How to shop smart on a pension

While many of you may have favourite brands, your loyalty may be costing you money unnecessarily, especially when you consider that the following 15 items are almost as good – often the same – quality as branded versions.

So why be loyal to a brand when you can save big bucks by buying these generic options?

1. Water
While Australia’s tap water is some of the best (if not the best) in the world, some people insist on buying bottled water. If you’re not prepared to save the planet from plastic, you may as well save money on your purchase – and generic bottled water is often as good as any of the big brands.

2. Medicine
Of course, some medicines are only available in branded form, but for common medications, such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin, and even many prescription drugs, you can save big bucks by choosing generic.

3. Milk
Apart from the supermarket brands that fleece our farmers, generic milk comes from the same source as branded milk, so . . .

4. Sunscreen
If sunscreen has a rating from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, then it’s safe to use. Generic sunscreens are often as good as more expensive brands and have the same ratings.

5. Spices and seasonings
Dried spices and seasonings are pretty much the same, no matter the branding on the packaging. You can either buy generic branded spices, or head to a whole foods retailer or wholesaler to buy unbranded herbs, spices and seasonings. That’s where the chefs get them!

6. Frozen fruits and vegetables
If you’re using frozen vegies as a filler, for baking or for stews and pies, go generic. Same goes for frozen fruit – often they’re snap frozen in a fresher state than items you’ll buy in the fresh produce aisle.

7. Canned vegies and beans
Some canned baked beans will taste a bit bland, as can generic tinned tomatoes. But, by and large, generic canned goods are every bit as good as branded tins.

8. Plastic wrap and aluminium foil
Now, this one I don’t completely agree with. Generic plastic wrap can often be thin and not too ‘sticky’. Some generic tin foil is also very flimsy and buying the better version can be more cost effective. But if you rarely use it, generic versions will suffice and will save you money in the long run.

9. Baking and cooking supplies
Many chefs will settle for cheaper generic cooking supplies, such as baking mixes, baking soda, powdered sugar, brown sugar and baking paper. If it’s good enough for them, chances are, it’s good enough for you, too.

10. Snack foods
Many generic snack foods aren’t far removed in flavour and quality from their branded counterparts. Spreads and dips, dried fruit, pickles, olives, nuts and some sweet and dried biscuits are way cheaper in store-branded form, so do yourself a favour and save.

11. Cleaning products
While you may have a favourite brand of cleaner, many generic versions will do the job just as well.

12. Personal-care products
Talcum powder, hair products, cleansers and moisturisers can cost a fortune, but there are good quality generic versions out there at a fraction of the cost.

13. Petrol
A US study revealed that there is very little difference in fuel quality from ‘cheap’ petrol stations compared to branded outlets. Just make sure you get the right octane level for your vehicle.

“Buy the cheapest [fuel] you can get that’s convenient and close,” said Steve Mazor, chief automotive engineer with the Automobile Club of Southern California Automotive Research Center.

14. Cereal
It’s worth trying out generic versions of your favourite cereals. Chances are you’ll find one you like for much less than you’ll pay for your branded box.

15. Soft drinks and mixers
While recipes for branded soft drinks vary (see Coke versus Pepsi), other soft drinks and mixers such as mineral water, soda water, flavoured mineral water and other flavoured drinks can taste just as good as big brands, only the generic ones are much cheaper.

Do you know of any high-quality generic products that are equal to or better than branded versions? Why not share your tips with our members?

Related articles:
Why private labels are taking over
Shopping tip could save you thousands
Are generic drugs safe?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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