Sunday, January 22, 2006

Brand vs Generic

Well, it is 2am and I can NOT sleep. I thought of something to blog so instead of tossing and turning, I decided to reach over the side of the bed and grab my laptop. I will just type this in word and put it on the blog in the morning, or at this rate probably not till lunch, because if I get online now I will NEVER sleep.

I often think of blogging this and hours later it goes out of my head. Brand Versus Generic. And I don’t just mean what is your opinion, oh no no no! In my head the debate is much stronger.

First, let me lay down the scene. Growing up, we shopped at Aldi’s. Now I don’t know if Aldi’s is like Nationwide, but their headquarters is located in Batavia, Illinois, so we have them all over here in North Central Illinois. Since sometime in the late 80’s we have shopped at Aldi’s. And if we were at another store, we were starting in the aisle where everything was in plain yellow boxes and all it said was “spaghetti” in black lettering on the box, or “cola” or “Macaroni.” You know the ones. My mom was super thrifty, and she had to be. My dad got laid off from Caterpillar for 8 years straight, and he was forced to take whatever auto mechanic or other job he could find while we were growing up. We didn’t have mad cash. Not in the least.

So I have always been fine with generic. When I took lunch, I had a Twonkie for dessert or a crunchy chocolate chip cookie where the whole bag of cookies cost 78 cents. You know the ones. Or, maybe you don’t. Maybe you were the kid who I went to school with who always had coke or pepsi, and wonder bread, and lunchables… while I had “l’oven fresh” white bread and buddigs meat, or peanut butter and jelly. You had Heinz ketchup and I had “catsup.” And I loved the food I had. It was cool. But I tell you, kids can be MEAN and they all knew that my twinkie was a twonkie. OHHHH yes they did and they looked down their noses at my twonkie. Spoiled rotten little brats. I was on the special hot lunch program where I got reduced price meals. And you know what pissed me off about that? They had DIFFERENT COLOR LUNCH TICKETS for reduced price meals. SO all the kids knew. I walked through line with a green ticket while everyone else had pink. But I just figured that I was special because my lunches cost $2 for an entire week. I thought I was getting a “deal.” But WTF? Why color the tickets the same?

So I grew up never having miracle whip. Never. We had mayonnaise from Aldi. Because they don’t MAKE generic miracle whip. As a result, I despise the “tangy zip” of miracle whip. I HAVE to have mayonnaise, and I like to eat it on EVERYTHING and cook with it also. I will NOT put Miracle whip on my sandwich. I also grew up eating potato flakes instead of homemade mashed potatoes. As a result, my sister and I DISLIKE real mashed potatoes. We specifically request fake ones at holidays and we don’t eat them at other people’s houses because they are usually real.

But my mom was (and still is) an AWESOME cook. She can make anything taste great, and we never wanted for anything food wise when we were kids. We didn’t have junk food in our house. There were never potato chips, except the generic bags that went in my dad’s lunch. We didn’t have chocolate cereal. No Cocoa Puffs or Captain Crunch or Lucky Charms. We had generic chex and crispix and rice crispies. I never tasted real rice krispies until I was almost 12. No difference. Just a shitload more expensive. When my mom was in the hospital having my sister, I stayed at my cousin Mike’s house and my aunt Carol told me to pick out my cereal. They had a WHOLE CUPBOARD full of cereal. Like 5 kinds! They had CHOCOLATE RICE KRISPIES and COCOA PUFFS and Count Chocula. I said “can I have this?!” I was incredulous. She said sure, and do you want Chocolate milk on it too? I was like “um, no I’d better just have regular milk.” My cousin mike had cocoa puffs with chocolate milk. My milk turned chocolate just from the cocoa puffs alone. I was in AWE. We didn’t have pop in our house except on special occasions, and for dad’s lunches. If it was a Friday night and we were making cardboard pizza, we would ask permission to have one of dad’s pops with our pizza. Mom would count the pop that was left and count the days until dad’s next paycheck and then see if there was enough for his lunch till she could get groceries again. And if there were extras, we got a pop with our pizza. Sometimes we would have to split it because there would be one left.

So when I met Evan, I was so shocked at how he took for granted that there would always be pepsi and mountain dew in the fridge. A never-ending supply. And popsicles (the GOOD bullet pops, not the cheap Mr Freeze pops that we had) and ice cream in the freezer. And Doritos and Wonder bread. The stuff he had was AMAZING. It was like walking into a grocery store in their kitchen. They had lunchmeat and cheeses FROM the DELI! And macaroni salad and potato salad and bread that cost $3 a loaf. When we were in high school, he had a charge account at the “weenie wagon” for his lunch and he would buy and extra cheeseburger and a pop and feed me on days when I had no money to eat. We didn’t even date yet. And at school I was so broke for gas that I would ask friends for extra quarters and add up all the change I could gather so that I could put $1.00 of gas in my car to get home. One day I actually put 25 cents of gas in my car. That was when gas was 97 cents a gallon and I figured if that 25 cents got my two miles closer to home, it was a lot less that I would have to walk when I ran out. One day I ran out of gas twice in one day. I would just put my car in neutral, open the door, and push on the door jam till I got the car rolling downhill, then I would hop in the drivers seat and coast.

So we really came from completely different upbringings.

And I am not saying we were in poverty. I had shoes to wear. But they did come from Wal-Mart or were hand me downs or garage sale finds. I didn’t care too much. Until I got to Junior High and I had generic basketball shoes while everyone else had brand new nikes and reeboks. I had a pair of Nikes that someone had given me that had drywall mud and glass in the soles, and I spent Hours scraping it out so that I could wear them to volleyball practice and in games. Just so I could have nikes and not Spaulding shoes. How cruel kids are.

Even when I was in high school Jennifer Judd was the coolest chick because even though she was two years younger than me, she was a runner and she would just GIVE me all her old Adidas when her parents bought her new ones. She gave me three pair of Adidas my senior year. And I wore those shoes until I was 21.

So I am thrifty that’s for damn sure.

But you know what is interesting about brands and generics? There are these brand name things whose names become like a “staple.” For example, when you buy generic pop, do you call a cola a cola? Nope. You call it a Coke. Even though that’s just the brand name. Do you call every cotton swab a Q-Tip? I do. Most people do. Even though I never buy Qtips because they are WAY overpriced for sticking them in your ear and then straight into the garbage. I buy the generic ones, and I like them better because they fuzz doesn’t come off like a Q-Tip, and they come in purple to match my bathroom. That’s like, how many kids call any chicken nugget a “Mc Nugget?” Or how about Chapstick? I use Carmex and Blistex and I Still call it Chapstick, even though it isn’t. Or how about Kotex? How many maxi pads are known as Kotex, regardless of if they are actually stayfree or always? Isn’t that bizarre? What brand names can you think of that have just plain taken over? Band-Aid? Generic ones are often called “Steri-Strips” or “sterile bandages” – But I bet you call them Band-Aids don’t you?

Oh the things I think about at 2:52 am. Good god girl, go to SLEEP!


Anonymous said...

LOL..I just heard that story about you staying with us and the cereal but I can't remember from who, maybe my mom. I remember having 2 grocery bags full of boxes of cereal in the closet. I love thinking about stuff from my childhood, so cool! I am a big bargain shopper too. I hate spending more money on something if there is an item next to it way cheaper. And you were thinking of all of this stuff at 3:00're hilarious

landismom said...

Yeah, I grew up working-class in a town full of rich kids, and the 'brand' markers were definitely noticed. I hated wearing Toughskins more than anything. Great post, really took me back.

Mama! Mama! (Mel) said...

I'm kind of weird. I grew up with a single mom and a very tight "budget". But now I am a brand name junkie. As soon as I was buying my own groceries, I bought real Doritos instead of corn chips. And Pepsi instead of cola. I still do. It's like I do it because I can...and I am somehow convinced the brand name version is better...which is sometimes true, but not always. My pantry is stocked witht the brand names...when I drag my butt to the grocery store, that is.

dazed said...


I know what you mean. I did the same thing. It was like, I will never eat twonkies again. But there are still times (especially when I am on a tight budget) when I do our shopping at Aldi. But you just don't get baked lays or low fat mayonaisse at Aldi's. And I LOVE DELI LUNCHMEAT! Whoo!

So I know exactly what you mean.

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