15 Products You Should Always Buy Generic

Save money with these budget-friendly generics.

Woman in a supermarket holding shopping cart while grocery shopping
Updated July 18, 2024
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Name brands don’t always matter. While you might not want to skimp on electronics, anti-aging creams, and frizz-fighting hair masques, you can save on everyday essentials.

From bottled water to bottles of sunscreen, some generics are just as good (if not better) than the name-brand equivalents.

If you’re not sure which store brands to buy, we’ve got you covered with the generics you shouldn’t skip.

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Food storage bags

New Africa/Adobe frozen vegetables bags in refrigerator

Generic sandwich and freezer bags are bargains available at most big box warehouse clubs and grocery stores. You may even find store-brand baggies at drugstores like Rite-Aid and Walgreens.

Over-the-counter medications

Mdv Edwards/Adobe medications on Walgreens pharmacy store shelf

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), generic medications must meet the same quality standards and use the same active ingredients as brand-name versions.

While a generic OTC product doesn’t come in fancy packaging, it offers the same benefits for less money.

Body washes and soap

vladdeep/Adobe Woman choosing washing gel at store

Provided you don’t need a specialty soap to combat eczema, acne, or a serious skin issue, most generic body washes work the same as their pricier counterparts.

Not only do these budget-friendly products cleanse, but they may also moisturize, soothe, or smooth your skin — depending on the formula.

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Frozen vegetables

Maksim Shebeko/Adobe frozen vegetables closeup

While fresh produce can have a different taste or texture than frozen veggies, you may not notice the difference between generic and brand-name products.

So, go ahead and mix frozen spinach into your next quiche, add a bag of generic peas and carrots to your stew recipe, or switch out the pricey broccoli florets for a bargain brand.

Canned beans

kucherav/Adobe Canned beans tin with spoon

Like frozen vegetables, the differences between brand-name and store-brand canned beans are negligible, especially when added to a recipe.

Whether you're a fan of chickpeas or prefer pintos, generic products will save you money without sacrificing taste.

Bottled water

SKfoto/Adobe packed mineral water bottles

Need to hydrate? Tap water is the best way to save money. But sometimes you have to buy bottles. This is where generics come into play.

Before you spend unnecessarily on brand names supposedly bottled at a “pristine source,” consider generic versions. They typically have the same high level of quality at a lower price.

Sunscreen

adragan/Adobe Sunscreen on orange background

A board-spectrum SPF product is a first-line defense against the sun’s damaging rays. The FDA regulates all sunscreen products, including brand names and generics.

If you don’t need the benefits of added moisturizers or anti-aging ingredients, a store brand is a better bargain.

Cleaning products

magdal3na/Adobe cleaning products on wooden table

Generic and brand-name bleach both contain the same active cleaning ingredient. The same is true for other popular housekeeping products.

While some organic, natural, and specialized cleaners are better than the off-brand options, generic essentials will save you some serious cash.

Cereal

monticellllo/Adobe Bowls with different cereal products

Cereal prices have skyrocketed, leaving many shoppers wondering how to buy a breakfast at a bargain.

Hot and cold generic cereals are dupes of popular name brands that often smell, look, and taste just like the real thing — minus the fancy packaging.

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Paper products

New Africa/Adobe Disposable products on white wooden table

Napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, and similar products shouldn’t take up the bulk of your shopping budget.

Some brand-name paper products offer extra absorbency, select-a-size sheets, comfort cushioning, or multi-ply strength. Some generics provide the same features at a value price.

Plastic tableware

marcinm111/Adobe plastic disposable cutlery

Don’t waste money on utensils that you’ll just throw away. Generic disposable plasticware can cut costs on the knives, forks, and spoons you need for summertime picnics and parties.

These bargain buys are usually similar to brand-name products.

Pantry and baking staples

sheilaf2002/Adobe Grocery store shelf with sugar bags

Flour, sugar, and other shelf-stable pantry staples can get expensive. Brand-name specialty items, such as organic cane sugar or gluten-free mixes, may contain higher-quality ingredients or last longer than some generics.

However, store or off-brand versions of baking basics are values that won’t make you trade quality for cost savings.

Spices

Alexander Raths/Adobe Herbs and spices decorated in spoon

Add flavor to your favorite recipes with generic spices. Whether you buy brand-name or generic, paprika, oregano, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, and other popular spices taste the same.

Retailers like Costco even offer bulk value buys on specialty spices such as Everything But the Bagel seasoning.

Popsicles

fahrwasser/Adobe Mango banana popsicles on ice

Cool off with one of these sweet treats. Generic and brand-name frozen fruit or fruit-flavored plain popsicles often taste the same.

There’s no reason to pay extra for fancy packaging or a fun-shaped pop. Instead, stick with generics for true cost savings.

Candy

Barbara Helgason/Adobe variety of sour candies

Gone are the days of the penny candy store. Even though you’ll pay more than one cent, it’s still possible to find bargain-priced sweets.

Generic and store brands offer a wide selection of treats, ranging from sour gummy worms to caramels and chocolates. The variety and quality of most generics makes them a value the whole family can enjoy.

Bottom line

Brett/Adobe Generic bleach bottles on supermarket shelf

Whether you need everyday essentials, pantry products, or want to fill your freezer with veggies, these value-priced picks can keep your budget on track.

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Author Details

Erica Loop

With more than a decade of experience writing about everything from e-commerce to pets and parenting, Erica Loop has written for sites such as BuzzFeed, Brit+Co, Tinybeans, Family Education, and Care.com. Erica has a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts and an MS in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.