Our survey results show eight standouts among 62 national and regional chains
If you’re looking for the lowest grocery store prices, here are eight national and regional chains where you’ll find them. According to our latest Consumer Reports supermarket report these retailers, ranging from vast warehouse clubs to an upstart from Europe, all had the most competitive prices, based on a survey of more than 50,000 Consumer Reports subscribers recently completed by Consumer Reports National Research Center (full ratings available by subscription). Here’s the lineup, in alphabetical order:
Eight Standouts for Grocery Store Prices
• Aldi. This fast-growing, no-frills import from Germany operates stores about a third of the size of a typical American grocer, in the eastern half of the U.S. and southern California. It sells a limited selection, mainly of private-label goods. One reader on the CR Facebook page mentioned buying milk there at just $1.25 per gallon and eggs for 50 cents per dozen. Interesting to note that the holding company that owns Aldi has a sister company that owns Trader Joe’s.
• Costco. Who could pass up a $4.99, 3-pound rotisserie chicken at this venerable warehouse club, cheaper in some cases than a raw bird of the same size? Our survey respondents also gave the national retailer top marks for fresh, store-prepared foods.
• Fareway Stores. This family-owned chain operates in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Nebraska, and recently, South Dakota. This week, to celebrate the grocery store’s 79th anniversary, it has marked down prices so that they end with .79. Deals include a pound of strawberries for 79 cents.
• Market Basket (Northeast). Residents of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire know this family-owned chain for its low prices and absence of self-checkout lanes. On an unofficial Facebook page dedicated to the store, a recent visitor noted: “Ground turkey $3.99. At my local super market it’s $6.99. Large packet of quinoa $6.99 as opposed to $9.99 for a package half the size. Amazing.” Our subscribers placed Market Basket among the top-rated chains overall, along with East Coast retailer Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and Publix, a Southern regional chain.
• Military Commissary. The federal government ensures that these vast stores, open only to those carrying authorized Department of Defense I.D. cards, offer competitive prices for the astounding 38,000 items they sell. In January, the Defense Commissary Agency changed the traditional pricing strategy—wholesale cost plus 5 percent—to a variable system that takes into account prices charged by surrounding retailers (mainly Walmart Supercenters). Under the new system, projected average savings over local food retailers vary by region, from 17.6 percent in mountain states to 44.2 percent overseas.
• Trader Joe’s. The national chain, known for its funky vibe and unique store-brand products, not only pleased our readers with its competitive prices, but excelled in store cleanliness, staff courtesy, store-brand quality, and selection of healthy options. Trader Joe’s is among the top-rated chains overall, according to our survey.
• WinCo. With 114 stores in the West, Winco sells many items in bulk, and further trims costs by requiring customers to bag their own items. Several readers on CR’s Facebook page said they did most of their shopping at these warehouse-style grocery stores. “The appearance of the WinCo store’s interior will go unchanged for decade after decade, which is nice,” said one. “I don’t want never-ending remodeling driving up the price.”
• Woodman’s. Warehouse-style Woodman’s, which operates in Illinois and Wisconsin, passes on savings by selling items in bulk. Another way the employee-owned retailer saves is by refusing to accept credit card, thereby sidestepping the associated processing fees.
Besides grocery store prices, other factors also contributed to readers’ satisfaction with grocery stores. Wegmans, which topped our ratings, offers competitive prices as well as other commendable features including fresh store-prepared foods, courteous staff, fast checkout, and high-quality produce. Wegmans has placed near or at the top of our ratings many times since 2005.
Where have you found the best grocery store prices?
Tell us in the comments section below.