People often complain – loudly – that they’d love to eat healthier, but that it’s much too expensive. It’s hard to justify purchasing a gang of tomatoes at $2 per pound, when tomato sauce comes in a giant jar for $2.99. It’s hard to justify buying oranges at $3 per pound when a can of mandarin oranges at Walmart runs about $0.85 a can… and you don’t have to peel them!
I won’t lie – to the novice health nut or someone flirting with the idea of being a more health-conscious shopper, the odds are stacked against you. Why? Look at it like this. A bagel with cream cheese (which, according to my nutrition tracker, weighs in at 647mg of sodium; 57g of carbohydrates; 12g of fat, 7g of that saturated; and a lovely 390 calories) can, nowadays, cost considerably less than a single grapefruit (which – again – according to my tracker, has zero grams of fat, zero grams of sodium, 2 grams of protein, 12 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of carbohydrates). To the person trying to save money – and trust me, that makes a world of sense in this economy – it simply makes sense to buy as inexpensively as possible without sacrificing too much in the way of quality (especially on the things that are important to us – Philly cream cheese vs generic is a BIG one for me, lol.)
Now, let’s talk about why this is the way it is. A bagel runs cheaper than a grapefruit because, quite frankly, a bagel can be made anywhere. It doesn’t need to come from a certain climate in particular. It doesn’t need the same level of effort to create. I know some may be saying “Duh!” but do we all really make the connection of why it seems we may have priced ourselves out of eating healthier? I know that I, personally, didn’t realize that I had effectively priced myself out of eating healthier simply because the cost made me uncomfortable.
How do we fight that feeling? Here’s what I do. The next time you go grocery shopping, look at your cart. Is there anything there that you like, but is unnecessary for you to buy THAT brand in particular? Let me tell you a secret. Generic foods/store-brand foods are often just as good as some of the better name brands sold on the same shelf. They’re less expensive because the grocery store wants to make sure that you can still get what you want even though you’re not paying as much as you might for the name brand. This way, they can ensure that you’re not pricing yourself out of owning the product entirely, and they can still squeeze a couple extra dollars out of you.
Now, let’s talk about generic and store brand foods. Most store-brands, regardless of the store, are made at the same production plant and then shipped to the production plants for these stores for labeling. Guess what else – did you know that MANY national name-brand manufacturers also produce those same store brand products? Which means… yes – Reynolds’ Wrap might’ve made that store brand aluminum foil. Yes, Mott’s might’ve made that store-brand applesauce. Don’t believe me? Ask MainStreet:
Many of the national brands actually produce store brand products, so besides the packaging, you may not even notice a difference between generics and their brand name counterparts. For example, Alcoa, the maker of Reynolds Wrap Aluminum foil, produces store brand foil. McCormick produces herbs and spices without its signature label, and Birds Eye, known for its frozen vegetables, produces a number of frozen and canned vegetable products, according to Consumer Reports.
One major reason for the deep discount on store brands is they “don’t carry heavy product development, advertising and promotion costs,” says Tod Marks, a Consumer Reports researcher who blogs by the name “Tightwad Tod” on ConsumerReports.org.
Having said all that, yes. It is more expensive to infuse your shopping cart with healthier alternatives like fresh produce and minimizing the processed foods. However, now knowing that you can save up to $2 an item in some cases by buying store-brand, you can easily accommodate the cost. It’s up to you to do your own taste testing to see if there’s a difference that you simply cannot live with, but for the most part a lot of these things can be accommodated. I buy certain store-brand cereals (because again, not everything can be replaced!), ketchups and mustards, and the like. The money I save (almost $2 per box of cereal) goes toward my ability to buy fresh ingredients. Score one for my wallet, my pantry, and my body.
I know, I know. It’s hard to swallow – giving up our beloved brands for… store brands. Generic. Some of us are cringing right now. Look at it this way – we can’t swap out everything (a friend just notified me that there’s no way in the WORLD he could purchase anything other than ONE brand of apple juice in particular), but we can certainly take it one step at a time. Remember, we shoot for progress over here!