Supermarket Showdown II

walmart

Walmart was the champ last time.

A year ago we price-checked a "basket" of 40 items in an attempt to figure out which local supermarket chain has the lowest prices. Walmart came out on top -- it wasn't even close -- followed by Hannaford and then Price Chopper.

But, things change: prices go up, prices go down, economies go into recession.

So, this past weekend we checked the same basket again. Here's what we found...

We did our best to match prices against the same products as last year, but in some cases that wasn't possible. Discrepancies are noted.

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

fine print: Prices were collected on February 22 at the Price Chopper in Albany on Central, Walmart in Glenmont and Hannaford in Albany. We tried our best to compare similar items. Some items -- such as deli meat -- couldn't necessarily be matched for quality. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

A list of the brands and sizes we checked (pdf).

An xls file of this data.

Discrepancies:

! Walmart didn't have the 20 lb bag of Pedigree -- but it did have the 40lb bag. The price listed here is half the 40lb bag price, which might give Walmart's price an unfair advantage.

!! The 100 fl oz containers of Tide laundry detergent now wash twice as many loads because the detergent has been concentrated. P&G made the switch for environmental reasons (reduced packaging). The price listed for this year is half the cost of the 2x concentrated bottle.

!!! None of the stores had the 13 oz bag we priced last year -- they were all carrying 11 oz bags this time around.

!!!! Last year we priced the 17 oz jar of Prego, but that wasn't available this year. So we priced the 25 oz jar.

!!!!! Last year's price check for a 54 count box of trash bags -- we could only find 45 count boxes this year. We're not sure if last year's "54 count" was a typo or if the manufacturer has cut the number of bags in a box.


A few thoughts and observations:

+ Walmart came out ahead again, but it also raised its prices the most.

+ The spread between the three stores has narrowed. Last year it was $19.36 -- this year it was $15.56 (about 20 percent smaller).

+ The price of milk at all three stores was down an average of almost 32 percent this year. That tracks will falling wholesale milk prices that have recently been squeezing dairy farmers.

+ The price of all 40 items was up 6 percent at Price Chopper, 8 percent at Hannaford and 10 percent at Walmart. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, consumer food prices were up 5.5 percent last year nationwide.

+ 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 Walmart would save you $809.12 over shopping at Price Chopper and $530.92 over Hannaford during the course of a year.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Which supermarket hasthe best deals? (A comparison of store brand prices)
+ Who has the best prices on beer?

The Bottom Line

Walmart came out on top again this year -- but it was a lot closer than last time.

Comments

I don't make that much money, but you couldn't pay me to go to walmart for that little in savings. I can't stand that place.

>None of the stores had the 13 oz bag we priced last year -- they were all carrying 11 oz bags this time around.

Consumerist has done a lot of posts on the "amazing shrink ray" syndrome. I noticed this for the first time when I got my usual bag of frozen edamame at Hannaford last week. The bag was definitely smaller.

Remember when Price Choper used to have the head of the women on the coin where the hatchet went into? memories..

I prefer Hannaford overall, but sometimes we do shop at the Walmart in Glenmont, and there is a marked difference in what we pay when we do. The problem is that the produce never seems to be as fresh and the meat is a little sketchy; injected with solutions and all that.

Wegmans rules!!!

Grand Union will match Price Chopper prices forever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwo6L-Pu7JM

Supermarket Showdown: 1987 edition.

I'm totally against Walmart because it makes me feel cool. The "ghetto chopper" on Delaware is awful, so I drive all the way to Colvin to rock out the Hannaford. Lots of organic stuff and a pretty friendly staff for a supermarket. I'd do anything for a decent supermarket within walking distance of Center Square.

@Erik - I pretty much would have made the same comment, if you had not.

Ladies, I once again find myself apologizing for being a guy. Look at the price hike on tampons. It's shameful, really.

Naomi, try the asian market on Colvin for your edamame needs. I'm pretty sure it's cheaper, and I'm pretty sure you get more, but then again I've never had luck finding the sweet, sweet Japanese bar snack in Hannaford.

@Erik, I totally agree. Sometimes we pop into the Ghetto Chopper to grab some beer, and it's always a hair ripping experience. Take comfort though; a friend just sent a scathing email to the "administration" after a particularly horrifying experience, and she received a response stating that the store has just changed management and the new manager vows to give the place an entire overhaul, and to expect great improvements in the future.

Nevertheless, I still only pop in for beer. For groceries, it's Hannaford on Colvin all the way.

Does anyone else wonder why the WalMart store in Guilderland is rusty orange? I've never seen one like it anywhere else. Usually they're blue or green.

Time and time again, Walmart is found to mistreat its employees. The most recent was in the news, a class-action suit won in California that found Walmart was editing time cards to avoid paying overtime. This is one of many examples of this kind of tomfoolery. These are people are making $7-$8 an hour, do the math, that's like $300 a week for full-time before taxes. So these prices are kept artificially low on the backs of poor people who are trying to make a living. The thing that really gets my goat, though, is how the company markets themselves as this good ole' American company with upstanding values blah blah blah and every single thing in that store is made in China. I'm not saying that any big-box store makes the world a better place, but Walmart is THE WORST. Whew, that rant kinda' got away from me for a while.

K & Erik - not sure if it's much/any closer, but there's a Hannaford in Delaware Plaza in Delmar as well. A bit smaller, but also not as bustling.

Thanks to their online flyers, I tend to shop and both Hannaford and Price Chopper to stock up on their sale items. It's worth the extra time, especially when they run BOGOs.

As Center Square residents, we usually walk over to and shop at Delaware Ave Price Chopper ("ghetto chopper"). Like everyone else, however, I LOVE when I can get a ride up to Hannaford on Colvin. I wonder why we all love that store so much (as opposed to other uptown PCs?)

I totally agree with Erik about needing a nice grocery store in the Center Square area.

I reiterate from last year: You guys gotta try Aldi/Save-A-Lot for this stuff. They beat the pants off Wal-Mart in price. Seriously.

It's a shame the lovely Mezzo market closed in center square. They did downsize their market before they closed though, so there wasn't a whole lot of shopping to be done, but I still loved walking over there and getting a baguette and some cheese.

I think the Hannaford in Delmar is probably the same distance from Center Square as the one on Colvin. But for whatever reason I'm totally tied to the one on Colvin. Plus it's right next to Oliver's!

I would love to see an Honest Weight extension in the space now occupied by the Center food court thing.

Hannaford on central ave for me- the chain stocks good products, the prices are OK and (important to me) the atmosphere is good. I know I should support Price Chopper (they're local) but the Delaware Ave and Madison Ave stores are both dumps and though the Westgate store looks better it always seems full of screaming kids and street people. I'll stop at Wal-Mart if I'm in the area, it's not the place to do my full shopping but they've got some specialty items I like- and for some reason they've got the best green onions in town.

To preface this: You know, I am seriously the last person to tout "politically correct" terminology, phrasing, etc., ...

But I really get disappointed when I hear people use the phrase "Ghetto Chopper."

It just seems like it comes from a place that is really elitist and snobby and privileged and ... mean.

I mean, maybe it's not the best grocery market in the area, and maybe it doesn't have a super cool, hipster organic section, and (admittedly) it's not in the best part of town, but come on ... "Ghetto Chopper?" Really?

Erik, why you hatin' on the ghetto chopper? I mean, where else in Albany can you find a man with pimped out rims on his electric wheelchair holding a boombox blasting Beyonce's "Crazy in Love" in isle 3?
(true story)

Leigh, calm down. "Ghetto Chopper" has worked really hard to earn that unanimous nickname. Plus, it's just a way to differentiate the different stores. Madison ave's store has the codename "Student Chopper". Central ave is "Mega Chopper". The Slingerlands one is "Devils Chopper" because the back of the sign lights up red and looks like the flames of hell. Ok, maybe I just made that last one up but you get the point. Are you still reading this? Really? I stopped paying attention at around the point where I said "codename" and started daydreaming about working for the FBI. I bet my codename would be "rattlesnake". Why? I'm sorry but that's classified.

While I can't be bothered to store-hop, I do loovveee this feature. Thanks for yet another great post.

@Albany Jane - For some reason I always forget about the Delmar Hannaford; I'll have to add it to my rotation. I'm a fan of the organic/natural section at the Colvin store. And I am totally lame, but I have to agree with Erik again - it's close to Oliver's!

And regarding the Delaware/er, Ghetto Chopper, not to start the Wegmans rally again (I'm from western NY, it's in our blood) - you would never a see a Wegmans that miserable. The one in Downtown Rochester on East Ave? Not scary. Not dirty. Not moldy. It really annoys me that the PC PR flacks spend so much time touting how they have "everything that Wegmans does", but they seemingly continue to neglect this store. I'm hoping Summer's comment above regarding the overhaul will help to remedy the situation!

@lucy - Well said. I live on the tightest of tight budgets when it comes to groceries, but even promises of saving $800+ per year couldn't make me shop at Walmart. I've been boycotting for years. I just can't stand all the practices behind those low prices.

Let's see... Price Chopper and Hannaford across the street from each other. So far okay, but Wal-Mart in GLENMONT??? That's nowhere near the other two. If you want to do fair comparisons pick three stores in close proximity. There's a Wal-Mart, Hannaford and Chopper in the Town of East Greenbush. That might be better.

What might be more interesting would be comparing Ghetto Chopper prices with Loudon Rd, Shaker Rd, Central Av Choppers. It would be interesting to see the discrepancies. Since anyone who shops at Ghetto Chopper is likely to not own a car, they have no other options, so it might be more expensive.

Dryer sheets are a dollar store item. So are shampoo, various plastic bags, and lots of little sh*t that demands no brand loyalty at all. Packing materials. Gift bags. Band-aids. Aspirin. Gummy bears and chewing gum. Floss. Emery boards. Combs and brushes.

Some dollar store items don't cut it. Many do. What can be shifted to the dollar store should be.

What can be shifted to Wal-mart should be. Most of what's on their shelves you don't need or shouldn't eat, but if you'd buy it elsewhere and it's cheaper, get it at Wal-Mart -- or a warehouse store. There's nowhere to redeem anti-Wal-Mart morality points. Get over it or throw your money in the street. Your choice. That battle is lost. Labor issues have separate remedies.

Buy everything that matters -- by now, weekly food items and your durable brand loyalties -- from whomever you trust.

Point here is that many items are almost quality-neutral, have no special shelf life, and don't come up weekly. There's baseline provisioning and there's the market basket. Finding the best, one-stop for everything answers the wrong question.

LQ

How about a taste test between name brands, store brands and Discount stores (Aldi's/ Save a lot) I can almost GUARANTEE that Aldis will come up on topalmost every time!
Thier food is that good. Wwe only go to the other stores if we need it immediatly or Aldi's doesn't carry it.

Hm. To those of you talking about the Delaware Plaza (Delmar) Hannaford (which is quite nice), it's serviced by the 18 bus which runs up State/Washington and Delaware.

The 13, which also runs up State/Washington, then to New Scotland, goes all the way up to the Slingerlands Price Chopper.

Neither of these are exactly quick trips, but they are opportunities for Center Square residents to get away from the Ghetto Chopper. Though Ghetto Chopper does often have good deals on offal and, oddly enough, fish.

Price Chopper may be local, but the way they treat employees is just horrible. My bf put in either years there, and he watched as they fired full timers in favor of more part timers, payroll allotment (NO OVERTIME EVER) was cut, they started 5S...Customer service goes down the tubes pretty quick.

As unemployment has become my reality, I've found myself being more conscious of what I'm spending. Not that I was unconcious before...so I went to the Wal-Mart Superstore in Halfmoon/Clifton Park. The prices were lower, no doubt about that. The produce was ghastly, exception: packaged spinach: Holie Molie! $2.88 for a large bag of baby spinach compared to almost $4 at the competitors. And citrus. So I shopped.

Then I went to the Price Chopper in Latham. OMFG!!

First off, the PC in Latham has the decibel level of a 747 taking off. Why? Should hearing loss be the real price of shopping there? Plus the prices were horrendous. Absolutely godawful. And, please, lose the fake palm tree and those obnoxious televisions in the produce section. Some of their items in my fantasy shopping cart were over a $1 more than either Wal Mart or Hannaford.

Then I went to the Latham Hannaford.

Ah, relative serenity. I love that store...it may come in second to Wal-Mart...but label reading will tell ya that their store brands are of higher quality that either WM or PC. Exception: the green produce. God, folks, it looks as if it's already been digested drooping on those nasty stacked black racks. Wilted greens...gross. Then again, they have tons of organic and minimally processed foods throughout the store.

And I've also heard from workers there that they left the Latham PC to work at the Latham H. because of the crap treatment at PC. So PC has the ethics of Wal-Mart. Surprise.

Let's face it: there's no one place to shop.

How about a compasison of weekly ad flyers? Every single week Price Chopper has the best ads and many significantly lower prices on the front cover items. If you pay close attention to their specials and coupons that come out in the papers, you can save a ton more at Price Chopper. Not to mention, the produce and meat departments are much fresher than everybody else. Happy Shopping!

Price Chopper stinks. I live in Stillwater and when the Grand Union went out of business in McVille, PC shot their prices right up.

Which is a shame because there are so many elderly folks who can't easily get out of town for better prices and options.

@ Lou: I must disagree. In our free-market system, choosing where we spend our dollars is one of the few ways we can be heard. What are our other options? Government? Write your congressperson, hahaha. There are places where you can use your purchasing power other than "throwing it away on the street". Everybody has their own different priorities and motivations for what they do and how they spend their money. I'm just offering my perspective.

@leigh, I can certainly understand why the name Ghetto Chopper can rub you the wrong way, but it has been called as such since my parents were kids. And Pantaloons is right; they worked awfully hard to not shed the moniker.

I prefer going to the Glenmont Walmart to East Greenbush, Washington Ave or (shudder) Latham Farms. It's actually easier to me to get to; I just take the back roads to 9W and zip right over.

Just another Aldi comment: They're cheaper than even Wal-Mart, the stores I've been to have all been quite clean and well-tended, they pay their employees a living wage, ($12/hr, IIRC,) said employees are treated well (they can sit down at the register, etc.,) and all you have to do is a.) bring a quarter to unlock the cart, b.) be comfortable buying generics, which are fine, and c.) bag your own groceries. Seriously, win-win all around!

/honestly not affiliated w/Aldi or Save-A-Lot at all, except as a regular shopper.

Please everyone, please watch the documentary "Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices". You can get it in our Upper Hudson Library system. Please understand fully why those prices are so low, and who is ultimately paying...

This is the other Leigh admitting that maybe it isn't entirely PC, but I call our Chopper, "Ghetto Chopper," all the time. Eeek. Sorry. It's definitely the store I shop at the most because it's in the neighborhood and my complaints are usually minor. Its nickname, however insensitive, seems based less on where it's located and more on the fact they don't carry luxuries that spoiled people (me) rely upon, like Q-Tips and Veggie Booty.

Folks, you should all be campaigning for a WEGMANS store in your area. They are now on all sides of you. Beats all of them in all categories. If I lived in Albany, I would drive to Syracuse just to shop at Wegmans. Their produce dept is a work of art.

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