Premium vs. Generic: Make the Right Decision

Just like any American adult, I like to save money when I go grocery shopping. I try to accomplish this by using coupons, shopping during sales, and buying only the stuff I need. Another cost savings measure I sometimes use is buying generic store products as opposed to the premium brand. But the key word in my last savings tip, conveniently denoted in italics, is sometimes. While I have no problem buying a store brand shower cleaner, I would never consider buying an imitator’s version of Oreos.

For this blog post I want to share my top lists of generic items that I will purchase to save me a buck or two and the items that I will steadfastly only buy in their premium, un-altered form. Enjoy my top five for both lists, starting first with the items that I am willing to downgrade on.


Bottled Water – I don’t need Talking Rain or Aquafina, a bottle of Albertson’s premium drinking water will do just fine for me. Although I love water and drink a lot of it, I can’t for the life of me tell the difference between the millions of bottled water companies out there. Even if there was a small difference, I would still go with the generic version namely because I don’t buy bottled water solely for the original agua in the bottle. Rather, I buy it so I can refill it with good ol’ Montana tap water and place in my refrigerator over and over again.

I have no problem drinking Sam's Choice bottled water!

I have no problem drinking Sam’s Choice bottled water!

Pain Reliever – While the pain reliever market is highly competitive and saturated with many brands, I usually just go with the cheapest bottle. Because of how highly regulated the industry is, all versions of ibuprofen contain the same working mechanisms. Same goes with cold medicine. I can get the knockoff Walgreens stuff for almost $3 less than Nyquil and it does the exact same for me. When you are in pain or sick it is easy to trick yourself in to thinking that the premium brands will get you better faster but it really is not true although a good way to spend extra money.

Cleaning Supplies – When it comes to stocking my bathroom and kitchen with cleaning supplies, I go cheap. I hit up Wal-Mart and purchase the non-big name products. I just don’t see the need to pay extra. All of these products are simply a variation of soap and chemicals anyways. Most importantly, they do the job. When it comes to cleaning it doesn’t matter as much about the product as it does about the person who is willing to spray and scrub.

Milk – I drink 1% milk every day and I find very little difference between Viva and the Albertsons brand I usually buy. In fact, if I was to really scrutinize the taste, I would say I prefer the generic brand more. To me, store brand milk tastes fresher than the national brand who ships their product from across the country.

I drink generic milk over brand name all the time.

I drink generic milk over brand name all the time.

Peanut Butter – People give me quite a hard time about my love for peanut butter. Yes, the rumors are true…during the weekdays I eat half of a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and then I eat a full peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Just the bread and the peanut butter…no jelly. Because I have kept with this eating pattern for the past four years, you might think I am particular about my peanut butter. I am not. When I go to the store I just buy whatever is on sale. Sometimes I do buy a JIFF jar or a Skippy jar but more often than not I buy Great Value, Safeway, or Albertson’s brand. I can tell a little bit of a difference between the various peanut butters but it is not enough to make me not go for the best deal. As my readers out there who like peanut butter know, it is expensive!


Soda – (cue lame Dos Equis reference) I don’t usually drink soda, but when I do, it has to be brand name. When it comes to taste, there is no bigger difference between a glass of Coca-Cola and a glass of whatever generic cola you can find. All generic colas taste like sewage to me. I have never found a knockoff of Mountain Dew that I have found remotely tasty either. No thank you on the Mountain Breezes and the Alpine Mists…they all suck. Dr. Pepper and root beer generic versions always taste flat to me. I have a hard enough time drinking a name brand soda in the first place, reminiscing about slurping down generic soda that tasted like poison when I was younger makes me wonder how I am still alive today.

Batteries – Sure you can purchase store brand batteries but don’t expect them to power whatever device you have for more than a day. In my opinion, it is either Duracell or Energizer. All the others need not apply. Generic batteries just in your hand fill flimsy and light. Bad things happen when batteries die so it is definitely worth the investment to spend a little more on the reliable, premium brands.

Ice Cream – I think there is nothing wrong with indulging in a treat every now and then. My treat of choice is ice cream! However, if I am going to splurge I am going to make sure it is worth it. There are ice cream brands like Dreyer’s and Ben & Jerry’s and then there are ice cream brands like Western Family and Fred Meyer. If you don’t care about caloric intake (which I don’t when I eat ice cream) you must go with the former brands mentioned. Creamier, tastier, and filled with toppings, I always go premium over generic. It really is night and day between a carton of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream vs. a carton of Safeway’s vanilla ice cream. Just looking at the picture of the product on the generic brand’s carton depresses me. The actual taste makes me cry. When it comes to ice cream, go big or go home.

I love my ice cream rich and premium!

I love my ice cream rich and premium!

Junk Food (Cookies, chips) – Another guilty pleasure that does not taste the same in the generic form is junk food. Have you ever tried a knockoff version of Oreo cookies? In every single aspect, the fake cookie is absolutely shameful compared to an actual Oreo. Everything from the fluffiness of the white filling to the crunchy/crumbly texture of the original is left out. The most obvious missing trait though is the flavor! All chocolate sandwich cookies with white filling that are not Oreos lack that distinctive taste. That is how it is for all generic snack foods that try to imitate a classic…lack of flavor! Try a cheese puff that is not a Cheeto. Or a flavored tortilla chip that is not a Dorito. Or a cheese flavored cracker that is not a Cheez-It. Or a marshmallow crispy bar that is not a Kellogg’s Rice Krispy Treat. None of the rip offs taste close to the original thing. Believe me, if you come to watch a game at my place, you are going to be enjoying brand-named snacks.

Toilet Paper – Buying premium toilet paper is as much for my guests as it is for me. I would feel embarrassed if I stocked my bathroom with the cheap and sketchy generic TP that couldn’t even pass for receipt paper. What kind of a host does that? When it comes to toilet paper, I just want myself and my guests to fill comfortable. Soft, thick rolls from recognized toilet paper distributors are the way to go. Plus, if you invest in high quality toilet paper you can usually use it to double as Kleenex or to clean up spills around the house.


There you have it! My list of items that I can use a generic version of and my list of items where I don’t fool around with anything but the best. The rule of thumb for deciding on whether to go generic or go premium is easy: Does quality go down dramatically from a premium product to a generic one AND are you in the position to pay a little extra for the superior product? If you can answer “yes” to both of these questions when evaluating which way to go, buy the premium product. If you must answer “no” to either one of the two questions, then go generic. Happy shopping! Don’t Blink.