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Grocery costs vary widely from store to store
The stores included were: ALDI, Cub Foods, Lunds, Rainbow Foods, Seward Co-op, Target, Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart, and Whole Foods Market. We looked at "regular" and organic foods. Almost all of Whole Foods, Trader Joes and the Seward Co-ops’ products were organic foods, so they were not included in the comparison for the bag of "regular" products.
Our first price comparison was for a bag of non-organic products at each store. We looked for the lowest price available for each product. Products included bread, milk, eggs, carrots, apples, peanut butter, spaghetti, canned green beans, canned tomatoes, chicken noodle soup, ground beef, and chicken.
What we found
Lunds and Target were the most expensive stores for regular products, within a few cents of each other. Cub was the third most expensive store for regular products. Rainbow and Wal-Mart were quite a bit less expensive and ALDI was the least expensive, with the same bag of groceries costing almost $10 dollars less at ALDI than at Lunds and Target.
Our next price comparison was for a bag of organic products at each store. ALDI does not carry any organic products, so they were left out of this comparison. The bag of organic products only included items that were available at all the stores.
The Seward neighborhood co-op was the most expensive place to buy all organic products. Rainbow, Lunds, Wal-Mart and Cub were all within a dollar of each other. Trader Joes and Target were slightly less expensive, but Whole Foods was the least expensive place to buy a bag of these organic items.
Organic products are more expensive than regular products at every store. Cub had the smallest price difference between regular and organic products – only about four dollars. A bag of organic products at Wal-Mart was more than twice as much as a bag of the same non-organic products. Organic products were almost twice as much at Lunds. Organic products were also more expensive at Target and at Rainbow, around five and eight dollars more, respectively.
• Do our findings track with your experience in grocery shopping?
• What are the non-price factors that you consider when shopping for groceries? Do you find quality differences between stores? Do you look for locally grown produce? Do you care about whether store employees belong to a union or get health insurance benefits?
• What strategies do you have for cutting grocery bills? Do you shop sales, use coupons, buy only certain foods?
Send us your thoughts, comments, opinions ... and we'll follow up in a future article.
[Research for this article was done by interns and volunteers including Ellen Frazel, Tim Lehman, Casey Merkwan, Ashely Siebels, and Mysti Strege.]