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Comparison Shopping

There are three basic options in my town for grocery shopping: large regional chain, smaller regional chain, and upscale single store. The large regional chain in a pain in the rear to get to from my house. It also takes me forever to shop there. The smaller regional chain often has dairy products that are at the very end of their “sell by” dates (and I have accidentally bought yogurt beyond its sell-by date). The smaller regional chain store is within (long) walking distance of my home, and we can ride our bikes there easily. And the upscale shop is, well upscale. Lots of nice groceries, an enjoyable shopping experience. EXCEPT — I have long claimed that by shopping that that store for my weekly trip I will instantly spend at least ten dollars more.

My husband prefers the upscale store for shopping. I decided to do a little comparison shopping. Here’s what I price compared:

Healthy Choice 7 Grain Bread

Minute Maid 1/2 Gallon OJ

Kemps (or Land o Lakes) Butter, 1 lb

Kemps (or Land o Lakes) Gallon of milk

Klausen Pickles

5 lbs Crystal Sugar

5 lbs Gold Medal All Purpose Flour

Here’s what I expected to find:

Upscale most expensive, Small regional chain middle, Large regional chain most expensive.

Here’s what I actually found:

Upscale ($25.45)

Small Regional Chain ($20.34)

Large Regional Chain ($23.33)

So I was surprised that the large regional chain (which is at least 10 miles away, depending on the route) was not the cheapest. That shop is not really on my way to anything (except Target or the mall), and just driving there costs me $4.

Surprise #2: the small regional chain is not only the cheapest, its 20% cheaper than the upscale shop. And the significant differences came in the form of staples (flour $3.25 vs. $2.49  and sugar $3.30 vs. $2.89).

Why didn’t I compare other products?  Well, honestly I was busy. I needed items in the dairy aisle, the baking aisle and I was buying bread. (This brand I knew would be consistent across all the stores). Why no produce?  Two reasons: in the summer we get our produce through two CSA farms (one for fruit one for veggies). Also I think produce is highly variable. In fairness, the upscale shop always has nice produce.

So in short, I told you so: that the upscale shop was more expensive. But I was honestly surprised that the giant store wasn’t the cheapest. And a little relieved because frankly, it takes forever to do my shopping there.

Categories: What we are eating
  1. August 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Very interesting. We’ve been meaning to do this comparison for a while. We tend to go to the upscale store because they bag your groceries for you and they have the drive up option. Well worth the 20% increase in price when you have two small children with you.And they have free donut holes. But this gives me food for thought. Thanks for doing the leg work.

    • August 18, 2012 at 1:20 pm

      Yes, I agree. I often shop without kids (I spend less and it takes me about half as long and way less griping from the peanut gallery). So that means that the donut holes and drive up aren’t as important to me. But if we assume all products are 20% more and that we spend $150/week on groceries ….. that’s $30 a week. 30 x 52 = over $1500 a year. THAT is craziness. I hope all products are not 20% more.

  2. gorplady
    August 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I shop at Cub almost exclusively although Mount Royal and Plaza/Kenwood SuperOnes are closer.

    Cub has better quality merchandise and with their.current gas promo, I save the gas money driving.

    SuperOne is cheaper but I find their products to be poor quality, and as you noted, often past their sell-by date.

    Mount Royal is most enjoyable to shop at… But not for my pocketbook.

  3. Beverly
    August 19, 2012 at 12:42 am

    It seems to me at Mount Royal, every single thing is 50 cents or even a dollar more than at Cub. I’d like to compare Target grocery prices, too, because I buy a lot of store brands there that are cheaper. I’m might need to get on this finally. I’ve always meant to! 🙂

  4. Cameron Hubley
    August 23, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Although, I can see the validity to shop at Super One or Cub, I am a much happier and more calm person when I leave Mt. Royal plus they have cuter check out boys!

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