Our price comparisons and ratings of stores for quality show the results of our market-basket price survey
and our most recent surveys of consumers on supermarket quality and service.
Here are some key findings—
The area’s two largest chains—Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco—had higher prices,
on average, than most of the other surveyed chains.
The area’s price standouts were Woodman’s Food, Walmart, and Food 4 Less.
Compared to average prices at Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco,
prices were substantially lower at Woodman’s Food (15 percent lower than the
Dominick’s/Jewel-Osco average), Walmart Neighborhood Market (13 percent), Food
4 Less (12 percent), Walmart Express (12 percent), and Walmart Supercenter (11
percent). For a family that spends $150 per week at the supermarket, this 11 to
15 percent price difference will total $850 to $1,150 a year.
Prices at SuperTarget, Target, Ultra Foods, and Meijer were also
substantially lower than Dominick’s and Jewel Osco’s prices.
SuperTarget’s and Ultra Foods’ prices were nine percent
lower than the average prices at Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco, Target’s about
eight percent lower, and Meijer’s about seven percent lower.
Most Chicago area shoppers have at least one nearby low-cost supermarket option.
Price-leader Woodman’s Food’s stores are not conveniently
located for most area shoppers: At the time of this writing, its only area
stores were in Carpentersville and North Aurora. But most area shoppers live or
work near at least one low-cost supermarket option: Walmart operates more than
40 area stores that sell groceries; more than 50 area Targets offer either a
full or basic selection of groceries; Food 4 Less operates about 15 area
supermarkets; Ultra Foods has eight area stores; and Meijer has 14 area stores.
On average, Jewel-Osco’s prices were about three percent lower than Dominick’s.
Within the Jewel-Osco and Dominick’s chains, we found
relatively little price variation from store to store.
The largest chains get low ratings for quality.
On the quality side, Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco rated toward
the bottom for “quality of fresh produce,” “quality of meats,” and “overall
quality,” as did their much-lower-priced competitors Walmart, Food 4 Less,
SuperTarget and Target, and Ultra Foods. But Meijer’s quality ratings, although
not stellar, were considerably higher than Dominick’s or Jewel-Osco’s. And
although Woodman’s received low ratings for the quality of its meat and
produce, it received a very high (80 percent) overall rating.
Caputo’s Fresh Markets, Mariano’s, and Walt’s Food Centers prove that it is
possible to get high ratings for quality and still have competitive prices.
Compared to Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco, Caputo’s, Mariano’s,
and Walt’s all received high ratings on quality of meat, quality of produce,
and overall quality. Mariano’s prices were six percent lower than the
Dominick’s/Jewel-Osco average, Caputo’s two percent lower, and Walt’s two
Some chains—in particular, Caputo’s, Mariano’s and Walt’s—that rated high
for fresh produce quality had low prices for fresh produce.
Mariano’s produce prices were about 31 percent lower than
the Dominick’s/Jewel-Osco average, Caputo’s produce prices about 30 percent
lower, and Walt’s about 13 percent lower. And according to surveyed customers,
these low produce prices are matched with quality products. So if fresh produce
makes up an unusually high portion of your supermarket purchases, and a store
in one of these small chains is convenient, consider them for both quality and
Trader Joe’s received higher overall quality ratings than Dominick’s and
Jewel-Osco, and charges similar prices.
Since the market basket used for our price survey largely
consists of national brands, and since Trader Joe’s offers mainly its own
brands, it is not included in our price comparisons. Instead,
we shopped Trader Joe’s using a special survey that included the same fresh
produce, meats, and dairy items included in our full standard survey. For the
national-brand items on our list, we first compared the prices of Trader Joe’s
house brands to the prices charged by the conventional supermarkets for
comparable national-brand items. Then, for a second comparison, we compared
Trader Joe’s prices for its house-branded products to prices charged by other
supermarkets for the least expensive comparable item of any brand (including
generic brands) they carried. (When comparing prices, we used per-unit
pricing—for example, price per ounce.)
The table below shows the results of these comparisons.
|Aldi ||$62 ||$62 ||$73 ||$56 ||33%|
|Dominick's (Chicago)||$101 ||$95 ||$103 ||$101 ||80%|
|Dominick's (Lake Zurich)||$102 ||$96 ||$102 ||$105 ||81%|
|Food 4 Less||$88 ||$81 ||$91 ||$72 ||73%|
|Jewel-Osco (Lake Zurich)||$98 ||$92 ||$96 ||$101 ||88%|
|Jewel-Osco (Lockport)||$99 ||$93 ||$99 ||$93 ||86%|
|Meijer||$93 ||$86 ||$93 ||$84 ||87%|
|SuperTarget||$91 ||$87 ||$95 ||$101 ||76%|
|Target||$92 ||$89 ||$108 ||$98 ||62%|
|Trader Joe's||$101 ||$101 ||$111 ||$102 ||27%|
|Walmart Express||$88 ||$84 ||$95 ||$80 ||60%|
|Walmart Neighborhood Market||$87 ||$84 ||$89 ||$72 ||77%|
|Walmart Supercenter||$89 ||$85 ||$96 ||$88 ||81%|
|Woodman's ||$85 ||$81 ||$89 ||$78 ||87%|
* Price comparison scores compare stores’ prices to the average prices found at surveyed Dominick's and Jewel-Osco stores.
- Trader Joe’s prices were about the same as the average for the
comparable market basket of produce, meat, dairy, and branded products at
Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco assuming national-brand items were purchased at
Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco.
- When we compared Trader Joe’s prices to the Dominick’s/Jewel-Osco
average assuming a shopper would buy at Dominick’s or Jewel-Osco the cheapest
brand (or generic brand) comparable to each branded item in our market
basket,Trader Joe’s prices were about seven percent higher than prices at the
big chains. (But keep in mind that this second comparison doesn’t take into
account product quality, and Trader Joe’s received higher overall ratings than
Dominick’s or Jewel-Osco.)
- For produce, Trader Joe’s prices for the items it carried were
about two percent higher than the Dominick’s/Jewel-Osco average.
- For meat, Trader Joe’s prices were about 11 percent higher than
the Dominick’s/Jewel-Osco average.
Aldi offers incredibly steep savings.
We also shopped Aldi, which is owned by the same company
that operates Trader Joe’s, using the same method we used to compare Trader
Joe’s prices. As indicated on the table above, Aldi’s prices for our full
market basket were an astounding 38 percent lower than the
Dominick’s/Jewel-Osco average, assuming we bought national-brand items at
Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco, and 34 percent lower than the big-chain average when
we allowed substitution of the cheapest brand available at Dominick’s and
Jewel-Osco. But be aware that Aldi got lower ratings than Trader Joe’s on
various aspects of quality.
Unfortunately, many Trader Joe’s, and Aldi shoppers will also have to visit
Trader Joe’s had only 27 percent of the items in our market
basket in stock, and Aldi carried only 33 percent of the items.
Sunset Foods, with five North Shore stores, received very high ratings for
overall quality, but Sunset’s prices were 22 percent higher than the
Whole Foods Market had the highest prices.
Whole Foods’ prices were 81 percent higher than the average
of prices at Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco—for the limited number of comparable
items available at each chain. On the other hand, Whole Foods consistently
receives very high scores on quality of fresh produce and meat, which accounted
for many of the items we could compare between Whole Foods and the other
You can save by substituting store brands and generic products for national
When we substituted cheaper generic and store brands for
about one-sixth of the items in our price-shopping market basket, the total
cost dropped by about four to eight percent at Dominick’s and Jewel-Osco.
For the items that could be compared based on unit prices (price per pound,
for example), warehouse stores offered dramatic savings.
Sam’s Club, for example, beat Dominick’s by a whopping 27
percent. And compared to Dominick’s, the savings were about 17 percent at
Since you can’t typically find everything you need at a
warehouse store, we looked at potential savings of shopping at both a warehouse
store and at a supermarket—assuming you would purchase the lowest cost size
available at either place. We found, for example, that by including Sam’s Club
on your shopping schedule along with a Dominick’s, you could save about 12 percent
compared with shopping at Dominick’s alone.
In addition to low prices, Costco and Sam’s Club received high ratings for
the quality of their fresh meats, and Costco received high ratings for the
quality of its produce.