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Getting your family to eat generic grocery store brands

By Gary Foreman

The New Frugal You
New Frugal You columnist Gary Foreman
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. He writes "New Frugal You," a weekly Q&A column about frugal living, for CreditCards.com

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear New Frugal You,
I've been experimenting with store brands to reduce my grocery bill. But most of the time my family likes the taste of the name brands better. Is there any way to find out who makes store brands? So I could buy the store brand made by my favorite. Or how to find better store brands? I really like the savings, but they don't help if my family won't eat them. -- Savanah

Answer for the CreditCards.com expertDear Savanah,
Good for you! Most of us are looking for frugal ways to reduce our grocery bills. And using generic and store brand items are often a good tool to use.

But, like your family, sometimes we prefer a brand that we've known and enjoyed. Getting used to something new isn't always easy. So let's see if we can't help you shift to store brands.

If you like a particular brand you may find the store equivalent that they produce by doing a bit of detective work. For illustration, let's call that brand "Aunt Billie's Baked Beans." We'll begin with the obvious: There probably isn't any Aunt Billie, and the beans you like are probably made by a big company that might have a different name.

We need to find out who that manufacturer is. Begin by looking at the fine print on a can of beans. The manufacturer will be listed. Chances are the can will also include a Web address and even an 800 number for consumer comments.

Call the 800 number. Tell them your family loves their product and you're interested if they make others. Ask if they make products under other names, too. There's a good chance you'll get a helpful answer.

If that doesn't work, visit the website. Search the "about us" page for info on the company and what it does. You might find it mentions the other companies in the same corporate family and their products. Naturally, those would be brands that you'd want to try.

The site will probably provide a customer contact email or a form that you can fill out. Your message should be about the same as what you'd say on the phone.

Your grocery store manager may also be helpful. Ask him or her about your favorite brand next time you shop. The manager will tell you if there is a store brand equivalent to your expensive favorite.

And check the grocer's website. It may have a page on store brands that would help you connect the dots with the store equivalent.

Even if you can't find a store brand that's made by your favorite company, you still have a couple of ways to make generics work for you.

You could enlist your family and do a store brand taste test. Have them do a side-by-side comparison of different low cost brands and select the one they like best. Also, check with friends to see what store brands they like. Do a Web search to see if anyone has posted comments. There's no guarantee that your family will agree. But it might give you some brands to try.

Since your family is complaining about taste, another option would be to add some seasoning to the store brand. It's not really the beans that your family is objecting to. It's the spices that come with the beans. Even plain-appearing canned veggies have some seasoning added, so make a list of the seasonings from your name-brand favorite, and then try to imitate it.

Finally, consider encouraging your family to change their habits. Many brands are popular because they add salt, sugar or other ingredients that might not be good for your health. What your family likes might not be the best for them.

Don't give up too easily. Any switch you make will save you money every time you buy that product for years to come.

See related: Who makes store brands?

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Published: April 18, 2013


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