When I moved to Sioux Falls, SD from Madison, SD, I had a whole new slue of options to choose from when it comes to buying my weekly groceries. Instead of having one small-town grocery store, I now have 5 HyVee’s, 2 Walmart’s, a CostCo, dozens of smaller and specialty greenery stores, and even Target now has a groceries section! With so many options, it’s hard to know which store to go to. Fortunately there’s a process that you can go through to find out which grocery store is the best choice in your area.
Go to a different grocery store for the next five weeks (or less if you don’t have 5 grocery stores within driving distance). Each week get all the items that you normally would, even if some of the prices on individual items look a little bit expensive. Don’t change your shopping habits in the slightest. Of course you don’t buy the exact same items on a weekly basis, so you’re never going to be able to tell which store is the cheapest just by looking at the total on your receipts alone.
You do want to save the receipts because they will tell you which grocery store has the best prices. At the end of the five weeks, open up Microsoft Excel (or make a table on a piece of paper). Note any items that you buy on a very regular basis, things that you get every week. This might include milk, eggs, bread, cereal, soda, things like that. These should be the most common items that you buy, almost every single week. Put them all in a column in your table or on your sheet of paper.
Now create 5 additional columns next to the list of items that you created, one for each grocery store. Take the 5 receipts from the different stores, and mark down how much you spent for on each item on the list. You won’t have entries for all the stores because we don’t always buy the same things from week to week, but you’ll get a pretty good idea for most of the stores.
Go through all of the items and circle which store has the best price on the item. The store that gets the most circles will probably be the cheapest over a long period of time. They have the best prices on the items that you most commonly buy, so it makes sense to go there unless it has some health or quality issues that you’re concerned about.
When I went through this process, Wal-Mart’s grocery section was the clear winner, since they have the best prices on Frozen Food, which is the vast majority of my diet, albeit fairly unhealthy. This doesn’t mean that Wal-Mart’s the cheapest place, it depends on the type of items that you buy, and what city you’re in. The only way to find out is to visit different grocery stores in your area and compare yourself.