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Grocery Store Prices And How They Vary In Just One Week! The Differences Cost You Plenty!

Updated on February 9, 2011

The Ads Compared For A Week Show Enormous Price Differences For The Same Items!

When perusing the grocery store ads for the week of February 2 through February 8, 2011, the difference in prices for the same items struck me as almost unbelievable! How can the same items vary so differently between stores that are just a few miles apart? I am at a loss to explain it, but in order to preserve my family budget, which I would characterize as the austerity plan, I am obliged to pay attention to the differences. It means traveling in a circular pattern, starting with the closest store and ending with the furthest, then making my way home. I will be exhausted, but my savings will be incredible! Worth the exhaustion and the extra time. Gas, of course, is a consideration, but these stores are all within a couple of miles, even blocks from each other. Food spoiling is always a consideration, but the time involved is not that great, especially when armed with a list for each store and allowing myself no aimless walking up and down the aisles in any of the stores. I have broken this down by store and price, for the same items, and then I have added up the savings realized at the end. You can do the same thing every week. You might be surprised at your findings.

The Use Of Four Stores Means You Travel In A Circle!

I read through 7 different ads. I immediately discarded 3 ads, because I was not interested in paying $7.99 per pound for top sirloin steak (outrageous!) or prices so exorbitant that my budget would not allow me to even consider their "sale" items. The ads not considered were, Ralph's, Von's and Major Market. Even their loss leader items were out of reach. Sometimes, a visit to one of more of these stores is warranted. This week was not one of them.

The stores considered were based on the items that I needed. All 4 had skinless, boneless chicken breasts on sale, ranging in price from $1.79 per pound (Albertson's) to $1.97 per pound (Stater Bros), with only one store having Foster Farms bone-in chicken breasts for 99 cents per pound. This week I needed to stock up on chicken breasts, so Smart and Final was my choice for the chicken breasts. Each package would have had 5 breasts and each package would have been priced at under $5.00. Bone-in chicken breasts are a great staple, and many times, I re-package them at home, prior to freezing, based on how many breasts I need for a given meal. If you don't want the skin or the bones, learn how to bone a chicken breast yourself. It saves money. The bones and skin can also be used to make a wonderful homemade chicken stock that you can freeze, so the argument that the bones are a waste is inaccurate. What happened at Smart and Final was interesting, to say the least. I brought the ad with me. Nowhere in the ad did it say that there was a limit on the number of chicken breasts that you could buy. When I got to the store, the sign right near the chicken breasts said "limit one". Funny, because there were only two packages left in the case and the man standing next to me took it.

When I got to the checkout line with my one package of chicken breasts, I showed the cashier the ad and told her I wanted a raincheck, because regardless of what the sign said, the ad did not specify a limit. There was no argument and the man behind me in line, who was the same man that had taken the other package, requested a rain check also. He thanked me for bringing the ad with me, and said that he was confused by the sign, too. He stated that he did not remember the ad having a limit, but would not have questioned the sign without looking at the actual ad. He will be bringing the ads with him from now on. It is a good idea.

I used my favorite produce store for most of my fruits and vegetables. Their prices are much better on most produce than the large chain grocery stores and the quality is just as good. I will include most of my list and the prices for each item. If the competitor's price is different, I will list it.

Henry's Farmer's Market:

  • cucumbers @ 3 for $1.00---------competitor's price $1.50
  • pineapples @ 2 for $4.00------------competitor's price $10.00 for two
  • tomatoes @ 99 cents per pound----competitor's price $1.69 per pound
  • cantalope @ 77 cents per pound
  • red grapes @ 97 cents per pound----competitor's price $2.49 per pound
  • bell peppers @ 3 for $1.00
  • gala apples, a 3 pound bag for $2.00---competitor's price $4.47
  • sour cream, 16 ounces, for 99 cents----competitor's price $1.50
  • large eggs @ $1.69 per dozen
  • grape tomatoes, one pint, $0.99-------competitor's price $2.99
  • mushrooms, $2.49 per pound--------------competitor's price $4.30 per pound

The list is not complete. My total at Henry's was $26.00.The larger grocery stores could not compete on these prices. The competitor's total would have been over $60.00. However, to be fair, Stater Bros. did offer blueberries at a ($2.99 for an 18 ounce container, Henry's was $3.99 and Albertson's came in at a whopping $8.97) bargain and 10 pounds of potatoes at a huge ($1.50 per bag) savings, so I purchased those there.

I went to Albertson's because they had coupons for Kraft mayo, Kraft American cheese slices and Tostitos corn chips, each @ $2.00. That was the cheapest price available at any of the stores for those items. However, on the second day of the week long ad, they were already out of the Kraft Real mayo. They had plenty of reduced fat mayo and fat free mayo, but I wanted the regular mayonnaise.

The Groceries, Their Prices And The Prices Of The Competitor!

Once again, Stater Bros. had the lower prices, both on the sale items and staples that I needed. Following is the list, the items' prices and right next to those prices, the prices of the competitor, Albertson's. As I stated earlier, Von's, Ralph's and Major Market were too expensive to consider.

  • powdered sugar, 2 pounds, $1.79-------------- $2.49
  • tortillas, flour, pkg of 10, $1.49 -------------------$1.49
  • tortillas, corn, pkg of 30 $0.99 --------------------$1.49
  • blueberries, 18 oz $2.99--------------------------- $8.97
  • Regina wine vinegar, $3.79------------------------$4.49
  • canned green beans $0.59----------------------- $0.89
  • canned corn $0.59 ----------------------------------$0.89
  • canned tomatoes, large $1.49 --------------------$1.99
  • cheddar cheese, 8 oz, $1.99-----------------------$2.00 (with coupon, $2.50 without)
  • Farmer John Wieners, $0.75-----------------------$2.50 (closest comparable item)
  • spareribs, $1.49 per pound-------------------------$2.99 per pound
  • tomato paste, $1.79----------------------------------$1.79
  • sugar, 5 pounds, $2.29------------------------------$3.29
  • bacon, $2.99-------------------------------------------$4.49

This is not a complete list of the items purchased, but the total bill at Stater was $76.00. The same items totalled well over $100.00 at Albertson's. The fact that Stater had significant sale items available and Albertson's did not, also made a difference. The prior week, Albertson's had chicken breasts on sale for $0.99 per pound. The first day I went in there were none available. I did ask for a rain check and when I came back to use my rain check, there were only 2 packages available.

When you find a pattern of a store advertising items and then the store consistently not having the items, there is a problem. It makes you think that they are trying to get you into the store and even though the items you want are never there, they hope that you will purchase a more expensive item instead. Don't do it! My advice is to walk out of the store with nothing. When you get home, email the store's corporate office and file a complaint. They do write back and sometimes will send you a $25.00 gift card for your trouble. If you send a complaint, the most effective method is to first say something positive, for example: "I enjoy shopping in your store. You carry quality products that my family appreciates, however...." Then make your complaint. Be polite, but firm about your disappointment.

Don't Let Frustration Cost You Money!

It takes time to compare prices and then shop where the prices are the cheapest, but if your goal is to trim your budget and not give your money away, you have to take the time. Don't spend $30.00 or $40.00 a week more on your groceries just because you think you cannot take the time or put in the effort. A few dollars here or there can add up to a couple of thousand dollars a year. That can translate into a vacation or can be the difference between paying or not paying a few bills. If you have tons of money, it probably doesn't matter to you, but then this article is not aimed at your budget. It is intended to reach those people that have a desire or a real need to limit their spending while still being able to enjoy great food.

Feeding a family with limited funds is not easy, but it is possible. I have read many articles that talk about feeding a family on ridiculously small amounts of money. Those articles can be intimidating, even to me, because I consider myself a pretty smart shopper. Can I feed my family on $50.00 or $60.00 a week? Probably, but I don't. I insist on buying alot of fresh produce and meats. I do not make pasta or beans and rice every night of the week. If I had to, I could, but my goal is to be realistic and make really good tasting, nutritionally sound real-food meals that are not portion-restricted, nor loaded with fat or sodium. For me, there is no way that you can tell a teen boy that the second piece of chicken he wants is not there, or too much for him to eat. I know that a couple of teen-aged boys can eat like an entire army platoon, and have always cooked with that in mind. I have many years of experience feeding those growing boys and they are never full. All of that hockey, football and baseball seems to be directly related to one's food expenses.

Convenience foods are not budget friendly. They are not only costly, but are empty calories, full of fat and sodium and pose health risks. Make your own pizza, hamburgers (burgers made from chicken breasts are the best!), roasted potatoes (french fries) and chicken nuggets. They are not that difficult, don't require that much time and guarantee that you are providing your family with real food.


Submit a Comment

  • JimmieWriter profile image

    Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN USA

    I don't shop the specials too much, but I do frequent two different stores to get the best values. Like you I buy produce at a special store where it is ultra fresh and cheap. People pay a lot more for the convenience of buying all their groceries in one place (kroger is king here).

  • Jillian Barclay profile image

    Jillian Barclay 7 years ago from California, USA

    Thank you for commenting, Tina! You are so right! It is getting harder and harder to make a budget and stick with it! We don't have a Sprouts in our area- That must be like our Henry's, except last week I almost cried. I went in to buy my regular heads of romaine lettuce for 88 cents and there they were, $1.69 a head. What are we to do? Keep sharing our information is the only thing I can think of...and refusing to buy an item when they continue to price it so high. How many heads of romaine lettuce can they afford to throw away before they get the message!

    Thank you again!

  • TINA V profile image

    TINA V 7 years ago

    Nowadays, high cost of living is a global issue. I agree with you that it’s quite difficult to make a budget. You have shared some good tips on how to save money. You’re right; convenience foods are not budget-friendly. I buy at Sprouts for some of my fruits, nuts and vegetables. They have fair prices for these items and fresh products, too. This is an informative hub.