Groceries, Banking & Internet: How to pay less and still get what you need

We want to help you make ends meet

Everything costs more these days, and making ends meet keeps getting harder and harder. So to help you save money on the things you need, we teamed up with the experts at Consumer Reports to help pay less but still get the things you need.


One way to save money is to buy store brands while shopping for groceries. We know, you may be a bit wary to try them when you’re used to your name-brand favorites.

“Store brands are almost always cheaper — sometimes as much as 70% cheaper than name brand products!” said Consumer Reports Nutritionist Amy Keating.

So you’re not disappointed, Consumer Reports’ expert taste testers went to work to find the store brands that you’ll actually enjoy eating while saving money, too. They sampled several pantry staples in blind taste tests, comparing name brands with popular store brands.

If you enjoy Honey Nut Cheerios, Consumer Reports taste testers liked Honey Nut Os from Walmart’s Great Value brand. You’ll save 67% per serving. For maple syrup, you need to look at prices.

“We found that all of the syrups we tasted were delicious, but some were actually more expensive than the name-brand syrup by Butternut Mountain Farm,” said Keating.

Taste testers found the store-brand organic maple syrup at Costco was good and will save you 25%.

For peanut butter lovers, Consumer Reports found brands from Aldi or Walmart will taste like sweet, sweet savings — about 50% less than Skippy. But Consumer Reports’ tasters said that if you’re a Skippy fan, skip the store-brand peanut butter from Target and Dollar General because both have a less roasted peanut flavor.

And speaking of nuts, testers said the Costco Extra Fancy Salted Mixed Nuts were fresh-tasting and had a good variety. They’ll save you a lot of money over Planters, a name brand.

And while Heinz Tomato Ketchup is a go-to for kids and kids-at-heart. tasters found that ketchup by Aldi and Target were very good, and you’ll save about 70% per serving! And both had 20mg less sodium per serving than Heinz!

Based on prices paid, Consumer Reports says you can save the most by shopping for store brands at Costco, Aldi, Walmart and Target.


High fees. Practically no interest on your savings. Poor customer service. Do any of these sound like your bank?

If so, Consumer Reports says, it might be time to break up with your bank.

You might not think about shopping around to get the most bang for your buck from your bank, but it could be worth your time. And there are more options than ever — from the traditional walk-in branches to credit unions to online-only banks, which have no branches at all.

“Each type of bank has its own positives and negatives. So, it’s important to figure out what’s most important to you when you’re looking for a bank. You might even find that it makes sense to bank at more than one place at a time,” explained Consumer Reports Editor Scott Medintz.

If in-person customer service is important to you, a walk-in bank is your best bet. But even then, it pays to shop around.

“I would recommend that you pay a visit to any bank that you’re considering becoming a part of, to make sure it has everything you need, that the hours make sense for your life and the staffing is really up to snuff,” Medintz said.

Looking for the best savings rates? Get online and shop around. Sites like Bankrate and NerdWallet can help. With a quick search CR found nearly a dozen banks paying interest of 3% or better.

And before you jump at that promotion for a free checking account or high-interest savings account, be sure to read the fine print.

“A supposedly ‘free’ checking account isn’t really a bargain if it hits you with huge fees when you overdraft by a few dollars or something like that,” Medintz warned.

Changing banks requires some planning: Be sure to open the new account before closing your existing one. If you use direct deposit, change it to the new account, as well as any automatic bill payments. The final step is to transfer any remaining money, but Consumer Reports recommends keeping your old account open until all checks and payments have cleared to keep from getting hit with any fees.

Internet Service

How much are you paying for your internet? If you grabbed your bill but are confused and still can’t find the answer, you’re not alone.

“Knowing how much you pay for it is important so that you can budget on a month-to-month basis of having this essential service,” said Consumer Reports Senior Counsel Jonathan Schwantes.

Consumer Reports spent more than eight months analyzing more than 22,000 internet bills submitted by people from all across the country. Amid lines of charges and fees, determining the true price of internet proved to be challenging.

“A lot of consumers bundle it with their tv or their phone service. And some providers have a separate line item for internet service, but others do not. They have just one price for bundled service and you can’t really tell on that sort of bill what part of that bundle is paying for your broadband service,” said Schwantes.

The NCTA-Internet & Television Association, a trade group, disagreed with Consumer Reports’ findings, saying: “Cable providers continue to provide consumers with transparent billing information on their websites and promotional materials.”

Consumer Reports also found that prices for internet service varied widely.

“We found people paying for subpar broadband service, like 5 to 10 megabits per second download speeds, were paying on average the same as people getting 100, 300 megabits per second,” said Schwantes.

How can you make sure you’re getting the best possible deal?

  • First, make sure you’re getting the speed you’re paying for. You can use internet speed tests at Speedtest by Ookla or MLabs.
  • Second, call your provider to find out what you’re actually paying each month, then start to negotiate. CR members consistently find lower prices by haggling.
  • Third, buy a top-rated router to avoid recurring monthly rental fees.

Consumer Reports says you might also be able to save by enrolling in paperless billing and monthly auto-pay programs.