A new Consumer Reports survey reveals eight grocery stores where consumers will find the lowest prices. The survey looked at 62 national and regional chains. According to the 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. Here’s the lineup, in alphabetical order:
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.
Who could pass up a $4.99, 3-lb. rotisserie chicken at this venerable warehouse club, cheaper in some cases than a raw bird of the same size? CR’s 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, entered South Dakota. To mark its 79th anniversary, the chain 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.” CR’s 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 ID 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 CR 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 the survey.
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 stores interior will go unchanged for decade after decade, which is nice,” said one. “I don’t want never-ending remodeling driving up the price.”
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 payment by credit card to sidestep the associated processing fees.
In addition to prices, other factors also contributed to readers’ satisfaction with grocery stores. Wegmans, which topped the CR 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 the CR ratings many times since 2005.