July 2011 - Posts - Name Brand vs. Store Brand: Putting them to the Test
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Name Brand vs. Store Brand: Putting them to the Test

July 2011 - Posts

  • Cooking From Scratch: Make Your Own Chocolate Cake and Frosting


    Once you start to make your own chocolate cake from scratch, it is hard to eat the packaged cake mixes.  This cake is more dense, taste better and the frosting is great.  The recipe comes from our neighbor, Jan.  I don't know where it originated.  We had to cut the cake while it was still warm so my daughter could take some with her to a friend's house.  It usually looks nicer when the cake and the frosting can cool.


     2 cups sugar                                                     2 ½ cups flour

    ¾ cup margarine (1 ½ cubes)                            2 tsp. baking soda

    2 eggs                                                              1 tsp. salt

    1 tsp. vanilla                                                     ½ cup cocoa

    1 cup buttermilk                                                1 cup boiling water


    Cream sugar and margarine.  Add eggs and beat.  Add vanilla and buttermilk.  Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa and add to mixture.  Add water.  Pour into a greased oblong baking pan.  Bake at 350o for 30-35 min.




    3 T. margarine                                                  ¼ tsp. salt

    3 oz. Unsweetened baking chocolate                 ½ cup milk

    3 cups powdered sugar                         1 tsp. vanilla


    In a saucepan, melt margarine and chocolate over low heat.  Pour into a mixing bowl with the other ingredients.  Beat until well blended.  Chill in refrigerator about 10 to 15 minutes (until the mixture is spreading consistency).  Spread on cake.


    Do you have a chocolate cake recipe made from scratch that you like?  Please link up and share!





  • Name Brand vs. Store Brand: Fruit Snacks


    Since I don't usually eat fruit snacks, I had one of my daughters do the test.  Here are the results:

    Fruit Snacks


    Great Value










    # of pouches






    Price per pouch






    The winner was Welch's fruit snacks. They tasted the best, and were one of the better deals. Don't ever buy the Kroger brand...they are terrible, and are the worst deal! That really surprised me.

    I thought it might be good to have a more objective classification scheme for the fruit snacks, besides "We liked this one the best". The Kellogs brand and the Welch's had the most genuine fruity flavor and were not nearly as sticky. The Wal-mart brand and the Kroger brand were very chewy, stuck to your teeth, and had more of a sugary taste, and the Sunkist brand tasted the most artificial, but weren't nearly as sticky.

    Here is a recipe for homemade fruit snacks using zucchini. These would be a healthier option, and would cost less than the fruit snacks at the store, assuming you can get the zucchini at a good price, or free from your garden.

  • Name Brand vs. Store Brand: Great Northern Beans

    Well, here we go again.  Somehow, pictures don't seem to upload and face the correct direction.  We tried 5 different kinds of beans:  S&W, Natural Directions organic, Great Value, Bush's and Western Family.

    Prices:  (all were the same size can)

    S&W  1.09

    Western Family  .79

    Natural Directions Organic 1.18

    Great Value .66

    Bush's   .92

    Western Family beans are a little darker, as are Natural Directions.  The Western Family beans had spots on the beans.  They didn't look like very good quality beans.  The S&W beans were smaller than all the others.  Bush's beans had less liquid and were softer than the other beans. 

    As for taste, the worst ones were the Western Family and the Natural Directions organic.  I must say I was expecting the organic beans to be the best and was surprised that they weren't.  The best tasting were the S&W and the Bush's.  Great Value was about in the middle. 

    If you are wondering what I am going to do with all these beans, I am making the best white chili I have ever found found here:  http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2008/09/creamy-white-chili.htmlI.  With the rest, I am going to experiment with in recipes like hamburger buns found here:  http://dealstomeals.blogspot.com/2011/03/homemade-hamburger-buns-with-beans.html. 

    Do you have any good white bean recipes?  Please share them if you do!



  • Cooking From Scratch: Make Your Own Wheat Thins

    Do you ever make things from scratch instead of buying them at the store?  This year I have started to try to make a lot of new things from scratch that I would normally buy from the store.  It not only saves me money, but I know what is in the food I eat.  I go grocery shopping once a week, so if I want something and don't have it in the house, I can make it myself.  The first recipe I am posting is for homemade Wheat Thins.  I am providing a link to the recipe if you are interested.  It is http://www.spendwise.org/2011/06/homemade-wheat-thins.html.  Hope you enjoy them as much as we did!



    Do you have a homemade recipe you use to replace a store bought item?  Please comment and share!

  • Stretching Your Dining Dollars

     We enjoy going out to eat, but try to limit the amount each month to $50.  We split meals, skip drinks, go at lunch when we can to save money, use coupons when we can and sometimes just buy dessert or an appetizer. 

    What things do you do to save money eating out?      

  • Name Brand vs. Store Brand: Butter & Pure Maple Syrup

    Since we are having pancakes today for breakfast, I thought I would do both the butter and the maple syrup in the same post.


    We tried 5 different kinds of salted butter.  The biggest difference we could tell is that the Amish made butter tasted the saltiest, and the Organic Valley butter had the least amount of salt in it.  We also noticed that some butters were slightly more yellow than others.  It was hard to tell any other differences besides that.  It was a different experience trying several kinds of butter and trying each a couple of times to see which we liked best.  I wouldn't recommend it if I were you!


    Amish  $3.49 lb.

    Western Family  $2.99 lb.

    Tilamook   $3.29 lb.

    Organic Valley $3.99 lb.

    Kroger  $2.99 lb.

    With all this leftover butter, I probably won't have to purchase again until Christmas!


     I tried only two brands of pure maple syrup because they are expensive.  Both syrups looked pretty similar.  They did taste slightly different, and half liked one better and half liked the other.  The majority of the people in my family like sweeter, less expensive syrup or a homemade alternative.  I didn't do the test on the regular syrups yet.  It will take us a while to finish up this syrup before I get any more!


    Great Value (Walmart Brand)  $5.98 for 12.5 oz or about 48 cents per ounce

    Maple Grove Farms organic  $4.78 for 8.5 oz. or about 56 cents per ounce

    Since a couple of our family members don't like pure maple syrup, they made some homemade syrup after we finished the test.  A clone recipe is found here.  If you don't want to use corn syrup, you can always just use the recipe on the Mapleine bottle with sugar, water and Mapleine.

  • Are We Headed for another Depression?

    I read a few articles yesterday that compared the times we are going through to the Great Depression.  It said that 1 out of 7 families are on Welfare.  That seemed a bit high to me.  The unemployment rate is not great, especially if you include people who are underpaid and people who work part time since that is all they could find.  What are your thoughts?  


  • Name Brand vs. Store Brand: Tortilla Chips

     There were 4 different tortilla chips that were tested.  Walmart chips were the best value for your money.  Some chips were thin and some were thicker.  People who taste tested the chips said that there wasn't much difference between them. I buy organic tortilla chips from Costco because they are a reasonable price considering they are organic.  Their price ranges around 5.22 for a 40 oz. bag, or 13.05 cents per ounce.  Walmart chips are still less expensive, but these come in second and are organic.  

    Do you have a favorite brand of tortilla chips?  

    I have tried to stop buying chips for our family since it is easy to eat too many and they aren't the best for you.  I use our homemade tortilla recipe and when the tortillas are finished being made I cut them up and bake them and use them for tortilla chips.  It took us a few times to get used to them since they don't have the salt and fat of store bought ones, but we really like them now and use them for dips, soups, etc.
  • Organic and Homemade cleaners: Are they as good?

     I am trying to switch to using organic cleaners and homemade ones.  Do you find that they work as well as commercial products?  Do you have any brands or recipes that you like?

  • Simple Savings: Saving Money on Laundry

     There is no way to get around having to do laundry, and even laundry soap, etc. can add up.  There are some things you can do to save money on laundry.  First, use only half as much soap as you normally use.  The clothes should come out as clean as before.  Next time, try a little less until you figure out just how much you need to get a load clean.  By doing this alone, you can save yourself half as much money as you are spending right now on laundry soap.  Second, smash some foil into a ball and use it in the dryer instead of dryer sheets. Third, only wash clothes when they are dirty.  We are so used to throwing everything in the laundry basket out of habit.  Look for any stains and smell for any odor before putting them in to be washed.  

    Do you have any ideas about saving money on laundry?  What works for you?

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