Holly Investigates…

by Holly on May 4, 2009

in holly investigates

“GROCERY STORES & SUPERMARKETS: DOES IT PAY TO SHOP AROUND?”

In this week’s riveting investigation, I had a very particular mission.  Being the poor post-college student I am, I unfortunately don’t have money to buy all the things I would LOVE to buy at the grocery store (i.e. all organic produce, lots of different raw/vegan/specialty products, etc.).  Now that I am not eating out this month (join “The Simple Life” challenge at N Her Shoes!), I thought I could take it even a step further and find out where all the best grocery deals are!

Here are our three competitors:

Trader Joe’s
(entry: specialty foods store)

vs.

Kowalski’s
(entry: high-end grocery store)

vs.

Cub Foods
(entry: basic, chain grocery store)

Using the wealth of knowledge I acquired in Statistics class in high school, I was determined to keep as many of variables consistent for this in-depth investigation.  I chose 12 products off my grocery list that I knew each store would have – eggplant, fresh mozzarella, canned diced tomatoes, canned tomato paste, Greek yogurt, goat cheese, frozen spinach, canned sundried tomatoes, strawberries, blackberries, carrots, bananas & Larabars.

When shopping, I kept all the sizes relatively the same and picked the cheapest price possible for each item.  My only discrepancy was the organic vs. non-organic dilemma.  In the end, I decided to stick with whatever was cheaper/on-hand in that store.  Therefore, most of the products are not organic, unless otherwise noted.

Let the battle royale begin!

traderjoes1Trader Joe’s

Eggplant (1)…..$1.99
1 (8-oz.) ball fresh Mozzarella…..$2.99
1 (28-oz.) can *organic* diced tomatoes…..$1.89
1 (6-oz.) can *organic* tomato paste…..$0.89
1 (16-oz.) container nonfat plain Greek yogurt…..$2.99
1 (4-oz.) log goat cheese…..$2.49
1 (16-oz.) package frozen chopped spinach…..$1.29
1 (6.5-oz.) can sundried tomatoes in olive oil…..$3.29
1 pint strawberries…..$3.49
8 ounces blackberries…..$1.49 (sold in 16-oz containers)
32 ounces *organic* carrots…..$1.78
6 bananas x $0.19/each…..$1.14
3 Larabars…..$3.87

GRAND TOTAL…..$29.59

kowalskis1Kowalski’s Market

Eggplant (1)…..$1.99
1 (8-oz.) ball fresh Mozzarella…..$6.49
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes…..$1.99
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste…..$0.69
1 (17.6-oz) container nonfat plain Greek yogurt…..$5.79
1 (4-oz) log goat cheese…..$2.99
1 (16-oz) package frozen chopped spinach…..$1.99
1 (6.5-oz) can sundried tomatoes in olive oil…..$4.99
1 pint strawberries…..$2.99
1 (8-oz.) container blackberries…..$2.50
1 (32-oz) package carrots…..$1.49
6 bananas x $0.59/lb…..$1.32
3 Larabars…..$5.25

GRAND TOTAL…..$40.47

cubfoods_thumbnail1

Cub Foods 

Eggplant (1)…..$1.49
1 (8-oz.) ball fresh Mozzarella…..$4.89
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes…..$1.09
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste…..$0.68
3 (6-oz.) containers Greek yogurt (equal to 18 ounces)…..$5.97
1 (4-oz.) log goat cheese…..$4.49
1 (16-oz.) package chopped frozen spinach…..$1.39
1 (6.5-oz.) can sundried tomatoes in olive oil…..$5.99
1 pint strawberries…..$3.49
1 (8-oz.) container blackberries…..$3.49
1 (32-oz.) package carrots…..$1.99
6 bananas x $0.53/lb…..$1.19
3 Larabars…..$3.87

GRAND TOTAL…..$40.02

 

The verdict?

TRADER JOE’S IS WHERE IT’S AT!

Not only could you save more than $10 on groceries but a lot of Trader Joe’s products are both CHEAPER and ORGANIC!  Now that is bang for your buck!  Not to say the others don’t have their advantages, but overall, Trader Joe’s is an excellent place to shop.  Good produce, unique products and a fun, friendly atmosphere!  Not that it doesn’t have it’s downsides (limited selection of products, not a lot of locations), but Trader Joe’s seems like the best bet overall.

Surprisingly, the upscale grocer and the basic, chain store didn’t come out too differently.  If I had to give the edge, I think I would give second place to Kowalski’s for one main reason.  The produce!  The produce is high-quality and delicious EVERYTIME I go there.  Unfortunately, yes, it is a bit more expensive but to me, that’s worth it.  Cub Foods is a great competitor though – for basic, packaged products, it definitely takes the cake.

I LOVED doing this challenge!  Not only did it open my eyes to how much money I could be saving (A LOT!), but I came away with a really good sense of how to get the most for my money.  It’s easy to throw money away, but with a little planning, you can really save money and get awesome, delicious food.  I think I might even continue the investigation – next up SuperTarget and then maybe Whole Foods!

Have you ever comparison shopped at grocery stores in your area?  What did you find?  I’ll be interested to hear if you got the same results!

{ 2 comments }

Kris May 26, 2009 at 10:18 pm

I loved that you did this challenge. I live in the southern metro and it’s 30 minutes to get to the nearest Trader Joe’s for me, but now I know why it is so worth it when I do make it there. I also agree about Kowalski’s. Their produce is always so good that I sometimes don’t mind paying their higher prices. I just ran across your blog today on KERF and I’m glad I did. I’ll be back to read this more often!

Holly May 27, 2009 at 8:55 am

I currently live in the southern metro too, and I hike my buns to Woodbury for TJ’s. However, did you know there is a TJ’s opening off of Randolph in St. Paul? Soooo much closer!

Thanks for your support :)

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