How to shop smart on a pension: The 15 items you should always buy generic

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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?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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42 Comments

Total Comments: 42
  1. 0
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    there was a store years ago like what i beleive costco is now , they sold a dish washing liquid in a plain bottle that was the same colour /texture /aroma as a name brand and did the same job so i wonder about generics ????????????

  2. 0
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    I usually shop at Aldi (very cheap and good products usually) and only go to Woolworths and Coles (which are nearby anyhow) when something is on special or its something Aldi do not stock. Many major producers of brand name goods make the generic product to the specification in the same production plant but label it with the homebrand name and it looks like it is specifically produced in a different plant. Production plants are expensive to build and equip with production equipment and associated supply and distribution so its logical that generic items be made by brand name production plants but labelled with the generic name and contents.

  3. 0
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    Butter, flour, pasta, bread, sugar, straight off the top of my head, the Supermarket brand is just as good. With most of the generic products, it’s a matter of trial and error to see which suit, e.g. Some generic biscuits are lovely and others just don’t taste anywhere near as good. In the “frothy” coffee sachets, I have found Coles Mocha to be every bit as good as Nescafe, Moccona etc. and only half the price. Just see what works for you.

    • 0
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      Butter and Cheese I buy from IGA as they stock Mainland NZ product. The taste is so much better.
      Bread – no supermarket line makes descent bread anymore. Probably Bakers Delight is the best but that tastes so good I eat too much of it …therefore I tend not to buy much bread at all.
      Sugar and Pasta – I read the label and buy Australian.

      Quality is so important. We oldies don’t eat that much so why not make sure everything thing we do eat tastes really nice.

      When it comes to generics I know we are destroying an entire workforce and guaranteed quality produce with under payment to manufacturer and it just breaks my heart to see the shelves stocked from the slave labour of others.

    • 0
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      Re. “”coffee sachets”” Bad for the environment and not necessary !!

  4. 1
    1

    I like Aldi but our particular one has queues, then suddenly closes them. You have to rush to a different one. All the time I’m thinking, “I have to catch a bus!” So I rarely go there. I mentioned it on Aldi Facebook page and they asked me to try again. But nope; no better. So it’s Coles for me.

  5. 3
    1

    Buy Australian for a start. Shop half price as much as possible. Generic medicines are not the same as I have proven. Some are okay but not all. Don’t wait until you run out of something because you will be forced to pay full price. Toilet paper, toothpaste, washing powder, etc all come round half price regularly. Shop early for Xmas. It is not hard to save money but you must be organised.

    • 0
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      Yup – the ex’s eyebrows were raised when I bought a pack of 48 toilet rolls -$18 – far less than the average 50c a roll… she got the idea when I explained it to her… buy now, avoid spending later…

  6. 2
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    The other thing that matters more than price for me is whether the product is made in Australia from Australian ingredients.

    • 0
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      Not many of those are available any more. Frozen vegetables I always buy from Australian sources. Coles has a fantastic selection. Medicines I stick to brand names, my brand is made in Germany, substitute is from India so I pay $3 extra a month. The rest of the list is just common sense.

    • 0
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      Agree Jenny. That is my first priority, then as much as possible, whether the company is an Australian company. I now shop weekly so it makes it easy to pick up items that are on special.

  7. 2
    1

    Most generic branded food comes from overseas. I’d rather pay a little bit more and purchase Australian-grown and made food & goods – both tinned & frozen.

    As for generic toiletries, most of them I’m allergic to. My skin is so sensitive that I have to use certain hype-allergenic brands.

    Why pay for the privilege of having sparkling (carbonated) sugared water when you can have ordinary tap water? I filter mine, as I don’t like the taste of the local tap water. We don’t ‘need’ the extra sugar that’s in the store-bought soda drinks.

  8. 0
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    I always buy organic high fat milk. I know it has not been adulterated and it doesn’t affect my gut as the others have. Rolled oats are the best breakfast cereal, the rest are cardboard. I keep away from plastic wrap and aluminum foil which has been linked to Alzheimer’s. I make my own lemonaide which is better than any store bought one. I look for organic for all food and ALDI has some great products.

  9. 0
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    It often boils down to shopping more smart. I am not going to drive 38 kms each way to a Costco store for a $3 saving on a product. Within 10kms of where I live, I have a weekly farmers market with great produce: there are 3 Aldi stores, and a sensational Golden Circle Discount outlet offering HUGE discounted products and a special pensioner discount day once a month. It also helps being a diligent bargain hunter, for everything.

    • 0
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      I agree that you need to be a diligent bargain hunter! I have my favorites brands and buy up when they go on special so I am paying around half price for the brands I love which ends up cheaper than going generic. Most items cycle around the 6 week mark and take turns in the different supermarkets. So I stock up for about 2 months at a time. I use raw sugar and have found the generic one in my local foodworks to be of excellent quality and cheap and packed it a paper bag. I looked at the plain wrap one at coles and it looked very refined and just coloured brown. It was packed in a plastic bag also which I am trying to stay away from. I try to buy local for fresh food and go to farmers markets etc. It is great when you can save heaps on your basics without sacrificing the brands you love and then treating yourself at the market, and for those of us who have arthritis the local farmers markets or green grocers will cut that pumpkin up for you!. When you live on your own you don’t want to buy kilos of fresh produce so I go to the markets with my basket and only buy what I am going to eat, one of this, three of that etc. Get peanut butter freshly ground into a small container that I take with me. I use online shopping to purchase the bulk items on special if the delivery charge is cheap and still gives me a huge savings so I don’t have to carry them all home as I don’t drive and am getting a bit old now lol.

    • 0
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      I agree. Golden Circle outlets are well worth checking out !!

  10. 0
    1

    I have my favorites brands and buy up when they go on special so I am paying around half price for the brands I love which ends up cheaper than going generic. Most items cycle around the 6 week mark and take turns in the different supermarkets. So I stock up for about 2 months at a time. I use raw sugar and have found the generic one in my local foodworks to be of excellent quality and cheap and packed it a paper bag. I looked at the plain wrap one at coles and it looked very refined and just coloured brown. It was packed in a plastic bag also which I am trying to stay away from. I try to buy local for fresh food and go to farmers markets etc. It is great when you can save heaps on your basics without sacrificing the brands you love and then treating yourself at the market, and for those of us who have arthritis the local farmers markets or green grocers will cut that pumpkin up for you!. When you live on your own you don’t want to buy kilos of fresh produce so I go to the markets with my basket and only buy what I am going to eat, one of this, three of that etc. Get peanut butter freshly ground into a small container that I take with me. I use online shopping to purchase the bulk items on special if the delivery charge is cheap and still gives me a huge savings so I don’t have to carry them all home as I don’t drive and am getting a bit old now lol.

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