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 areas two largest chainsDominicks and Jewel-Oscohad higher prices,
on average, than most of the other surveyed chains.
The areas price standouts were Woodmans Food, Walmart Supercenter, Food
4 Less, Meijer, and SuperTarget.
Compared to average prices at Dominicks and Jewel-Osco, the prices we
found were substantially lower at the stores we surveyed for Woodmans
Food (21 percent lower than the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco average), Walmart
Supercenter (19 percent lower), Food 4 Less (15 percent lower), Meijer
(13 percent lower), SuperTarget (10 percent lower), Ultra Foods (nine percent
lower), Walts Food Center (nine percent lower), and Caputos Fresh Markets
(seven percent lower). For a family that spends $150 per week at the supermarket,
this seven-to-21-percent price difference might be expected to total $550
to $1,640 during the course of a year.
Targets recent reconfiguration of many area stores to include groceries
means more Chicago area shoppers have low-cost supermarket options nearby.
Target recently reconfigured about 40 area stores to include a basic selection
of groceries. But unlike the chains SuperTarget locations, these stores
dont carry a full selection of groceries; weve found they stock about
60 percent of the items in our market basket, compared to over 75 percent
at SuperTargetso using a regular Target may mean youll have to supplement
your grocery shopping with visits to conventional supermarkets.
On average, Jewel-Oscos prices were about four percent lower than Dominicks.
Within the Jewel-Osco and Dominicks chains, we found relatively little
price variation from store to store.
The Chicago areas largest chains did not get high ratings for quality.
On the quality side, in a limited survey of CHECKBOOKs online subscribers,
Jewel-Osco and Dominicks rated at or near the bottom of the list for quality
of fresh produce, quality of meats, and overall quality. We unfortunately
received too few ratings for Target, Walmart, or Woodmans to report scores
for these price leaders. Results from our previous surveys of consumers
found that, for overall quality, Woodmans scores were among the highest
of all the chains, Targets overall scores were slightly higher than Dominicks
and Jewel-Oscos, and Walmart was rated lower than Dominicks and Jewel-Osco.
Caputos Fresh Markets, Walts Food Center, and Woodmans Food prove that
it is possible to get high ratings for quality and still have good prices.
Caputos received high ratings from its customers and Walts and Woodmans
have received such high ratings in larger surveys we have done in past
years. Caputos prices were seven percent lower than the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco
average, Walts prices were nine percent lower, and Woodmans prices were
21 percent lower.
Trader Joes overall ratings from our customer survey were among the highest,
yet we found its prices arent necessarily higher than the prices at Dominicks
Since the market basket we used for our price survey is largely made up
of national-brand products, and because Trader Joes offers only its own
brands, we couldnt include it in our standard price comparisons that are
based on our standard market basket of items. Instead, we had to shop Trader
Joes using a special survey. In this survey, we included the same fresh
produce, meats, and dairy items as we use in our standard survey. For the
national-brand items on our list, we first compared the prices of Trader
Joes store brands to the prices charged by the conventional supermarkets
for the comparable national-brand items in our market basket. Then, for
a second comparison, we compared Trader Joes prices to those charged by
the supermarkets for the least expensive comparable item of any brand (including
generic brands) they carried. (When comparing prices, we used per-unit
pricingfor example, price per ounce.)
The table below shows the results of these comparisons.
|Aldi (W. Madison St., Chicago)||$54||$64||$53||$71||$66||$53||36%|
|Dominick's (Lake Zurich)||$102||$103||$101||$104||$104||$105||89%|
|Jewel-Osco (Lake Zurich)||$98||$97||$100||$96||$104||$89||93%|
|Trader Joe's (Orland Park)||$93||$109||$81||$113||$138||$95||39%|
* Price index scores compare stores' prices to the average prices found at surveyed Dominick's and Jewel-Osco stores.
In our comparison of Trader Joes prices versus the prices of comparable,
national-brand items, we found that Trader Joes prices were about seven
percent lower than the average of the prices found at Dominicks and Jewel-Osco.
When we compared Trader Joes prices to the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco average,
assuming a shopper would buy at Dominicks or Jewel-Osco the cheapest brand
(or generic brand) comparable to each item in our market basket, Trader
Joes price advantage disappeared; in fact, we found its prices were nine
percent higher than the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco average. (But keep in mind
that this second comparison doesnt take into account product quality,
and Trader Joes received higher overall ratings from its customers than
Dominicks or Jewel-Osco.)
For produce, Trader Joes prices for the items it carried were about 33
percent higher than the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco average.
For meat, Trader Joes prices were about two percent lower than the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco
Aldi offers incredibly steep savings.
We also shopped Aldi, which is actually owned by the same company that
operates Trader Joes, using the same method we used to compare Trader
Joes prices. As you can see on the table above, Aldis prices were an
astounding 46 percent lower than the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco average for
comparable, national-brand items, and 36 percent lower than the big-chain
average when we allowed substitution of the cheapest brand available at
Dominicks and Jewel-Osco. But these savings come with a downside: Aldi
was rated very poorly by its surveyed customers on many of our questions
on quality. On the other hand, it is interesting to see that Aldi did score
better than Dominicks and Jewel-Osco when we asked raters to judge stores
on overall quality.
Unfortunately, many Trader Joes and Aldi shoppers will have to supplement
their trips to those stores with visits to conventional supermarkets.
The Trader Joes store we surveyed had only 39 percent of the items in
our market basket in stock when we shopped it, and the Aldi store we surveyed
carried only 36 percent of the items.
Sunset Foods, with four North Shore stores, received the highest ratings
for overall quality from its surveyed customers, but the Sunset store we
shopped had prices that were 10 percent higher than the Dominicks/Jewel-Osco
The highest prices among stores we surveyed were found at Whole Foods Market.
Whole Foods prices were 55 percent higher than the average of prices at
Dominicks and Jewel-Oscofor the limited number of comparable items we
could find at each chain. On the other hand, Whole Foods consistently gets
very high scores from its customers on our surveys on quality of fresh
produce and meat, and many of the items we could compare between Whole
Foods and the other chains were fresh produce and meat items. (See our
article on Buying Organic Food for more discussion of costs of organic
When shopping stores that offer store brand or generic products, you save
by substituting these products for national brands.
When we allowed the substitution of cheaper generic and store brands for
about one-sixth of the items in our price-shopping market basket, the total
cost for our market basket dropped by about five to six percent at the
Dominicks and Jewel-Osco stores we surveyed.
For the items that could be compared, based on unit prices (price per pound,
for example), the warehouse stores we surveyed offered dramatic savings.
The surveyed Sams Club store, for example, beat the Dominicks store we
compared it to by a whopping 32 percent. And compared to that Dominicks
store, the savings were about 30 percent at the Costco store we surveyed.
Since you cant typically get everything you need at a warehouse store,
we looked at the savings you might gain by 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
Costco on your shopping schedule along with a Dominicks store, you might
save about 12 percent compared with shopping at the Dominicks store alone.
For more information on how warehouse stores compared on price, go to our
section Buying in Bulk: Shopping at Warehouse Stores.