The Top Grocery Stores in America, Ranked by Best Value
Food shopping is as inevitable as death and taxes—except we do it far more frequently. To make it as pleasant as possible, we rank the top 14 grocery stores in America based on overall best value.
What we mean by “best value”
Competitive pricing is one of a number of factors that determine value. What good are low prices when you can’t find what you’re looking for? Or the shelves are filthy and the cashiers, surly? That’s why, in coming up with this ranking, we turned to the results not only of the Consumer Reports 2018 survey regarding the supermarkets with the best prices but also Market Force’s 2018 survey regarding the six customer experience attributes that matter most to consumers:
- item availability
- ease of finding desired items
- store cleanliness
- checkout speed
- cashier courteousness
- specialty department service
We place Wegman’s first in our ranking of grocery stores offering the best value because it offers competitive pricing along with some of the highest scores on cleanliness, item availability, staff courtesy, high-quality produce, and fresh store-prepared foods. Not only did Wegman’s earn first place as America’s favorite grocery store in Market Force’s 2018 survey, but it’s also one of America’s most trusted brands, according to a 2018 Harris poll. Don’t miss these 19 tricks to spend less money on groceries.
2. Trader Joe’s
Although it was a tough choice, Trader Joe’s edged out Publix for the second place slot because, in addition to its cool vibe, unique and often healthy products, courteous cashiers, quick checkout, and store cleanliness, its prices are simply astounding. “It’s the prices that really draw people in,” according to Clark Howard of Clark.com. “Trader Joe’s sells some brand name products under its own private label at half off what you’d pay at a traditional supermarket.” Find out the things you should be buying at Trader Joe’s.
Having tied for America’s favorite grocery store last year in the 2017 Market Force survey, Southern regional chain Publix still came in at a close second in this year’s survey and ranks third here in terms of overall best value. While TJ’s is top-ranking in terms of cleanliness, item availability, and ease of shopping, and while Consumer Reports notes Publix is one of the top supermarket chains overall, Publix’s prices weren’t quite competitive enough to beat out Trader Joe’s for second place. Check out these 20 supermarket shopping tips to save big.
“More than any other store on this list, Aldi is the one to beat when it comes to cheap groceries,” Howard says. “Customers can save up to 50 percent off traditional supermarket prices and up to 30 percent off Walmart prices.” Aldi also made Consumer Reports‘s top eight grocery stores with the most competitive pricing and came in first with respect to “value for money” in the 2018 Market Force survey. We’re ranking it fourth because its stores are smaller than the top three (some as small as a drugstore) and offer a limited number of brands and limited hours.
5. WinCo Foods
Employee-owned Winco Foods rounds out our top five grocery stores offering the best value. Not only did it rank among Consumer Reports’s top eight grocery stores offering the best value, but Howard places it as second cheapest (after Aldi), and Market Force places it as third best value for the money. It’s not just the prices, however. “People love the WinCo shopping experience. The downside? WinCo is in only eight states (California, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah) and some locations don’t accept credit cards. Don’t miss these grocery store shopping secrets no one will tell you.
Costco is among Consumer Reports‘s top eight most competitively priced grocery stores. Clark.com declared it a tie between Costco and Aldi in 2017 (although it didn’t make Clark’s top seven in 2018). It’s ranked second only to Aldi in terms of value for money spent by Market Force survey participants, although scored near the bottom in terms of item availability, item findability, and checkout speed. Here are 15 Costco secrets employees won’t tell you.
H-E-B didn’t make Consumer Reports‘s top eight, nor did Clark.com give it a shout-out. But the overall shopping experience (with top marks in item availability, item findability, and cleanliness) was sufficient for this Texas-based chain to round out Market Force’s top five grocery stores. That being said, it’s U.S. stores are all in Texas, so if you don’t live in the Lone Star State, you’ll still want to check out the best supermarket in each state.
Fry’s came in as America’s sixth favorite grocery store in the 2018 Market Force survey, ahead of WinCo. It’s highest ranking was with regard to its sales and promotions, in which it was ranked number two behind Shop-Rite (which didn’t make any of the best value lists we consulted) and Harris Teeter (discussed below). Neither Consumer Reports nor Clark Howard mentioned it in their listings of grocery stores offering the best value. That said, it ranked consistently in the middle on most of Market Force’s factors.
9. Harris Teeter
Another grocery store with generally middling rankings in the 2018 Market Force survey is Harris Teeter, which came in ninth place on that survey overall. It didn’t merit a mention in Consumer Report’s or Howard’s listing of grocery stores offering the best values, and that may be because there are many who find Harris Teeter to be downright expensive. That said, Harris Teeter appears to offer some excellent sales and promotions, based on the Market Force survey.
10. Sam’s Club
Sam’s Club is tied with Whole Foods for 10th place overall on the Market Force survey leaves Whole Foods in the dust in terms of value-for-the-money. That said, Sam’s Club didn’t make Consumer Reports‘s or Howard’s listings of best-value grocery stores. Still, there are several items you’ll never go wrong purchasing at Sam’s Club.
11. Whole Foods Market
Having tied with Sam’s Club for 10th place overall on the Market Force survey, Whole Foods seems to be getting by on its quality (it ranks highly on factors relating to the overall shopping experience), as opposed to its pricing. In fact, it comes in dead last in terms of value-for-money, and close to last in terms of sales and promotions. But apparently, the shopping experience is enough to make some consumers forget that the prices may cost their “Whole Paycheck.”
Fareway, a family-owned chain operating in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota isn’t even included in the Market Force survey, perhaps because it only has 122 stores. However, both Consumer Reports and Clark Howard both recognize its excellent value. Both include it in their listings of grocery stores offering the best values, with Howard ranking it as number four. These grocery store shopping mistakes you might be making could cost you major money.
13. Market Basket
A New England-based, family-owned chain, Market Basket was recognized by Consumer Reports as one of America’s most competitively priced grocery stores. “Our subscribers placed Market Basket among the top-rated chains overall, along with East Coast retailer Wegmans, Trader Joe’s, and Publix, a Southern regional chain,” the magazine reports. With only 79 stores, however, it wasn’t included in the Market Force survey.
With only 17 locations in just two states (Illinois and Wisconsin), Market Force didn’t include the warehouse-style Woodman’s, but Consumer Reports gave it a shout-out for passing on savings by selling items in bulk and by refusing to accept credit cards (which raise prices due to associated processing fees), and for being a “good place to buy in quantity for a party.” Next, let’s hope you’re not still falling for these 50 supermarket mistakes almost everyone makes.