Consumer Reports has named 13 grocery retail chain “standouts” when it comes to price.
The winning retailers, in alphabetical order, with comments from Consumer Reports, include:
Aldi. This fast-growing, no-frills import from Germany has been expanding westward from its base in the eastern half of the U.S.; now you'll also find Aldis in Southern California.
Its stores are on the small size—they're about one-third the size of a typical American grocer—and sell a limited selection of mainly private-label goods.
For Easter, the outlet near Consumer Reports' headquarters was selling spiral-sliced ham at 95 cents a pound, down from $1.69, and fresh blueberries at $2.49 a pint.
• Costco. Who could pass up a 3-pound rotisserie chicken for $4.99 at this venerable warehouse club, cheaper in some cases than a raw bird of the same size? Our survey respondents also gave the national retailer top marks for meats and poultry quality, and store-brand quality.
• Crest. "Home of Rock Bottom Prices" is the slogan of this Oklahoma-based chain, and our members agreed.
The company says it saves customers money because, among other reasons, it has low overhead, buys direct from manufacturers, and doesn't spend much on advertising.
Among the attractions: Customers can self-serve from the store's bulk containers of fresh-ground peanut butter, flavored vinegars, honey, nuts and trail mixes, and dried fruits and vegetables.
• Fareway Stores. This family-owned market operates in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Six-ounce portions of bacon-wrapped filet mignon, as well as 8-ounce boneless ribeye steaks, were $6.99 at its Belmond, Iowa, store this week. A fresh whole pineapple was half off—99 cents, with coupon.
• Grocery Outlet. Located on the West Coast and in Idaho, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, the company says it's able to pass on savings by buying brands' excess inventory "for pennies on the dollar." Its Sandy, Ore., market's circular this week offered three jumbo avocados for $5; Pra Vinera Reserve Pinot Noir for $7.99, about 50 percent off; and Thomas Farms boneless butterflied leg of lamb, $4.99 a pound, a savings of up to $3 a pound.
• Lidl. With outposts along the East Coast, this retailer follows the same principle as Aldi, another German-based chain: Smaller-footprint stores with a "curated" product assortment. This weekend, smoked ham portions were 69 cents a pound, a 50-cent-per-pound savings; a 12-ounce package of uncured hickory-smoked bacon was $2.99, discounted from $4.99; and a dozen cage-free brown eggs was $1.29, down from $2.29.
• Marc's. The Ohio-based chain's pricing is its best feature, according to our members; they otherwise aren't impressed with checkout speed, meat and poultry quality, and other attributes. The store's vast weekly circular, posted online, includes a "discount slider" that lets shoppers filter deals based on the percentage off. (This week, lawn products carried the biggest discount, at 40 percent.)
• Market Basket (Northeast). Residents of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire know this family-owned chain for its low prices and absence of self-checkout lanes. Our surveyed members placed Market Basket among the top-rated chains overall. Among recent specials: Thin-sliced Carando prosciutto, $5.99 a pound, $2 off the regular price; and red, yellow, and orange peppers, $1.99 a pound, a $1-a-pound savings.
• Military commissaries. The federal government ensures that these vast stores, open only to those carrying authorized Department of Defense ID cards, offer competitive prices for the astounding 38,000 items they sell. Prices here are generally good year-round.
• Save-A-Lot. With stores in 26 states, this retailer says it saves money with smaller stores and an edited assortment of items that its customers buy most. This week's circular for the Linden, N.J., store includes sweet potatoes at 49 cents a pound, Sugardale shank portion ham at 79 cents a pound, and fresh USDA choice boneless beef eye of round roast at $4.49 a pound.
• Trader Joe's. The national chain, known for its funky vibe and unique store-brand products, impressed our members the most with its competitive prices, store cleanliness, employee helpfulness and attentiveness, checkout speed, and store-brand quality. Trader Joe's is the only national chain among the top-rated grocers overall, according to our survey.
• WinCo. With more than 100 stores in the West, WinCo sells many items in bulk and further trims costs by requiring customers to bag their own items. Several readers on CR's Facebook page said they did most of their shopping at these warehouse-style grocery stores. “The appearance of the WinCo store's interior will go unchanged for decade after decade, which is nice,” said one. “I don't want never-ending remodeling driving up the price.”
• Woodman's. Warehouse-style Woodman’s, which operates in Illinois and Wisconsin, passes on savings by selling items in bulk, making this a good place to buy in quantity for a party. The employee-owned retailer also saves by refusing to accept credit cards, sidestepping the associated processing fees.