Top5 Generic Products to Buy

By Kelli B. Grant,
Senior Consumer Reporter,

Saving on trips to the supermarket and drugstore doesn't mean you have to shorten your shopping list.

Savvy consumers can easily save 30% or more with a simple switch from big-name brands to store labels. Sure, the packaging may not be as pretty, or the contents as tasty as your favorite brands, but in many cases, the only thing that's not premium about generics is the price.

The little-known secret about generics is that many store-label brands are produced by the same manufacturers that make the products you know and love. Underneath the packaging, you've got identical breadcrumbs (made by 4C Corp.), aluminum foil (made by Alcoa Reynolds Wrap) and frozen vegetables (made by Birds Eye).

Here are five types of products that you should always purchase generic:

1. Produce

Choosing unmarked oranges over those with a Sunkist sticker should never be a difficult choice. Without the brand-name sticker on, say, Dole lettuce, the underlying produce is identical. "From a food safety perspective, no matter how the produce is marketed or packaged, they must adhere to the same standards," says Stephanie Kwisnek, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration. (Another produce tip: Check out the warehouse club. Check out the price comparisons here.)

ProductStore LabelBrand NameSavings
Grapefruit$0.99$1.99 Sunkist50%
Sweet corn, three ears$1.99$2.99, Garden Sweet33%
Mixed greens, 12 oz.$1.99$2.99, Dole33%

* Prices from supermarkets in the New York City region.

2. Over-the-counter Medications

Feeling under the weather? Don't dismiss your drugstore-brand pain, cold and cough medications, says Tod Cooperman, president of, which tests health and nutrition products. The FDA requires products with the same active ingredient to meet the same efficacy standards. Translation: Your drugstore ibuprofen must work just as well as its brand-name counterparts, which include Advil and Motrin. In the process, you can cut your drugstore bills by a third or more.

Here's how much you can save with generic medication.

ProductStore LabelBrand NameSavings
Non-drowsy allergy relief tablets, 24-hour, 40 count$8.33, Rite Aid$30.99, Claritin73%
Ibuprofen pain reliever, 200 mg, 100 count$5.59, CVS$9.99, Motrin IB44%
Acid-reducer tablets, 75 mg, 30 count$8.29, CVS$10.99, Zantac25%
Chewable extra-strength antacid, 96 count$3.49, Rite Aid$5.49, Tums36%

* Prices from supermarkets and drugstores in the New York City region.
** Per-tablet price adjustment. Store label was 120-count.

3. Organic Food

Many supermarket chains have their own organic line – Whole Foods has 365 Organic, for example, while Publix has GreenWise Market and Safeway has O Organics. If you're looking to trade up to organic foods without inflating your monthly grocery bill, those private-store labels are your best bet to save. "Whether it's from a local producer or a big company, any product labeled as organic must meet the same standards, and be certified it meets the standards," says Joan Shaffer, a spokeswoman for the USDA, which certifies organic products. You'll still pay more for store-brand organic products than you would for conventional generics, but only half as much as you would to buy brand-name organics. (For more on cutting costs on organics, click here.)

Here's how much you can save by buying generic organics.

ProductStore LabelBrand NameSavings
Chicken broth, 32 oz.$1.99, Whole Foods 365 Organic$2.99, Pacific Organic33%
Creamy peanut butter, 18 oz.**$3.49, Safeway O Organics$4.71, Adams26%
Tomato sauce, 15 oz.$1.09, Whole Foods 365 Organic$1.99, Muir Glen45%
Fat-free milk, one gallon$5.99, Safeway O Organics$6.39, Horizon Organic14%

* Prices from supermarkets and drugstores in the New York City region.
** Per-tablet price adjustment. Store label was 120-count.

4. Basic Skincare and Beauty

Next time you hit the drugstore to buy your favorite body lotion take a hard look at the drugstore-label version sitting on the shelf next to your brand of choice. "Oftentimes, they're made in the same factory," says Beth Mayall-Traglia, executive vice president of, a web site that reviews beauty products.

That said, there are times when going brand name is worthwhile. You're likely to get more bang for your buck from pricier products that use an exotic ingredient -- like anti-agers retinol and Vitamin A. The brand name typically gets you more of the active ingredient and packaging that better preserves its efficiency, says Mayall-Traglia.

Here's how much you can save with drugstore-label generics.

ProductStore LabelBrand NameSavings
Gentle skin cleanser, 16 oz.$3.19, Rite Aid$11.49, Cetaphil82%
Moisturizing body lotion, 12 oz.$6.49, CVS$8.49, Aveeno25%
Astringent, 10 oz.$4.79, Rite Aid$4.99, Sea Breeze4%
Apricot cleansing scrub, 6 oz.$2.99, CVS$3.99, St. Ives25%

* Prices from supermarkets and drugstores in the New York City region.

5. Pantry Staples

Single-ingredient items, such as flour, salt, spices and sugar, are held to government regulations for production, packaging and storage. In other words, sugar is sugar, regardless of its label. Need more incentive? These items rarely attract in-store sales or manufacturer's coupons. (For the best coupons sites to help with sale-heavy items, click here.)

Here's how much you can save on the staples.

ProductStore LabelBrand NameSavings
Confectioner's sugar, 2 lbs.$1.69, Stop & Shop$1.99, Domino15%
Salted butter, four sticks$3.99, Shop Rite$5.79, Land O' Lakes31%
Apple cider vinegar, one pint$0.89, Shop Rite$1.89, Heinz53%
Iodized salt, 26 oz.$0.59, Shop Rite$0.89, Morton34%
All-purpose flour, 5 lbs.$2.29, Stop & Shop$4.49, King Arthur49%

* Prices from supermarkets and drugstores in the New York City region.

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