Store brands are more popular than ever.

Sales are up everywhere. Surveys taken by grocery chains show 50% of products purchased by consumers are store brands. It should be no surprise most shoppers will save more than 25% on their grocery shopping.

OK, so here is the big question? Are store brands the same as named brands? I would ask my wife, but she only complains I go to the store too much and where are the receipts. I try to hide them, so she doesn’t know how often I go shopping!

Look, it’s part of my job to keep up with food trends and how it effects our shopping habits. Plus, I just love wandering around food markets and watching what people buy and what’s new on the shelves.

One of the things I have noticed is the store brands are selling out faster and in short supply sometimes. But are they a bargain, healthy and tasty? All store brands must go through the same processing and manufacturing as name brands. In fact, many of the store brands are the same as the name brands just in different packaging.

It is a closely guarded secret who makes the store brand foods, but you can go on the internet and often find who makes some of the products, but the real test is with the consumer. If you try something and don’t like it, you will probably never buy it again no matter how reasonable it is.

That is exactly my suggestion to you. Try it first, you may be pleasantly surprised. I know some certain store brand salad dressings are outstanding.

Each year I do a cooking demo for a group called W.I.S.E. (Wisdom In Senior Education), which is sponsored by our foundation at Daytona State College. The group meets monthly and the foundation presents different educational programs. I am fortunate to be invited every year. They are a great group to entertain, and we always have fun. You should consider joining.

Last year, I put together a blind tasting of store brands and name brands for participants. Here are the results you might find interesting. Participants were asked which product they preferred of the items being tasted.

I started with bottled water. The least expensive spring water was chosen over several name brands. Canned peaches -- the store brand was chosen. Sugar -- the store brand was chosen. Salad dressing (ranch) -- the store brand was chosen.

Another test we conducted that you might find interesting was the tasting of different ketchup. Hunts Natural was chosen over store brands and even Heinz.

Try some different brands and you might be pleasantly surprised. Now let’s whip something up to eat.

Sautéed Chicken with String Beans and Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ pounds chicken tenders or breast sliced ¼ inch strips

1 medium red onion chopped (I like red you can use any onion you like)

1/2 cup chicken stock

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon basil leaves (you can use fresh or dried)

½ teaspoon ground pepper

½ teaspoon oregano leaves dried

½ teaspoon salt (to taste)

*Option 1 package frozen string bean (16 ounces) or 1can string beans (131/2 ounces)

Directions

Frozen string beans must cook first until tender; microwave about 6 minutes. Add oil to large pan and cook chicken strips over medium heat about 10 minutes until lightly brown. Lower heat and add onions. Cook until onions are soft about 4-5 minutes. Stir in string beans, tomatoes, stock, and seasonings. Cover and cook over low heat 2-3 minutes.

Costa Magoulas is dean of the Mori Hosseini College of Hospitality and Culinary Management at Daytona State College. Contact him at (386) 506-3578 or costa.magoulas@daytonastate.edu.

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