7 Supermarket Items That Are OK To Go Cheap On And Buy Generic

Once upon a time (actually, that time still exists for many people), generic or Homebrand foods were considered lower quality and therefore not worth buying. Black & Gold products lingered on the shelf, unloved except by the most broke of students and perhaps pensioners. But is that feeling justified? Here are a list of products it’s totally OK to save your pennies on without compromising your health or standards.

Generic brand toothpaste just doesn’t give that same clean feeling as those brand varieties with the little minty strips – and the origins of Homebrand cheese are sketchy at best. But it seems that in some cases, the broke students and pensioners were onto something; there are a lot of generic products out there that – by law – have to meet the same standards as their branded counterparts.

In many cases, they’re often processed in the same places, which means that the farmer or producer still gets the same cut. While some things are always going to be worth choosing brand over generic (we’re looking at you, Connoisseur Cookies & Cream ice cream), here’s a list of grocery items that we guarantee are no different regardless of whether or not you choose to buy  name-brand.

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All-purpose flour

Branded flour starts at about $3 a kilo while Homebrand is as little as 75 cents – a huge difference if you’re regularly baking. Rebekah Allen from AngelFoods uses generic branded-flour and most people will tell you that they can’t tell the difference. The only time you may want to buy branded flour is when the recipe calls for 00 flour, cake flour or another speciality flour that is milled to a different consistency to all-purpose flour.

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Both The Checkout and the Courier Mail have said that it’s not necessarily the brand of milk you buy that affects how much the farmer earns; it’s the supermarkets. The price war between Coles and Woolworths for $1/L house-branded milk has really hurt Australian dairy farmers, and there was a call out from farmers urging Australians to buy branded milk (and other dairy products) that source from local Australian farmers and cooperatives.

There have been some developments so this looks set to change, so when it does (or if you’re still wanting to head the generic route regardless), know that both generic and brand-name milk usually come from the same factories, and are held to the same health and safety standards.

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There is absolutely no difference between your Homebrand spices and the one with the fancy label (unless its oregano). Both are best dry roasted and will flavour your dishes with fragrant flavours. The only time this doesn’t apply is if you’re buying pre-made spice mixes such as taco seasoning or curry powers, as the generic variety are often packed with flavourless fillers, meaning they don’t pack the same flavour punch (and you’re eating unnecessary additives). However, we are advocates for making your own spices mixes so pick up a range of singular spices (Homebrand of course) and get creative!

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Cleaning Products

When buying cleaning products, always read the ingredients. Most generic products will have the same active ingredients as their branded counterparts and any ‘single ingredient’ products like bleach are exactly the same regardless of the brand. Alternatively, invest in bulk white vinegar (which starts as low as $1 for a huge jug) and bicarbonate soda and make your own cleaning products that are just as powerful as the store variety.

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By law, any ‘generic’ offering of a medication must have the same active ingredients as the branded version. According to the TGA, the generic medications hit the shelves when the patent expires on the brand version, so medications like ‘The Pill’ and paracetamol, which have been around a long time, are more likely to have more variations. What is different is the ‘filler’ ingredients (the ones that make it a tablet, pill or liquid medication). Some people are allergic to various fillers, so if you’re one, make sure you speak to your pharmacist. Next time if your pharmacist asks you if you prefer generic, it’s safe to say yes.

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Batteries were pitted against each other in a 2014 test to see if the claims the pink bunny made about going forever really stacked up. It turns out there’s no real measurable differences between the two, especially when you compared price to how well they perform. So unless the brand versions are on special, skip them in favour of the alternatives or try rechargeable batteries as a more environmentally friendly option.

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Choice did a study on all major toothpaste brands, including generic varieties and found that there was very little difference between most major toothpaste options in Australia. They found that Woolworths Homebrand Freshmint was nearly identical to Colgate Advanced Whitening and White Glo’s Extra Strength was almost identical to the Coles Smart Buy Regular, but both house brand versions were just a fraction of the cost. No supermarket toothpastes contained bleach, which means the whitening claims are regarded as mostly marketing hype and Choice said that as long as your toothpaste contained fluoride and that you brushed and flossed daily, it didn’t matter much what brand you used.

Georgia is a writer and pastry chef living in Sydney. As a low-income earner, she’s become a dab hand at creating delicious, budget-friendly recipes that satisfy her need for bold flavours and meals worth getting excited about.