Which Grocery store in the area is cheapest? Further Observations

June 17, 2011 by
Filed under: Coupons, Grocery 

Earlier, I gave you the results of my week-long pricing excursion, trying to determine which Green Bay grocery store had the best overall regular prices on over 30 items.  The winner by a small margin was Woodmans.

I wanted to include some observations I made while shopping the stores and compiling all the stats:

Woodmans: It’s hard not to be biased towards Woodmans, the store that came out on top of my research. When I was in high school and Green Bay did not have a store yet, my mother and I would often take our major grocery shopping trips south to the Appleton store, after we hit the mall and the now-defuct Wisconsin Craft Mart, of course. That’s right, Grandma Bargain Sleuth insisted Woodmans prices were much better than anywhere else.  At the time, gas was less than $1 a gallon and our car got 36 miles to the gallon, so it was worth it for the drive.   And as I said in my results post, I should have never doubted my mother!

I’ve seen many complain about Woodmans produce being very undesirable. And I’ll admit, in the past, I made the same observations. But my past few trips to Woodmans I’ve seen not only a lot of produce but it all looked in very good shape, too.

Woodmans is also the go-to grocery store if you are stocking up on pantry items. As an example, the store beat every other by at least eleven cents a can for black olives.

Do you have a specialty diet that includes organic, gluten-free or diabetic diet?  Then you’ll want to do your shopping at Woodmans. Hands down, the best prices by far on just about anything in that department. Their selection is pretty good, too, although I couldn’t find organic balsamic vinegar the other day…

And even though I often shop at Superior Liquor, Woodmans has just as large a selection and just as great pricing. And they carry a wide variety of beers. I’m still in shock that there’s a beer out there that sells for $10.99 for 36 cans!?! I’m guessing it won’t compare to Guiness or Sam Adams, but if you’re looking for a good “lawnmower beer” (the kind you can drink right after mowing the lawn), Woodmans is the place to go.

Aldis: All generic brands and low prices on just about everything makes this a hot spot for bargain shoppers. Such a hot spot that four of the everyday items on my list weren’t in stock the first day I shopped there. The second time I stopped by (after inquiring when the store would be restocked on items), three were still missing. In order to prepare the most complete shopping list, I decided to average the other store’s prices because I never was able to get my hands of several items. :-) I would consider out-of-stock items on several visits a negative.

The store has very basic “American” grocery items; if you like to prepare ethnic foods, this isn’t the place to shop. And they have a very limited beer selection–REALLY limited. So if you buy your liquor when you go to the grocery store, you’re not gonna want to pick Aldis that day.

Prices on produce were of great interest because many people swore to me their prices were the best in this department. And with one exception, they beat Woodmans in that department.

Their prices on the frozen boneless chicken breasts comes to $1.37/lb. or $4.11 for three pounds. Makes those $5/3lb sales that the other stores have on occasion pale in comparison–but Piggly Wiggly will beat that price when they have their $1.29/lb fresh chicken breasts when you buy them in 10 lb packages. Prices on other meats were also reasonable.

Wal-Mart: The produce prices were really good but their selection was poor at the two different stores I went to, and what was there was sad-looking. The head lettuce was one of the best prices around but at both east and west the size was almost 1/2 of what was available at the other stores. Not really a savings then.  It reminded me of the way Woodmans produce department used to look.

If you don’t want to mess with sales and coupons, Wal-Mart is the place to go if you want to buy generic diapers and wipes–by far.

Sam’s Club: Since Sam’s Club does not have generics and you have to buy in bulk, I hesitated even including Sam’s in my research.  But there is a general misconception that if you buy large quantities you’ll get a better price.  That clearly isn’t the case here.

The only place where Sam’s Club came out on top was in the loaf bread and hamburger/hot dog buns–when you buy larger quantities.

I should point out that my pricing average did not include the annual membership fee to Sam’s Club (thank you Tracy for my yearly birthday/Christmas present!).  I’m assuming that if you have a Sam’s Club card, you are buying other items like office supplies for your business.  If not, my research shows that you may want to skip the renewal next year if you’re looking to save on groceries.

Festival Foods: I will be the first to admit that I am sort of a cheerleader of the Skogen-run Festival stores because they don’t get as much publicity as Copps and Double Daze.  But even I was surprised when their prices averaged almost the same as Wal-Mart, a place that I’ve heard many people swear is the lowest around!

Festival was actually the price leader on sugar and flour, and many of their dairy items were the lowest around, too.

Their meat department was pretty sound, too.  I’ve never seen a package of fresh “dead animal” that was starting to look EWWWW.  Props to quality control on that aspect, too.

Piggly Wiggly: The bottom of the price comparison sheet, it has one thing going for it: Olsen’s meat department (Larry’s carries some of their stuff, too).  Their regular prices on meats are on par with most stores.  No one can deny that the former Blazei’s Sausage shop recipes make this a great choice, but at a price.

Piggly Wiggly did not win a single category in my price comparison.

SuperValu: Since Green Bay Consumer reader Rebecca is the one who checked prices, I thought I’d let her do the talking:

“In a nutshell, I am glad I rarely shop here… our family of 8 would go broke in a week!”

I think that sums up Super Valu.

Copps: I saved Copps for last because holy buckets, they’re in the gutter for every day prices. They get all the publicity because they double coupons, but at what cost to the consumer?  The items you might need to buy but aren’t on sale and for which there isn’t a coupon can easily wipe out the double coupon “bonus” you get. Again, I should have listened to my mother, who insisted their prices were higher than everyone else! (except for the Pig, but she doesn’t usually shop there). :-)

I would like to reiterate from my earlier post that I checked 30+ products at each store. Every grocery store has thousands of items (except Aldi), but as my experiment showed, if you don’t use coupons and shop the sales, you choice could cost you or save you, as much as $20 from the lowest-priced store to the highest.

Your thoughts?

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Comments

21 Comments on Which Grocery store in the area is cheapest? Further Observations

  1. Carine Herrington on Fri, 17th Jun 2011 11:10 pm
  2. Woodman’s does have the best prices, but we can not buy meat, produce, or many non-perishables there. I am speaking of these items over the past 5 years. I have routinely found moldy produce ON the shelves and both the clerks and the service desk do not care. The girl at the service desk actually had the nerve to blame their moldy products on their shippers! Talk about not being held accountable. Cheese quickly goes bad in a matter of days. The fresh meat gave my husband the worst case of food poisoning he has ever had in his life in 2010. So, these are recent and past experiences that have not changed or improved over the last 5 years. We now make two trips: Woodman’s for most goods and Festival for meat and perishables. It is worth it to spend more for the health of our family.

  3. Terra on Sat, 18th Jun 2011 8:03 am
  4. I came up with the same result over the past couple of years, though I only compared Woodman’s, Copp’s and Festival. I shop Woodman’s every week and I’ve been very pleased over the past few years. On our weekly shopping trips we save $25 over what I would spend at Copp’s. The produce has really improved and they have a great organic produce selection now. As you mentioned, organic prices are substantially better there. AND they offer “alternative” meats like buffalo.
    I’ve not had any quality problems, though I check everything carefully before putting it in my cart since at both Copp’s and Festival I’ve purchased moldy, opened, or expired merchandise.
    My only complaint with Woodman’s is their super long checkout lines.

  5. Anne Tess on Sat, 18th Jun 2011 7:21 pm
  6. As I stated in my comment on your first post, we do, and have done since its doors opened in GB, the majority of our grocery shopping at Woodmans. I was not always happy with the produce or meat depts, but the produce has gotten better, and I’ve now started buying more organic produce — and the selection of organic at Woodmans has tripled in size in just the last couple of months. And, they beat EVERY store on their organic produce (& other products) prices. I still don’t buy much meat at Woodman’s, except for bacon (natural OM), bulk italian sausage (Johnsonville) and boneless pork ribs. For meat, I usually wait for sales at Festival or Piggly Wiggly. The “pros” of shopping at Woodmans far outweigh any “cons”!! :-)

  7. Anne Tess on Sat, 18th Jun 2011 7:23 pm
  8. OH — and as to the comment about cheese — I have never had any cheese I’ve purchased at Woodman’s go bad in just a few days. Produce — yes. Cheese — no! :-)

  9. Andrea on Sun, 19th Jun 2011 9:59 pm
  10. GREAT POST! Totally agree! Woodman’s is getting the message about their produce, but I think Walmart is working hard to improve there too. I’ve actually had a couple good meat chances at Woodman’s, and am more comfortable buying meat there than Walmart. I’ve had bad dairy at all Green Bay stores but have to give big props to Woodman’s specialty cheese department. We recently had seemingly beautiful strawberries from Sam’s form a total carpet of mold overnight. I love that Woodman’s hangs out coupons to help even more. And some of their “personal” items are on par with the discount stores. Festival is our first choice for filling in between “big shops” but their every day prices on some things (cereal) are ridiculous. FWIW, last month I was hunting around for Dijonaise to use in a Hungry Girl recipe and only found at Woodman’s and Festival — Festival was actually a few cents cheaper on that item! Cream cheese at Walmart is higher “every day” than anywhere in town. These are my recent observations. I am loving this blog!

  11. Christy L on Sun, 19th Jun 2011 11:02 pm
  12. Great post! I live a little further south (Sheboygan) so sadly no Woodman’s for me… but I do go to Festival in Manitowoc to get most of their deals. I used to be a big Pick n Save (Copp’s by you) coupon doubler, but now that Walmart so easily price matches I have quit. I take the Pick n Save and Piggly Wiggly ads, price match at Walmart, and take advantage of the higher dollar printable coupons that Walmart accepts.

  13. Tonia on Mon, 20th Jun 2011 9:55 pm
  14. I LOVE Festival Foods! Their customer service is FANTASTIC!! I won’t shop anywhere else…I shop their sales and use coupons and always save 30-45% on my bill!

  15. Karla on Tue, 21st Jun 2011 8:40 am
  16. Thanks for all the leg work! I love reading this blog :)
    While I appreciate everyone’s love for Woodman’s, I have to mention a downside. They don’t accept credit cards (excluding debit cards). While I religiously pay off my card every month, this is my way of tracking my spending while earning other free stuff.
    I’m a sales shopper and coupon user. Which leads me to my next question. I know it’s been years since I’ve gone to Sam’s (don’t have a membership), but last I knew they didn’t accept coupons. Also, the only credit card they accepted was Discover (not my Visa). Has any of this changed?
    I’d love to shop exclusively at Woodman’s (and Piggly Wiggly for meats – won’t shop anywhere else for that) but information like the above would be useful in this blog.
    Again, thanks for all you do! Oh yeah, and don’t forget Target for cereal and Goldfish crackers. Those two items could be as much as $2 cheaper then grocery stores!

  17. Andrea on Tue, 21st Jun 2011 5:57 pm
  18. @Karla, Sam’s now accepts MasterCard (not Visa). Sam’s does not accept coupons. I agree on Target cereal if/when you can catch your brand on sale. Especially nice when there’s a Target coupon to stack with a manufacturer’s coupon. You are correct that Woodman’s doesn’t accept credit, which is part of the reason some of their prices are lower. The banks keep a % of every sale plus a service fee.

    [...] be bad business on their part not to continue. I just did a grocery store comparison and found that their every day prices on items were almost as high as Piggly Wiggly and SuperValu! I mean, sure, the store is about a block from my home, but it's also only three blocks to Festival [...]

    [...] I’ll further break down my observations including which stores have the best/worst in particular areas in part two this series “Which Grocery store in the area is cheapest?” [...]

  19. KAY on Thu, 17th Nov 2011 4:47 pm
  20. WOODMAN’S MAY BE CHEAPER BUT THEY DON’T ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS AND I GET BACK 3% AND SOMETIMES 5% ON GROCERIES.

  21. Beryl Anders on Sun, 29th Jan 2012 5:36 pm
  22. I am retired and in my late 70′s. I watch your deals and sometimes find that I have to traverse the city to get a deal. Tell me what a one stop shop would be the best, give or take a few cents.

  23. Beryl Anders on Sun, 29th Jan 2012 5:37 pm
  24. I am retired and in my late 70′s. I watch your deals and sometimes find that I have to traverse the city to get a deal. Tell me what a one stop shop would be the best, give or take a few cents
    I love reading all the comments and appreciate the work that you do.
    Thanks.

  25. Beryl Anders on Sun, 29th Jan 2012 5:39 pm
  26. Don’t see my comment, does this mean I have not used the correct name etc?

  27. Erin on Wed, 1st Feb 2012 1:57 am
  28. I have to say that I am so very disappointed with Copps/Pick n Save. Their sale prices are higher than the regular prices at woodmans! I used to do pretty good on double coupon days…but now I only go there for their cereal deals when I have enough coupons to make it worth while (have you all noticed the cereal coupons are getting worse…a dollar off of 3 boxes! Hardly worth it:()

    I just found you site and love it! Wondered how long it’s been up and running? Thanks for the match ups for festival and the pig.

  29. The Bargain Sleuth on Wed, 1st Feb 2012 2:48 pm
  30. Well, Beryl, if you’ve found this post, then you can see that based upon my research, Woodmans or Aldi are the places in town with the overall lowest prices. Thanks for writing and for reading Green Bay Consumer!

  31. The Bargain Sleuth on Wed, 1st Feb 2012 2:52 pm
  32. I just happened to write specifically about that topic this week (click here to read that article). The regular prices for Copps stores are a lot higher than most others, especially given the size of the company. I believe that is a direct result of Double Daze cutting into their profit margin.

    I’ve been writing about saving money for almost two years now. My previous site merged with this one in April of 2011, so we’re coming up on our 1st anniversary!

  33. b on Mon, 9th Sep 2013 5:26 pm
  34. Rebecca or somebody..can e get a real review someday of Super Valu other than “In a nutshell, I am glad I rarely shop here… our family of 8 would go broke in a week!”..Just a couple examples would of helped..

  35. Megan on Sun, 3rd Nov 2013 12:49 pm
  36. We go to Woodman’s the majority of the time in Appleton because we buy gluten-free and organic. If we have time sometimes we will go to Pyramid Foods in Neenah to get their gluten-free buns for $1.00/pack. One thing I DO want to say about Pick ‘n’ Save/Copps is that I buy the Roundy’s brand organic canned tomatoes, salsa, and sometimes beans because in particular the canned organic tomatoes from Woodman’s taste terrible!

    [...] my informal research two years ago (click here), I found that Sam’s Club prices were in the middle of the pack in terms of overall pricing of [...]

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