Should you spend the extra two bucks on that name-brand ketchup or just reach for the store brand? If you've ever wondered when to splurge and when to save, this post is for you! Once and for all, we're revealing the truth about store brand vs name brand groceries!

couple comparing products at grocery store, from Shelf Cooking

If you've declared your undying loyalty to a specific brand of cake mix or butter, you may be overspending at the grocery store! Our resident queen of frugal, Jordan Page, went behind the scenes with a Costco GM, and what she learned surprised us. Today, we're spilling her secrets!

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Find out which generic brand products are a no-brainer and when it's better to reach for a name brand! Once and for all, we're settling an age-old battle: store brand vs name brand. Here we go!


generic oatmeal, sugar, and spices, from Shelf Cooking

When it comes to the shelf cooking staples, like canned goods, grains, and flours, does it matter which brand you buy? The short answer is “no.” Here's why: in most cases, those generic products are manufactured by the same company that puts out the name-brand version. That markup between the two products pays for advertising. So, the next time you're re-stocking your kitchen, here are the items you should always buy generic.

Switching from name brand to generic can easily save you $20 or more each week. Over the course of a year, that's a TON! Think of all the other things you could do with that whopping $960.


freezing fruits and vegetables, from Shelf Cooking

Spoiler alert: you can pretty much always grab the generic version of any frozen foods you're planning to buy. In general, we're not big fans of convenience buys, but here are a few exceptions:

  • Fruits & Veggies – When you calculate the cost per ounce, you can save as much as 30% by buying frozen fruits and veggies instead of the fresh stuff from the produce section. Buy what's on sale! When it comes to frozen produce, brands really don't matter.
  • Pizzas – Here's a little-known fact about frozen pizza. You can easily doctor them up using leftovers you have at home! Grab the cheapest possible plain cheese pizza, then dress it up with leftover ground beef, shredded chicken, or lunchmeat. Don't forget to throw some veggies on there, too! Leftover work just as well as fresh.
  • Dinner Rolls – The frozen kind last SO much longer than the ones from the bakery, and they're usually a heck of a lot cheaper. Don't worry about the brand, just grab the bag with the lowest price tag!

Pro Tip: Let go of those Eggos! You should always avoid convenience foods in the freezer aisle. You can make your own freezer waffles, breakfast sandwiches, and pasta bakes for a fraction of the cost. Stop by that aisle for inspiration! If they're selling it frozen, you can make it at home and freeze it.


store brand baking soda, from Shelf Cooking

If you're like us, then we bet you stock up on non-food essentials at the grocery store every few weeks or so. Here are some of the most common household items you can buy on your grocery run, along with our take on store brand vs name brand:

  • Paper Products – Buying paper towels or napkins? Find a generic brand you love. Those paper towels with their own commercials are expensive!
  • Cleaning Products – When it comes to the basics, like baking soda or bleach, the generic version is just as good! If you have kiddos or pets at home, we do suggest splurging a bit on the other cleaning products. Clean products cost a bit more, but it's worth the peace of mind!
  • Trash Bags – If you're going to throw it in the trash anyway, why spend a ton? We're not saying go for the $1 trashbags in high-traffic areas like the kitchen, but the Amazon, Costco, or Target brand of trash bags works just as well a the pricier ones!
  • Medicines – If you're buying pain relievers or cold medicines, stick with the generic kind. They all contain the same active ingredients, so why pay more for a prettier label? The store-brand works the same!
  • Batteries – Guess what we learned from that Costco GM? Their (way cheaper) store brand batteries are exactly the same as the expensive, name-brand version. They're even made in the same factory!
  • Sandwich/Freezer Bags – This one is kind of a personal call, and we're 50/50. If you plan to use your bags for freezer meals, it's worth spending a bit more on a high-quality bag. You don't want those meals going to waste, right? If you're buying sandwich-sized bags for lunches and household organization projects, you can get away with the generic version!

Pro Tip: Make those resealable bags last a little longer! Wash them, dry them, then reuse them again.


woman shopping for milk, from Shelf Cooking

There's plenty of debate around dairy! Should you subscribe to a delivery service fresh from the farm? Is organic best? Should you even feed your kids dairy at all or opt for nut-based products instead? We're not here to judge or make that call, so do what works for your family, mama! Here are a few facts to keep in mind about pricing:

  • Milk – Did you know that dairy products, like milk, are processed and distributed at the local level? We opt for the generic versions! It's usually the same quality you'd find behind a fancier label.
  • Cheese – Store brand shredded cheese can sometimes contain more fillers than the name brand kind, but here's the thing. We won't actually recommend buying the shredded kind. You can buy block cheese in bulk for way cheaper, and shred it, portion it out, and freeze for later.
  • Yogurt – The short answer? Check the ingredients! Some brands contain more added sugar and ingredients than others, so if you're trying to balance health and budget, choose wisely.
  • Butter – You're better off buying the generic version! Butter is butter, and in many cases, that store-bought version is just the same as the name brand. The only difference? Packaging.

Again, it's up to you! If you find it's worth it to buy the pricier yogurt, then prioritize that in your budget, and see if you can switch to generic for something else to make up for the cost. Always do what works best for your family!


store brand or name brand eggs, from Shelf Cooking

Okay, nine times out of ten, we'd suggest opting for a generic product instead of a name brand, but there are a few exceptions! It's your call, but here are a few things that might be worth spending a little extra on:

  • Peanut Butter – Generic peanut butter usually contains more oil and fat. If diet's a concern, spend the extra money on a name-brand, natural peanut butter.
  • Foil & Plastic Wraps – We're team name-brand on this one because we don't want our leftovers going to waste! That being said, if you know of a high-quality generic brand, hook a girl up!
  • Olive Oil – There's a lot of fraudulent olive oil on the market, which sounds weird to say, but it's true! A lot of “olive oil” isn't made from olives at all, so if you do a lot of cooking, invest in the good stuff!
  • Eggs – If you can get them from the farmer's market, fresh eggs are way healthier than the kind you'll find in a store! If you're buying from your grocery store, try to opt for a middle-of-the-road price point. The cheapest eggs usually come from birds that are kept in the smallest cages, and the health of those birds impacts the quality of the egg.
  • Salad Dressing – When you can, we think it's best to make your own salad dressing. But if you opt to buy it, it's usually worth the extra buck to reach for the good stuff. It tastes better and contains fewer fillers!

Pro Tip: If you opt for the name brand, see if you can buy in bulk! Wholesalers like Costco can usually offer name-brand products at a lower cost per serving.


Well, now you know the truth behind the store brand vs name brand debate. In most cases, the name brand markup comes from marketing, so read the ingredients and do your research. Buy generic when you can, and watch what happens to your grocery bill. #GameChanger

What's one item you always buy generic? Let us know in the comments!

Image with text that reads "store brand vs name brand" from Shelf Cooking

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Happy shopping (and saving)!