College textbooks, courses and weekend festivities don't pay for themselves, so naturally you (and your parents) have been working hard to bring home the bacon. Hopefully you'll be getting a big tax return once you file Thursday. So why not bring home some actual bacon to celebrate? Nothing pleases like crispy pork --- except buying bacon while cutting some fat from your grocery budget.

Besides, numerous scholarly studies have shown that eating bacon leads to: higher test scores, more glowing skin, attracting the opposite sex..
We're glad you buy into those claims as wholeheartedly as we do. But is cheaper store brand bacon better than Oscar Mayer? For that matter, are store brands always cheaper than the main brand? In two cases, that's actually not the case.

Store Brand Scorecard ate Oscar Mayer bacon and three private labels -- one each from a big box store, grocery store and mini-market, respectively -- to see which hardwood or hickory wood-smoked bacon was the best value. Special thanks to Store Brand Scorecard reader Todd Rathbun for this suggestion.

Brand Name: Oscar Mayer
Cost: $2.78 at Walmart, $4.99 at a Chicago-area grocery store
Size: 16 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For two slices) 70 calories (50 from fat), 6 grams of fat (9% recommended daily value), 15 milligrams of cholesterol (5% recommended daily value), 290 milligrams of sodium (12% recommended daily value)
Taste: Crispy and crunchy, with just a hint of smokiness and the perfect amount of salt. This brand of bacon's going to be pretty tough to beat.

The Big Box Store: Walmart
Store Brand Name: Great Value
Cost: $2.98
Size: 16 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For two slices) 80 calories (60 from fat), 7 grams of fat (11% recommended daily value), 15 milligrams of cholesterol (5% recommended daily value), 320 milligrams of sodium (13% recommended daily value)
Taste: This fatty batch was a chore to chop through with a knife. No surprise, once cooked, that it was so chewy--too chewy. Too salty too.

The Grocery Store: Jewel-Osco (a Supervalu Inc. store. Supervalu, a Fortune 100 grocery retail company, also owns Albertsons, Acme, Shaw's and other grocery stores and pharmacies)
Store Brand Name: Jewel
Cost: $3.49
Size: 16 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For two slices) 70 calories (60 from fat), 6 grams of fat (9% recommended daily value), 10 milligrams of cholesterol (3% recommended daily value), 200 milligrams of sodium (8% recommended daily value)
Taste: Impressive that Jewel's bacon tastes so salty succulent even with nearly 100 milligrams of sodium less than Oscar Mayer. But it's still too leathery, though not as hard to swallow as Great Value.

The Mini-Market: Aldi
Store Brand Name: Premium Pride
Cost: $2.49
Size: 16 ounces
Nutritional Facts: (For two slices) 90 calories (60 from fat), 7 grams of fat (11% recommended daily value), 15 milligrams of cholesterol (5% recommended daily value), 270 milligrams of sodium (11% recommended daily value)
Taste: Equal in fattiness to Great Value, and almost as hard to chew, Premium Pride's also has the smokiest taste, but it's so overwhelming, the bacon taste barely resonates on the tongue.

Greatest Value: How can Great Value bacon be a great value when it costs two whole dimes more than Oscar Mayer bacon does at Walmart--not to mention that its too salty and gristly? Value score: 4.

Aldi's Premium Pride is the most affordable, but the smoky flavor, while ambitious, is too overpowering. What a waste of perfectly fine pork. Value score: 5.

Jewel bacon deserves points for having less sodium than its counterparts – and it tastes better than two of them too. But while in the flavor department it comes in second, it's a far second. It also costs more than Oscar Mayer bacon at Walmart (although a dollar less than it does at Jewel). Value score: 6.

That leaves Oscar Mayer, the actual brand product, the winner of this challenge. The taste is so good, the bacon so crisp, its worth the extra cost at Jewel, and definitely worth the savings you get buying it at Walmart. Value score: 9.

Piet Levy's Store Brand Scorecard tests a major-label food product and three private-label equivalents to see which brand offers the best value for the price. It appears Mondays starting April 19. Send suggestions to Piet at moneycollege@walletpop.com.


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