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America's cheapest supermarkets

Looking to save money on groceries? Consumer Reports has the inside scoop on the least—and most—expensive stores

Published: April 04, 2015 09:00 AM

Competitive—if not downright cheap—prices are the cornerstone of shopper satisfaction with their primary supermarket. It matters more than cleanliness, how friendly and helpful the service is, the quality of the fresh foods, even how it takes to get through the checkout lane. High prices are also the reason why most shoppers abandon a particular store.

In Consumer Reports latest Supermarket survey, in which we asked nearly 62,000 subscribers about 111,000 recent shopping experiences, only 60 percent of respondents were completely or very satisfied with their store's prices.

Of course, not all grocery stores try to appeal to penny-pinchers. Whole Foods Market, for example, is known for its array of fresh organic produce, meats, and lavish store-made meals. Prices are extremely high—among the highest of any chain, according to our survey— but the grocer’s demanding customers don’t mind the premium. The company’s business model is so successful that new stores are opening every few weeks. There are around 400 Whole Foods Markets from coast to coast.

Conversely, chains like Aldi, a rapidly growing limited-assortment store, caries only around 1,300 staples. The prices are great-—that's what the appeals to Aldi's customers—but if you’re looking for top-notch perishables, there are better choices.

It’s too bad that more supermarkets aren't like Wegmans, a chain of about 100 stores in the East, which delivers the winning one-two punch of great quality produce, meats, baked goods, and prepared foods, and lower-than-average prices.

The good news is that most shoppers have the option of shopping at a store that offers good food and at least reasonable deals. In fact, the chains with the best prices were among the most highly rated overall. Here's the breakdown between the cheapest and most expensive stores in our survey.

Best prices

Chain

Locations

Trader Joe’s

Nationwide

Fareway Stores

Midwest

Market Basket

Northeast

Costco

Nationwide

WinCo

West

 

Worst prices

Chain

Number of stores

The Fresh Market

Nationwide

Whole Foods Market

Nationwide

Harris-Teeter

South

Brookshire’s

Ark., La. Texas

Giant Eagle

Pa., Ohio, W. Va., Md.

Randalls

Texas

Jewel-Osco

Midwest

Acme

Northeast

Shaw’s

New England

A&P

Northeast

Waldbaum’s

Northeast

-—Tod Marks

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