Memorial Day cookout

Before you toss the burgers and dogs on the grill this Memorial Day, think about where you’ll buy your cookout fixings. In addition to the fresh food for grilling, you might want to add prepared items, such as potato salad, coleslaw, and even deli sandwiches, to your menu.

Finding what you want won’t be hard if you go to one of the grocery stores and supermarkets highly rated by Consumer Reports. Recently, more than 75,000 surveyed CR members told us about more than 140,000 grocery-store visits they’d made. From those results, we arrived at ratings of 96 grocers nationwide, including regional chains and national retailers. 

For great and fresh store-prepared food—the kind you’ll want to say is homemade—regional retailers tend to do better than national chains. In fact, only two national chains, Costco and Whole Foods Market, get better-than-average scores in the category.

Here are the winning purveyors of fresh store-prepared food around the country.

Texas-Based Central Market Shines

If you live in a major Texas metro area, Central Market is the go-to place for freshly prepared Memorial Day fare. This week, for instance, the 10-store grocer is taking 10 percent off baked-on-premises fruit pies—including a latticed berry pie decorated like the American flag—as well as fresh-made picnic salads with tempting names such as Asian slaw, Greek village salad, faro vegetable salad, and mint vinaigrette.

More on Grocery Stores & Supermarkets

Central Market, whose motto is “Really Into Food,” is holding its Big Tastes of Texas promotion through May 28. It features Texas-produced foods, including prime steak, shrimp, watermelon, and jalapeño-flavored goat cheese. On its website you’ll also find recipes for Lone Star State specialties, such as pecan pie, Texas blackberry cobbler, and Gulf shrimp prepared four different ways. 

Central Market, a subsidiary of the supermarket chain H-E-B, ranked among the top scorers in our overall supermarket and grocery store ratings. In addition to earning accolades for its fresh store-prepared foods, it got top marks for store cleanliness; helpfulness and attentiveness of employees; quality of its store brand, produce, meats, and poultry; produce variety; selection of healthy options; selection of locally produced products; and variety of international products.

Wegmans Rules in the Northeast

Wegmans, based on the East Coast, also got a top mark for fresh store-prepared foods. The Wegmans Memorial Day cookout menu this year includes a “favorites tray” of sliced cheeses, salami, olives, and tomatoes; ready-to-cook Greek turkey burgers; brown sugar BBQ chicken breast cutlets; mustard potato salad; penne mozzarella salad; and a rectangle fruit tart studded with pineapple, colorful berries, and kiwi.

In our ratings, Wegmans is on a par with Central Market for overall satisfaction. While it earned many of the same top scores as Central Market, it did better on competitiveness of prices and checkout speed but not quite as well on store-brand quality. 

Gelson's: Best in the West

Gelson’s, based in Southern California, has chopped $1 per pound off its certified 80 percent Angus ground beef and $2 off its fresh-prepared San Francisco-style potato salad for Memorial Day backyard revelers.

The gourmet chain is making its first appearance in Consumer Reports’ supermarket ratings, with commendable or top marks in most categories but not for prices. (Check out which of the 96 stores in our ratings did best for price.)

The Fresh Market's Take on Grilling

The Fresh Market, with more than 170 outposts in 24 states, is focusing on grilling for Memorial Day. The chain, which earned our highest mark for quality of meats and poultry, is promoting its made-in-store gourmet burgers and grill-ready kabobs for holiday cookouts. 

The Fresh Market, based in Greensboro, N.C., also gets a top score for its fresh store-prepared food. For this weekend’s cookout, the retailer suggests seasonal side dishes, such as blue cheese potato salad, pepper vinegar slaw, Caribbean beans and rice, smokehouse barbecue beans, Asiago tortellini salad with prosciutto, and a dish called Texas caviar, which is black-eyed peas, black beans, corn, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and jalapeño tossed in a light vinaigrette.

The Fresh Market, which got a commendable overall satisfaction score, also excelled in store cleanliness and checkout speed.

Lunds & Byerlys' Minnesota Menu

The Lunds & Byerlys website displays a cornucopia of do-it-yourself recipes for holiday grilling. Those who’d rather relax this weekend can check out the grocer’s deli department for specials on freshly prepared items, such as $1 per pound off store-made tortellini pasta salad, $2.50 off the retailer’s eight-piece signature baked chicken, and $3.99 per pound off the retailer’s baked beans (that’s a buy-one-get-one-free offer).

Lunds & Byerlys, based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, has fresh store-prepared foods that got raves from our surveyed members, as did its store cleanliness, the helpfulness and attentiveness of employees, checkout speed, and produce, meat and poultry quality.

Make Your Cookout Memorable

Wherever you shop, be sure to follow Consumer Reports’ food-safety tips for summer cookouts, including how to use a meat thermometer, store cold dishes such as potato salad, and clean up properly. And take advantage of our advice on keeping mosquitoes and ticks away and using sunscreen the right way.