Kids all over Metro Detroit seem to love their mac and cheese. Claire South from the Mom's Club of Royal Oak admits her 5-year-old son can't get enough, "Tyler would eat macaroni and cheese for lunch and dinner if he could," she said.
So, we wondered, can you get great taste for less money? Local 4 Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer conducted an non-scientific taste test that put the big name brand (Kraft) against store versions from Kroger, Meijer, and Aldi.
A professional chef whipped up four different types of macaroni and cheese following the box instructions to the letter. Each brand was labeled A, B, C, or D and served to our mothers and children.
The mothers were surprised when they found out which brand was in each bowl. The testers said they preferred brands A and B, which were the store brands from Kroger and Meijer.
Brand A was the Kroger brand, costing 72 cents per box, and Brand B was the Meijer Store brand, costing 87 cents per box.
Brand C was Kraft Macaroni and Cheese which sold for $1.15 at the five stores we checked. They liked Kraft, but thought it seemed saltier.
Brand D was the Aldi brand, and cost only 39 cents per box. None of the taste testers chose the Aldi brand.
"Tyler didn't like D at all. He took a bite and then wouldn't eat anymore, and he loves macaroni and cheese," said South.
"I just didn't like the taste and it didn't get smooth. it wasn't appealing to look at," said another taste tester and mom Amber Logusz.
Generic or not?:
"I can say that I've never bought, like a store brand of macaroni and cheese before," said South.
Based on this test, our mothers said they would be more inclined to buy and try the generic brands of macaroni and cheese. With the Kroger brand being one of the most popular, your family could save 43 cents a box on macaroni and cheese. For families that buy just one box per week (and some families buy more), you could save at least $22 a year.
Local 4 Consumer Expert Ruth Spencer asked the mothers if they were surprised.
Amber Logusz said, "Um, yes I am. My husband is right. The price doesn't matter and a lot of times you can get generic just as well."
Shells and cheese:
For families who like some shells with their cheese, we noticed a pretty big price difference between the generic and brand names. So, we put two more boxes, brands E and F, to the test. We were in for another surprise. This time, the Aldi brand won, beating the Velveeta Shells and Cheese from Kraft. Selling for a just $1.39, the Aldi brand was the all-around favorite. Kraft Velveeta Shells and Cheese, with an average price of $2.53 did not please our taste testers.
"It tasted too cheesy and too thick. It didn't taste like real cheese," said Logusz.
Our mothers were surprised that the results were the exact opposite this time around. Aldi was the hands-down favorite for the shells and cheese.
One final note, we found even more important than taste for children is the marketing with cartoon characters that catches their eyes. When Ruth asked, "In the future, do you think you might switch to Meijer or Kroger brand?" Mom Amber Logusz replied, "If they'd put a cartoon character on it- it would help."
So, if you're family can overcome the fascination with cartoon characters, you might be able to buy the generic brands, without sacrificing taste.