those gel packs. I am not tyed down to any brand but my husband is on toilet paper, toothpaste, and sugar. I think some items are worth the extra money if you are frugal in most areas of your life. For example, I will buy name brand sugar, toothpaste, and tp for my husband who has worked very hard to keep us out of debt and is very frugal himself!

  3. We used to use the gel packs, but decided they aren’t worth it in that they are too much detergent for the dishwasher, so we are back to plain old boxes of detergent..but only Cascade will do.

    Funny enough, I despise IVORY soap, but I love the knock off of it from 2 stores only.

  4. I am perfectly willing to try store brands or generics. But if they don’t work I won’t buy them again. Some people swear that all generics are the same as name brand. But I totally disagree. I usually try to donate things that didn’t work if I can (your 2 bars of soap left), but in the case of the dish detergent, I probably would have used the whole pack too. I can’t stand to throw stuff away.

  5. Brand loyal to Cascade gel packs too 😉 What else? Hmm, not thrilled with most ‘generic’ clothing, but I get brand names at thrift stores and garage sales. Car seats I get good ones too since the cheaper ones are a pain to use.

  6. Oh, and TP too. I like Scott because it doesn’t run out nearly as often.

  7. I’ve been getting Finish/Electrasol gel packs for free or nearly so with sale and good coupon; I never get Cascade that cheap. They leave my dishes clean and shiny.

    I buy very few generics. Some things we are brand loyal—my husband and I have to have Jif peanut butter. I like Colgate Total best. Most of the time, though, we will eat whatever’s cheapest.

    • My Kroger was OUT of the Electrasol the last time the big “almost free” deal came out, so I’ve never tried them. Will keep them in mind, though!

      • @Amy, My Kroger said that they would write a raincheck for the mega deal. Just thought I would let you know Kroger will write rainchecks for Mega events! I was so surprised. 🙂

      • Amy, I feel the exact same way, there are some generics that will do, but Cascade gel pacs are the ONLY detergent that gets my dishes really clean.

        I have tried the Electrasol (for free – and used ever not-adequate one of them!) but they did match up to Cascade in my opinion.

        Congrats on your peanut!

  8. I am not brand loyal except for a few things, Paper towels, dishwasher soap, Tylenol, Toilet Paper and Mac & Cheese. Those are things that I (really just me) don’t like the generic or store brands. I am wiling to try pretty much anything else at least once. Dishwasher stuff is hard though, you never know until you actually try it if it will do the job you want or need. Same with body soaps. It can be a game of hit or miss.

  9. I, too, am a fan of Cascade packs. (and too, have tried the WM brand!!) I have found that my supermarket brand DW tablets work just as good as Cascade packs! You may want to give those a try! (They’re 1/2 the price!!)

  10. This may sound odd, but I have found that Kroger generic brands match up well to their name brand competitors, but not so with WalMart generics… they simply do not have the same quality!

  11. I won’t buy generic in TP… done it before and it was horrible something just isn’t write when you try to use cheaper TP! 🙂

  12. I’m totally brand loyal. IT’s why I can shop so quickly. I just buy the same things all the time.

  13. I am not particularly brand-loyal, except for a few things (Cheerios, for one–the generic around here is awful!), but I had to smile at your dish detergent story because I tried the Aldi brand a few months ago and had the same experience…I finally ditched it about 2/3 of the way through.

  14. I am brand loyal to a few things. Before I started couponing I tried buying knock off Purex instead of Purex and it just wasn’t the same. I felt like my clothes weren’t getting clean. Because I have severe skin allergies I have to be careful what I use. I am brand loyal to Pantene shampoo and conditioner because they really have transformed my hair. I don’t like knock off cereals because I think they’re stale. Is it just me?

    My husband requests that I only buy Cottonelle toilet paper and for the most part I do, but I’m not going to refuse the toilet paper from Publix when it is the penny item. I just put that in the bathroom he doesn’t really use.

    • @MrsD05, My husband and I were talking about this last night and he reminded me that I will only buy Eggland’s Best eggs. I will spare you the details but let’s just say that they are very clean.

    • @MrsD05,
      Have you tried making your own laundry soap? It works great and is really cheap! I use Dr. Bronners bar soap for the soap part… My hubby is sensitive to detergents, too, and this is one of the cheap options that works well!

  15. I almost always buy generic, with the exception of a few things: toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent. I’ve had better luck with the Target brand than I have with the Wal Mart brand.

  16. has to be name brand shampoo and colgate total, this is all usually stuff i can get fairly cheap at cvs or target. Cheerios is a definite as the store brand is nasty! i do try store brand at least once.

    Just got an Aldi’s and have been very impressed with their brand so far! I got there dish soap(not dishwasher) as Dawn just sucks, the bubbles don’t stay and it seems like there is no soap in the water.

    I have at least 9-11 boxes of electrasol so ill be good for a while. my mom gets the high value coupons and will pick them up when she sees them. i certainly do not need them!

  17. I’ve been impressed with many Publix brand items. I shop there a lot for deals but to keep from having to go anywhere else, I buy their brand.

  18. Until recent months, I have been pretty brand loyal and steered away from most generics because they simply didn’t perform as well. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with other brands when I can combine a sale and a coupon. On rare occasions, I have bought generic. There are some things I just won’t skimp on: toilet paper and, now, deodorant. It’s a fine art to be able save money without actually wasting any of it. 🙂

  19. I will try generic brands one time. If I them I will keep buying them.
    But I will only buy Brand name on Coffee Mate, Hellmann’s Mayo,
    and use Tide detergent. I won’t change on these. I try to buy these with a
    coupon and on sale. But if I had to I would pay full price.

  20. I also like the cascade gel packs. I tried them out a few years ago b/c they were on sale and I had a coupon (which now I see is a rare thing for that specific item.) I haven’t found anything that works as well.

    We have a few items that we are brand loyal. I really like our grocery store’s (HEB) brand products, but am still picky on certain items. They’ve have a deal ever once in a while where you buy the name brand item and you get store brand version free.

  21. ZnMsMomma says:

    I am brand loyal to a few things, but many of those “brands” are the store versions of the real brands. I happen to love just about everything Kirkland, Costco’s house label, from cleaning products to food. I find their quality to be excellent and comparable if not better than their big brand counterparts. All of our paper towels and tp are Kirkland. I am very brand loyal to Ajax and Purex detergent and stock up on them when they come on sale, but have found a generic brand in my childhood hometown grocery store that is equally good. I think a lot of it is trial and error and fortunately for my budget I haven’t had many failures.

    My dh and his brother are both very brand loyal about certain things, but I think that has more to do with how they were raised. MIL was born and raised in the midst of the depression and didn’t have a lot of extra money when she was a child. When she had kids of her own, she budgeted and saved and obviously bought into the advertising messages that were characteristic of the 60’s and 70’s. As a result, they all have this mentality that brand is better no matter what because they associate generics with being poor, not having the money to buy brand, and it is tied to their self-esteem. I do not share this mentality, although I understand it. It has been a real chore convincing my husband that you are not always sacrificing quality when you buy generics. My feeling is that if there is a noticeable difference in quality or performance and you choose to pay the difference in price, then go for it. But to assume that generics or store brands are of lesser quality to me is a fallacy.

  22. I use generic products and we don’t have a problem. The one thing that I will not buy generic and use name brand is for our tea. We use Lipton! Dh know the difference and he loves his sweet tea!

  23. Too funny, I sit in Dillons and look at those prices and think I be Amy just has a fit over these!!!! Found out the hard way that the cascade complete works best in my dish washer, everything else seems leave a powder! Wierd huh!

  24. I only have a handful of brand loyalties. I try not to pay full price for them, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.
    ~ Finish/Electrasol tablets – I buy this in a big box (100) at Costco
    ~ Rice Dream brand rice milk for my dairy allergic one – I buy the case from Costco
    ~ Herbal Essences conditioner – can usually get this pretty cheap w/coupons and sales
    ~ VIVA paper towels, but we only use about 1 roll every 6 months
    ~ Lipton tea bags
    ~ Handmade soap from a local soap maker. It’s the best ever!

    Can’t think of anything else that I’m not willing to budge on the brand. Not sure how this is going to work out for me once we move, though. Hopefully the commissary will have all of these brands available (well, except the soap).

  25. dishwashing detergent is one of those things I can’t buy generic. We’ve had two stinky dishwashers that only get clean with Cascade Complete or geltabs like those. We got a great deal on about 80 tabs marked way down at Wal-Mart and I’m going through those. I guess I ought to keep my eyes out for a great sale meanwhile!

    I’m pretty generic-friendly, but I also don’t do generic TP–ouch!

  26. There are some things that just call for bran loyalty. I’m like you though the generic sometimes beckons after me, in this case I”m glad i never gave in to the dishwashing tabs. IN fact I hadn’t had to buy any in over a year. Last year I lucked out on some coupons that were like $2 off or something and the Electrasol tabs were $2.25 at my DG. I bought them out…$0.25 Electratabs. Something similar happened with Cascade so I had a stock. Not anymore so I need to find myself some coupons or ad match deal.

  27. patricia says:

    I just wanted to give you an idea for your unused soap.. we keep our tolit bowl brush in a old vase beside the tolit filled halfway with water and soap( cut the soap into pieces , just drop into water and it will disolve) then a quick swipe every evening before bed and never have a nasty tolit. this idea came from flylady! if you have small kiddos you can keep in under the sink to keep it from them.

  28. I’ve found that a lot of Target’s generic brand of things are pretty good. I particularly love their diapers, baby wipes, and toilet paper (and I’m not a cheap toilet paper girl!). I will only buy All laundry detergent and Oxiclean stain remover, Coffeemate liquid creamer, and good name brand ice cream. As long as you know that it’s worth the extra money, there’s nothing wrong with buying name brand!

  29. Just like a previous poster, I’ve been pretty impressed with Aldi’s generics. We’re getting pretty picky about processed food, but their tortilla chips contain corn, oil, and salt, only things that should be there. I also just found 2 different types of crackers that had few ingredients, and no high fructose corn syrup, nor partially hydrogenated oils. That’s hard to find in most name brands!

    I use Cascade powder and I can almost always get it on sale with coupons. I stretch it by adding baking soda, and I never fill more than the cup that closes. It works with our machine, but we have an older model, which I’ll never replace if I can help it!

    • @Renee,

      Thanks for the tip about Aldi’s crackers. The main reason I don’t shop Aldi’s is the last time I scoped them out I couldn’t find foods without HFCS or PHOs.

      As for brand loyalty, I’m pretty picky about yogurt, soy and rice milk. Dannon and Fage are my favorite yogurts (I know, Greek yogurt is an incredible luxury item!), Organic Vally Soy Milk, and Trader Joe’s Rice milk.

  30. If the generic is better or equal to the brand name, I buy generic. Otherwise, I go with the brand name.

  31. I’m like you in that if I can’t match a coupon to an item but need it, I’ll buy the generic. I teach Coupon Workshops and always remind people not to be brand loyal but I also let them know I struggle with this and toilet paper. I try to buy my favorite brand when it’s on sale and if not, I’ll use my store rewards ECB & RR to get it. SCOTT 1000 RULES! 🙂

    As for your soap… if it’s a really strong smelling soap, you can hang it in the garden to deter animals from eating your flowers and vegetables. Works great for deer in our neck of the woods 🙂

  32. I shop at the commissary b/c they only have name brands, and they are often as cheap as store brands at regular stores. I will buy generics, though, for the most part. I did it more when we had Kroger nearby. Their generics *are* superior.

    I HAVE to have: Jif Peanut Butter, Q-Tips (generics are hard and scratchy), and Cottonelle TP.

  33. We are not totally name brand loyal except like Miracle Whip. I love Aldi’s brand of items as they have a double money back guarantee on all their products. We tried Walmart brand of light mayo, but that was a fail. It just doesn’t taste as good as Hellmans or Kraft.

  34. Like you I also try to go generic when at all possible, but when itcomes to Velveeta, Hellmans, and Coke there is just not toouch that can beat it! I too Learned the hard way about dish washer soap, I kept on using the Costo brand even though it did not work at all!!! I felt bad throwing that huge bottle away so like a dufus I kept using it!

  35. This is great and all, but I really want to hear more about the new BABY! Details, Amy, details. 🙂

  36. I am Tide Loyal. I will buy all and sometimes other brands if good match with coupons. But if Tide is on sale, I stock up.
    I also love Dawn. Stock up on that.
    And Cascade or Electrosol is a must.
    I must be really bad because I can name a few others- head and shoulders, secret deodorant, Olay. Of course there is more and I buy when good price and stock up.

  37. Hey, you won’t know it doesn’t work unless you try! I do use generic when I don’t find a sale/coupon match. Except Band Aids! The other brands just DO NOT stick!

  38. Lipton Teabags for regular tea, Stash for flavors. Bounty select -a- size in white. Best Foods/Hellman’s mayonaise. Aloha soy sauce.Tillamook cheese and sour cream and ice cream. and real Q tips and Band aids (really if the brand is what you call it no matter which brand you choose, you should probably stick with the real thing). Crest. These are not negotiable! Everything else I have my favorites, of course, but I can generally try something new and generic.
    I find it interesting how everyone who is loyal to a tp or laundry soap seem to be picking different ones. I guess they all are good and it’s just personal preference.

  39. oh yeah I meant to ask about the gel packs –they are so expensive and seemed like excessive packaging so I haven’t tried them, though Cascade is my favorite among dishsoaps (I have Kirkland now). Are the packs better than liquid?
    Oh and I only by Mrs. Meyers Geranium dish soap for hand washing. It smells lovely!

    • My favorite thing about the gel packs is that I don’t have to worry about dumping a box of powder everywhere (yes, that has happened) and I don’t worry about how much I’m “supposed” to use. It’s measured out for me. Oh — and my kids like to help. It’s easy for them to grab a gel pack and stick it in the dispenser.

  40. For most prodcuts, I’ll try just about any brand, except for paper towels. There are some off-brands that just aren’t worth buing.

  41. I use the gel pacs in place of liquid or powder because our dispenser broke. If I drop a gel pac in the utensil basket it works! Anyway, I haven’t tried the Walmart version (didn’t know they had them since I haven’t checked in a while!) but I’ve found that the Finish brand works as well or better than the Cascade. I often find sale/coupon match ups for it.

  42. Same goes for generic “magic” erasaers. The off brand lacks any magic besides crumbling in your hands. Do not try this at home!

  43. That drives me crazy, I never know whether to risk it or not. Some generics are as good or even better than name brands but as you pointed out some are so awful it completely turns me away!

  44. I bought some natural dishwasher detergent – same problem. But I won’t throw it out either – so I mix half the bad one and half cascade! Try it

  45. Michelle H. says:

    I was very brand loyal until I started CVSing, but now I’ll try most anything once. The few things I remain loyal to are Kraft Mac n Cheese, Yoplait yogurt, and Bounce free.

  46. Michelle H. says:

    And Hellman’s mayo and Blue Bell ice cream. Refuse to scrimp on those.

  47. The place I NEVER go frugal is diapers. 4 kids and LOTS of painful diaper rash has led me to believe that cheap is NOT better in this area. Pampers are my choice. I try not to think about how much I could be saving if I went generic. The baby soft parts are too tender to mess with.

  48. We buy branded laundry detergent (Tide), dishwasher detergent (Cascade), frozen pizza and ice cream.

    But we do buy generic-branded products for some of our groceries. Cranberry juice, for example. The Kirkland brand is just as good (if not, better) than Ocean Spray.

  49. I am huge on the Cascade gel-paks. We buy them in bulk at Sams Club because it was getting too expensive when we had to buy them so often. We haven’t bought them in at least 4 months, if not longer, and still have at least half of the container left!

    I buy almost everything else generic, though we also don’t do toilet paper or tissues (prefer Puffs). We have found that we really like the Target Up & Up brand of almost anything… we especially love their diapers!

    • Oh, Sams. How I miss my Sams club. We live over an hour away now, and only go to the “city” about twice a year, so we’ve done without.

  50. I buy buy the sales. So for instance our Wal-Mart is remodeling and items have been on 80% off clearance. So I have a years worth of my favorite scrubbing pads, dishwasher soap, dishwasher cleaner that I paid pennies on the dollar for. And yes, I mean pennies. It is March and we are still using Halloween themed paper plates because I bot them on super clearance. What kind of plates did we use at my daughter’s 4th birthday party in January? You got it. Halloween!

  51. I follow the same general rule as you. The only time I stray from generic for cheaper is when I know the generic to be sub-par enough to make a difference (as is the case with some generic frozen veggies I’ve gotten from Winco, ick!) or if the brand truly makes a difference. In my case, it must be Best Food or Kewpie (Japanese) mayonaise, Kikkoman soy sauce and Five Crabs fish sauce. I’ve tried other brands for these things with disastrous results — never again!

  52. The one thing I refuse to buy generic is tinfoil. Generic tinfoil just does not cut it and I paid 10.00 just for a roll of Reynolds, but I know it’s high-quality!! 🙂

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