Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Store Brand Food

After my last post about brand loyalty, I had a couple responses about buying store brand food and how there are certain things that just don't make the cut, and I agree with that sentiment occassionally, but overall, Ive had some great success with a couple stores and their store brands, so as I sit here eating my lunch with a delicious "store-brand" salad dressing, I thought Id write a review on a couple of the store brand items I buy.

When I go grocery shopping, I have no loyalty to any specific store (again with the loyalty).   I go anywhere from Shop-Rite to Acme to Giant to Wegmans to Trader Joes to Aldi to Bottom Dollar Food.    Depending on where you live, you might not have ever heard of most of these, especially the last two which have only recently started to pop up around my area.

The first time I went to Aldi, I was super disappointed.   First off, you have to have a quarter with you to use a cart.   You get it back when you lock it back in with the other carts, but I didn't have much change on me and out of the change I had, I didn't have quarters.     So with that, I knew I was only gonna pick up a couple items.   Then I walked in with coupons in hand and found the following:
  1. The store was tiny.   I really enjoy my huge grocery stores where I have TONS of options.    When I was still in college and had a car in DC, I used to drive to big Giant in Bethesda 20 minutes away so I could have my big suburban supermarket.   
  2. Then I started walking down the 4 aisles they have, and I noticed everything was off-brand - there wasn't a single brand name item to choose from.   (Reminder, I came prepared with all my coupons)
  3. They are supposed to be known for their produce, so I went over to their produce section, which is about 8' by 4' large - and I wasn't too impressed.   
So I promptly left without a single purchase and shared my unhappy thoughts with family and friend.
A few months later, not sure why, but I decided to give it another shot - this time more prepared with what I was getting myself into.   For not having a large selection, they have a pretty good selection of healthier options.  So although I don't go there often, I do go there fairly frequently - and here are some of the items that I wanted to point out as good items:

  • Baked barbecue potato chips - $1.99 - These are more in line with Baked Lays chips then Baked Herrs - but I actually think they are better than the other store brand options out there.   The BBQ flavor is a little more intense - but not hot or anything.   Before you know it - the bag is gone (I bought it on Saturday afternoon and finished it Monday night)
  • Store Brand Corn Chex - $1.99 - Although I do agree that many cereals do not transfer well to store brand (specifically Cheerios and their store-brand counterparts) - these are just like Corn Chex - and cheaper
  • Fruit Snacks - they always have different fruit snacks in different sizes, but many times you can find a 28 or 32 pack for $3+.   This last time, I got a 32 pack for $3.49.   Different brands of fruit snacks have different flavors and chewy-ness, so Im not sure what one the one I bought compares directly to - but if I had to guess, Id probably say Welches - but I could be totally wrong - all I know is they are yummy - Adam and I tear through them.
  • Frozen Veggie Sandwiches (comparable to lean pockets) - I can't remember the ones I buy, but I think they are like a Santa Fe Veggie or something like that - all I know is that they are totally yummy - just as comparable to Lean Pockets.   Only negative is Hot Pockets has a thousand different varieties - Ive only seen this one
Anyways, those are the items that are standing out in my mind right now, but maybe Ill review more later.   In the beginning, I mentioned that I was typing this as I was eating my lunch with a delicious salad dressing.   The salad dressing came from Trader Joe's and is their Champagne Pear Vinaigrette with Gorgonzola.    It really is great!   And you don't need to overload the salad, just the recommended 2 TBSP is enough.   And this is coming from someone who just isn't a salad eater unless its loaded with lots of things that defeat the purpose of a salad - but this is my third day in a row with a salad (of which the spinach, salad greens, strawberries and fake crab meat all came from Aldi) - and I wish I had more at home to continue the streak because the dressing is just fantastic - so if you shop at Trader Joe's and see the dressing - Id buy it!

Hope you all give store brands another shot if they are still cheaper than name brands on sale with coupons - and if you have an Aldi in your area - go check it out!

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