Where you choose to shop for groceries is a very personal choice. While some people prefer buying snacks in bulk at Walmart, others enjoy the comfort and customer care of their local mom-and-pop shop. But whether you’re a Whole Foods loyalist or a diehard Acme fan, there’s at least one thing almost all shoppers agree on: low prices.
A new study from Consumer Reports ranked 96 chains across the country, based on more than 75,000 survey responses. Participants were asked to provide ratings for the one or two supermarkets they visit the most, according to factors like cleanliness, price, produce quality, checkout speed, customer service, and breadth of international foods. When asked why they were dissatisfied with a particular store, the most common reason stated was that it was too expensive. This might also explain why Trader Joe’s was the only national grocery chain to earn a top overall satisfaction score. All the other leading stores were regional retailers.
“My husband’s favorite cereal is $2.99 at Trader Joe’s and $4.99 for the same size box at the local grocery store,” claimed Rita Rogers, a Trader Joe’s customer in San Diego. Despite its top marks for meats and poultry quality, Whole Foods fell short on the overall satisfaction scale for its perceived high prices.
The Trader Joe’s news won’t come as a surprise for longtime customers who swear by the chain’s cauliflower dip and umami seasoning. What might come as a shock? Costco and Texas-based store Central Market stood alongside T.J.’s in the survey.“I like the fact that the Trader Joe’s barbecue sauce and salad dressings I buy don’t have high-fructose corn syrup,” added Rogers, the San Diego shopper. “But I get the Kirkland Greek yogurt at Costco.”
For those among us who don’t have access to one of the above stores, eating well on a tight budget feels like a feat. Here two big shopping tips to consider the next time you need to stock up.
Focus on the Perimeter of the Store
According to nutritionist Dr. Charles Passler, founder of the Pure Change program, the freshest foods are usually located along the boundary of the store, while the interior aisles of the store usually contain all of the expensive processed, packaged, and frozen items. Load your cart up with fresh vegetables and simple grains by sticking to a clear and concise route.
Invest in Pantry Staples
Investing in quality pantry items that will last weeks or months will cost you more in the beginning, but it will pay off in the long run. To get the most bang for your buck, snag things like lentils and root vegetables (think beets and carrots).