Being frugal isn’t an absolute, but is conditional. For instance, if you use a coupon to save 25 cents on a name brand item that costs 50 cents less every day in the store brand, is it really frugal to do that rather than simply buy the store brand?
On the face of it, I’d say no.
But what if the store brand of that particular item is just awful, as is sometimes the case, so what if nobody in the house will eat or use it? You save 50 cents, or 25 with the red herring coupon, then you throw the product away, or throw part of it away, or you suck it up and don’t throw it away, but nobody’s happy choking it down.
That’s no good.
I learned when I was still a kid, probably more like a teen, that there were things you Just Didn’t Buy. I witnessed my mother buy things we wouldn’t use, but boy it was cheap. It struck me as a horrible, wasteful thing, anti-thrifty.
The same applies to stocking up, buying in bulk, preserving, then not using all of it for whatever reason. Perhaps not getting it all eaten, frozen or preserved in time. Perhaps poor resource management, so the old food isn’t rotated so older is used sooner and newer is used later. Which also touches on the idea that being frugal can involve time and work, and time can mean opportunity cost, but that’s another post.
If you can buy the large container that’s three times the size of the small container but only twice the cost, but it spoils in the time it takes you to use a third of it, you’ve used a small container worth at twice the cost. That’s not frugal. And that may not be obvious at first, and may be something you have to learn.
Same thing with brand preferences. You can’t know that a store brand is worth it, or not, or which brand is better for the price, or which brand you’re willing to settle on for the sheer savings, without having tried them.
There are things I have strong brand preferences for, like Heinz ketchup. Sure, I can eat other brands, but for me it’s the difference between eating ketchup and eating… something that isn’t really ketchup. This doesn’t always apply to name brands. I prefer Hannaford’s private label refried beans, but none of the brands are horrible, at least until you get into the variants that try to eliminate the fat content. That becomes a calculus of preference, cost, and convenience. The convenience factor is, again, another post.
I’ve sometimes fallen into the wholesale club trap. That is, it’s a good price… in a specific brand and a large size. I’ve thrown out a lot of warehouse club food that didn’t get used before it spoiled or became boring. I’ve seen it be less per unit, if you were actually paying attention, for a smaller quantity elsewhere of another or maybe even the same brand. Before I became too broke for a club membership and that kind of bulk shopping, I became very careful what I bought there versus Walmart versus a supermarket. And there’s another other post… discussion of what venues I am dealing with as I write, for comparison with yours and the fact that your mileage may vary.