Where to Save Money on Groceries
Cheapism surveyed grocery prices for 41 common food items at three different types of stores: Walmart, the superstore with bottom-dollar prices; Aldi, a growing chain of discount supermarkets; and Kroger, the nation’s largest traditional grocery store. Our comparison also takes into account product selection, convenience, customer service, and other factors that might help set one store apart. Here’s what we found:
- Aldi is the cheapest grocery store. In our price comparison of mostly store-brand items, our grocery bill at Aldi was about 14% cheaper than at Walmart and 24% cheaper than the lowest prices available at Kroger.
- For consumers who prefer to purchase national brands (most of which Aldi does not carry), Walmart has the best prices.
- Sometimes the best grocery store is not the cheapest grocery store. Although shoppers might pay more at Kroger, the traditional grocery store beats Aldi and Walmart for sheer variety of products (both packaged and fresh), abundant sale items, and shopping convenience. But for the best-quality store brands, along with swift and efficient service, head to Aldi.
Price Comparison: Aldi vs. Walmart vs. Kroger
|Item||Aldi||Walmart||Kroger||Kroger Plus Card||Winner|
|2% Milk (1 gallon)||$1.49||$2.48||$2.19||-||Aldi|
|American Cheese (24 slices)||$2.16||$1.96||$2.39||-||Walmart|
|Large Eggs (1 dozen)||69¢||58¢||79¢||-||Walmart|
|Mozzarella Cheese (16 oz.)||$2.69||$2.97||$3.99||-||Aldi|
|Unsalted Butter (16 oz.)||$3.09||$2.98||$3.29||-||Walmart|
|Yogurt (32 oz.)||$1.79||$1.84||$1.99||-||Aldi|
|Lettuce (1 head)||$1.20||$1.28||$1.49||-||Aldi|
|Russet Potatoes (10 lbs.)||$3.99||$4.76||$6.20|
(8 lbs. for $4.99; 62¢/lb.)
|Strawberries (16 oz.)||$1.65||$1.62||$2.50||-||Walmart|
|Bananas (1 lb.)||43¢||40¢||49¢||-||Walmart|
|Gala Apples (1 lb.)||46¢|
(3 lbs. for $1.39)
|Organic Baby Carrots (1 lb.)||$2.49||$1.46||$1.69||-||Walmart|
|Ground Beef 80/20 (1 lb.)||$3.29||$3.94||$4.49||$4.29||Aldi|
|Frozen Tilapia (1 lb.)||$3.79||$3.88||$4.99||-||Aldi|
|Chicken Breasts (1 lb.)||$2.49||$3.37|
|Boneless Pork Chops (1 lb.)||$3.49||$4.88||$4.99||-||Aldi|
|Oven-Roasted Deli Turkey Breast (9 oz.)||$1.99||$2.48||$2.69||$2.50||Aldi|
|Ketchup (24 oz.)||96¢|
(38 oz. for $1.35; 4¢/oz.)
|Hummus (10 oz.)||$1.95||$2.73||$3.49||$2.99||Aldi|
|Ranch Dressing (16 oz.)||89¢||92¢||$1.50||-||Aldi|
|Peanut Butter (28 oz.)||$1.40|
(40 oz. for $2.19; 5¢/oz.)
|Pepperoni Pizza (28 oz.)||$2.80|
(27.5 oz. for $2.75; 10¢/oz.)
(26.6 oz. for $2.78; 10.5¢/oz.)
(28.3 oz. for $2.99; 10.6¢/oz.)
|Lasagna (38 oz.)||$3.80|
(28 oz. for $2.69; 10¢/oz.)
(35 oz. for $5.48; 15.7¢/oz.)
|Ice Cream (48 oz.)||$1.95||$2.97||$2.79||$2.50||Aldi|
|Mixed Vegetables (12 oz.)||79¢||84¢||96¢|
(32 oz. for $2.49; 8¢/oz.)
|Spaghetti (32 oz.)||$1.25||$1.97||$1.49||-||Aldi|
|Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz.)||85¢||88¢||$1.49||$1.00||Aldi|
|Rice (white enriched, 2 lbs.)||$1.79||$1.46||$1.69||-||Walmart|
|Bread (1 loaf, white)||85¢||88¢||$1.25||$1.00||Aldi|
|Hamburger Buns (8, white)||85¢||87¢||$1.25||$1.00||Aldi|
|Chicken Broth (32 oz.)||$1.19||$1.22||$1.49||-||Aldi|
|Diced Tomatoes (14.5 oz.)||45¢||46¢||50¢||-||Aldi|
|Flour (5 lbs.)||$1.15||$1.18||$1.79||-||Aldi|
|Sugar (4 lbs.)||$1.19||$1.58||$1.59||-||Aldi|
|Tuna (5 oz.)||79¢||68¢||79¢||-||Walmart|
|Chicken Noodle Soup (10.5 oz.)||49¢||50¢||59¢||-||Aldi|
|Cereal and Snacks|
|Toasted Oat Cereal (12 oz.)||$1.19||$1.23||$1.49||-||Aldi|
|Chocolate Chip Cookies (13 oz.)||$1.35||$1.36||$1.49||-||Aldi|
|Cola (2 l.)||69¢||72¢||79¢||-||Aldi|
|Apple Juice (64 oz.)||$1.09||$1.23||$1.50||-||Aldi|
*Listed prices are the cheapest available at each store and store-brand or generic items unless otherwise indicated. To compare items of different quantities, the unit price was used to calculate the total cost of the most commonly available quantity.
Name-Brand Price Comparison: Walmart vs. Kroger
|Item||Walmart||Kroger||Kroger Plus Card||Winner|
|Kraft Singles (24 slices)||$3.67||$5.29||$4.49||Walmart|
|Eggland's Best Large Eggs (1 dozen)||$2.67||$2.99||$1.99||Kroger|
|Land O Lakes Unsalted Butter (1 lb.)||$4.56||$4.99||$3.99||Kroger|
|Sargento Mozzarella Cheese (16 oz.)||$4.66||$8.32|
(8 oz. for $4.19; 52¢/oz.)
(8 oz. for $2.99; 37¢/oz.)
|Dannon Yogurt (32 oz.)||$2.66||$2.99||-||Walmart|
|Tyson Chicken Breasts (1 lb.)||$3.37||$3.49||-||Walmart|
|Hillshire Farm Oven-Roasted Deli Turkey Breast (9 oz.)||$3.28||$3.69||-||Walmart|
|Heinz Ketchup (20 oz.)||$2.26||$2.79||-||Walmart|
|Sabra Hummus (10 oz.)||$3.14||$3.99||-||Walmart|
|Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing (16 oz.)||$2.96||$3.29||-||Walmart|
|Jif Peanut Butter (28 oz.)||$3.84||$3.99||-||Walmart|
|DiGiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza (27.5 oz.)||$5.00||$5.79||$5.49||Walmart|
|Stouffer's Lasagna (38 oz.)||$7.98|
(34 oz. for $6.98; 21¢/oz.)
|Breyers Chocolate Ice Cream (48 oz.)||$2.97||$6.99||$3.49||Walmart|
|Birds Eye Steamfresh Mixed Vegetables (10 oz.)||$1.00||$1.50||-||Walmart|
|Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti (16 oz.)||$1.28||$1.49||$1.39||Walmart|
|Ragu Spaghetti Sauce (24 oz.)||$1.48||$1.99||-||Walmart|
|Uncle Ben's Original Rice (2 lbs.)||$3.88||$4.19||-||Walmart|
|Nature's Own Bread (1 loaf)||$2.93||$3.19||-||Walmart|
|Pepperidge Farm Hamburger Buns, 8 ct.||$2.78||$3.49||$2.99||Walmart|
|Swanson Chicken Broth (32 oz.)||$1.94||$2.49||-||Walmart|
|Hunt's Diced Tomatoes (14.5 oz.)||98¢||$1.00||-||Walmart|
|Gold Medal All Purpose Flour (5 lbs.)||$2.08||$2.49||-||Walmart|
|Domino Sugar (4 lbs.)||$2.08||$3.49||$3.19||Walmart|
|Starkist Tuna (5 oz.)||83¢||95¢||-||Walmart|
|Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup (10.75 oz.)||90¢||$1.00||-||Walmart|
|Cereal and Snacks|
|Cheerios (18 oz.)||$3.64||$4.49||$3.49||Kroger|
|Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies (13 oz.)||$2.56||$2.79||-||Walmart|
|Coke (2 liter)||$1.68||$1.67||-||Kroger|
|Mott's Apple Juice (64 oz.)||$2.64||$2.99||-||Walmart|
*To compare items of different quantities, unit price was used to calculate total cost.
To find out whether Kroger, Walmart, or Aldi is the cheapest grocery store, we checked prices on the same items, but not necessarily the same brands, at three stores in the same western Ohio market area.
We filled our shopping cart with several products from each department, including milk, a dozen eggs, and butter from the dairy case; chicken breast and ground beef from the meat counter; enough produce to make a decent salad; condiments such as ketchup, ranch dressing, and peanut butter; frozen foods such as pizza and family-size lasagna; bread and buns from the baked goods aisle; and staples such as pasta, flour, chicken broth, soda, juice, and cereal.
To make our grocery store price comparison fair, we calculated a per-unit price for like items of unequal amounts or sizes, and then used that result to determine the total cost for the most commonly sold quantity. For example, russet potatoes were available at both Aldi and Walmart in 10-pound bags but Kroger was selling 8-pound bags, so we projected the cost of a 10-pound bag at Kroger using the price per pound.
Our final tally produced a clear overall winner: Aldi, where the grocery bill came to $67.34, about 14% cheaper than the Walmart total of $78.23 and more than 20% cheaper than Kroger (even with a store savings card). Aldi outpriced Walmart on 33 of 41 items. Kroger was never the cheapest choice.
However, more than 90% of the products at Aldi are private label, and the discount grocer carries few national or regional brands. For shoppers who prefer not to buy generic equivalents of their favorite brands, we also did a Walmart vs. Kroger price comparison of popular name-brand products. When we compared prices on 30 national brands — products like Jif peanut butter, Uncle Ben's rice, and Dannon yogurt — Walmart was the cheapest grocery store, with overall savings of 9% over Kroger Plus Card prices and double that without a savings card. Only five items in our shopping cart were less expensive at Kroger than at Walmart, and three of those were cheaper only for Kroger Plus Card holders.
Shoppers have the highest praise for Aldi’s store brands. Kroger is a close second and Walmart brings up the rear.
Although many consumers are partial to particular brands, store brands help shoppers save money. One expert quoted by Consumer Reports estimates as much as $3,000 a year for the average family of five.
Of the stores we compared, Aldi reigns when it comes to store-brand quality — unsurprising given that the chain relies on private labels for the bulk of its sales. To help convince shoppers that its store brands are just as good as big names, Aldi backs purchases with a “double guarantee” that grants both a refund and a replacement for anything deemed unsatisfactory. Our own Aldi private label taste test found that more than half the items sampled were either dead ringers for the national brands they were trying to imitate or extremely close. Aldi also scores higher with shoppers than Walmart when it comes to perceptions of value for money spent and far outpaces traditional supermarkets in this area, according to a major supermarket study conducted by the research firm Retail Feedback Group. Store Brands magazine named Aldi its 2019 Retailer of the Year for providing premium store brands at low prices, and Aldi brands took the top spot in three categories in the 2019 Product of the Year survey based on votes by over 40,000 consumers.
Store brands carried by Kroger are big business for the retailer, and each of its supermarket outlets is said to stock as many as 15,000 private-label products, from groceries to home goods and even clothing. The grocer has had particular success with its Simple Truth line of organic and natural selections, now the largest such brand in the country, with more than $2 billion in sales in the past year. It also produces private-brand products that are unique, as opposed to copycats of existing national brands. Take, for example, Kroger Deluxe Unicorn Swirl ice cream, which has inspired a social media frenzy (and spawned a Walmart knockoff of its own) or the store’s Private Selection General Tso’s Chicken potato chips. Kroger was named Store Brands magazine’s 2018 Retailer of the Year for its expansion of its private brands in response to consumers’ wants and needs, Walmart lags in this category. Putting aside critiques regarding questionable ingredients, surprising calorie counts, and other nutritional no-nos, many of the store-brand items simply don’t deliver on taste. That’s not to say everything’s a dud — we found some Great Value store-brand foods that deliver quality and savings — but they haven’t seemed to ignite as much shopper loyalty as other chains’ products. Walmart itself has acknowledged a need to tweak and beef up its private-label offerings.
WINNERS: Aldi and Kroger (Tie)
Shoppers report the best customer service and satisfaction at Aldi, but Kroger offers more conveniences, including self-checkout options and curbside pickup, so we call this category a draw. Walmart is a distant third.
Overall, consumers seem most satisfied by their experiences grocery shopping at Aldi: The German grocer is outranked by only Trader Joe’s, Wegmans, and Publix in the 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index, based on annual interviews with tens of thousands of customers. Kroger is in the middle of the list, just beating the supermarket industry average. Walmart brings up the rear as the lowest-ranked supermarket, with a score 1.4% lower than the previous year’s dismal showing.
Because Aldi is just a fraction of the size of its competitors, an employee is never far away to assist customers. The chain’s obsessive focus on efficiency has led it to plaster its products with bar codes to speed up checkout. We saw Aldi clerks fly through large transactions and never waited in line there for more than a few minutes. The store is clean and bright, and it’s easy to find what you need while grocery shopping. However, some shoppers might be turned off by some of the store’s quirks, which include having to fork over a quarter for carts, pay for bags, and bag your own groceries. There are also no curbside pickup options here, although the chain has partnered with Instacart for delivery.
In contrast, the neighborhood Kroger we visited is massive. Fortunately, on our shopping trips, employees were still relatively easy to find for assistance. Although checkout was not as speedy as Aldi’s, it rarely took long, with plenty of open lanes as well as express checkout and self-checkout for smaller orders. Kroger continues to innovate ways to get customers out the door faster, introducing a “Scan, Bag, Go” program that allows shoppers to scan items as they shop and pay with a smartphone. The store’s grocery pickup program is also a well-oiled machine. Customers shop online and pay $5 for someone else to round up their items and bring them to their car. (The fee is waived on the first three orders.)
Walmart is dogged by negative perceptions that it’s dirty, crowded, and staffed by workers who are indifferent, hard to find, or both. While our local store seemed clean enough, it was definitely packed, and workers were hard to track down when we needed assistance. Checkout lines were long because too few registers were open. Still, it’s not all bad news here: Walmart’s grocery pickup program receives solid marks, and unlike Kroger’s, it’s free. The chain is also rolling out a Delivery Unlimited program that could be a game changer for many shoppers: For $98 a year (or $12.95 a month), subscribers get as many grocery orders dropped on their doorstep as they’d like.
Savings & Loyalty Programs
Deal hunters who love clipping coupons, tracking sales, and getting customized offers will be big fans of Kroger, where there are plenty of ways to save on any given day. In contrast, Aldi and Walmart keep prices fairly steady.
Stores try to make grocery shopping more enticing through coupons, weekly specials, savings cards, and, at some chains, discounts on gas. Kroger excels at all of the above, helping shoppers save money. A Kroger card is a must-have even for occasional visitors, as the store reserves its sale prices for members. An associated smartphone app lets users download coupons onto the loyalty card, and the store uses purchase tracking to send shoppers personalized coupons in the mail — altogether a pretty sophisticated setup. In addition to savings with the Kroger Plus Card, shoppers can redeem manufacturers' coupons in stores.
Loyal Kroger shoppers can also earn one fuel point for every $1 spent on grocery shopping. Those who rack up 100 points are rewarded with 10 cents off per gallon of gas on a fill-up at a Kroger fuel station or select Shell stations.
Extra savings opportunities are far less generous at Walmart — there is no preferred shopping card, for example — but the discount chain runs occasional sales and honors manufacturers’ coupons. However, its popular Savings Catcher price-matching tool was recently discontinued.
Aldi offers weekly sales on select products that can help shoppers save money, but coupons are not accepted and Aldi will not match the prices of other stores. It also has no loyalty program.
Aldi’s small footprint simply doesn’t accommodate as many products. In some categories, Walmart’s selection is on par with Kroger, but the superstore is certainly second fiddle when it comes to items like prepared foods, seafood, and meat.
If selection matters, it’s hard to beat Kroger. The traditional grocer carried by far the most varieties of everything on our list. For instance, at our local store, shoppers could choose among at least 10 different brands of mayonnaise and various types, including avocado, olive oil, sriracha, keto diets, a few kinds of organic, and even Heinz Mayochup, a mayo-ketchup hybrid. The store also boasted well-stocked and well-staffed seafood and meat departments, a full deli, a large bakery, and even high-end bonuses like an olive bar, a sushi bar, and a wine bar. Health food and organics are abundant, often thanks to the chain’s ubiquitous Simple Truth brand.
Even loyal Aldi shoppers would concede that the cheapest grocery store is a bit lacking in variety and they may have to round out their trips there with visits to another store for more specialized items. It’s typical for selection to be limited to just one or two kinds of a particular grocery product. Shoppers plagued by “decision fatigue” at larger grocers may argue that this is not always a bad thing — as long as you like what’s on the shelves. One weak spot at Aldi is produce. The chain gets dinged by many consumers and reviewers for fruits and veggies that are not in the best shape and spoil quickly. Also sorely lacking are fresh prepared foods, which Kroger has in abundance.
Walmart stocks an exponentially wider inventory than Aldi — Walmart Supercenters carry what seems like everything under the sun — but the grocery department still lags Kroger. Where Kroger offers full deli, meat, and seafood counters, the Walmart locations we visited offered only delis. There is no freshly cut meat, and although there are plenty of prepackaged meat options, the selection of prepackaged seafood is smaller. Walmart’s selection of dairy and nonperishable items is closer to Kroger’s, but many shoppers take particular umbrage at the dearth of prepared foods, locally sourced produce, and healthier options.