who can tell the difference between generic and store brands?

In this thread was discussed the differences between generic salt and a certain name brand. Some Dopers seemed to think generic was the way to go. I tell ya, Kroger’s pop tarts :eek: are no way close to the real thing. Their coco puffs also suck. My wife continually attempts to coerce me to the dark side but after those 2 experiences, I have steadfastly refused to try generic stuff. I’m curious about what items youse guys have tried in both generic and name brands and how they compared. Maybe for non edibles I should give it a try but I need convincing. Whadya say?

I’m not sure that this can be taught, but you have to just have a SENSE of what generic products are OK.

Canned vegetables: YES
Canned soup: NO

Popsicles: YES
Ice cream: NO

Frozen vegetables: YES
Frozen pizza: NO

Cleaning products: YES
Garbage bags: NO

Napkins: YES
Paper Towels: NO

Baby wipes: YES
Diapers: Most assuredly NO, especially before a long car trip

Get the idea? Basically, if it’s something that’s pretty hard to screw up, the generic is OK. Anything that requires combining a number of ingredients or, like Pop Tarts, is dependent in part on texture for its edibility is out.

Like Elvis said, it depends on the product. I always at least try the store brand once, though experience has taught me to avoid the store brand on:

Ice Cream
Diapers (never, ever again)
Alka-Seltzer type stuff (yegads, it was awful. It made regular Alka-Seltzer seem delicious)

And some things I actually prefer in the store brand. Food Club canned pizza sauce (at Piggly Wiggly) is the best out there.

I agree with most of y’all, but we diverge on the wipe/dipe issue. I never bought anything but the Kroger brand of diapers for my chilluns and I preferred them to the ultra-expensive name brands. I always got blowouts with Luvs. Huggies came unfastened in the night. And so on. But store-brand wipes: fuggehdabowdit. Poop-to-wipe ratio is about 10 to one. Name brands are thicker.

In the non-mom realm of products, I have to agree with Bottle of Smoke. I prefer Kroger peanut butter, for example. Meijer ice cream is excellent. I’ve opined elsewhere that I think all the store-brand cereals I enjoy are absolutely fine. I am not, however, a Count Chocula devotee, preferring shredded wheat, corn flakes and the like. I buy my rolled oats in bulk at the co-op, for example. Generic pop-tarts, though, you’re right: ICK.

Almost any store-brand dairy product is fine: yogurt, cheese, milk, sour cream, half ‘n’ half. Heck, I even like some of the generic soft drinks. For example, Diet Citrus Drop is a fine diet Mt. Dew. (But then again I actually like the new Diet Coke with Lemon … get those crosses out of my face … so do with this information what you will.)

Most stores say You Must Be Satisfied with their product, so if you’re like me and don’t mind dragging grocery items back for a refund, you’ll get your money back and you can resume your Kellogg addiction. :wink:

When it comes to store-brand/generic non-food items, generally you’re safe with apsrin, etc. (Costco’s Sudafed clone is a very good buy, and so far everyone I know who’s used it hasn’t been able to tell the difference.) You are also generally safe on facial cleaning stuff, but not makeup.

For the food-stuff, like Elvis mentioned, if it’s something that’s hard to screw up: store brand is usually just fine. It’s when the store brand tries to imitate/duplicate a ‘secret’ recipie that they get into trouble: anyone here try Dr. Thunder? :eek:

Generally: if in doubt, get the smallest amount of the store brand you can to try it out, or wait until the store gives out samples. While you can normally return store brand stuff if you don’t like it, I find it to be too much trouble.

<< I’m leaving my body to science fiction. >>

Walmart-brand orange soda: OK

Walmart-brand “Dr Pepper”: NOT OK

Walmart-brand cornflakes: NO NO NO

Walmart-brand white bread: Seems just fine at first, but then the days go by and it STILL seems just fine, and weeks pass and there’s still no sign of it going stale, and finally you’ve had the last four slices of bread sitting in the bag for a month and a half and they’re still not stale, much less moldy, and that’s when you start to be afraid that what you’ve been eating isn’t bread at all, but some form of plastic or styrofoam or a chemical that manages to look and taste like bread without actually being bread…

Beware the Piggly Wiggy instant mashed potatoes! It bares an eerie similarity, both visually and taste-wise, to spackling compound.

Admittedly, I should have know better, but just the phrase “instant mashed potatoes” was so intriguing I couldn’t pass it up.

I don’t care how tight the budget is, in my experience you cannot skimp on Mac-N-Cheese. Buy the Kraft Dinner.

This reminds me - hot dogs have been scientifically proven to have an indefinite shelf life. I’m not sure if the different brands are any more or less susceptible to decomposition (or perhaps half-life is a more accurate term here).

Yeah. Sometimes store brands are as good or better than brand names. Depends on the product. YMMV.

On my personal “Stick with the big name” list:
Cream cheese. I always buy Philadelphia brand rather than the store brand. Why? Tastes better? Nope. They taste the same. I buy the Philly for the packaging. Philly comes in a sturdy, thick foil envelope. The store brand uses a thinner, flimsier envelope which tears easily from knife abrasions. Holes in the foil cause icky hard yellow spots on your cream cheese.

I have to add crunchy peanut-butter to the list. Avoid store-brand at all costs. I’m STILL digesting the Meijer brand peanut-butter I tried 6 years ago.

Generic mayonnaise is among the nastier food products on Earth. Well, does JFG count as generic? I put it in that category.
The stuff is sweet. My dad loves it. I’ve been known to avoid mayonnaise for months at a time because the big jars of JFG mayonnaise are on sale.

And JFG peanut butter? It doesn’t even have the faintest hint of peanut flavor. It’s just brown sticky goo.

I do like Food Lion brand corn chips. There must be a pound of salt on each chip. Yum.

Nightsong, I LOVE Dr Thunder! They even remembered to leave the punctuation off. Plus, you get to say that you’re (in a booming voice) “Drinking Dr Thunder!”

But I do agree that store brand peanut butter is horrible, horrible stuff. It’s grainy, ferchristsake! Same with ice cream.

As for medication, my mother the pharmacist, brother the doctor, and sister-in-law the biochemist say that there is absolutely no difference between generic brands, even for behind the counter drugs. (And they also say that expiration dates are at least 3 months premature.)

I spend a lot of time in food processing facilities, and most canned products are “bright packed”, meaning they put it in the cans before they put the labels on, and they don’t even know what labels are going on when they pack it. As orders come in, the cans get labels and are shipped out. There is no difference at all for these products. Many boxed and bagged products are done in a similar way. They don’t even stop the lines when they change bag or box types. A good way to tell if a product is identical or if they just have similar packaging is to look at the date/time/line stamp. If it has the same font, on the same part of the bag/box/can, then it probably comes from the same place, produced the same way, etc. Frequently different name brands come from the same authorized processor, too.

It really is a product by product thing, and I think the trend pointed out above is fairly accurate, meaning the more complex a product, the more of a difference between store brand and name brand.

I’ve noticed that Acme (grocery chain in PA) brand dental floss is inferior to brand name dental floss. It shreds and breaks before I’ve flossed half my teeth. Acme fruit cocktail is pretty lousy too. It seems that they use the fruit that Del Monte rejected. I was told by a pharmacist that the difference between generic drugs and brand name drugs is that some generics use different inert ingredients/binding agents.

I very rarely use store brands and never use “generic.”

My mom, the thrifty, frugal, must save money even though she’s got it climbing out of her ass, would run to King Soopers (Kroger store) at 4:00 am when they would unload the generic brands off the trucks and buy them by the case:

Generic “spagettios” – which to this day I love the real stuff, but generic was nasty. She also got generic ravioli which would make Chef Boyardee roll in his grave.

Generic toilet paper – might as well wiped my ass with aspen bark.

Generic cookies – probably the reason I rarely eat sweets.

Generic this, generic that, everything was f*cking generic. I got her two kittens for Mother’s Day in my sixth grade year – one was black and the other black and white. My brother’s girlfriend at the time labeled them the “generic kitties” that’s how bad it was.

So, while she saved money, she scared me from generic goods. But I do look at pricing and labels thanks to her teaching me however I do prefer taste over savings. A meal is only as good as the ingredients you put in it.

Take for example, I am not sure if you have Kuner’s brand veggies in your stores as they are a Colorado company. They are less than the Green Giant brand, they are just as good and I am helping, in a small way, my local economy.

I don’t agree that store brand cheese is just as good. The Kroger brand sharp cheddar cheese is bland, no bite to it. I prefer a deli style but there’s not one around me so I buy either Kraft or some of the other brands depending on my needs.

Toilet paper, sorry, but generic or off brands suck. If you are going to be wiping your butt with paper or for us women, other sensitive areas, it must not be a single ply that has enough wood chunks in it to put in the gerbil cage. Some feel like sandpaper.

French Fried Onions – for that holiday green bean casserole. Must be French’s, not the store brand. The store brand and some off brands taste like those renegade french fries that have been sitting under your car seat for months wiht no onion flavor.

I don’t drink pop but the off brand and store brand waters are okay. Hard to farg up water. Never understood why people pay so much for “fancy” water anyway.

Juice from the bottle – I prefer the non-sugar filled juices and very few off brands or even major brands offer non-sugar filled juice. If I want a special flavor juice it’s usually an organic or natural company like R.W. Knudsens. With that said, for 100% apple juice or even apple sauce, the Kroger brand is pretty good.

Crackers, you have to get the brand name. Ever tried the store brand “Country Club” crackers? Man, those can not be baked by Keebler Elves. They had to have been baked in Little Susie’s Easy Bake Oven.

With that one thread quoted in the OP. If you use regular table salt, don’t spend extra for the little girl on the package. If you are a cook that enjoys different flavors try a Kosher salt or a sea salt.

As for regular spices, I tend to buy whatever, I rarely buy the ultra expensive herbs and spices but usually the middle of the road. I have been known to stock some store brands as well. I guess I just go off what suits my fancy at the time at the store.

There are a lot of things I don’t buy like cereal; I don’t buy a lot of bread but when I do it’s Oro Wheat. I don’t drink coffee anymore but I didn’t like the store brand, for that quick cup of joe in the morning I would buy Folgers. For a nice after dinner coffee I would always buy a whole bean major brand.

Well, I am rambling and I apologize but I think, especially with food, it is important to get the best quality you can afford. You can still find some quality in store brands but they aren’t always consistant in my experience.

Publix makes very good Ice Cream!!! (yum)

Do not buy generic tampons.

Speaking of poptarts, my hubby can tell the difference between the Kelloggs and store brand. The Kelloggs have a distinct texture and taste. Also, I have found that the Little Debbie Rice Crispy Treats are much better than the Kelloggs brand. I think it’s Little Debbie, some off brand anyway.

I’ve found my supermarket has improved their generic icecream. It used to be horrible, but now it’s as creamy as the twice-as-expensive name brand.

Generic toilet paper constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. It’s horrible. Blech.

There is no such thing as acceptable generic tea and coffee. It just doesn’t happen. However, generic sugar is just as sugary as dearer stuff - how could you mess sugar up? The same goes for ordinary table salt - if you’re into fancy yuppy salts, you probably wouldn’t buy ordinary table salt anyway.

I use generic brand french onion soup in Apricot Chicken - it does the job just as well, and costs about one third the price. I use generic chicken noodle soup in Chow Mein for the same reason. I tried a bowl of that soup the other day, and it wasn’t bad. 28 cents, 4 litres… that’s impressive!

Generic spaghetti seems ok. I’m no spaghetti expert, but we’ve switched to the generic brand recently and it is ok. I use a fairly cheap sauce on it. We tried generic Alfredo pasta, but I found it repulsive (Mr Cazzle thought it was ok).

Mum at one stage discovered that the generic wafers were better than the dearer name brands. We loved em! They were so cheap we could buy a couple of packets for the price of a dearer one, meaning not only were they nicer, but we could have more of them! Bonus!!

When you shop next, compare prices. If the saving is significant, give the generic brand a shot. You’ll have some disasters but you’ll have some successes as well.