Americans’ spending habits have changed at the grocery store, but that doesn’t mean we’re making smarter choices. We tapped Teri Gault, founder of deals site The Grocery Game, for advice on how shoppers can stretch their dollar, despite rising food costs. Here’s her guide to the best and worst store-brands out there:
The best store brands
Safeway’s frozen lasagna. At less than $1 per seving on sale with a coupon, this beats Stouffer’s version hands-down. “It tastes just like homemade and is probably cheaper than what you could make yourself,” Gault said.
Safeway’s taco shells. These are fresher, crisper and seem to hold up better, said Gault. And when they’re on sale, they’re only $1/box. “I usually buy 8-10 at a time when that happens,” she said.
Safeway’s O-Organics yogurts. These beat every name brand out there, hands-down.
Kroger’s peanut butter. “It’s just better and bigger,” said Gault, comparing the Kroger brand’s 18 oz. jar to Jiffy’s 16.3 oz. container. You can get Jiffy cheaper if it’s on sale with a coupon, however.
Safeway, Kroger or Publix’s organic granola cereal. “I like these all better than Barabara’s,” said Gault. “The cereal seems fresher, as I think they move the product faster due to the great price.”
Organic produce from any store. These tend to be priced at half the cost of the name brand. Just compare Kroger’s Fresh Selection bagged lettuce (12 oz.) on sale for 89 cents versus Dole’s 9-12 oz. bag on sale for $1.
Sugar, flour and butter from any store. “In terms of quality and value, they’re great every time,” Gault said.
The worst store brand items
Kroger’s brand chicken. “It seems like over-grown chicken that’s been pumped with water,” Gault said. “I prefer Foster Farms brand, which is all-natural and almost as good of a price when it’s on sale.”
Safeway’s whole grain bread. She’ll buy it when it’s on sale, but Gault says this bread just isn’t as “fresh, chewy and nutty as other whole grain name brands.” Her pick: any of Bimbo bakery’s brands like Arnold and Brownberry. “They also make Mrs. Baird’s in Texas, which is the best soft white bread on the planet!”
Toilet paper and paper towels. The coarse, flimsy stuff you generally find on a smaller roll gives you a good incentive to stick with brand names like Charmin and Brawny.
Dry beans. “I tend to find more pebbles and shriveled beans in these,” said Gault. You’re best bet is probably Heinz.
Spices. These tend to be old and lacking in flavour after sitting on the shelves for too long, so stick with McCormick.
Bandages. Not only do they fall off, store brand bandages across the board just aren’t as durable (or fun to remove). Band-Aid’s makes a superior item, while Nexcare sells the best waterproof bandages.
Cookies. No matter how the cookie crumbles, “You’ll never find a rip-off Oreo that tastes like an actual Oreo,” said Gault.