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9 Best Brand-Name Items to Buy Generic, Retail Experts Say

There's no need to spend extra on these everyday essentials.

The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

We all have our go-to brands when it comes to our favorite products, which tends to dictate what goes into our carts. But whether you're shopping for paper towels or pantry supplies, it's impossible not to notice when the in-house option next to it on the shelf costs significantly less. But despite the conditioned fear shoppers have developed, buying store brand doesn't always mean you'll be sacrificing quality. Read on to discover the best brand-name items to buy generic, according to retail experts.

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Hot Cocoa

A mug of hot cocoa

Comfort items may seem like an unusual place to cut corners. But experts say there's a surprisingly good generic hot cocoa option out there that may change your mind.

"There are plenty of name-brand cocoa options to choose from, including affordable brands like Swiss Miss up to more 'gourmet' brands like Starbucks, but the truth is you only need one, and that's Target's Good & Gather brand," says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst at

She says the caveat is that you must select packaged envelopes of mix and forgo the K-Cup options, explaining that the best cocoa can only be made with milk or dairy alternatives, not water. But there are still plenty of different flavors to pick from in envelope form, including peppermint, salted caramel, and double chocolate—and naturally, the ever-popular pumpkin spice as soon as fall hits.

"A box of 8 envelopes is about $5.79, and each one will make a good-sized cup of luxurious hot chocolate that needs nothing else but can be tweaked to dress it up even more," she says.

Basic Baking Supplies

A close up of a person sifting flour over a cutting board in a kitchen

Tried-and-true bakers are arguably some of the most devoted brand loyalists out there. But unless you're shelling out for specialty or ultra-premium products, you might be wasting your money.

"When it comes to single-ingredient baking supplies like flour or sugar, why spend more for pretty packaging from brand names?" says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. "These ingredients can not be manufactured differently since they are a single ingredient, so stick with the store brand to save!"

Tortilla Chips

plate of salsa and tortilla chips
Olga Miltsova/Shutterstock

Whether you're planning a party or just like having them to snack on, tortilla chips don't have to be a brand-name purchase.

"You may think Tostitos or Mission are the only two brands of tortilla chips worth considering, but you can find really great chips under generic brands," says Ramhold.

She suggests Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips from Costco, which you can get 40 ounces of for roughly $7.

"And they taste amazing, whether you're making homemade nachos or just dipping in your favorite salsa or guacamole," she says. "Compare that to a 10-ounce bag of Tostitos that could cost $5 or more at other stores, and it's not hard to see that Costco's brand of tortilla chips is an excellent value."

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Breakfast Sandwiches

A stack of Costco Kirkland Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches

It's not at all uncommon to be too rushed to prepare a fresh breakfast every morning. However, you don't have to shell out for an expensive order at a coffee shop or in the freezer aisle.

"For anyone who likes Starbucks double-smoked bacon, cheddar, and egg breakfast sandwiches, I highly recommend saving some cash and giving the Kirkland Signature Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches a try," Marie Clark, retail expert and editor of the shopping site CostContessa, tells Best Life. "Akin to the Starbucks-branded classic fave breakfast sandwich, Costco's Kirkland-branded sandwich also features a butter spiral croissant, applewood-smoked bacon, cage-free eggs, and cheese—except it costs $2 instead of $5 or more compared to the branded Starbucks sandwich."

She says the only thing that feels better than getting it for half the price of its competitor is how good it tastes. "My tip: I highly recommend cooking in an air fryer (or oven) so you get the croissant nice and crispy—but you can absolutely zap it in the microwave too in a pinch!," Clark advises.

Cleaning Supplies

A close up of a person holding a bucket filled with cleaning supplies

You may assume that non-name-brand cleaning products won't get your home as sparkling as you'd like. However, according to Woroch, generic cleaners actually work just as effectively as name brands, including everything from grout cleaners to surface cleaners and laundry detergents.

"Not to mention, cleaning products like bleach contain a single ingredient, so there is absolutely no difference between the name brand and generic except for the packaging," she explains. "So, unless you like how a particular product smells, save yourself money by opting for the generic or store brand."

To save even more, she suggests waiting for the store brand to go on sale and stock up, as many of these products have long shelf lives.

"Some items, like grout cleaner, may need to sit just a tad longer to break down the grime, but the extra few seconds are worth the 30 to 60 percent price cut!" Woroch says.

Vanilla Ice Cream

Kirkland Vanilla Ice Cream
The Image Party/Shutterstock

Whether you're making your sundaes at home or just sneaking in quick bites to satisfy your sweet tooth, having your go-to vanilla ice cream in the freezer is almost a non-negotiable. And if you want it to taste even sweeter, consider going for one store brand in particular.

"This is another thing to head to Costco for," Ramhold tells Best Life. "Yes, you'll pay roughly $15 or so for a gallon of ice cream—but this is a premium-level item made with high-quality ingredients. A comparable product would be something like Tillamook ice cream, which costs around $8 for less than a half gallon, and Costco's package gives you two half-gallon packages for less than the cost of two Tillamook containers."

It's also more of a dessert staple than you might realize. "As much as vanilla might not sound exciting, this ice cream is so good it doesn't need anything extra, but it's also a great ingredient in banana splits and as a base for homemade hot fudge sauce, too," she says.

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OTC Medicines

A woman peruses the shelf at a pharmacy, reading the label.

When you're sick, you want relief as quickly as possible. Just don't make yourself feel even worse by opting to pay for more expensive medications when they're actually the same thing.

"The FDA requires over-the-counter (OTC) medicine to work as effectively and safely as the name-brand option," says Woroch. "So why pay more when you can get generic or store-brand options for around 30 percent less?"

Peanut Butter

knife with jar of peanut butter
New Africa / Shutterstock

For some, it's a condiment or ingredient. For others, it's a food unto itself to be enjoyed by the spoonful. But at the end of the day, all peanut butter fans could benefit from buying the store brand.

"Generic peanut butter may not have the best reputation for having a decent taste, but there are plenty of solid generic brands to keep in your pantry at a fraction of the cost," says Ramhold. "Target's Good & Gather brand has a number of different kinds of peanut butter that'll take you right back to your childhood, as well as some varieties that will make you feel better about having a PB&J now."

She adds that other grocery stores have great-tasting generic peanut butter brands, too, and most of them are available at a fraction of the cost of major name-brands.

"Even better, many of these generic brands are also offering other varieties, such as almond or mixed nut butters, as well as nut alternatives, so you can find much more than just standard peanut butter these days," she points out.

Assorted Groceries

Shot of a young woman shopping for groceries in a supermarket

Sometimes, we become brand loyal simply out of habit over time. But how much do you really love your favorite products? Woroch suggests revisiting your choices can yield some surprising results.

"Generic brands have come a long way in the last decade, offering high-quality ingredients that rival name brands and often manufactured at the same facility as the name brand counterparts," she says. "You can find generic options for specialty foods, too, including organic and gluten-free, on a variety of grocery items, including crackers, bread, snacks, pasta, cereal, and so forth."

And of course, you could be rewarded for being open-minded. "Opting for generic will help you save 30 to 50 percent on groceries and this can help you fight against stubborn inflation which has had a huge impact on food prices," she says.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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