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Overview
May 2009 Ratings
How we cut our bill in half
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13 ways to save
Great everyday products
Also in This Issue
This article was featured in the May 2009 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

Great everyday products

Last reviewed: May 2009

This article is the archived version of a report that appeared in May 2009 Consumer Reports Magazine.

Any of these products is worth a spot in your shopping cart. In recent tests, all proved excellent or very good, and they're still available in their tested formulations. But be aware that their labels and packaging might have changed since our original reports appeared. Prices are average retail. Other sizes might be available.

Kids' breakfast cereal

Cheerios
  • General Mills Cheerios, $2.80, 14 oz.
  • General Mills Kix, $3.44, 12 oz.
  • Quaker Oats Life, $2.76, 15 oz.
  • General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios,
    $2.77, 12.25 oz.

When we compared the nutrition of some of America's best-known kids' cereals, these proved great alternatives to the super-sweet stuff on many shelves. They're relatively low in sugars, a good source of calcium, and high in iron, and they have some fiber.

 

Creamy peanut butter

Smucker's Natural
Peanut Butter
  • Smucker's Natural, $2.93, 16 oz.
  • Smucker's Organic, $4.64, 16 oz.

With big dark-roasted peanut flavor and crunchy nut bits, these spreads rated higher than many big names. They were not affected by the major peanut recall. Note: The Natural variety isn't available west of Denver.

 

Glass cleaners

Windex No Drip Foaming Action
  • Windex No Drip Foaming Action, $4, 32 oz.
  • Sprayway Ammonia Free, $2, 19 oz.
  • Windex Crystal Rain Ammonia Free, $4, 32 oz.
  • Glass Plus, $3, 32 oz.
  • Streak Free With Ammonia (Walmart),
    $0.97, 32 oz.

For very dirty glass, try Windex No Drip, which was excellent at fighting outdoor and indoor grime. (Our indoor-grime tests include greasy finger marks.) The others were a notch less successful on indoor grime though still quite good. Streak Free is by far the cheapest.

 

Oatmeal

Quaker Steel Cut Oats
  • Quaker Steel Cut (25 minutes), $4.37, 24 oz.
  • Quaker Old Fashioned (5 minutes), $2.51, 18 oz.
  • Quick Quaker (1 minute), $2.46, 18 oz.

With oatmeal, good things come to those who wait. The more cooking time required, we found, the more oaty the flavor and less mushy the texture. None of the tested instants or flavored versions measured up to these plain ones.

 

Frozen pies

Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple Crumb Frozen Pie
  • Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple Crumb, $6.84, 46 oz.
  • Marie Callender's Key Lime, $7.42, 36 oz.
  • Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple, $5.01, 37 oz.

They might not make you forget Grandma's recipe, but Marie Callender's and Mrs. Smith's apple pies were somewhat homemade tasting, with firm apples and cinnamon flavor. Marie Callender's Key Lime pie also stood out for its creamy filling, crunchy crust, real lime, and hint of dairy flavors.

 

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs

N:Vision Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs
  • Feit Ecobulb Plus ESL13T/Eco, $9, 4-pack
  • GE 8,000 Long Life 41525, $8, 2-pack
  • N:Vision 423-599 (Home Depot), $7, 4-pack

Our test have shown that most compact fluorescents should significantly outlast equivalent incandescents and pay for themselves in energy savings.

 

Healthful burgers

MorningStar Farms Garden Veggie Patties
  • MorningStar Farms Garden, $4.29, 9.5 oz.
  • Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods California,
    $4.31, 11 oz.
  • Boca All American Flame Grilled Meatless,
    $3.83, 10 oz.
  • Gardenburger Portabella, $3.91, 10 oz.
  • Veggie Patch Garlic Portabella, $3.99, 10 oz.
  • MorningStar Farms Grillers Original, $4.32, 9 oz.
  • Amy's All American The Classic, $4.46, 10 oz.
  • Gardenburger The Original, $3.86, 10 oz.
  • Amy's California Garden Vegetables,
    $4.55, 10 oz.
  • Boca Original Vegan Meatless, $3.74, 10 oz.

They're lower in calories and fat than a hamburger, and these were quite tasty. Some of the patties mimic meat; others are grainlike.

 

Tub/tile cleaners

Comet Scratch Free Disinfectant With Bleach
  • Comet Scratch Free Disinfectant With Bleach, $1.25, 21 oz.
  • Ajax With Bleach Scratch Free, $1.20, 21 oz.
  • Kaboom Shower Tub & Tile, $4, 22 oz.
  • Green Works Natural Bathroom Cleaner,
    $3.50, 24 oz.

Comet and Ajax excelled at removing mildew and left no streaks. Kaboom stopped mildew and soap scum from forming when used daily. Green Works was the best of the cleaners labeled as "natural."

 

Laundry detergents

Tide 2X Ultra Concentrated With a Touch of Downy
  • Tide 2X Ultra Concentrated With a Touch of Downy, $13, 100 oz.
  • Tide 2X Ultra Concentrated With Bleach Alternative With Color Clean HE, $13, 100 oz.
  • Cheer 2X Ultra Concentrated Color Guard HE,
    $11, 100 oz.

The term "2X" means that the detergent has been halved in volume yet does the same number of loads per package. These liquids did best at removing various stains and preventing soils from redepositing themselves on clean laundry. The HE detergents are designed for use in front-loaders.

 

Coffee drinks

Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso & Cream
  • Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso & Cream,
    $2.01, 6.5 oz.
  • Starbucks Frappuccino Mocha, $1.72, 9.5 oz.
  • Bolthouse Farms Perfectly Protein Mocha Cappuccino With Whey Protein, $1.36, 8 oz.
  • Caribou Coffee Iced Coffee Plus Espresso,
    $1.94, 12 oz.

Starbucks Doubleshot got excellent marks for its balanced, strong-brewed coffee and rich dairy flavors. The others were almost as good. Bolthouse had the least caffeine.

 

Coffee

Eight O'Clock 100% Colombian Coffee
  • Eight O'Clock 100% Colombian, $4.71, 12 oz.
  • Caribou Coffee Colombia Timana, $8.82, 12 oz.
  • Kickapoo Coffee Organic Colombia,
    $10.75, 12 oz.

The inexpensive Eight O'Clock was top-rated and had a complex blend of earthy and fruity flavors. Caribou, sold at some grocery chains and at www.cariboucoffee.com, is fruity and balanced. Kickapoo, also available at some stores and at www.kickapoocoffee.com, is just slightly fruity and floral. And its Fair Trade Certified growers are committed to sustainable production and fair prices to small farmers.