Are You Paying a Premium for Your Groceries?
When it comes to groceries, we like to shop around. Yes, we have our favorite local spot, but that spot—a delicious West Coast grocery chain that shall not be named—is absurdly expensive. We are all for splurging on food. After all, you are what you eat. So really splurging on good food is splurging on your health, right? Not always. Sometimes we splurge because we’re ignorant about the other options available. Other times, we’re lazy and don’t want to waste time in the car or bargain hunting to find the most cost-effective option.
That’s why we conducted a little experiment involving a product-by-product comparison of three national grocery stores—Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Ralph’s—and a farmer's market. The price discrepancies across these four grocery providers was part expected, part bizarre, and part totally surprising. Granted, all four of these options proved to be drastically less expensive than our usual local spot, but who knew the price of organic brown eggs could swing $3 in the space of one neighborhood?
Read on for some surprising conclusions from our experiment.
A staple in our morning ritual, coffee is what we look forward to most every morning. We prefer a dark roast like Peet’s Major Dickason’s Blend ground coffee made fresh in a French press. All this time, we thought all homemade coffee were created equal. But that is not the case. Purchase a bag of Peet’s at Whole Foods, and it will run you $9.99. Purchase the same bag at Ralph’s, and you’re looking at $11.49 regular price and $8.99 sale price. Try a dark-roast blend at Trader Joe’s that’s equally as delicious (and when blindfolded, you couldn’t tell the difference), and you’re only spending $5.99. Ground coffee beans were not for sale at our local farmer's market, but a cup of freshly brewed coffee cost us $3 per cup.
Want some milk with your coffee? We suggest finding a Trader Joe’s, if you can. There, a half-gallon of 1% milk costs $2.29. The same size container of milk costs $2.79 at Whole Foods and $2.69 Ralph’s. But we prefer the glass carton Broguiere’s milk, which is surprisingly least expensive at Whole Foods.
Looking to make a delicious citrus salad for dinner? Think twice before you buy a branded variety from the grocery store. While Trader Joe’s charges $1.99 for a bag of mixed greens, Whole Foods will cost you an extra $2 for prepackaged washed greens. We definitely recommend splurging on $3 lettuce from the farmer's market, as the taste was noticeably better.
Grilled, poached, or smoked, salmon is one of our favorite proteins. But oftentimes, the fresh-caught wild salmon variety is too expensive to eat every day. When you want to splurge on a deliciously nutritious meal, head to Ralph’s. At $14.99, salmon here is $3 less expensive than at Whole Foods and $4 more expensive than Trader Joe's. We opt for the middle price mark because the Trader Joe’s selection was farm raised.
For many meat eaters, boneless, skinless chicken breasts serve as a staple for at least one meal a week. Definitely head to Trader Joe’s for your organic poultry. At $6.99 per pound, Trader Joe’s offers the same meat for $5 less than Whole Foods and almost $2 less than Ralph’s.
Perhaps the biggest shocker of our experiment was the fluctuating cost of eggs. A dozen organic brown eggs costs $4.49 at Trader Joe’s, $5.49 at Ralphs, and $7 at our local farmer's market. Who knew that Whole Foods has the least expensive variety of organic eggs? At $3.49 a dozen, they're practically a steal.
Trader Joe’s is the obvious answer when it comes to cost-effective grocery shopping. But sometimes you want brand-name products like Cheerios, in which case you should go to Ralph’s, as they are $1 less expensive (or more!) than the same product at Whole Foods. For cleaning supplies like paper towels and dish soap, we recommend Ralph’s as well. But for salmon or other expensive meat, we think the Whole Foods splurge is worth the quality of flavor. And while more expensive than we predicted, the farmer's market is by far the best spot to pick up delicious salad fixings like grapefruit and fennel.