As the cost of gasoline, utilities, and mortgage payments rise, many people are looking to their grocery budget as a place to save a few bucks. More than ever before I see people in the grocery store diligently checking over their shopping lists and keeping a running tally on their hand-held calculators. I’m noticing more grocery carts filled with frozen and canned fruits and veggies over fresh, and store brand items instead of name brand items. In these tough times something’s gotta give.
I will fully admit that in many ways I could easily be a food snob; purchasing only Name brand items. I think that tendency comes from all the years growing up dirt poor. For many years I can remember us shopping at the then equivalent of Aldi. I have many memories of our grocery night – it was a family affair most of the time. I can recall wandering up and down every aisle in the store – we always started in the bread and bakery section and ended up in the dairy and produce section. My mom had a system, and the rest of us were just along for the ride. But I can remember being completely mesmerized by the packaging. All the food photo labels, the colorful displays, the little coupon distributors that were stuck to the shelves. The way the store was set up made me want to throw everything in our cart. It all looked so good. To this day I am still captivated by colorful labels – doesn’t matter how bad it is, how expensive it is, how useless it is – if it has a shiny or colorful label I want it. Some habits never do leave us I guess.
Unfortunately, our financial situation never warranted all the fancy labels or new-fangled products. We were actually a family that bought true generic brands – the ones that came in the white and black packages. As a kid it so frustrating to me to be standing in the cereal isle looking ever so longingly at the boxes of Count-chocula, Frosted Flakes, Cookie Crisp, Capt’n Crunch, and Trix, imagining the sweet, fruity, and chocolaty goodness that lay beneath those tempting boxes, only to see mom point to the boxes on the bottom shelf…the ones with no colorful pictures, no prize in the bottom, and no flavor.
As I got older, I was embarrassed by the fact we were so poor we could only afford the generic brand. And I swore to myself that when I was an adult I’d make enough money for my family to afford the real thing – no black and white packages in my pantry. If my family wanted Boo-berry cereal they’d have it. If they wanted Dr. Pepper or Capri-Sun it’d be in our refrigerator. If they wanted Keebler Fudge-Stripe cookies, or Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup, or Pop-Tarts, I would be the one to buy them.
So here I am, an adult now. I’m out on my own and we make decent money. And, I open my pantry and I see………….Great Value and Kroger and Publix all over the place! What happened to me?????
It’s simple really, the rules of good stewardship are the same for me as they were for my mom. They dictate I make every dime and dollar count, so in many cases we purchase store brand items because they’re more economical. And now that I’m an adult and I too have to live on a budget, I realize that Name brands aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, I read an article on the Bay News 9 website that stated that certain Name brand manufacturers are shipping their products out in smaller packages instead of raising prices. Guess they thought we wouldn’t notice! (You can check out the article here if you’d like to.)
Now I’m not saying that I don’t purchase Name brands, because I do. There are just some things that really are better in the Name brand than the store brand – like syrup, and Heinz 57 sauce, and certain sodas, and coffee, and instant pudding. But in most cases, the store brands are as good (and sometimes even better) than the Name brand, and they’re often $0.05-$1.50 less expensive than their more colorfully packaged counterparts.
Like you, I hope this recession ends soon. I hope the country gets a handle on oil prices as well as the price of everything else. But until it does, I encourage you to put your pride aside and give store brands a try. You are guaranteed to save a buck or more, and you may find that you’re pleasantly surprised by how good some of them are.