"Money is the MOMENT to me. Money is my MOOD." - Andy Warhol

There Are Some Foods That Should Never Be Made Generic

By , August 26th, 2008 | 22 Comments »

generic beerGetting my finances in order sucks. It sucks even more when I have idiots teaching me how to do it.

Since I am now writing for a personal finance blog, I decided that I should actually try and get my finances in order. Usually I would call my sister and ask her for help in such a situation, but since I’m still pissed off at her for the entire Paris Hilton is more productive than I am episode, I decided to instead ask my next door neighbor, Frugal Guy.

Frugal Guy is the diplomatic name I give to him. Really, he should be named Cheap Ass Guy.

I should have known that this was going to be a bad idea before I asked for his help. Anyone that puts a bowl on their head and lets their wife go at the exposed hair with shears to save a buck doesn’t instill financial confidence. Knowing that they are proud that their house is 3 different shades of a similar gray because the slightly off paint was a bargain deal (never mind the hideous look) is probably not someone that I should have asked for financial advice, but I figured if there was a way to save money, Frugal Guy would know.

When I explained that I wanted to reduce my food bill, his eyes lit up like he had just hit the jackpot on a slot machine in Vegas. He went into a rapid spiel about the wonders of generic food. He explained how it all tasted the same as brand name food (“sometimes even better!!”)and how I would come to love how much I saved with it. I should have trusted my feelings and just headed back to my house, couch and beer, but an evil and masochistic part of me somehow convinced me to stay.

After listening to all the positive points of generic food, Frugal Guy wanted to know when we should go to the store together so he could show me the wide variety of generic food available. Since I despise going to the grocery store I said that I would just order it to be delivered.

Frugal Guy admonished me since sometimes brand name food can be cheaper than generic if you have the right coupons. Since there was no way in hell that I was going to go shopping, let alone shopping with coupons, Frugal Guy decided he would do the shopping for us for a backyard BBQ we had been planning to show off the fine qualities of generic food.

The evening of the BBQ started out fine. The weather was nice, the generic plates, cups, napkins, plastic forks, spoons and knives were all in place. Generic soda was available for the kids and they seemed to have no problem drinking it. The generic mustard, catchup and relish were all lined up on the table and looked similar to their brand name counterparts. I actually thought that the evening might be okay until I opened the cooler to get myself a beer.

There are some things in life I don’t want to know about and one of them was staring right at me. While I’m by no means a beer connoisseur, I do have some standards. It’s hard enough getting a girlfriend when you’re a beer guy, but if photos of me at a BBQ drinking generic beer ever make it to the Internet, I can pretty much be assured that no woman is ever going to date me.

“Go ahead, give it a try,” Frugal Guy said with a smile.

“Ummm, it’s generic beer,” I said, still not able to believe my eyes.

“It’s great,” Frugal Guy insisted. “Give it a try, You won’t be able to tell the difference from your regular beer.”

And so, instead of running back to my house, hunkering down on the couch to watch TV with my own beer in hand, I opened a can of generic beer and took a sip.

“See!” Frugal Guy exclaimed. “It tastes great, doesn’t it?”

I let the taste linger in my mouth a mere second before the full extent of the awfulness made itself readily apparent. The water coming out of the washing machine after doing a load of the dirtiest, greasiest and grimiest laundry would taste better than generic beer.

“This stuff tastes like &*%$#@@ ^&&^%$ #$$^&%*” I said spitting it out. Frugal Guy didn’t seem very impressed by my colorful description of his beer pick, especially with his children around, but seemed undeterred to convince me of the quality of generic food. He steered me toward the grill where hamburgers and hot dogs were cooking.

It’s not pretty what actually goes into normal hot dogs, but you can basically square that ugliness when it comes to what goes into generic hot dogs. You know all that gunk that clings to the side of your dirtiest drain pipes? That is probably 100 times healthier to eat than a generic hot dog. I took one look at the pinkish colored hot dogs that seemed to have an orangish tint with splotches of unidentifiable darker meat (??? — It’s never good when you can’t be sure) mixed in. I opted for the hamburger.

Frugal Guy asked if I’d like cheese (read generic processed cheese) on my burger. I said yes before realizing what was actually going on my meat. It surprises me that they are even allowed to call generic cheese “cheese” when the ingredients on the side of the package has milk listed as the 8th ingredient.

Frugal guy put the burger topped with the generic cheese (that had no cheese in it) on the generic bun. At this point I was simply glad it wasn’t a generic hot dog and I went to put the generic catchup and generic BBQ sauce onto it. I knew things were starting to get even worse when the catchup came out of the bottle more like a liquid than a paste. I debated whether or not to taste a bit of the generic BBQ sauce before placing it on the burger, but feared I wouldn’t be able to eat anything else if I did. The generic burger was ready. If I were a life insurance agent, this is exactly the scene that I would set up for my clients and I bet I would get them to sign 100% of the time.

The catchup had a sugary taste to it and when mixed with the indescribably awful taste of the generic BBQ sauce, it was enough to rule that this was the worst hamburger I had ever tasted. Simply eating the generic “not really cheese” cheese would have been a gourmet meal in comparison.

“What do you think?” Frugal Guy asked, puppy dog eye hopefulness in is eyes.

“I think it’s time I go home and get a real beer and meal,” I said as I threw the burger into the trash.

After that incident, Frugal Guy isn’t near as enthused to teach me about the great qualities of generic food. It’s just as well since I have lost all enthusiasm for the cost saving benefits of generic food now that I know that it’s crap. Saving money may be important, but not if it makes you miserable in the process. Financial lesson learned.

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  • devin says:

    Never, ever buy generic peanut butter! I can eat most things generic, but definitely not peanut butter. My dog even hates generic peanut butter!

  • Jason H says:

    I have found that generic foods more often than not equal bad quality and questionable ingredients. That being said, brand name packaged foods often equal questionable quality and questionable ingredients. If you want good food at decent prices stop playing games and grow your own, go to a farmer’s market, or sign up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). For meat go to a butcher who specializes in local animals. The supermarket is only good for getting paper plates and napkins, and for those, generic is just fine.

  • greenday says:

    It seems to me that you are the idiot in this situation. You say you knew what was going to happen before hand and yet you still decided to do it. And then you say the other people are idiots. If you don’t like generic, that’s fine, but stop blaming others for situations you created yourself. You asked for help. At least have the grace to leave civilly when you have been invited after asking for help.

  • justme says:

    first tip-if you are BBQ near your house just use real plates and silverware I bought my plates 20 years ago and they are still going strong

    honestly full price beer is not too expensive, but buy hamms and its a real bargain ,i just do not drink beer so not an issue,I do work at a store and know there is always someone who hates every kind of beer so I would never expect to make a beer drinker happy with anything other than his favorite brand
    making things homemade is cheaper than generic, pick and choose buy the important things that you must have just right and use cheaper supporting items in generic

    important- tip if you are going to feed someone who is negative about “cheap” food do not let them know what is or is not cheap

  • jeremy says:

    You can buy everything generic if you go to a decent grocery store. Frugal Guy probably buys his generics at Wal-Mart, but at my mildly upscale supermarket (not Whole Foods), the generics are not packed full of fillers in most cases.

    Also, why is someone who gets his groceries delivered and refuses to use coupons writing for a personal finance blog?

  • Ann says:

    Of all the things in the world I could buy, food is by far the most important as it keeps me alive. Groceries are my largest bill each month, and will forever stay that way. My mind and body will thank me for it.

    I have GOT to look into this delivered groceries thing.

  • t says:

    I’ll eat most store brand goods, but sometimes they just taste funky so I stick with the name brand.

    Toiletries, I use a ton of CVS/Walgreen branded products, but again I have some items that I just go with the name brand.

    When it comes to meat, I like it fresh. I don’t like meat that has been frozen.

  • David Mitchell says:

    Grocery shopping (which I actually enjoy) is about finding value for your dollar. Frugal guy is sacrificing quality for lower cost and he is probably deluding himself that he is getting good value, when he is not. I will always use coupons and I stock up on sale items. If I exclude perishable items, I can generally save close to 50% off of my shopping bill by shopping wisely. For meats and produce and other perishables, I am usually at the mercy of the grocery store but even then, I will try to buy the meets that are on sale and stock up on the cheeses that are a good value. I want to save money when I shop, but not if it means sacrificing the quality of our meals!

  • Sharman says:

    Your article was hilarious!

    We buy generic brands, but the product has to taste good or we will not purchase it. Gosh, I actually like that you are going through the process to become more frugal and kind of hate it. I mean, I felt your blog was pretty realistic. Everyone does not like cutting back and living a more frugal life. Out of necessity many do it, but not with a lot of love.

    Keep up the good work and stay encouraged. You ROCK!!!

  • FVP says:

    I hope this isn’t a true story (and I have my suspicions), because I can’t fathom being that rude to someone who invited you over and made you dinner.

  • Gail says:

    Very funny. I read your article to my hubby and he had a laugh too!

    Apparently you haven’t hit yet on what you can do to save money, but at least you can help us laugh while you search it out.

    PS> We use carefully selected generics for certain items. The exceedeingly few times I ever buy paper plates I never get generic as they are too flimsy.

  • leslie says:

    Not all generics are awful but people who say that buying generics 100% is the solution to a high grocery bill are kidding themselves. For example, there is no difference between the store brand can of black beans and the name brand (and that applies to the vast majority of canned goods). However, I can not stomach generic Cheerios – have to go with the name brand there. The key is to be open to trying the store brand stuff and seeing if it is worth it to you. Some are hits and some are misses but overall you would most likely be saving a significant amount of money if you switch even a few things that you buy regularly to the store brand.

    Generic Beer would be a no way, no how for me though I have to say.

  • Cindy M says:

    Hey, bud, that’s elitist. That or you just have hypersensitive taste buds and/or are at least 20 years younger than me. The young are just so darn picky usually too worried about being cool (like anybody really cares). One thing about getting frugally older is your sense of taste in most things must diminish, unless you’re still worried about trying to impress other people, that is. The only generic product I can’t abide these days is the Dollar General’s cola. Big K doesn’t bother me nor does Sam’s or Aldi’s versions, but Dollar General’s cola sucks and I’ve told them so, ha-ha. I think overall the generic house brands have improved immensely and in some cases even taste better than the name brands these days, from spaghetti sauce (Kroger’s house brand was awful but no more) to ice cream and yes, peanut butter, in my opinion. I’m not a beer drinker but a few times have bought the cheapest type and it did what it finer brews do to me, namely make me want to take a nap and wake up with a headache. Oh, and I’m particular about my bath soap; it’s gotta be Caress or Dove. Other than that, I’ve tried tons of products and have pretty much decided I can fix a great meal without spending a fortune.

  • Cindy M says:

    P.S. – I’ve heard it said that many generic items actually have the same contents as the name brands, that at the canning places, it’s just a matter of labels being switched at a certain point in time. Interesting thought, but I have not checked this one out.

  • patricia says:

    Most generic food sucks! The beverages are even worse. I know it would deflate your manliness but http://www.moneysavingmom.com (I have no affilitiation with this site)posts way to get REAL food for almost nothing using coupons.

    I got 3 bags of groceries last week for $5.

  • Topwaystosave says:

    I could never drink generic soda. I have tried lots of different stores and to me none were ever really good. Grape soda and ginger ale were okay. It’s always the cola which tastes weird to me.

  • livingplanet says:

    i think beer guy and generic guy are twin brothers! or, just one person, with two personalities! hilarious.

  • Marie says:

    That’s definitely a made up story. Who throws food away when a friend went to a lot of trouble to make it for you? If it’s not made up, it’s a really immature thing to do.

  • MikeN says:

    Frugal guy was right about the paint, only he should have blended all of his paint together in order to get one consistent color.

  • Bryan Robertson says:

    This is an interesting article. For those that say quality of generic food is lower than that of name brands, I would say that is wrong 90% of the time. The truth is a lot of generic foods, especially store brand labels are made by name brand companies. This fact is purposely hidden by these name brand companies, for obvious reasons. Generic brands are usually equally good or even better and most importantly cheaper. The exceptions to the cheaper rule are when your local store runs a good sale and you happen to have a coupon for the name brand. There are several ways you can reveal who makes what, any of these combinations are a good sign:

    1) similar packaging either externally or internally (For example frozen pizzas most store brands are made my name brand companies

    2) ingredient list, the manufactures will sometimes purposely change the order of the ingredients are listed to cause confusion. (For example, they might even replace the words salt with sodium – or water with H2O)

    3) The fastest way to decode, most reliable when also compared with number 2 is the matching nutritional facts on products

    4) same city and or state of manufacture, distribution, or packaging.

    5) Ask a friend that works for the manufacture, distributor, or even a personal friend to that works that the local grocery store (Department manager, a store manager, or other person that regularly communicates with venders or distributors .

    6) past product recalls, would be my last recommend source.

  • Bob says:

    We get what we expect. You don’t want generics, because you believe they are inferior. To that end, your own mind picks out and amplifies any and all perceived bad qualities. Often, the mind also invents a few. Anything that goes against our strongly held notions, we ignore. Did the cheese taste bad? Probably not. Compare your brand name products to generics and store brands. They almost always have the same ingredients in the same order. Many times, the same plant will package the products. Say half goes into a brand name package, the other into a store brand. The difference is all in your head.


  • The Idiocy of Carpool Lanes - SavingAdvice.com Blog says:

    […] but fail to realize that driving with more than one person in a car is as unamerican as having a summer BBQ with generic food. It may be good in theory, but nobody is going to do it (well, except for my next door […]

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