Supermarket Showdown IV

jif jar still 18 oz

As the "stealth downsizing" of products continues to cover up price increases, brands are starting to point out when they haven't changed sizes.

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of stuff about grocery shopping. Because we all have to eat.

AOA's annual comparison of local supermarket chain prices is back. Walmart is the three-time defending champ.

Can Hannaford or Price Chopper close the gap this year?

Be sure to check out the TU's piece on competitive grocery shopping that was in Sunday's paper. We picked 10 items for Kristi Gustafson, Ruth Fantasia, and Chris Churchill to compete on finding the lowest prices (but at a quality they'd still eat).

As in past years, we did our best to match prices against the same basket of 40 products. In some cases the matches weren't perfect. Discrepancies are noted with (!).

Results from: 2010 | 2009 | 2008 (when looking at past years, please note the laundry detergent adjustment explained below)

Lowest prices have a green background.
Asterisks indicate which prices were marked as sale prices -- which, at Price Chopper, is the price you'd pay with an AdvantEdge card.

fine print: Prices were collected on March 29, 2011 at the Price Chopper in Albany on Central Ave, Walmart on Washington Ave Ext and Hannaford in Albany on Central Ave. We tried our best to compare similar items. Some items -- such as deli meat or sandwich bread -- couldn't necessarily be matched for quality. You could probably pick a different basket with different results. Your mileage will almost certainly vary.

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

An xls file of this data.

Discrepancies

! The Tampax package priced this year was a 40-count non-variety pack. Earlier years have used a 40-count variety pack.

!! Between 2008 and 2009 P&G switched Tide to 2x concentrate. In the years following, we cut the price in half to compensate for the change. This year we're using the full price and have adjusted the 2010 price accordingly.

!!! Lay's is currently switching to a 10.5 oz bag from an 11 oz bag. Walmart has already switched over. Hannaford and Price Chopper still had both 10.5 oz and 11 oz bags.

# Oreos now come in a 16.6 oz bag, as opposed to an 18 oz bag.

% Prego is now a 23 oz jar. It had been 25 oz.

^ Haagen Dazs ice cream is now 14 oz -- down from 1 pint.

## Walmart doesn't carry the 12 oz jar of Smuckers Strawberry Jam so we used price of the 18 oz jar.

%% Tropicana orange juice now comes in a 59 fl. oz container. It was 64 fl. oz.

^^ The Folgers container at Price Chopper was 33.9 oz, as opposed to 34.5 oz container at Hannaford and Walmart.

&& Hannaford didn't have 93/7 ground beef, so the price listed is from the 90/10. That may have given Hannaford a price edge.

### Hannford didn't have the regular 30 oz jar of Hellman's -- it had a 36 oz "bonus" jar.

A few notes and observations

+ The price of each "basket" was up this year, after falling last year.

+ Here are the items for which the average price went up the most by percentage over the last year:

+ The downsizing of products continues this year, with five more items shrinking the amount in package. As NYT noted recently, companies have been using this strategy to camouflage price increases resulting from higher prices for raw materials.

+ Hannaford and Price Chopper continue to use the x.99 pricing strategy -- and Walmart continues to pick "odd" numbers. Also : Walmart's prices for a handful of items are just a penny cheaper than those at Price Chopper or Hannaford -- coincidence?

+ Buying this basket at Price Chopper would earn you a .30/gal discount at Sunoco. If you're so inclined, you can subtract $3 (or so) from the Price Chopper total.

+ If this basket represented your weekly shopping (it's probably too big, and too heavy on items such as laundry detergent), here's how much you'd spend at each store:

Price Chopper: $9,050.60
Hannaford: $8,466.12
Walmart: $7,623.72

You'd save $1,426.88 by shopping at Walmart over Price Chopper. And $842.40 by shopping at Walmart over Hannaford.

The bottom line

Prices are up -- but less so at Walmart. And it wins. Again.

Comments

yeah, but then you'd have to shop at Walmart...

Walmart may have the lowest prices, but their abysmal customer service with maybe 4 checkouts open and the lines 10 customers deep and always waiting at least a 1/2 hour to return anything is what keeps me from EVER shopping there.

Also in my experience they don't have much for choices when it comes to certain products. But I haven't bought any groceries there in years.

People blow a gasket when we tell them we do our grocery shopping at Walmart. Then we show them this and they see how they can save $1,500 a year (obviously varies for everyone) and all of the sudden, Walmart's not so bad anymore. The majority may stay away from this place but when it comes down to money and taking care of #1, people tend to change their minds pretty easily.

If you really would like to save money, don't EVER buy things like laundry detergent, tampons, trash bags, or toothpaste at a grocery store. EVER.

Those items are always cheaper at places like Target or even CVS. You may have to watch the sales for CVS discounts, but Target will always have lower prices than Price Chopper or Hannaford on Health & Beauty and Household items.

And, if you want to maintain your sanity as well as your confidence in the survival of the human race, don't ever shop at WalMart. For anything.

Also, you'd save $584.48 by shopping at Hannaford instead of Price Chopper.

That's a pretty significant point, seeing as a lot of people don't like buying groceries at Walmart, and seeing as a lot of people seem to keep thinking that Price Chopper is not ripping them off (which it is).

I would like to see a comparison of who has the best prices on organic products. I go to Hannaford cause they seem to have the best selection but I'd be curious about those prices. I know alot of people prefer organic products but are turned away by the cost. Maybe you could help people find the cheapest options. :-)

While not as scientific as the above analysis, my wife and I have tried to switch to Walmart a couple or three of times. We would give it one month of groceries and then compare it to the previous month with Price Chopper. The difference was never more than $30-40 for the overall month. That was just not enough to make up for the long waits at check out, the messy aisles, or the horrible customer service. I guess next time the mood strikes me to try to save money, I will give Hannaford a shot.

I don't factor in Walmart, mainly because I disagree with their business model and undercurrent politics so much that I don't want to give them my money. But that post was revealing. And yes, we're about to see prices rise significantly (or services/amounts drop) throughout not only the grocery store but in nearly every consumer market.

With Price Chopper, you get a significant break on your gas at Sunoco.

Just buy the generics and you'll be happy you're saving even more money... just shop at Hannaford!!

Your shopping list is certainly unbalanced if it's meant to be an average week's shopping. Way to heavy on dry goods and cleaning supplies while not including *any* fresh vegetables, let alone staple produce like potatoes, onions, carrots, or celery.

BTW, your chart shows toilet paper at 3.79 at Hannaford while having the green highlighted "best price" on the 3.99 at Walmart.

Add me to the list of those who won't shop at Walmart at any price. However, I do regularly shop for staples and some other items at Aldi's -- example, Aldi's house brand of coffee, which I think is significantly better than Folgers, is only 4.99 for a 33.9 oz. can.

For those who can make the trip up to Halfmoon/Clifton Park, almost all meat and poultry, as well as some produce, is routinely both cheaper and better quality at Fred The Butcher than at either PC or Hannaford.

I would like to see Fresh Market added to this list, since it is a full-sized supermarket, and new to the area.

I've switched to Hannaford for many reasons, prices being one of them. Plus my local PC is always understaffed resulting in lines that would give Walmart a run for it's money. I'm in the just-say-no to Walmart club for all the reasons others have listed.

Oh and those gas-discounts are negligible when you are spending more for groceries than you save on gas. Sure it feels nice to save a few dimes on gas, but you really aren’t saving anything.

Thanks AOA! Always good to see how these things break down.

I can't shop at Wal-Mart. I just can't do it. Yes, I'll spend less on groceries, but at what cost to my karmic bottom line?

That being said, I hope that Hannaford and Price Chopper are being asked for comment on this article. Hopefully, this side by side comparison will spur them to positive action.

I recall a time long, long ago when my almost 12-year old daughter was a toddler...I would page through the Sunday sales circulars and make a shopping list that involved driving between between Price Chopper, Hannaford and Target -- meanwhile, I bought most of my food at the co-op.

I must've had much more time on my hands back then, because I can't imagine doing such cost comparisons every Sunday anymore.

I also had a car back then.

I'm much happier now (though I do have days where I miss my daughter as a toddler), and my Sundays are spent like most of my other days... talking with fabulous people.

My days of car ownership are so over. I usually walk to buy my groceries, and since there is no Hannaford near my Albany neighborhood (nor most other places where people live in Albany), I'm happy to go to Price Chopper and Honest Weight Food Co-op. Yeah, the prices are a little higher at Price Chopper than Hannaford, but at least they still have stores in mixed use neighborhoods.

And, I do use my fuel AdvantEdge savings to buy discounted CDTA passes. That's always fun.

My Wal-Mart story is for another day.

I hope nobody buys a 40 count box of tampons every week....That would suck

I used to live within walking distance of a Price Chopper, and I shopped there. Now I live within walking distance of a Hannaford, and I shop there, instead. That's how my grocery store alliances are formed. But now I scan the PC flier each week and make a point to stock up on the loss leaders on the rare occasion they run a sale on something we actually eat.

If someone gave me a random list of stuff to buy and said I had to get the best price, I'd go to Walmart (guiltily). But that's not how I (or, I bet, many people) shop. I shop the sales (with coupons if I'm lucky) at Price Chopper. If it's not on sale, it's not on my menu. If it is, I stock up. My grocery bill is very low for a family of five.

Walmart's ads tell you they will save you money. No where do they tell you that you'll get treated politely and with respect. I'd rather shop at local places, Hannaford and P. Chopper.

We visit Hannaford, Price Chopper and the Coop to stock up on their sale items. I've never done one-stop shopping (even with kidlets in tow!) and I'm not about to start now.

That said? You can often make money at all the chains the first day their ad runs. They pay out for computer mistakes and there are always copious corrections needed. Check your receipt.

Walmart aside, Hannaford wins. As always.

The shrinkage of products that remain the same price is called the "grocery shrink ray." Well, it is where I work, at least.

http://consumerist.com/taking-it-seriously/grocery-shrink-ray/

With your Price Chopper advantage card, you also get discounts on your bus pass (bonus for me).
Also- now that Target has reopened with their fancy new supermarket (at least the one on Central Ave has), I'd like to see how they compare. Shopping at Target is an overall nicer experience than Walmart.

what about the QUALITY of produce??
that is the biggest thing in my book.

Yeah Price Chopper does have a discount on Sunoco gas but has anyone noticed how expensive Sunoco gas is?

I'm so tempted to print out your list and run to Aldi for comparison to Walmart. I sang this same song last year, but I think there is no comparison for basics. We save a fortune shopping for staples at Aldi. After injuring my back last year, the best I could do was get to the Price Chopper 3 blocks away. For those 2-3 months, our grocery bill was always $80-100 a week. When my back finally healed and I could drive the extra 3 miles to Aldi, our weekly bill went back to $50-70, and it's only near $70 when I go crazy and stock up on the featured items (like Italian food week, I purchased 24 jars of sun-dried tomato pesto for $1.99 each and a dozen packages of mushroom stuffed pasta, only $2.19 a package, way cheaper than the Buitoni from Hannaford or P.C. at $5.00.).

A little bit of Aldi joy from my last visit:

Wheat crackers $1.29 a box (equivalent to Wheat Thins, $3.29 at Price Chopper)

Two pack of red & yellow bell peppers $1.69 (I paid close to $2 for just one red pepper at Hannaford recently)

5 pack of vine tomatoes - $1.29

Bag of the sweetest tangerines - $2.29

Bag of butter lettuce - $1.99

Amy's Organic frozen cheese enchiladas - $2.99 ($4.79 at Hannaford)

I've been buying a lot of frozen fish at Aldi lately ($3.99 for 16 oz. of Cod, $4.99 for 16 oz. of Haddock, $7.99 for 16 oz. of scallops). None of it has disappointed.

Admittedly, very little of it is organic or would be considered sustainable (I guess?). Though I've found locally grown hydroponic tomatoes there recently. For anyone grocery shopping on a budget, you really must check Aldi out.

Of course, this list does not take into consideration the enormous cost to society, local economies, wages, u.s. manufacturing, workers in sweatshops, health, small bz, main streets, global peace and our poor beleagured planet of shopping at Walmart and supporting that destructive business model. Driving prices down to an unsustainable level on this scale and at all costs has made us all much much poorer.

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