Friday, August 20, 2010

A silly post...

I grew up an Army brat, so my mom mostly shopped at the commissary. Even when we lived a good hour or so from the closest commissary, my mom would take the cooler once a month and load up. The commissary doesn't (or didn't back in the day) carry generic items, so I grew up with Kraft singles, Yoplait yogurt, Teddy Grahams, Ritz crackers, Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Wheat Thins. The result of my upbringing, is that I turned into a total food snob. This lasted through college. I refused to shop at Aldi (when we should have been shopping there the most) because I heard they didn't carry any brand names. I thought about the one or two experiences I had at Food 4 Less when I literally saw a roach crawling in the produce section, and figured Aldi would be the same way.

Then we had to get on a budget and that included food. Oh and there's no more commissary (even though my mom still takes me sometimes and I have a grand 'ol time there with all my coupons). I love using coupons and combining them with rock bottom sales, so I haven't had to completely give up the good stuff. In fact, sometimes it's cheaper to buy name brand with a coupon and a good sale than generic stuff. Like with toothpaste. I haven't paid for toothpaste in four years.

Well sometimes there are no sales and no coupons, at least when it comes to stuff you need and I am here to tell you that in these past four years, I HAVE EMBRACED THE GENERICS! THEY ARE MY BFF'S.

$3.50 for a box of Ritz crackers? I think not. I'll go with the "Thin Wheat Crackers" for a $1.75 thank you very much.

My mom and my brother were arguing about who makes the best peanut butter, and while Peter Pan still remains my fave, I piped in "I like Midwest Country Fair!!!" They all looked me like I was a frugal freak. It's ok. A lot of people think that, including my Grandpa who said "She just might have a little Yiddish in her" to my dad.

We buy generic toilet paper (it's true; sometimes our bathroom is no different than a gas station--just cleaner), generic applesauce, generic pasta, generic brownies (those Aldi brownies are really good) and even Aldi's whole bean dark roast coffee. My pantry is a smorgasbord of generic goodness.

Let's be honest for a minute though: does anyone else cringe when they have to reach for the Always Save brand? I'd almost rather pay 10 cents more than reach for that disturbingly florescent yellow can. They should really look into changing their packaging.

Although I am no longer a food label snob, there are a few things I won't budge on:

-Tide (it's my favorite). I use it for the really dirty stuff and use whatever else is on sale for the dark stuff.

-Oscar Meyer lunchmeat. I am ok with Hillshire Farm or some fresh deli meat from the counter, but I can't choke down some of those other brands. Neither will the kids.

-Sliced Cheese. Have you ever noticed there are levels in quality with the sliced cheese? Even at Aldi. There's the good stuff and the plastic stuff. I've made this mistake. I go for the good stuff.

-Coffee creamer. I get that there's "bad stuff" in there, but it's my fave. It makes coffee drinking an experience. The generic brands have even more bad stuff than the name brands, so we go with the name brands.

-Nutrition stuff. We buy whole grain bread rather than white bread because it's better for you; same with whole wheat tortillas, low fat shredded cheese, whole grain pasta, etc. etc. I'm starting to see more and more versions of healthy generic stuff, but it's just worth it in the long run to pay a little more. You can buy 3 boxes of fruit snacks for the price of a pint or two of blueberries sometimes, but it's just worth it.

Soapbox moment: Does that really bother anyone else? I hate that about this country. No one should have to stand in the grocery aisle and debate a pint of blueberries vs. box of graham crackers for a snack. When our grocery envelope is really low, I have had to do that and frankly, it pisses me off! I tried growing my own strawberries but my lawn guy killed them all (he's no longer our lawn guy).

What are your favorite brands? What won't you budge on? How do you keep your grocery budget down?


Keri said...

I absolutely don't comprimise on three things--Tide, Cascade Complete and Cheerios. There is no substitute for them.

Amanda said...

Hmm....I suppose the only thing I don't compromise on is meat. We don't eat it too often but if we do I try and buy local ( hormone free, grass fed) but if we can't do that then I try and buy the healthiest meat there is at the grocery store. I have two big tips for saving money on groceries 1) make as much as you can from scratch. I had somewhat of an Ah Ha moment when I realized that pretty much anything you buy at the store you can make at home. 2) Buy in bulk when you can. This past year I bought peaches, blueberries, apples, chicken, bananas, laundry soap, wheat berries, etc. all in bulk and it has saved us lots of money. How much does this save us? I pretty regularly spend about $50-$80 a week on groceries. For a family of 6 I say that is pretty good!

Jules said...

I buy generic a lot, but I stick with certain brands for a few things. My faves are Prego sauce, Peter Pan peanut butter, Gain detergent, Kraft mac-n-cheese and Starbucks Cafe Verona coffee. On the coffee, it's worth it to me because I'm the only one who drinks it so a bag lasts a really long time! I agree that buying in bulk is smart and I do that on toilet paper and paper towels. It's hard for me to get perishables in bulk because I don't have enough freezer space and we definitely don't eat it fast enough with just the 3 of us! I'm looking for good ways to get more coupons. I really need to get back in the habit on that!

Eric said...

Choosy moms choose Jiff!

Michele said...

I won't budge on toilet paper. I only buy Charmin with lotion unless it isn't available. It is wayyyy more, but my butt thanks me.

I won't budge on cheese either. I bought generic ONE time and won't even try. I usually buy Tillamook.

Truth be told, I usually only buy generic in non-food items like napkins and cold medicine. I have tried different generic food items here and there, and I am sure that many generics are made by the same places as the name brands, I'm just usually not willing to risk the experiment.

One thing I DO do is check the ingredient label. If generic is identical I'll sometimes give it a try.

Good post, Ree. Your other post about Ains getting in the cat litter made me laugh out loud. Sorry.

Edi said...

I'm with you on the creamer...I don't really budge on it either...its our one splurge that really makes getting out bed worth it sometimes. I don't buy generic pancake syrup. I figure the regular stuff is bad enough why mess with that right? The way we save on the grocery budget (well you probably know) is that I finally give myself a months worth of $ at a time and shop sales, we typically eat a few super cheap easy meals a week, like brinner, raman with something, and homemade pizza (THANK YOU FOR DOUGH RECIPE KERI!). And we don't eat out much...instead we go to the grocery story for half the price and buy 'fun' items. Our newest favorite is Tyson's 'any-tizer' General Tsao Chicken over raman...its the best over-the-counter chinese we've ever had its less than half the price of take out for two :).