Which Grocery store in the area is cheapest? Further Observations
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.