HIGHER ON THE FOOD CHAIN
It's common knowledge that buying store brands can add up to big savings at the grocery, but some customers resist -- after all, what if the taste just doesn't measure up? Fear not, because many store-brand foods have beaten their name-brand competitors in blind taste tests or amassed significant customer testimonials. Savvy shoppers will find tasty store-brand picks no matter where they shop, but this list of more than 50 store-brand products is especially full of items from Costco, Kroger, Target, Trader Joe's, Walmart, and Whole Foods.
Related: 20 Items That Are Cheaper at Whole Foods
KIRKLAND SIGNATURE PLAIN NONFAT GREEK YOGURT (COSTCO)
Costco's Kirkland Signature brand beat Chobani and others for the title of best fat-free plain Greek yogurt in extensive taste testing by Rachael Ray Every Day. Judges said the Kirkland yogurt tasted impressively rich, especially for nonfat yogurt, with a mild taste that seemed smoothie-ready.
365 EVERYDAY VALUE SHREDDED CHEESE (WHOLE FOODS)
Testers at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute picked the mild cheddar from this Whole Foods store brand over nine name brands, including Kraft, Sargento, Crystal Farms, and Organic Valley. Judges praised the cheese for spot-on texture and flavor.
SHREDDED MOZZARELLA CHEESE (WALMART, SAM'S CLUB)
Shredded mozzarella cheeses from Walmart's Great Value and Sam's Club store brands are as fresh and tasty as Sargento, according to Consumer Reports taste testers. Judges said the main difference was texture: Sam's Club was firmer, while Great Value was a bit more crumbly.
GIANT EAGLE CHICKEN BROTH
Giant Eagle's chicken broth bests name-brand Swanson in both taste and price, according to Consumer Reports. The store brand was cheaper by 14 cents a serving at the time of testing and earned praise for a pleasant, mild taste that contrasted with the processed taste of Swanson.
KIRKLAND SIGNATURE PLAIN BAGELS (COSTCO)
Costco's Kirkland Signature brand consistently earns praise for both taste and value. The bagels are no exception: Consumer Reports says they're equal in quality to fresh bagels from Dunkin' Donuts and save more than 60 cents a serving.
TRADER JOE'S MILK CHOCOLATE
Store-brand milk chocolate bars from Trader Joe's came in second only to a much more expensive bar, Michel Cliuzel Lait 45%, in Cheapism's own taste test. Testers liked the Trader Joe's bars because they melted smoothly in the mouth and weren't overly sweet.
EATING RIGHT CHICKEN ENCHILADA FROZEN MEAL (SAFEWAY)
This frozen-food entree from Eating Right, a Safeway store brand, surprised Cheapism testers with its creamy texture, light sauce, and pleasant flavor. It edged out a much pricier Kashi brand of frozen chicken enchiladas in a taste test.
VANILLA ICE CREAM (WALMART, TRADER JOE'S)
Walmart's Great Value brand is the cheapest among a few store-brand vanilla ice creams that Cheapism testers considered nearly as good as Breyer's. Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream has been a standout in other blind taste tests, besting the likes of Ben & Jerry's and Häagen-Dazs.
KROGER ICE CREAM SAMMIES
If you want a cheap ice cream treat without compromising on taste, head to Kroger. Cheapism taste testers say the store-brand ice cream sandwiches have a pleasantly crunchy cookie shell and a creamy, sweet filling. Judges rated the Kroger brand over pricier ice cream sandwiches from Klondike and Nestlé.
SALSA (SAFEWAY, TRADER JOE'S, WALMART)
With a sweet flavor and lots of veggies, store-brand Safeway Signature Select Chunky Salsa was the winner of Cheapism's salsa taste test. However, taste testers also liked Trader Joe's Chunky Salsa and Walmart's Great Value Restaurant-Style Salsa, both of which are cheaper store-brand options.
KETCHUP (TARGET, SAM'S CLUB)
Target's Market Pantry Ketchup is "remarkably similar" to Heinz for about half the price, according to Consumer Reports. Testers also liked Sam's Club ketchup, which they note is a bit less spicy.
TRADER JOE'S COTTAGE CHEESE
All four judges in a Tampa Bay Times taste test said they would buy Trader Joe's Cottage Cheese, which they praise for ideal texture and well-balanced flavor. It bested pricier options including Horizon Organic, Daisy, and Breakstone in an evaluation of 10 brands.
CRANBERRY JUICE (KMART, WALMART, COSTCO)
Ocean Spray is synonymous with cranberry juice, but Kmart's Smart Sense brand is just as crisp and less bitter, Consumer Reports testers say. They also liked less-pricey options from Walmart's Great Value label and Costco's Kirkland Signature brand.
PUBLIX CHOCOLATE CHIPS
The baking aisle is a great place to save with store brands, and chocolate chips are no exception. Testers with the Tampa Bay Times preferred Publix and Trader Joe's chocolate chips to much more expensive ones from Ghirardelli. The store brands were also judged far superior to Nestlé Toll House and Hershey's chocolate chips.
ARCHER FARMS MAPLE SYRUP (TARGET)
This Target brand maple syrup gets the nod from Consumer Reports testers, who say it's just as good as name-brand Maple Grove Farms. They praised its thickness and robust flavor but noted that Costco's Kirkland Signature brand maple syrup is a better value, though not quite as tasty.
MAYONNAISE (WHOLE FOODS, WALMART, COSTCO AND TARGET)
Four store brands -- yep, four -- fared just as well as Hellmann's in a Consumer Reports taste test. Experts say the mayo from 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods), Great Value (Walmart), Kirkland Signature (Costco), and Market Pantry (Target) would be hard to tell apart from Hellmann's on a sandwich.
TRADER GIOTTO'S PIZZA 4 FORMAGGI (TRADER JOE'S)
Pining for a quick and easy dinner? This store-brand frozen pizza from Trader Joe's finished second to Freschetta but way ahead of Totino's in a Cheapism taste test. Testers liked the thin crust, mild taste, and savory sauce compared with other choices.
TRADER JOE'S APPLE CIDER
Trader Joe's Apple Cider was a runaway winner over Musselman's, Zeigler's, Murray's, and Martinelli's in a Tampa Bay Times taste test. Judges loved the extra spices and strong apple taste. However, it's worth noting that second-place Musselman's was just a dollar more for a bottle double the size of the Trader Joe's cider.
PUBLIX FROZEN BLUEBERRY WAFFLES
Let go of that Eggo. Publix Frozen Blueberry Waffles beat out Eggo as well as Van's and Kashi waffles in a Tampa Bay Times test. The Publix waffles earned praise for a homemade taste, although some judges said they skimped on the blueberries.
FROZEN MIXED VEGETABLES (TRADER JOE'S, TARGET)
Consumer Reports testers say the frozen mixed veggies from Trader Joe's are crisper and fresher than their Birds Eye Steamfresh counterparts. Testers also recommended Target's Market Pantry brand as a cheap Birds Eye alternative.
KIRKLAND SIGNATURE FROZEN SHRIMP (COSTCO)
Costco's Kirkland Signature Frozen Shrimp are firmer and less watery than Tastee Choice name-brand shrimp, Consumer Reports testers say. They also liked the Trader Joe's and Whole Foods versions but concluded that the Kirkland shrimp represent the best value among the store brands.
STORE-BRAND TRAIL MIX (WHOLE FOODS, COSTCO, SAM'S CLUB)
Consumer Reports testers say 365 Everyday Value Chocolate Cherry Carnival Trail Mix from Whole Foods is even better than Planters Nut & Chocolate trail mix, but it's still pricey. They also recommend Kirkland Signature trail mix from Costco, as well as the trail mix from Sam's Club for consumers seeking a better value.
ARCHER FARMS BALSAMIC VINEGAR (TARGET)
The sky's the limit when it comes to the price of fancy balsamic vinegar. Target's store brand, Archer Farms, earned the praise of Good Housekeeping Research Institute testers for a well-balanced, robust flavor that works well with salads, marinades, or sweets.
TRADER JOE'S ORGANIC BLUE CORN TORTILLA CHIPS
Cheapism taste testers have praised these Trader Joe's tortilla chips for a crisp texture, spot-on flavor, and organic ingredients. They are a bright spot among Trader Joe's other chips, which testers found underwhelming.
GREAT VALUE FLOUR (WALMART)
Experts agree that there's little reason to buy name-brand pantry staples such as flour. A large panel of taste testers organized by The Krazy Coupon Lady reinforces that advice, picking cookies baked with Walmart's Great Value Flour over the Gold Medal brand.
MARKET PANTRY ORANGE JUICE (TARGET)
The Krazy Coupon Lady recommends store-brand refrigerated beverages, because regional production means they are often fresher than name brands. Accordingly, testers gave a slight edge to Target's Market Pantry Orange Juice over name-brand Simply Orange.
GREAT VALUE BAKING SODA (WALMART)
Only the most discerning palates will be able to determine any difference among baking sodas. The Krazy Coupon Lady recommends Walmart's cheaper Great Value baking soda over Arm & Hammer, unless you just have to have that orange box.
MARKET PANTRY GRAHAM CRACKERS (TARGET)
Honey Maid is a staple in the cracker aisle, but it might not be worth the price premium. The Krazy Coupon Lady's testers picked Target's Market Pantry honey graham crackers over Honey Maid crackers by a wide margin.
KROGER COCOA PUFFED AND CRISP BERRY CRUNCH CEREAL
Taste testers with Thrillist pitted six name-brand cereals against their Kroger store-brand counterparts. In two cases, the Kroger cereals come out on top: Kroger's Cocoa Puffed Cereal "tastes exactly the same" as General Mills' Cocoa Puffs, testers said, and the Crisp Berry Crunch was deemed a good alternative to Cap'n Crunch's Crunch Berries from Quaker Oats.
KROGER HONEY NUT TOASTED OATS
Kroger has another winning cereal in its Honey Nut Toasted Oats, according to taste testers for the Arizona Republic. Though testers still preferred General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios, the edge was so slight that many consumers might prefer to save some money by buying the Kroger brand.
MALT-O-MEAL MINI SPOONERS (DOLLAR TREE)
Fans of Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats might want to pick up some Malt-o-Meal Mini Spooners for a fraction of the price the next time they're at Dollar Tree. Several reviewers say they taste identical to Kellogg's, and they appreciate the much lower price tag.
MARKET PANTRY BUTTERMILK COMPLETE PANCAKE MIX (TARGET)
While Hungry Jack prevailed in a Good Housekeeping pancake test, Target's Market Pantry brand was a well-reviewed, cheap alternative, because of its sponginess and flavor. Testers were divided on the mixture's slightly nutty aftertaste, however.
CASHEWS (WHOLE FOODS, TRADER JOE'S, SAM'S, WALMART, COSTCO, KMART, TARGET)
Which store brands are better for cashews? According to Consumer Reports, just about all of them -- Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Sam's Club, Walmart, Costco, Kmart, and Target -- are superior to Emerald Whole Cashews, which weren't as fresh in a taste test.
GREAT VALUE HARD TACO SHELLS (WALMART)
Walmart's Great Value taco shells edged pricier name-brand offerings from Taco Bell, Old El Paso, Ortega, and other brands in a Tampa Bay Times taste test. Judges praised the shells' texture and well-balanced flavor compared with competing name brands.
GREAT VALUE STRAWBERRY GELATIN (WALMART)
Gelatin isn't expensive to begin with, but buyers can save even more with a store brand. Walmart's Great Value brand beat Jell-O, Kool-Aid, and other gelatins in a Tampa Bay Times taste test, earning praise for a fruity, well-balanced flavor.
KROGER HERITAGE FARM BEEF HOT DOGS
For Cheapism taste testers, Kroger's Heritage Farm Beef Hot Dogs were better than Ball Park and second only to the pricier Oscar Meyer Classic Beef Franks. Judges said the Kroger hot dogs were flavorful, with a good balance of smoke and salt, although some reported a grainy texture.
KROGER WHEAT CRISPS
Nabisco's Wheat Thins might be slightly crispier than Kroger's Wheat Crisps, but that's the only advantage they have over the store brand, according to editors at AOL. A taste tester said the Kroger crackers are otherwise "virtually indistinguishable" from Wheat Thins, which also contain much more salt.
365 EVERYDAY VALUE ORGANIC FRUIT & NUT GRANOLA (WHOLE FOODS)
Whole Foods' 365 Everyday Value Organic Fruit & Granola is actually tastier than Nature's Path Organic, AOL editors say. A tester praised the fruity, nutty taste, and dinged Nature's Path for a distinct lack of fruit.
KROGER CRUNCHY CHEESE CURLS
It's hard to imagine a store brand beating Cheetos at its own game, but AOL's editors say Kroger's Crunchy Cheese Curls did just that. The Kroger brand was judged to be cheesier and denser than Cheetos.
EQUATE ULTRA FRENCH VANILLA WEIGHT LOSS SHAKE (WALMART)
If you're a fan of expensive weight-loss shakes, take note: Equate's Ultra French Vanilla is an admirable imitator of much-pricier Slim-Fast, AOL editors say. In a taste test, the Equate also lacked the grainy texture of Slim-Fast and kept the tester full for just as long.
PUBLIX NEW ENGLAND STYLE CLAM CHOWDER
Judges with the Tampa Bay Times call this store-brand soup "a good clam chowder for beginners," because it has a more subtle clam flavor than other choices. The soup, while on the thin side, beat out name-brand competitors including Progresso, Campbell's, and Wolfgang Puck in a blind taste test.
TRADER JOE'S CREAMY SALTED ALMOND BUTTER
For true almond lovers, the nutty flavor shines through in this Trader Joe's almond butter, according to taste testers with The Kitchn. It also earned praise for being creamy and easy to spread. Jif, meanwhile, lacked the same intense almond flavor.
NICE REFRESHING COLA (WALGREENS)
A panel of Thrillist tasters preferred this Walgreens soda over several other brands, including venerable Coca-Cola. Although Pepsi still took top honors, testers gave this store brand the runner-up spot, because they liked the slight vanilla taste.
WHOLE FOODS ORIGINAL HUMMUS
A panel of Food Network testers gave Whole Foods' Original Hummus the runner-up spot in a blind taste test of six brands. It earned praise for a thick, creamy consistency and strong notes of garlic and lemon. The winning brand, Grandma's, was double the cost.
TRADER JOE'S QUINOA COWBOY BURGERS
These inexpensive veggie burgers from Trader Joe's beat out name brands including Boca's Savory Mushroom Mozzarella Veggie Patties, Carla Lee's NutBurgers, and Morningstar Farms' Grillers Original in a Tampa Bay Times taste test. Judges enjoyed the mix of corn, beans, and spicy pepper pieces. They also praised the burgers' crunchy crust.
TRADER JOE'S PORK GYOZA POTSTICKERS
These Trader Joe's frozen pork dumplings stood out in a taste test conducted by Serious Eats, nabbing one of the top three spots out of nine brands tested. Judges liked the firm skin and well-balanced filling, although some cautioned that these are slightly sweet for pork dumplings.
TRADER JOE'S TJ's BOLD & SMOKY KANSAS CITY STYLE BARBECUE SAUCE
Trader Joe's barbecue sauce tied Bull's Eye in a Serious Eats taste test of 16 widely available brands. Judges said the TJ's sauce was a "touch less sweet" than Bull's Eye, but well-balanced and smooth. They don't recommend Trader Joe's All-Natural Barbecue Sauce, however.
AMERICA'S CHOICE TARTAR SAUCE (SAVE-A-LOT)
Taste testers with Serious Eats say Save-A-Lot's America's Choice Tartar Sauce is a winner for any tartar-sauce traditionalist who wants a creamy, well-balanced flavor. It beat out brands including Hellmann's, Kraft, and Bookbinder's.
TRADER JOE'S INSTANT OATMEAL
Trader Joe's Maple and Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal beat brands including Kashi, Nature's Path, and Quaker in a taste test by Serious Eats. Judges liked the authentic maple flavor and fluffy, not gooey, texture compared with other brands.
365 EVERYDAY VALUE STRAWBERRY NONFAT YOGURT (WHOLE FOODS)
This Whole Foods yogurt emerged as the best low- or nonfat choice in a Serious Eats taste test of strawberry yogurt. It bested several name brands including Stonyfield, Dannon, and Yoplait. Testers liked the freshness, balance of tart and sweet, and pieces of real strawberries.