These two German-owned, alt-grocer operations carry mostly their own brands, rather than national-brand products. ALDI focuses on low costs, and our survey found its prices to be astonishingly inexpensive—cheaper even than Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart. Trader Joe’s also offers lower prices than most traditional supermarket chains, while earning mostly high accolades from its customers for our “overall quality” survey question.

Since the market basket we used for our price survey largely consists of national-brand products, and since ALDI and Trader Joe’s offer mainly their own brands, we couldn’t compare their prices using our standard price survey. Instead, we had to shop each using a special survey that included the same fresh produce, meats, and dairy items in our standard survey, comparing the national-brand items on our list with the prices of these unique stores’ own brands. (When comparing prices, we used per-unit pricing—for example, price per ounce.)

The figure below shows the results of these comparisons:

  • ALDI’s prices were an astounding 44 percent lower than the all-store average for our full market basket including comparable national-brand items. Its prices were lower even than Costco’s and Sam’s Club’s—and with ALDI you don’t have to buy in bulk to get these discounts.
  • Although its prices were higher than ALDI’s, Trader Joe’s still offered savings compared to most traditional chains. Its prices were about 31 percent lower than Kowalski’s, 26 percent lower than Lunds & Byerlys, 21 percent lower than Whole Foods, 19 percent lower than Cub, 14 percent lower than Hy-Vee, and seven percent lower than Target.
  • ALDI’s savings come with a downside: It was rated relatively poorly on many aspects of quality. But ALDI’s score was still better than those for big chains Cub, Target, and Walmart for our “overall quality” survey question.
  • Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, continues to earn highly favorable ratings from its customers overall.
  • Unfortunately, many customers of these unique chains might have to make a second stop elsewhere to buy everything they need: Trader Joe’s carried only 44 percent of the items in our market basket, and ALDI carried only 61 percent.