San Diego

NBC 7 Responds Checks Out Grocery Store Prices

Survey shows more grocery store options available but lower prices remain at warehouse retailers

The cost of living in Southern California is rising. Whether it’s the cost to rent or buy a home, the cost of a gallon of gasoline, or the costs of more daily needs such as groceries, consumers are feeling a pinch.

NBC 7 Responds wanted to see which grocery store chains were cheapest and whether the location of those stores has any effect on the price you pay. The goal: to find out what consumers can do to save money on their favorite food items.

To determine which stores had the lowest prices, NBC 7 Responds conducted an experiment: We picked ten popular food items and went to five major grocery retailers. In order to make sure the prices did not vary by location, we visited stores in four different parts of San Diego County: North County, Central San Diego, East and South County.

For our comparison we selected 10 grocery items, including dairy, dry goods such as cereal and peanut butter, as well as paper goods like paper towels. In our comparison, without using any club or discount prices, we found that the warehouse outlets such as Food For Less, Walmart, and Target had lower prices compared to the traditional grocery stores. Items such as a 40 ounce jar of Skippy Peanut Butter, prices at warehouse stores were about $2 cheaper than at the traditional grocers.

Here’s how each store performed (look below or click here):

And while the traditional grocery stores such as Vons and Ralph’s generally had the higher prices, shoppers we spoke to see said those stores had more to offer than the big box warehouse stores.

“The prices at the more warehouse-type stores are a little cheaper but they don’t have everything I need,” said shopper Abigail Weist. “I never go to those stores because I feel the quality isn’t as good with much less variety.”

Other shoppers agreed.

“I just sort of prefer to shop at grocery stores for groceries,” said Mike Moyer.

Marketing expert Miro Copic says more and more shoppers are shopping at a number of grocery stores for specific items.

“Shoppers break up their purchase where some will buy certain products at this grocer and then go to the other grocer for the other products because they're really going to maximize what they're paying for groceries for their family that given month,” Copic told NBC 7 Responds.

And with the emergence of specialty grocers such as Trader Joes, Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Aldi, consumers have more options in regards to products and in many cases prices.

“I don’t just shop at one grocery store anymore,” said one shopper that we spoke to. “I go to three maybe four grocery stores a week.”

In a statement from Kroger, the company that owns Ralph's and Food For Less chains, a spokesperson told NBC 7 Responds that Ralphs and other traditional grocers "offer better service with butchers at our meat and seafood counters and full service delis and bakeries, where customers can get fresh, high-quality and prepared specialty items...Traditional grocery stores put our people above profits, with a competitive compensation package that includes wages, healthcare and retirement."

A spokesperson from Target told NBC 7 Responds that the company is "committed to delivering the best experience possible for our guests every time they shop food and beverage at Target. This includes offering a wide range of fulfillment options, including same-day delivery, and providing an inspiring, curated assortment of products at a great value."

Vons and Walmart declined to comment for the story.

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