Since our last evaluation of grocery stores, in 2018, a series of enormous changes have rocked the food-buying world.
Staying at home during the pandemic meant avoiding restaurants; our home-cooking exploits gave a huge boost to supermarket companies’ bottom lines. The surge in demand for delivery and curbside pickup also changed the way stores served many of their customers: To remain relevant, grocery stores were forced to invest in new technology or partner with third-party outfits to keep their goods flowing. While interest in grocery delivery has since waned, because many consumers learned they’d rather have someone else do their shopping we continue to have far more grocery delivery options than before.
More recently, supply-chain kinks and soaring inflation made grocery shopping an expensive and often frustrating ordeal (we’ll never take cream cheese for granted again!).
Despite all this turmoil, our latest evaluation of grocery stores in seven major metro areas for quality and price mostly found that the more things change, the more they stay the same: Most stores still struggle to provide high-quality products at low prices.
For more than 40 years, Checkbook has regularly evaluated grocery stores for price and quality. For many years, traditional supermarkets like Acme, Albertsons, Giant, Jewel-Osco, Kroger, Safeway, ShopRite, and Stop & Shop dominated local supermarket scenes. But these companies now are being squeezed by lots of competitors. Popular regional chains like Wegmans are expanding. Trader Joe’s, ALDI, and Lidl offer unique selections of their own brands at low prices. You can get rock-bottom prices if you buy in bulk at Costco, Sam’s Club, and other warehouse stores. Target and Walmart, with their low-price reputations and sell-everything product array, have reconfigured their stores to fresh food. And Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods indicates seemingly everyone wants to capture your food budget.
So where can you find the best produce and meat? Which stores offer the lowest prices? How much can you save by shopping at ALDI or Lidl? Are membership warehouse clubs worth their annual fees? What about organic food? How much extra will you pay for delivery? Read on for answers.