Money Saving Monday Tip #18 – Buy Generics

By glblguy

Generic Cereal
Picture by beketchai

One of the recent changes we’ve made to our spending is buying generic products. This includes generic branded medicine, food and non-food products. I’ve found that you can save a significant amount of money purchasing generic products and in general with no sacrifice in quality. There are generics for almost everything: trash bags, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, canned products, frozen products, milk, bread, etc.

Note, I said “in general no sacrifice in quality“. Our experience with prescription and over the counter medicine, the quality is identical. This also holds true for non-food items that you typically find at the grocery store such as trash bags, plastic wrap, dish soap, dish washer detergent, rinse aids, etc. Regarding food products, the quality is a little more varied. Our experience is that for the most part you can’t tell the difference. This is particularly true of products that you mix with other food items, such as sugar, spices, canned vegetables, coffee creamer, etc.

For food products that you directly consume, here’s where you may notice a difference. For example, I love Pop-Tarts, all flavors, all kinds. I tried the store brand of pop-tarts and even the branded “Toastems” and they don’t even come close. Another example where I personally can’t tolerate the generic brand is Yogurt. For me, nothing compares to Dannon Fruit on the bottom yogurt. On the other hand, I’ve found a few products I enjoy where I can’t even tell the difference. Overall though, I prefer brand names for products I consume directly.

Generic Prescription medicine

When a drug manufacturer creates a new drug, they typically have about 7-12 years of patent protection for the drug. Once this patent protection runs out, other companies can then begin producing the drug. Due to the competition, the prices for the generic products are significantly cheaper than the name brand. Generic drugs must contain the same active ingredients as the original and are identical in dose, strength and safety.

If you take prescription medicines, make sure you tell your pharmacy to provide generic alternatives when they become available. In general most health plans offer a reduced co-pay on generic drugs as well.

Generic over the counter medicine

The concept here is exactly like prescription drugs. Same product, just made my multiple manufacturers thus reducing the price.

I take Claritin-D, and up until a few years ago it was by prescription only. Once the patent ran out, it went over the counter and now “drug-store” branded versions are available that are half the price for the exact same product. This holds true for Tylenol (Acetometaphin), Advil (Ibuprofine), Sudafed (pseudoephedrine hydrochloride) and many many other products.

If you aren’t purchasing generic over the counter medicines, you are missing out on considerable cost savings and you are just paying more money for the same product.

Generic Grocery Products

Most common food and non-food products are available in generic and store branded versions. This includes pasta, detergents, soap, frozen and canned vegetables, diary products, sugar, flour, cereal, etc.

For non-food products, the generics are excellent alternatives and the quality is on-par with name branded versions.

For food products, you may find some difference in quality and taste. This is particularly true of products you consume directly. Products that you cook with or mix with other products are great options.


We’ve saved a considerable amount of money over the past few months buying generics. It’s been a difficult effort though, as we’ve had to change our habit of picking up the name branded products we’ve become so used to. We’ve learned what we like and what we don’t, and aren’t completely generic, but much more so than before.

I would strongly encourage you to give generics a try. Worst case you aren’t happy and you return to the product you used before. Best case, you can’t tell the difference and you’ll see those expenses take a significant drop!

What’s your experience with generic products? Are there any I’ve missed? Share your thoughts an input by adding a comment below!

19 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Money Saving Monday Tip #18 – Buy Generics”

  1. paidtwice Says:

    I have found that some generics vary even.

    Walmart Mac N Cheese – disgusting. Aldi Mac N Cheese – tastes like kraft to me. lol

    Generic (Malt o Meal or whatever that is) Capn Crunch – my spouse hates it. Generic (same malt o meal) golden grahams – my spouse loves them.

    We’re at about 95% generics now and we love it. If only someone made a generic DIET mountain dew. lol

  2. Lynnae @ Being Frugal Says:

    We mostly buy generics, too. You have to watch out sometimes, though. I can buy generic trash bags at Walmart, and they work fine. The ones from Winco are super-thin and fall apart quickly.

    And generic prescription medications are a HUGE savings. I switched from a prescription with no generic (and a $30 co-pay when we had insurance) to a prescription that has a generic equivalent. I pay $4 a month at Walmart now….without insurance.

  3. plonkee Says:

    I always buy generic over the counter medicines – apart from Nurofen plus which I’ve never seen generically (it’s ibuprofen and codeine).

    Food, if there are several different brands with varying tastes, or it’s quite processed then the generic will probably taste different. Sometimes I prefer the brand name, other times the generic, most of the time I like both equally.

    Toiletries, I find if it looks like broadly the same packaging, the generic will work out fine.

  4. Pinyo Says:

    Good post, and thank you for adding generic names after common brand name drugs.

  5. glblguy Says:

    @paidtwice – I noticed that about Diet Mt. Dew. My 7 year old is Diabetic, and all they seem to ever have is Diet Orange.

    @Lynnae – I’ve noticed the same…some things no difference, other things big difference. As for meds, my medicine bills have been cut in half this year due to generics becoming available for meds I have to take.

    @plonkee – Ipuprofen with codeine…not in the US ;-) A neighbor of ours used to go to England a couple times a year. He would always bring us back Tylenol with Codeine :-) Seems our FDA isn’t too keen on Codeine over the counter.

    @Pinyo – Thanks and you’re welcome.

  6. LC Says:

    You mention that non-food items have almost identical quality as name brand and only sometimes with food items. I find it to be the opposite. I have yet to find a generic food item that isn’t comparable or superior than the name brand. However, for things like dish soap, freezer bags, laundry detergent, trash bags, etc., I find that the generics are not as effective, so I usually still buy name brands (with coupons!) for those things. I am amazed at how generic OTC drugs can be literally half the price of name brands for the exact same ingredients. And I think prescription medications are required by law to work the same as the name brands.

  7. Minimum Wage Says:

    I remember a generics fad about 25 years agowhere generic foods were common, but I haven’t seen any of these since. Store brands are common these days and I use them for pretty much everything except a handful of groceries, e.g. grape jelly, mayonnaise, and (when I’m too lazy to make my own) pasta sauce.

  8. glblguy Says:

    @LC – That’s interesting…maybe I’ve just been lucky so far on the non-food items. Now, we’ve only been using generics for a few months now as well…Regarding medicine, yes generics have to meet the same standards and be composed of the same exact medicines.

    @Minimum Wage – Honestly I had completely forgotten about the original generics until you mentioned that…black and white box right? When I say generics, I am referring to store branded products. I’m with you on Jelly, Smuckers Strawberry preserves rock! Same with Peanut butter too, Smuckers Natural Extra Crunchy :-)

  9. SC Says:

    My best bet with generics besides meds (prescription and otc) is body wash (Target brand is great and half the cost), paper products, and if you drink soda (which I drink rarely now), diet Shasta is usually cheaper than the other diet soft drinks but tastes really good–I think better than the more name brand drinks.

  10. justin Says:

    Generics are hit and miss, I generally try the generics at least once to see if they are useful or not. I get generic stuff at Costco all the time, Trader Joe’s seems to be all store brand, Kroger’s generics are very hit and miss.

    Drugs I go for the generic when available, because it should be identical with the same active ingredients. Of course, I price check the name brand before making the purchase to make sure I am actually saving money.

  11. Just Plain Bill Says:

    Great Article!
    Have had nothing but positive results buying generics from COSTCO. Food, vitamins, laundry products, batteries, clothing, the works. Usually under KIRKLAND NAME.

  12. glblguy Says:

    Hi there Just Plain Bill! Thanks for visiting Gather Little by Little. I really appreciate your kind remark, and glad you enjoyed the article. I love COSTCO, but unfortunately there isn’t one close to our house. My parents live there I think :-)

  13. Mike Says:

    I came to many of the same conclusions in my recent post on the subject:

    For most items I always buy generic, for a few I buy the branded when its on sale, and a very small number I always buy the branded product.