In today's tough economy, consumers are pinching pennies by choosing generic over big name brands in their supermarket aisles. From chips and dips to pain relievers and peanut butter, there's a cheaper generic version of almost every product.

IN PICTURES: 10 Ways To Cut Your Food Costs

Of course, some of these no-name products are second-rate. For example, if you've ever bought generic diapers, you probably ended up dealing with a messy leak the size of Old Faithful. Generic diapers can certainly save you a bundle, and some even offer the same absorbency as the big name brands - but in my experience, they simply don't fit your baby's bottom as well. And all parents know that an ill-fitting diaper is a recipe for disaster.

Another product you probably don't want to skimp on? Toilet paper. Most generic paper products are less absorbent, so you can end up using more. But unlike diapers and toilet paper (not to mention cheese, ketchup and soy sauce, if you want my opinion), there are a few generic products that take the cake. Here are five generics that are just as good as the real thing.

  1. Cereal
    Okay, so the generic brand cereal may have a sillier name (Krispy Krunchies) and a lesser known character on the box (Leon the Lion). Still, many consumers find that generic cereals taste just as good as their brand name counterparts. A 14-ounce box of brand name corn flakes will run you about $2.99, while generic corn flakes generally cost a mere 99 cents! Now, that's some serious savings.

    If you're still in doubt, conduct a cross check of the brand name and generic cereal ingredients. You'll probably discover the ingredients are exactly the same. In other words, you're paying an extra two bucks for a picture of a corporate mascot.

  2. Prescription Drugs
    While you may be willing to give up your brand name corn flakes for their generic replica, would you ever consider buying generic prescription drugs? If you want to save huge amounts of money you would. Prescription generics typically cost between 20-80% less than their brand name counterparts. In 2008, the average retail price of a brand name prescription was $137.90 as compared to the average generic prescription price of $35.22. Just think of all the generic cereal you could buy with that extra hundred bucks!
    Many consumers worry that the generic prescriptions aren't as safe as the original drugs. However, pharmaceutical companies are required to use the same active ingredients in generic drugs as the brand name version, and generic prescriptions must meet the same quality and safety standards.

  3. Over-the-Counter Meds
    Just like prescription drugs, you can save some serious coin on over-the-counter meds, too. While you may be tempted to reach for the trusty Tylenol, Nyquil or Zantac, there are usually much cheaper versions of these popular over-the-counter meds on your pharmacy's shelves. The generic versions of these OTC meds contain the same active ingredients, and like their brand-name equivalents, these products must be approved by the FDA. Depending on the item, you could save tons of cash on generic meds. (For more, check out Measuring The Medicine Makers.)

  4. Basic Baking Products
    When you're ready to stock up the pantry with some baking basics, reach for the generic version. From all-purpose flour and butter to spices, salt and sugar, these generic baking staples are pretty much the same as the real thing with a much smaller price tag. The companies that produce these generic single-ingredient items are required to follow the same production and storage regulations as the brand name folks.

  5. Fresh Fruits and Veggies
    You may have the Chiquita banana song stuck in your head, but don't let that catchy melody entice you to overpay in the produce section. Fruits and vegetables from lesser-known growers are just as good - sometimes even better, especially if the produce was grown locally.
    When you hand-pick your fruits and vegetables, don't just go for the label you recognize. Your stomach (and your bank account) will be happier if you go for the label-free produce that looks fresh and smells scrumptious.

Go Generic and Save Thousands
Still hesitant to go generic? Chew on this: Research suggests the average consumer can save anywhere from $200-$1,500 per year by purchasing generic products. While you may not want to subject your family to store brand cheddar or no-name beer, there are plenty generic products out there that are just as good as the real thing. (For more, see How Do Name-Brand Products Compete With Their Generic Competitors.)

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: The Unrelenting Claw Of Bernie Madoff.

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