Which Grocery Store Really Has the Best Prices?

A investigative post on the price of common grocery items at 3 local stores: Market Basket, Hannaford, and Stop & Shop.

“I just can’t wait to go grocery shopping!” said no one ever.

Yet, most of us make this trip every week. Or twice a week. Or even three times times if you’re me, because somehow planning and shopping for a week’s worth of meals is just…too… overwhelming.

Where do YOU shop? Why do you shop there? Everybody’s got their reasons for their choice of grocer. Location, quality, and selection all play a part.  What about the prices? For me, this is a huge factor, and I would bet it is for many of you as well.

There is a commonly held belief that Market Basket prices are well below those of the competition. Surely you’ve heard this. I've been a regular Market Basket shopper for a few years now, as well as an occasional in-a-pinch Stop & Shop customer. I was curious. IS this belief actually true, and, if so, just HOW MUCH cheaper is it at Market Basket?

I decided to put the claim to the test. 

Now, before you start crafting a long and impassioned response about how “value” cannot be measured only in the price of items, just hold your horses. I agree. Comparing prices is just a starting point. While it would be interesting and certainly thought-provoking to compare these same stores on characteristics such as cleanliness, helpfulness of staff, quality of goods, freshness of perishable items, and ease of shopping experience, the enormity of a project like that is simply too great, not to mention completely subjective. 

Let's start with some hard numbers, and see where it takes us. I suppose you'd like to know how I went about investigating?  That's easy. I made a list of 20 items I commonly buy, then did price check at Market Basket in Reading, Stop & Shop in North Reading, and the Hannaford in West Peabody. And then back to MB to double-check an item, then back to S&S for a new item price, and then three phone calls to the various stores to confirm everyday prices on a couple of items. OK, maybe not easy, but the nerdy dietitian in me really enjoyed this :) 

A few things to know:

*In almost every case I compared identical name-brand products. In the cases of milk and bacon, however, I compared the prices of each store's own brand. In the case of organic greens, there was only one option of organic spring mix at each store, representing two different brands and package sizes. I compared the equivalent per ounce price. 

* I compared everyday prices, not sale prices.

* I visited Market Basket and Stop & Shop on the same day, while the Hannaford trip was two weeks later (possibly a factor on items like produce where prices may change week to week)

* I totaled up each identical "shopping trip", and compared each store against the other two. Check out the full list of products and prices at the bottom of this post or on my blog here (link will take you off of North Reading Patch).

The results? Market Basket comes out as the clear winner when it comes to the pricing of these 20 items. They came in 15.3% lower than Stop & Shop (which equated to $10.41), but just a mere 3.8% lower ($2.30) than Hannaford.

There are many other factors affecting the total grocery bill, including weekly sales, coupons, rebates, gas discounts, and the often lower cost of store-brand items. Again, this exercise was comparing everyday prices only.

So, what do you think? Are these numbers mind-blowing, or pretty much what you expected? Does this change how and where you might shop?

I'll tell you what it means for me. First, I've only confirmed here what it seems everybody already knew: Market Basket's prices can't be beat. Second of all, my brief experience at Hannaford, a place I think we've shopped at once in 5 years, was so pleasant and the prices so surprisingly competitive, that is almost enough for me to turn my minivan in that direction next time. Third, I can't wait to get back to blogging about food and recipes. This required far too much thinking with no gastronomical reward :)

Check out my latest savory suppers and decadent desserts at Juggling With Julia!


    PRODUCT MARKET BASKET   Reading, MA HANNAFORD          West Peabody, MA STOP & SHOP          North Reading, MA Chobani NF Greek yogurt – 32 oz. $4.99 $5.17 $4.99 1% LF Milk, store brand — 1 gallon $2.49 $2.61 $2.99 Lg brown eggs, store brand –1 doz $1.59 $1.49 $1.59 Bacon, store brand –  1   lb $3.79 $3.89 $3.99 College Inn chicken broth – 32 oz $2.69 $1.89 $2.59 Shady Brook Farm 93% ground turkey –           20 oz $3.69 $4.29 $4.99 Blue Diamond almonds -  1   lb $5.99 $5.99 $6.99 King Arthur whole wheat flour – 5 lbs $3.99 $3.79 $4.39 Skippy Peanut Butter – 16.3 oz $2.69 $2.99 $2.69 Teddy Peanut Butter – 16 oz $3.00 $3.99 $3.79 Bananas, conventional – 1 lb $0.49 $0.49 $0.59 Organic greens, spring mix, per oz $0.60 $0.60 $0.71 Orange bell peppers, conventional, 1 lb $1.99 $2.49 $3.99 Haas avocado — each $0.99 $0.99 $2.00 Quaker Oat Squares cereal — 14.5 oz $3.49 $3.49 $3.99 Wheat Chex — 14 oz $3.39 $2.99 $3.49 Honey Nut Cheerios – 1 lb 5.6 oz $3.00 $3.39 $4.39 Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes – 14.5 oz $0.88 $0.80 $1.29 Fillipo Berio EV Olive Oil — 500ml $4.99 $5.99 $5.49 Nestle Tollhouse morsels – 12 oz $2.79 $2.49 $2.99 Product Total $57.52 $59.82 $67.93 MB vs. Stop & Shop -15.30% MB vs. Hannaford -3.80% Hannaford vs. Stop & Shop -11.90%

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Pea Body March 07, 2013 at 11:33 PM
Trader Joes is the Market Basket of Whole Foods
Fred Chalmers March 08, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Julia Whitney Robarts March 09, 2013 at 01:35 AM
Fred Chalmers September 17, 2013 at 01:04 PM
I find it interesting that the recent TV and print ads for WalMart compare their grocery prices with local Stop & Shops but never against Market Basket :^)
Julia Whitney Robarts September 17, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Fred, I was thinking the same thing! I laugh at those commercials, and then shudder, knowing that for many people, it is probably convincing them to shop there (not a Walmart fan for many reasons). However, even I am tempted to head to the dreaded Walmart superstore when I hear they are selling orange and yellow bell peppers for $1.50 a pound!


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