Which supermarket has the lowest prices?

We were curious, so we decided to find out. AOA put together a "basket" of 40 items that we thought could reasonably end up in most shopping carts in any given week. Then we checked the prices of these items at Price Chopper, Wal-Mart and Hannaford. Here are the results:

Lowest prices have a green background.
Asterisks indicate which prices were marked as sale prices

Price Chopper Wal-Mart Hannaford
spinach
6 oz baby spinach in a bag
2.21* 2.88 2.99
apples
1 lb macintosh
1.49 1.38 1.49
bananas
1 lb
.59 .48 .59
deli turkey
1 lb of the cheapest posted
5.99 3.28 5.99
deli cheese
1 lb American of the cheapest posted
5.49 5.24 5.49
shampoo
Pert Plus 750 mL
5.99 4.34 4.99
tampons
Tampax multi-pack 40 count
4.98* 5.69 5.95
chicken
boneless, skinless chicken breast
2.99 3.32 3.39
ground beef
1 lb 93% lean
2.99 3.58 3.49
dog food
Pedigree adult 20 lb bag
10.99 9.44 11.89
toilet paper
Scott 1000 4-pack
3.39 2.76 2.50
dishwasher soap
Cascade 75 oz
3.99* 2.97 4.19
laundry detergent
Tide 100 fl oz
6.99* 6.97 5.99
dryer sheets
Bounce 120 count
5.99 4.97 5.89
soda
Coke 2 liter
1.33 1.25 1.11
potato chips
Lays 13 oz bag
3.49 2.50 2.50
cookies
Oreos 18 oz bag
2.50* 2.77 2.50
soup
Campbell's chicken noodle 10.75 oz can
1.09 .68 1.00
mayo
Hellman's 30 oz
3.99 3.28 3.89
pasta
Barilla 1 lb box of spaghetti
1.49 1.23 1.39
pasta sauce
Prego 17 oz jar
1.50* 2.08 1.99
sandwich bags
store brand 50 count
1.89 1.12 1.79
garbage bags
Glad tall drawstring kitchen 54 count
6.99* 6.64 7.49
frozen dinner
Health Choice "simple selection"
2.69 1.89 2.00
frozen vegetables
store brand mixed vegetables 1 lb bag
1.29 .82 .75
ice cream
Haagen Dazs 1 pint
3.33* 3.08 3.39
cereal
Cheerios 18 oz box
4.39 3.38 3.59
sandwich bread
store brand whole wheat loaf
1.39 1.52 1.39
peanut butter
Jif 18 oz jar
2.39 2.08 2.19
jam
Smuckers strawberry 12 oz jar
2.79 1.96 2.19
coffee
Folgers 34.5 oz container
7.89 7.44 7.99
milk
store brand skim 1 gallon
3.79 3.43 3.75
eggs
a dozen large store brand
2.19 1.86 1.99
butter
store brand 1 lb box
1.99* 2.28 2.39
yogurt
Yoplait light 1 container
.50 .50 .67
beer
Sam Adams bottles 12 pack
15.99 14.54 12.99
orange juice
Tropicana 64 oz
3.39 2.98 2.99
cheese
Cabot sharp cheddar 8 oz block
3.79 2.48 2.29
crackers
Triscuits 9.5 oz box
3.19 2.00 2.89
toothpaste
Crest regular 6.4 oz tube
2.99 1.97 2.50
Total
$152.32 $133.06 $144.44

fine print: Prices were collected on February 16 at the Price Chopper in Latham, Wal-Mart in Glenmont and Hannaford in Albany, with a few spot checks at other locations during the last week. We tried our best to compare similar items. Some items -- such as deli meat -- couldn't necessarily be matched for quality. Your mileage may vary.

A few thoughts:
+ Both of the traditional supermarkets seemed to mostly price their items to end with a "9" (1.99, for example). Wal-Mart doesn't seem to do this, which may indicate that it just strips the price down as far as it can until it meets its target margin.
+ The biggest absolute difference in price on an item was the three dollars gap between Price Chopper and Hannaford on the beer.
+ If this basket of items is roughly representative of a typical weekly shopping trip (it may be a little bigger than usual and a little heavy on items such as laundry detergent), then shopping at Wal-Mart would save you $591.76 a year over Hannaford and $1001.52 over Price Chopper.

If you'd like the play around with the data, here's an excel spreadsheet with all the prices.

The Bottom Line

Wal-Mart has the lowest prices and it's not even close. Of course, you have to be OK with shopping at Wal-Mart to take advantage of them. But that's a whole other discussion.

Comments

Well, let's really look at Walmart does do to our local economy, shall we:

With the lack of health coverage for its employees (In the past four years, the National Labor Relations Board has found the company guilty of illegal work practices in 25 percent of 40 cases with violations disproportionately affecting women ) this sends employees of Walmart to apply for government programs such as food stamps, medicaid, welfare benefits, etc. Please feel free to check any Wal-mart lunch room they proudly and freely announce and show how their employees can apply for such programs. These programs are income eligible and because Wal-mart pays such low wages, wal-mart employees will always be approved to be on food stamps, medicaid, etc. These are programs that are funded through our taxes both NYS and Federal.

Is it too cheap for its own good? Obviously, exploiting countries with no labor laws and deplorable conditions that amount to modern day slavery, Americans make a statement that they are accepting and supporting child labor and modern day slave labor when they shop at Wal-mart. Saving a few dollars to get cheap, poorly made products is more important than quality and ethical, moral standards. A person is inevitably hurting yourself by not knowing where your products and produce comes from and the contents of the product. Let's think about how capitalism, free trade and the mass consumerism has hurt consumers in the past year: lead in our toys, chemicals in our cosmetics, the beef recall and the massive slaughter company in the midwest.

Let's be aware, conscious consumers and shop at local, independent stores that actually care about our business and our health. Is it worth an extra few dollars, I think so..what about you?

Ok you answered my question, but I had to check so first I created a excel spead sheet of your work and then removed the things I would not buy, (no dog, dont drink, Im a guy) and Walmart still came up cheapest, so then I removed all the things I would not buy at a grocery store (stretching it, trying here...) and Walmart still came up cheapest.... SO, how about I walk to the Price Chopper, cant walk to Walmart... Does that count for something..? Then why would I go to Walmart?

Glad to see "Price Chopper" is false advertising!
I think I'll stick with my lovely Hannaford's, thank you very much.

One more thought. Most of your items were national name brands. For comparing apple to apples, that makes sense. (They still MAKE Haagen Dazs?) But we almost always buy the store brands which I think might make it a bit closer. In the end, there are a few items we buy from W--T when we need them because they are not available at other stores. Then it's off to the Hannaford. Unless we need produce, then it's PC. How much is gas again?

Did you use an Advantage Card at Price Chopper?

Amelia: Those are all important things to think about. Total cost is always a hard thing to get a hold of -- and keep in mind.

H R: You had us at "I created a excel spread sheet..." We've posted the spreadsheet we used in case anyone else would like to play around with the price data.

Bob B: That's a good point. We picked mostly national brands so we could do direct comparisons. We're kicking around the idea of doing something with store brands in the future -- we just have to recover from all the price checking during this round.

Joe: Good question. Yes, we did. The sale prices at Price Chopper are only available with the Advantage Card.

People like to get all holier-than-thou about shopping at Wal-mart. Its an easy way to feel morally superior about one's supposedly educated consumerism. Trouble is, if everyone stopped shopping at Wal-mart we would not be back in some mythical era of mom-and-pop stores selling fair trade goods along picturesque pedestrian and bicycle accessible Main Streets. No, we would be suffering from a massive economic downturn and eating lots of canned beans and ramen.

Wal-mart carries the same national brand products as the other grocery retailers. So not everything in a Wal-mart store is handmade for spoiled American children by exploited developing-country children. Wal-mart also hires a lot of people who have, shall we say, underdeveloped skill sets and gives them a chance to gain valuable work experience. Its not like Wal-mart is singlehandedly putting people on the welfare rolls. Those names were already listed.

Only the weekly specials at Price Chopper are a good deal. Hannaford is better but still costs more. Whereas I can buy my organic cereal and baby crackers at an affordable price at Wal-mart any day of the week and support an organic, earth friendly manufacturer right here in the United States whose products I could not otherwise afford.

The poor Golubs, I am not supporting their uber-expensive local family owned business. Waaah.

We've preferred Hannaford for a long time... I've always found Price Chopper to be more expensive, especially on things we use frequently. For example, organic milk, which we buy for the kids: the last time I looked, it was $1.00 more per HALF GALLON at PC compared to Hannaford.

I refuse to get the "Advantage Card" so that PC can track my purchases, so on the rare occasions I do stop in, I end up paying higher prices.

This was an interesting exercise - I look forward to the next version!

One last comment, I went to walmart twice in the last year to get what I had thought were good walmart items. First I went for envelops... I wanted #9's .... well walmart does not carry anything more than #10 ok,

then I went to have my battery changed in the car... i waited in line 45 minutes, and then was told that they dont carry a battery for my car.. I drive a ford....

Elizabeth, this has nothing to do with either uber consumerism or mom and pop, for me anyway, walmart just doesnt cut it.

This was a great exercise and confirmed what I always thought about PC.

I hope that you do follow through with your store brand comparisons, and in so doing I hope you'll include Aldi's. Over the past few years, several of my neighbors have convinced me to shop there for the basics. Their daily prices on milk, eggs, bread, canned goods and limited produce ( Florida grapefruit & NY apples) embarasses PC & Hannaford. After much "sampling" I have their store brands (frozen veggies, pretzels, crackers, cereal, condiments, etc) to be VERY high quality.

Their product range is far less than the big boys, but the savings are huge.

could you include The Niskayuna Co-op in your study? their meats are beyond compare! don't know about the other items but they have regular sales which are good.

I wish locally owned grocery stores like Greulich's (Rotterdam)
, Gabriel's (various locations), Niskayuna Co-Op, and Honest Weight were considered in this lineup.

These stores offer the usual array of grocery brands plus boutique items and seem to have a more knowledgeable staff. I find their prices are comparable, if not lower than the big chains... but never have done a head-to-head comparison.

Supporting locally owned businesses is always a good thing. However, even though locally owned, I avoid Price Chopper for their high prices and mandatory Advantage Card.

http://www.greulichsmarket.com/ -- Greulich's
http://www.gabfoods.com/ -- Gabriel's
http://niskayunacoop.com/ -- Niskayuna Co-Op
http://www.hwfc.com/ -- Honest Weight


H R Green- I did not mean to imply that there are not perfectly good reasons to skip shopping at Wal-mart. I understand not everyone wants to go there for whatever reason and I respect everyone's right to choose. I was speaking out against a specific preachy anti-Walmart attitude that I think is misleading and attempts to unjustifiably induce guilt.

What would skew our household's numbers is that we buy the non-food items at Wal-Mart, and the food items at Hannaford & Pricechopper. We save big on detergent, toiletries, and that sort of thing at WM, but their produce and meat are worth it. The quality just isn't there. We rather buy less of a good thing than more of a mediocre (value over cheapness).

I wish Save-A-Lot had been included in this. If you want to find cheap prices, there's no question it's Save-A-Lot. You won't be able to find those brand names, though. You'll have to settle for the store's own brand, which usually appears as all sorts of different weird names depending on the food. The quality is as good as the national brands on most items.

I'm with Ryan and Bocuse on this one; I shop usually at Save-A-Lot (and occasionally at Aldi,) for my groceries, and my food bill is HALF of what it was when I was shopping at Price Chopper/Hannaford. It's worth noting too that I was buying generics whenever possible at Price Chopper/Hannaford, and they *still* can't beat Save-A-Lot/Aldi's in price, and the quality's the same! Save-A-Lot in particular usually has great produce, and unless you're looking for something a wee bit offbeat, they usually have what you're looking for in the way of groceries. I rarely spend more than $15/mo anymore at Price Chopper/Hannaford to get these little items, so it's totally worth it! Your wallet will thank you, especially on the brink of a recession!

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