Everyone likes to save money, but I’ve always avoided generic foods at the grocery store. I know that the store brand and generic label food is made by the same manufacturers as the name brand ones, but the difference in cost is normally not enough to get me to buy generic.
So when I saw an article earlier this year that shared the results of a study done by the University of Chicago’s economists comparing which foods chefs buy generic vs brand name, I was intrigued.
Some of the results make a lot of sense. Chefs work in kitchens that buy in bulk. They are used to working with generic ingredients as the building blocks of their creations. But if they aren’t making it from scratch themselves, they want high quality ingredients used in their food.
Items Chefs Buy Generic:
The survey examined how often chefs bought generic food items compared to non-chefs. Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean that most chefs buy generics for the items listed below, but compared to the rest of us, they are more likely to buy generic.
Chefs are more likely to buy generic than the rest of us for:
- baking mixes
- baking soda
- powdered sugar
- brown sugar
- granulated sugar
Actually, heading to the bulk isle for these items is probably the best value.
Tea was the 2nd highest rated generic preference by chefs, only surpassed by baking mixes.
This one surprised me a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a generic brand soup before. I usually make soup from scratch, but maybe I need to rethink this one when picking up that cream of chicken soup for my Chicken Divan recipe.
Spreads & Dips:
This is another thing I always make from scratch. I just don’t think that prepared dip is as good, unless you get it out of the deli section and it’s something that the deli staff made in the store’s kitchen.
Since even the name brands aren’t all that good, it’s not surprising there isn’t much of a difference.
I do occasionally use canned seafood, mostly crab. I’ve found a wide range of quality in the crab, but that is more likely due to the style of crab I’m getting than the brand.
Not sure if canned salmon was included in this list since it is fish and not seafood, but I love canned salmon and it’s really good for you with tons of calcium. That said, I always buy brand name for my canned salmon.
Dried fruit is another one that makes a lot of sense to me that chefs buy the generic version. Raisons, dried cranberries, banana chips…all of this is just as good in the bulk isle.
Items Chefs Buy Brand Name:
Chefs are 40% more likely to buy a brand name rather than a generic brand of ice cream. I’m not surprised. I can taste the difference. My store brand ice cream just isn’t as rich as when I pick up Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry.
Dried Veggies and Grains:
This one surprised me. Why would generics be just as good for dried fruit, but not as good for couscous, barley or mushrooms? But there was a 20% preference, so there must be something to it.
I totally believe this one. I’m not saying the generic cereals taste bad, but they never duplicate the taste of your favorite cereal.
Do they even make generic yogurt? It’s so cheap to get a name brand if you just watch for sales that I simply can’t imagine buying generic. Maybe if you go to Aldi’s or Trader Joe’s then you’ll end up with a store brand, but grocery stores that carry name brand items probably don’t even stock generic yogurt.
What about you?
Do you buy generic food items across the board, or only for some items?