Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Which Grocery Store is Cheaper? It Depends on What You Are Looking For

The question often comes up when talking about frugality as to which store is cheapest? There is no good answer to this, because which stores are available depend in large part on where you live. More than that, it depends on whether you want quantity or quality.

Most people are like me. I want quality in some things, and quantity in others. For example, I like quality meat at the best possible prices. I've wasted money on cheap, inedible meats, so I've learned who has the best prices on the meat I like. On the other hand, I'm not a connoisseur of things like rice and pasta, so I usually buy the cheapest I can find.

Name Brand vs. Generic

I have some name brand items that I simply will  not compromise on. I love Duke's mayonnaise, and I won't settle for anything less, even if the store brand is half the price. I do like Mueller's pasta, because I was raised with it, so I usually stock up during BOGO sales at one store or another, but I will buy store brands if necessary. I only drink name brand herbal teas, but try to stock up when they're cheap.

Canned vs. Frozen vs. Fresh

Living in FL, I stock up on canned foods for hurricanes, and I don't care about the quality of those. I just want to stay alive. I prefer fresh veggies, but keep frozen on hand in case I can't get fresh. I love fresh fruit, but I buy a lot of frozen fruit for smoothies and adding to yogurt.

I can only report on what I actually buy. I don't buy a lot of processed foods, so you won't see many of those.

The Cheapest Stores in My Area by Category

Cheapest Overall: Aldi

I can shop only at Aldi if I must. It's a small store, and about 1/3 of it is taken up with non-food items, so the selections are small.

  • Their produce is nice, and they usually have great sale prices on in-season produce. If you like packaged salad, they have a large section. I buy nearly all my produce there. The bad part is that you have to go early in their sale week (here sales start on Wednesday), because they only buy enough for the sale, and when it's gone, it's gone, so if you want fresh produce, go on the first two days of the sales period.
  • Their meat can be a little high, and they generally sell in big packs. Also, some of their meat is pre-packaged, such as steaks and some roasts, and those are more expensive. They often have good sales on meat, and the quality is good.
  • Dairy is o.k. The store brand Greek yogurt is good, but not a big selection of flavors. Butter and margarine are very cheap. Store brands are good quality.
  • Their cheese is very cheap, even the deli-style cheeses.
  • Frozen foods are relatively cheap, but most of what they have is large family style meals and such. There isn't a great selection of frozen bagged veggies or fruit. 
  • Nuts and baking goods are very cheap and of good quality. I loved their whole almonds with sea salt.
  • I don't buy bread there, because I don't eat a lot and it seems to mold faster, but if you eat a lot of bread, it's very cheap. 

Second Cheapest: Save-a-Lot

I shopped exclusively at Save-a-lot for years, but their quality has gone down on some things while their prices have gone up. They are a much larger store than Aldi and only sell groceries, so there is a much better selection.

  • Produce used to be the cheapest in town, but not anymore. They sometimes have great sales on produce in season, like a 10-lb bag of potatoes for $3-4. Their everyday prices are on par with Wal-Mart, which is not cheap at all anymore.
  • Meat is cheap, and they have great sales, but the quality on some things has gone down, so I no longer buy them there. For example, the large packs of pork chops are mostly what used to be sold as pork steaks, and aren't pork chops at all, just the very cheap end cuts. My favorite cheap meat to buy at SAL is chicken leg quarters. They have 10-lb bags for anywhere from $6.90 down to $2.90 sometimes on sale (at the time of this posting). They have good prices on pork neckbones, but their ham hocks are sort of high, and since they don't have butchers, you can't get a 4-pack cut into two. 
  • Their frozen food section is excellent, and their frozen bagged veggies are good quality. The stir-fry mix is great. 
  • Canned foods are a bit higher than Aldi, but better quality, and there is a better selection.
  • Dairy is not as good quality as Aldi, nor as cheap.
  • Rice and grains are cheaper there, and they have a pretty nice Hispanic food section.

Third Cheapest: Wal-Mart

I shop Wal-Mart for only a few items, mostly name-brand items that they have cheaper.

  • I never buy their meat, because it is shipped in frozen and it contains salt, which holds in the water and makes it weigh more. They do have good frozen seafood prices, but Aldi is about equal in that department.
  • I buy all my name-brand herbal teas there. They have the best prices I've found in town on those. 
  • I tried their Chobani yogurts, but they aren't the same quality as the same brand elsewhere. I supposed they are made just for Wal-Mart as most manufacturers do, with a lesser product for a lower price. Aldi's store brand greek yogurt is better.
  • Frozen fruits for smoothies are cheap and they have a good selection, including tropical fruits like mango and papaya. 
  • Frozen veggies are o.k. I like the frozen potato wedges and the breaded okra there.
  • Bread is cheap, but I don't like the texture of the store brand. 
  • Of course, all processed foods are cheaper, but they do carry a selection of natural brands in each department that are cheaper than at a natural food store.
  • That's about it for what I buy there.

Fourth Cheapest: Publix

I use the word "cheapest" carefully here, because Publix is all about quality over price. I don't buy much there, and usually only things on BOGO (buy one, get one free) or a great sale.
I like their fried chicken, and an 8-pack lasts me for several meals. Otherwise, I don't buy their meats because while they are prime quality, they also have a prime price. I do buy their frozen beef liver, because it's much cheaper and better quality than any other I've found in town.

Things I regularly buy on BOGO at Publix are: 

  • Ken's salad dressings (my favorites)
  • Frozen seafood (fish sticks, shrimp, etc.)
  • Pasta
  • Frozen pizza
  • Ice Cream
  • Mrs. Smith's frozen pies
  • Pepperidge Farm frozen cakes, cinnamon swirl bread
  • DelMonte or Green Giant canned vegetables
  • Spices
  • Herbal tea
  • Mt. Olive or Vlasic pickles

Stores that aren't cheap but have good sales or bulk food.

Earthfare - good bulk section, but expensive unless on sale. Sells bulk herbs and spices at reasonable prices. Often has great sales on organic produce in season. I buy my candied ginger there. I treat myself to their muffins, which are amazing.

Ward's Supermarket - a locally owned store with an amazing bulk foods section. Overall, they are mostly organic and health food and not cheap.

Lucky's - I've only been there a couple of times, but it seemed to have good sale prices. It's not close to me, so don't go there often.

Trader Joe's - I don't shop there because it's too "crunchy granola" for me and the prices aren't that great. Aldi is owned by the same people, and is the "real people's" version of TJ's.

Non Grocery Stores

Dollar General - I buy snack foods, milk, eggs, cleaning and paper products here. I don't buy as much there as I used to, because their prices have gone way up on a lot of things, and they are selling more name brand than store brand now.

Dollar Tree - Some of their frozen foods are good for when you want something quick and easy you can microwave. Some snack foods are cheaper, but you have to be careful. To me, it's mostly good for housewares over groceries.

I don't shop bulk stores like Costco or Sam's Club because I don't have a car and have no space to store bulk items.

So there you have it, my list of my favorite and cheapest stores in my city in Florida. Hope it helps someone.

No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated.