SPECIAL REPORT: Buy this, not that - Tucson News Now

SPECIAL REPORT: Buy this, not that

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Your grocery tab is one of the biggest expenses you have to budget for each month, but staying loyal to your favorite food brands could have you throwing money right out the window.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it can cost upwards of $1,200 to feed a family of four each month. Every mother knows a picky eater can send those numbers through the roof.

Ginger Jacob is one of them.

"I base a lot of what I buy on the kids' taste," she said. "I know there are things they have to have the name brand or they won't eat it."

The list of foods 10-year-old Noelle and 7-year-old twins Ryan and Hunter won't eat isn't short, either. Mushrooms and spinach are a big no, and if it's not PopTart or Cheeze-It brand, they say no thanks!

"You start learning what gets wasted. What they didn't eat because you tried this brand and they didn't like it. It's like throwing money away," Jacob said.

We put Noelle, Ryan and Hunter's brand loyalty to the test to see if they could tell the difference between store brands and name brands. Chef Robert Gartzand and Natalie Martinez, a dietician, weighed in too.

SANDWICH BREAD
SUNBEAM: $2.38
GREAT VALUE: $1.28

Right off the bat, all of our taste testers weren't too impressed with the look and feel of each brand of bread. After tasting a piece, Noelle described the Great Value loaf as "tasting bad," while Ryan described it as "dry."

The Sunbeam bread didn't fare well with our experts, either. Natalie called it "typical white bread" and said it had "less flavor" than the generic loaf, while Robert said it tasted "slightly sweet."

But when the two go head-to-head, everyone but Ryan agrees it's worth it to splurge on the name brand.

YOU'LL PAY: $1.10 more

CEREAL
TRIX: $3.38
FRUITY PUFFS: $2.42

This brand battle sent our taste testers through a loop at first glance. Noelle, Ryan and Hunter were quick to spot which cereal was Trix and which was the Fruity Puffs. All tabbed the smaller, multi-colored cereal as the name brand.

Our two experts couldn't seem to agree. Each thought the bowl with larger cereal pieces in it was name brand – all based on size, color and uniformity.

Natalie said Trix had "more of an aftertaste" than the generic, and added it was higher in sugar, fat and sodium. Robert described the Fruity Puffs as having "more of a natural flavor" and the Trix as having a "fabricated flavor."

This match-up split our taste testers down the middle. The kids sided with Trix as the better tasting cereal, but when you compare size and nutritional value, Fruity Puffs takes home the win.

YOU'LL SAVE: $.96

PEANUT BUTTER
JIF: $3.28
GREAT VALUE: $2.56

None of our taste testers could tell the difference between the two types of peanut butter just by looking at the jars. Each had the same caramel color and a smooth, creamy texture.

Robert described the taste of Jif as "OK," while Natalie's taste buds rejected the taste all together. She described the Jif as "creamy," but said she wasn't a fan.

Several of the kids said Jif tasted like what Ginger uses to make their sandwiches each day, automatically siding with the name-brand taste. Natalie thought it didn't have as strong of a peanut flavor as the Great Value brand, and said the consistency was lacking, too.

Comparing the nutritional value of the two peanut butter brands, Natalie says there isn't much of a difference between the two. She suggested going natural if you want to eat healthy.

Why pay more when the generic has a stronger flavor? Our taste testers say buy name brand, not generic.

YOU'LL SAVE:  $.72

At the end of our taste test, the generic brands you see in your favorite grocery store trumped the names most Americans won't shy away from. Bottom line -- almost any story brand is worth a try.

If you're not willing to shell out cash on a product you don't know if you'll like or not, ask your local grocery store about refunds if their brand doesn't meet your expectations.

Copyright 2012 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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