Our price comparisons and ratings of stores for quality show the results of our price shopping and our most recent surveys of consumers on supermarket quality and service. Here are the key findings—

Wegmans continues to wow for both quality and price.

Ever since it entered the Delaware Valley area, Wegmans consistently has accomplished a rare supermarket feat by earning very high ratings from its customers for quality while offering low prices. The Rochester, N.Y.-based chain now has nine Delaware Valley area locations, and ranks 1 for quality with our raters (an astounding 92 percent rated it “superior” overall) and offers prices that rank it among the lowest-cost area stores—we found its prices were about nine percent lower than average prices at Acme Markets.

The area’s other price standouts were Walmart, Target, and Redner’s.

Walmart’s prices were about 16 percent lower than the average prices at Acme; Target’s about 11 percent lower than Acme’s; and Redner’s about eight percent lower. For a family that spends $200 per week at the supermarket, a 16 percent price difference could total $1,660 a year and an eight percent price difference more than $830 a year.

Giant, Food Lion, and ShopRite also offer lower prices than Acme.

Prices at Giant, Food Lion, and ShopRite were six to seven percent lower than Acme’s.

Within the largest chains, there is relatively little store-to-store price variation.

Unlike our past surveys, we found little store-to-store price variation among Giant and ShopRite locations (in our previous surveys we found prices at one Giant were about five percent lower than at another Giant location, with similar but smaller differences among ShopRite stores). We also found little store-to-store price variation within the Acme and Pathmark chains.

Among the area’s largest chains, Pathmark’s prices were highest.

Pathmark’s prices were about 10 percent higher than Acme’s. This is a departure from our previous price surveys, which found that Acme offered higher prices than all of the other big chains.

Whole Foods Market had the highest prices.

Whole Foods’ prices were about 33 percent higher than Acme’s—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 account for many of the items we could compare between Whole Foods and the other chains.

When we last examined the prices of organic food, Whole Foods’ prices for organic items were among the lowest in the area. See our article Buying Organic Food for more advice and information.

Other than Wegmans and Whole Foods, few area stores get high ratings from their customers.

Unlike in the other metro areas where we publish Checkbook, there are few chains in the Delaware Valley area that get high ratings from their surveyed customers for the quality of their produce or meat or for overall quality.

Walmart received the lowest overall ratings in our surveys of consumers.

Only 16 percent of Walmart’s surveyed customers rated it “superior” overall. Pathmark (31 percent), Super Fresh (34 percent), and Acme (45 percent) also received very low overall ratings. (While we received too few ratings for Target to report scores, it also receives low scores in the other metro areas where Checkbook is published.)

Although Food Lion, Giant, Redner’s, ShopRite, and Weis Markets did not receive stellar ratings for quality, they did receive considerably higher ratings than Acme, Pathmark, and Walmart.

Seventy percent of Food Lion’s customers rated it “superior” overall; for ShopRite, it was 59 percent; for Giant, 58 percent; for Weis, 56 percent; and for Redner’s, 54 percent.

Shoppers using regular Targets might also have to shop somewhere else.

The Target location we shopped carried only 70 percent of the items in our market basket.

You can save by substituting store brands and generic products for national brands.

When we substituted cheaper generic and store brands for about one-sixth of the items in our price-shopping market basket, the total cost of the full market basket dropped by about five percent.