1. Salt, Flour and Sugar
These pantry staples are so simple it would be very difficult to create a sub-par product. For example, salt is essentially two elements and may or may not be iodized. Government regulations require all manufacturers to have the same production and storage methods for these items, so the generics won't be any more likely to be contaminated or spoiled. Even when salt goes on sale, I save 20 cents for each 26-ounce container when I buy the generic (79 cents for the generic versus 99 cents for Morton's on sale).
Just like pantry staples, spices are simple products that are difficult to get wrong. Oregano is a plant that is sometimes crushed before put in a jar. There are no additional processing methods or ingredients required. And just like pantry staples, government regulations ensure that the generic brands are as safe as the name brands. At my local grocery store, the generic crushed oregano is $1 for a 1.2-ounce container, while the McCormick brand is $3.79 for a 0.75-ounce container. Not only am I getting more oregano, but I'm saving $2.79!
3. Orange Juice
You might actually be better off buying store-brand orange juice. The store brand is produced regionally, which means there is less transportation and processing—and both impact quality. In fact, a panel of trained tasters told Consumer Reports that the Publix store-brand orange juice ($2.99/carton) tasted better than Tropicana ($3.48/carton). You save 49 cents and get better-tasting orange juice!
As with orange juice, store-brand milk often tastes better and is better for you. Store-brand milk is likely to be regional which translates into higher quality and a fresher taste for you. While buying the store brand will get you a better price on a normal jug of milk, it can also be a great way to save on pricier organic products. My favorite grocery store sells store-brand organic milk by the gallon for $5.79, while Horizon organic milk is $6.79. By buying the store-brand milk, I save a dollar!
5. Bottled Water
Most people buy bottled water for the convenience or for the safety of drinking filtered water. You get the same convenience and fluoride-free, filtered water for a sizable cost savings when you buy the store brand. At my local grocery store, the store-brand bottled water comes in a case of 20 16-ounce bottles for $2.99. The cheapest name brand water is Deer Park with 20 16-ounce bottles for $3.99. During a non-sale week, I save a dollar and get the same convenience with no taste difference.
6. Coffee Filters
You may not want to buy generic coffee (a lot of people notice a taste difference), but you can definitely save money buying generic coffee filters. The generic filters work just as well as the name-brand filters, and some store brands even have biodegradable filters. Just be sure to buy the right size and shape (cone or basket) for your coffeemaker. The store-brand basic coffee filters are 99 cents for 200 at my local store, while the Melitta brand are $1.29. That's a 30-cent savings!
Duracell and Energizer advertise that they last longer than other battery brands, and they usually do—however, the additional use doesn't necessarily compensate for the much higher price. A study conducted by Battery Truth found that generic brand Thunderbolt Magnum batteries hold less power but are still 57 percent cheaper than the next best value (Duracell CopperTop) batteries. Thunderbolt Magnum batteries can be bought for $5.49 (for a 24 pack) online at Harbor Freight while Duracell CopperTop batteries are sold for $12.50 at Amazon—that's over $7 in savings!
The active ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite. This is a basic chemical compound that can't be made incorrectly or less effective because of who manufactures it. Generic bleach has the same disinfectant and cleaning power as Clorox and saves $1 a bottle—the store brand is $1.59 for a 96 ounce bottle, while Clorox is $2.59!