HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


What's the worst generic food ever?

In the eighties, my sister and I had a box pizza called Momma Bosso's from Aldi (a discount food chain), and it was horrible. Crust didn't set; the sauce tasted like ketchup. It was sort of a soupy mess. That and that old black and white beer that came in cans that just said "Beer" was off the hook crapola.

So what's the worst tasting generic food you've ever had?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Cheese. Nothing worse then crappy cheese.

    1. Just this past Christmas I threw out 2 batches of cookies because I thought I'd save with Shoprite butter that wasn't expired. Never again, now I feel obligated to buy the more expensive brands like Keller.

      6 Replies
      1. re: lilgi

        i made an opposite sort of mistake recently!

        I was baking cookies for my office, and not being a great baker, I figured I would buy the best possible quality ingredients.
        I bought sweet cream butter fom Italy. The packaging and description sold me! The $10 price tag did not deter me...
        When i got home and sneaked a little taste - I was horrified to discover that the natural taste of this stuff was actually quite "cheesy"...almost like stinky feet cheesy!
        Luckily I had gotten some Hotel Bar butter - just in case!!

        1. re: NellyNel

          I bought Plugra for the first time and it was $5/lb, but I didn't care for it either. Breakstone, Hotel bar, are all good and I've also baked well with other store brands like Richfood, no problem there. The experience with Shoprite butter altered my xmas baking karma this year, it really grossed me out!

          1. re: NellyNel

            Interesting. I've never had _any_ issues with ShopRite butter. I've used it in cooking, in baking, and spreading. And when it goes on sale for less than $2/lb I make a supply of ghee.

            I've never experienced any off tastes with it (and for spreading, I don't even refrigerate it).

          2. re: lilgi

            Crappy butter is the WORST! It's hard to find good, clean-tasting butter even among the major brands--I no longer even go near generic. You have the potential to ruin so many dishes with bad butter. It's just not worth the savings.

            1. re: Isolda

              I imagine, it would have been good in a savory dish....
              but not for Christmas cookies!
              (Although I did sneak a little of it into one of the cookies. (I made 5 varieties) I think I used it for the ginger ones figuring they are robust, and spicy, and the strong cheesy taste wouldnt come through! )

              1. re: Isolda

                Ahhh Isolda, thought I was going nuts, I'm so glad you said that.

                That's why now I'm obligated to spend more; wasting dishes is the worst! so much time and effort, not to mention it ends up costing more.

            2. don't know about "ever," but sulbin is right... processed cheese that is primarily oil is not fit to be called cheese. also, ketchup (Heinz please), beer (the kind that says "Beer" on the can), diet soda... sure there's more, but i'll leave them to the others.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Emme

                I had forgotten the horrors of generic ketchup.

                1. re: Emme

                  If CVS is still selling diet cola made by Cott's, it's actually quite good, in a Diet-Rite kind of way.

                  1. re: buttertart

                    i should partially rescind my diet soda comment. years ago, in college, the walmart near me sold diet pink grapefruit soda. highlighter pink. surely chocked full of chemicals. twas bliss.

                  2. re: Emme

                    Generic ketchup (and mayo) repulses me. too.

                  3. i can't remember the last time i bought a generic food product, so i'll go back to my childhood & college years to answer this one:
                    - cream cheese
                    - sugary breakfast cereals
                    - diet soda

                    1. Is generic the same as store brands?

                      If it is, then I buy a lot of generics and think they are often of equal or better quality than some branded food/products. Back in the 80's they had generics that were white background and blue writing. They were not very good at all.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Sal Vanilla

                        good call Sal, i think we should clarify here. technically any private-label or "store brand" is a generic brand...but when i hear "generic" i don't immediately think Kirkland or the 365 label from Whole Paycheck...instead, it brings to mind the things the OP mentioned like beer that's simply labeled "beer" or soda that just says "cola" on the bottle.

                        so if we are including the better private labels, then i do buy generics - specifically Kirkland (i don't shop at Whole Paycheck anymore so no 365 for me). but as you pointed out, store brands have really improved over the past 20 years or so...which is probably why i had to go back that far to think of bad ones! :)

                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                          Same here. I find the store brands are actually quite often _better_ than the name brands...and the pices are usually (though not always) significantly better.

                        2. LOL my family calls these "mongrel" brands. No longer to be confused with store brands, which can be very good (Costco, Harris-Teeter, and Wegmans to name three that have good store-brand products).

                          Words in the brand like "Valu" are a tip-off to mongrel brand status.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: Bob W

                            Ain't it the truth, Bob W? Albert Brooks had a hysterical bit about that in the movie he did with Debbie Reynolds about 15 years ago: his mom stocked the freezer with (well, she froze everything, including leftover salad) brands like "Frosti-Kreem" ice cream and it drove him nuts.
                            Beer=definitely the worst offender.

                            1. re: mamachef

                              LOL I remember that scene quite well!

                              From imdb.com:

                              John Henderson: [upon eating very old orange sherbet] Blaaah! Oh God, this is horribly old! This tastes like an orange foot!

                              1. re: Bob W

                                ice cream that had the "protective ice coating". Loved that movie!

                                1. re: mamachef

                                  best movie ever.
                                  "i like my cheese in the ounces. when it weighs as much as a fiat, i get scared."

                                  he did also say that salt is salt. unfortunately, or fortunately, i don't feel that way anymore.

                                  1. re: mamachef

                                    I always want to watch 'Mother' on Mother's Day, (hey I love mine but that doesn't mean I don't get to laugh at her food foibles) but sadly there's also a bittersweet Japanese movie of the same name they show instead.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      Is there a "mom's food foibles" thread? Hmmmm......lotta subconscious (some, not so much) fodder there.....

                                      1. re: mamachef

                                        oh yes there are more than several - the names escape me at the moment.

                                        wait, here are a couple, but there are more.

                                2. I bought a jar of generic spaghetti sauce once, thinking "how bad can it be?" Bad. Very, very bad. Sort of like tomato-flavored wallpaper paste.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: small h

                                    We eat a ton of mandarin oranges at our house, so a couple of years back when I was at one of those wholesale liquidator stores I saw a pile of mongrel brand mandarin orange cans. Like you, I thought, "how bad could they be?" They tasted fine but the segments were all busted up. There was barely an intact segment out of all the cans we bought. Just juice and orange shreds.

                                  2. This is too funny, I don't remember seeing any of this kind of food! I'm trying to think....

                                    1. Instant mashed potatoes. Fake Miracle Whip. Can't think when I've had either, but poor quality instant mashed potatoes are far, far worse than even better quality instant mashed potatoes, which are bad enough.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                        Fake Miracle Whip?????
                                        That stuff is fake to begin with. :-)

                                        1. re: The Professor

                                          Yeah, I don't know what I was referring to, unless I had had some off brand salad dressing. I've used Hellmann's for years.

                                      2. I've got to come up with something better than White Rose ice cream sandwiches, lol!

                                        1. Back in the 70's when I was in high school, one of my friends painted their Ford Maverick white with a black line down the side and stenciled in "CAR" on the rear quarter panels.

                                          1. I have always liked store brands in a certain way!

                                            I really can't remember one that horrified me, and I have loved a few!
                                            Shoprite mac & cheese, and Pathmark cola are 2 of my favs...
                                            i suppose thats a different thread though

                                            1. Once I bought a giant bag of Stop and Shop "cheerios". My son was 4 and consuming Cheerios by the ton it seemed. They were disgusting. even the guinea pigs, whose favorite food was cardboard, mind you, turned their little noses up at them.

                                              2 Replies
                                                1. re: magiesmom

                                                  The store-brand cereals -- at least at Harris-Teeter -- seem a lot better these days, and they are half the price, so we buy them a lot. They aren't exactly like the name brand stuff but they taste good enough.

                                                  Of course, my daughter is now old enough to correct me when I say, "Do you want some Rice Krispies?" She says, "You mean Crispy Rice." "Uh yeah, same thing." "No, not exactly." LOL

                                                2. Ahhh, just remembered an episode of "Everybody Hates Chris" and how Julius LOVES the generic stuff; this one was Halloween :)


                                                  1. Odd, No one has mentioned cheap coffee. My father has one tastebud. He will buy anything based on price. He buys london broil buy the cart load then freezes it. In the two or three years to eat all that, It's still good to him! So one year he gives me a gallon size tub of ???? brand coffee. No amount of milk, heavy cream, honey, sugar, cinnamon, and ... could fix the burnt and bitter, or just poorly roasted fourth rate bean, flavor.

                                                    1. I have had just about every bad generic that one can think of thanks to my husband having gone on a really bad tangent by replacing all of mine and my kids' favorite foods with generics:

                                                      Kraft Mac N' Cheese= Hyvee Generic and or Cheese Club
                                                      Kraft American Singles= Happy Farms Generic
                                                      Kraft Shredded Cheese for things like tacos and pizza or others= Hyvee Generic
                                                      Philadelphia Cream Cheese= Happy Farms Generic
                                                      Bisquick Baking Mix= Baker's Choice Genric
                                                      Gold Medal Flour= Baker's Choice Generic
                                                      Stove Top Stuffing= Chef's Cupboard Generic
                                                      Lipton Onion Soup= Chef's Cupboard Generic
                                                      Any and all cereals= Millville Generic- Hyvee Generic- Great Value Generic and other Generics
                                                      Cream of soups= Hyvee Generic
                                                      Campbell's and Chef Boyardi Products= Bon Italia Generic
                                                      Spaghetti Sauces and other sauces= Regano Generic
                                                      Lunchmeats for sandwiches and school lunches= Friendly Farms Generic- Walden Farm Generic- Lunchmate Generic
                                                      Wyler's Bullion Cubes= Chef's Cupboard Generic
                                                      Snack Items like Chips- Party Mixes and others= Clancy's Generic
                                                      The Eggo Waffles that Nay Nay loves have been replaced with Breakfast Best Generic
                                                      Any and all types of Tuna: Northern Catch Generic
                                                      Pies- Desserts- Breads- Buns and a few other things: L'Oven Fresh Generic
                                                      Dessert Toppings like Cool Whip: Friendly Farms Generic
                                                      Yogurt: Friendly Farms or Happy Farms Generic

                                                      And a good majority of these yucky little generics can be found at the "Crown Jewel Seller Of Generics"- Aldi.

                                                      The rest are HY-Vee- Walmart- Dahl's- Fareway and other stores.

                                                      I can't stand any of them- I'm tired of them and I would love to just throw them all away or donate them to local church food pantries. AAAACK!

                                                      1. Generic cheap american cheese slices, the worst . I remember my mom bringing some home from aldis ewww. I tried to make a grilled cheese and the cheese tasted awful and didn't really melt. It was 1989 I was 16 and I still remember that nasty oily flavor. I would have eaten almost anything at that time, as I had spent all evening "studying" with friends but I could not eat that generic grilled cheese.

                                                        1. not food, but for food storage nothing sucks more than generic aluminum foil - the least bit of acidity in the food and a layer will leach off into the food - just kiss that sheet of lasagna goodbye.

                                                          1. I bought a few cans of canellini beans not long ago. Store brand, or generic or whatever it is. Anyhoo, imagine MY suprise when I opened all three cans to make a quick cassoulet and I'll be damned if each can didn't contain full liquid and like seriously, 3 beans. And I was so mad that I didn't taste them so I can't say if they were actually bad food but it was certainly a bad moment and a bad batch/buy.
                                                            Yes, I got my money back. The store manager said that if I'd gone to the trouble of decanting the bean liquid into a jar to bring it in as proof, it was certainly the least he could do.

                                                            1. Target's "Archer Farms" stuff is pretty awful, especially any of the shelf stable pasta kits that come with some sort of envelope of sauce mix.

                                                              In general though I think store brand/generic stuff has gotten a lot better in terms of quality from what I remember as a kid. I'm a big fan of Save-A-Lot's store brand canned tomatoes and sauces. Same goes for Trader Joe's sauces, condiments, frozen goods, and spices. Whole Food's 365 brand stuff is also good quality. Even World Market has a great selection of their own store brand spices, which are cheaper than McCormick, and very fresh.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Atomic76

                                                                Miracle Whip!
                                                                When I know I'm getting close to the shelf at the store that it's sitting on I keep walking and avert my eyes until I know I'm well passed it.