Grocery Hacks – Brand vs Generic

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Are you looking for a new Grocery Shopping Hack?? Heck, grocery prices right now are skyrocketing here in Canada. I used to spend under $200/week on groceries, and now I am averaging almost $300/week for our family of 6. What’s my new shopping hack? Well, it’s not new to me, but my little trick I try to do to save a few dollars.

Kelloggs, Heinz, Kraft, Yoplait, Coca-Cola, Kirkland, No Name, the list goes on and on. How do you choose your food brand? Is it price? Or is it taste? Or maybe, it’s because of their branding tactics (GMO, Gluten-free, Organic)? Myself, I tend to shop from both a branding perspective due to taste and from price. If a couple of brands are similar in taste, I will always choose the lesser of the two.

How do decide which taste I prefer?

It all comes down to testing and tasting. Recently I bought a knock-off brand of cereal. I thought I had purchased Kellog’s Raisin Bran cereal (the box colour and branding were very similar) but it turned out to be Post Raisin Brand. Both big-name brands, but the original one our family enjoys is Kellogs. Although the Post brand was cheaper and found at Costco, the kids and I didn’t enjoy it as much. Going forward, I will pay the extra few dollars or cents for this type of cereal.

When the item comes in multiple brands, how do I choose the ONE?

I like using the Ketchup example to explain this one. I’ve seen many blind tests done on the Ketchup flavour and some tend to prefer a brand they didn’t think they liked & vice versa. To be honest, I am not super picky with the flavour, I am more about the price and where it is coming from. If I can support Canadian items, I will do my best. However, we go through Ketchup extremely fast to the point now I buy it bulk. My bulk options tend to be more limited which I then simply look for a better price.

Another great example is Peanut Butter, there are many varieties available, full sugar ones, sugar-free, nut-free, all-natural, no-name brands or store-brands and the list keeps going. In this case, I will buy 2 different types, I buy a nut-free version for school and a store-brand version for home. Surprisingly, store-brand is very delicious and priced better. As for the nut-free, we enjoy Wow Butter and work on spending slightly more to get a large size.

What about bulk vs price?

As a family of 6, bulk items have become an essential shopping requirement. Buying a box of granola bars where it only has 6 bars is a waste of money and disappears within a day. The only time I would buy a small box would be if there is a very good deal where the price per granola bar is cheaper than buying the bulk box. The downside to buying the bulk boxes is that I am limited to only a couple of different options, especially when I need them to be nut-free. Watching sales and cashback options are the only way I will buy in a smaller version.

However, have you paid attention to your bulk purchases? Remember, the bulk option may seem to be the more inexpensive way to shop, but remember, if you are grocery shopping with a budget, your bulk item will take up more budget space. Watch your sales and make sure you will use all your items from that bulk purchase. Let’s say there is a really good deal on bulk salad dressing. It’s a great price, but the dressing purchased will expire soon and you won’t use it all up within the time frame. Or it’s an item I will use only on occasion, I will save my grocery budget by buying the smaller version and using the rest of the cash on other essential items.


What if I have picky eaters?

Oh man, if you are raising a child that loves everything, just be thankful and grateful because let me tell you, it’s almost more common to have a food item a child will not enjoy. I have to say, I am guilty of enjoying a brand versus a no-name brand (example above of the cereal), but there are many items I can get away with buying the knock off-brand. However, let’s say my kids are really picky about a certain brand, keep the box or packaging of the original one they like. Next, when you purchase the no-name brand, you can switch the packaging. This could be a great test to see if they really are tied to the taste or got caught up in the branding.

Think of restaurants that hand you a ketchup bottle, some small shops may even have the Heinz label on the bottle, however, I can guarantee you that they most likely bought an extremely big bulk bottle of no-name, generic ketchup and are filling up those bottles. Some may notice, but a fair amount of you wouldn’t.

10 Quick Grocery Shopping Tips:

  1. Limit shopping to once a week
  2. Itemize pantry and freezer items
  3. Meal Plan for at least 4-5 days of the week, but don’t force the meals for a specific day of the week (may not feel like tacos on Tuesday but Thursday sounds great)
  4. Check for coupons (coupon apps such as Caddle, or Zweet or
  5. Review store flyers for deals
  6. Buy bulk if it will all be used within the expiry time frame
  7. Don’t buy bulk if it’s not in the budget
  8. Create a budget and work with a store app to see what a potential balance will be
  9. Do grocery pick up, this avoids buying items not on your grocery list
  10. Buy generic to save a few dollars when the taste is very similar

Quick Meal Plan resources

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