Store Brand Products That Make the Grade

I might skimp on my clothing budget. I would rather drive an inexpensive car than a luxury one, and I couldn’t care less if I buy the cool brand of flatware or use the stuff I have had since college.

But I spend money on food. I love it – that’s just how I budget. I will never be the person who buys the “off” brand of cereal because it’s cheaper or who races to eat at 5:30 pm if I’m not hungry just because the burger is $1 off at that time.

It’s all about priorities, and mine are chowing down well and enjoying the time that I spend eating.


There are some brands – not name brands mind you, but plain old store brands – that really do it better than the fancy big-box names.

These are 4 of my favorite store brand products.


Archer Farms Strwberry Oat Bars

Archer Farms is what Target calls its line of food to make you forget that you are buying it at a place where you also buy clothes, get film developed, and update your computer  A lot of the stuff from the line is good, not great. I have used the pasta sauce (doctored up at home with additional spices and ground beef), oatmeal, and fruit leather, but the real buy here are the strawberry oat bars.  These putppies are sweet, sticky with strawberries, nutty, and drizzled in the creamiest yogurt frosting known to man. They aren’t super high in calories, and though they might be loaded with sugar, they are still a totally delicious way to start the day or snack on the go. I have yet to find a granola bar I like more than these!

de lish Dark and Twisted Lemon and Black Pepper Chocolate

This is made by Duane Reade. I know… I KNOW. But I am telling you, this is some of the best dark chocolate I have ever had, and I have eaten some great chocolate. This stuff is made in Belgium and then infused with lemon and black pepper. It is smooth at first, then small granules of sharp black pepper reveal themselves  The taste of lemon fills your mouth and nostrils once the chocolate starts to melt and the effect is refreshing and vibrant, not at all weird or off putting  I would serve this at the end of a dinner party with candied nuts…if I didn’t eat it all by myself, that is. This is elegant, it’s unusual, and it’s very inexpensive!


Kirkland Apple Pies

We all know about Costco, right? You pay a membership fee, you get to shop there and get great savings on huge buys like 30 rolls of paper towels and 3 gallon jars of toothpaste. But if you drag yourself away from the diamond rings and fancy cameras on display, you get to the back of the warehouse where there is a bakery churning out fresh muffins  breads…and pies. Those apple pies are as good as any homemade pie, and better than most of them. Huge and golden brown, with thick crust that is tender-crisp flaky. The apples are soft  but not mushy, bathed in a thick but not gloopy cinnamon and vanilla syrup. It is often sold still warm, and if you can resist digging into it in the car with your bare hands, it’s great with vanilla ice cream.

Usually, bare hands win. 

Any bbq sauce from any little old place in North Carolina

Because any bbq I have had in North Carolina is VASTLY SUPERIOR to any bbq I have had in NYC or California. At gas stations, at drive thrus, and hole-in-the-wall shacks where you feel like you should have a shotgun…even the sweetest, most artificial of these sauces blows northern sauces out of the water. Even if they sell it to you in a reused water bottle, buy that bbq sauce!

Do you have any off-brand favorite foods to share with the class?


  1. I love the 365 Whole Foods brand of so many items! From kettle cooked salt and vinegar chips to their frozen fruit bars, I’m pretty obsessed.

    I also love some Trader Joe’s brand stuff – like the dark chocolate pretzel thins. I can legit eat the whole bag in one sitting if I’m not careful!

  2. That Duane Reade Lemon Black Pepper Chocolate is RIDIC! There’s a DR on the ground floor of my office, and they never have it in stock. Just as good as anything I’ve ever had, and I’ve had some good stuff!