Grocery Shopping Deals: Who Has Them?

I think I spend more time at the grocery store than I do my own house. Well probably not, but there are weeks when I feel like a professional grocery shopper. With food prices on the rise, I've wondered if I'm shopping at the right place. As much as I would love to shop at Trader Joe's every week, the place isn't practical for my family of four. And Whole Foods is a little too fancy. (That's code for too expensive.)

So I'm left with Giant, Safeway and Shoppers Food Warehouse, which are a stone's throw from my house. I know the Harris Teeter lovers are wondering why I've left out their beloved store. The truth is I already know I spend at least $75 more there on a week's worth of groceries than I do at Giant, which is the store I go to. And Wegmans' local stores in Woodbridge and Fairfax are too far for me. But I've heard the store has great deals.

So to make sure I wasn't missing any deals at Safeway and Shoppers, I spent an afternoon comparing about 15 different food items from fruits and vegetables to meat and dairy products at each of the stores and how they compared to prices at Giant. I compared the prices using Giant and Safeway's savings cards, which are offered to customers for free. Shoppers has always touted itself as a store that doesn't require a card but offers low prices automatically. I went into this experiment thinking Shoppers would be the winner but it turns out Giant was the right place to shop all along.

Giant had better prices on more than half of the items I compared, some with pretty dramatic differences. Giant, for example, sells a pint of grape tomatoes for $2, while Shoppers and Safeway had them for at least $3. A bag of Dole lettuce was a whole $1 less at Giant than at Shoppers. But one of the most dramatic price differences was Shadybrook Farms lean ground turkey. A pound of the stuff was $2.59 at Giant compared to $4.69 at Shoppers and $4.49 at Safeway.

Safeway was the most expensive, only beating out the other two stores on three items -- Dannon yogurt, Jif peanut butter and Fresh Express lettuce bags. And Shoppers matched Giant's prices on most items. Shoppers did beat out Giant with its price on a carton of a dozen large eggs, which go for 10 cents less than Giant, and bananas, which were a whopping 1 cent cheaper than Giant.

So where do you find the best deals on groceries? Do you stick with one particular store? Let us in on your grocery shopping expertise by posting a comment below.

Have you had a yard sale lately? What makes a successful yard sale? What mistakes did you make? I'll reveal my tips for a worthwhile yard sale next month but tell me your strategies at shoptoit@washingtonpost.com.

By Tania Anderson |  June 26, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Grocery Deals
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Comments

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I don't understand why TJ's is not practical for a family of four? I do most of my shopping there, plus the farmer's market for produce, and TJ is definitely inexpensive. Their cheeses in particular are good, varied, and cheap.

Posted by: cc | June 26, 2008 8:27 AM

I concur with the comment regarding Trader Joe's. They have pantry staples like maple syrup, olives and pasta sauce at significantly lower cost than any store around. The frozen section is very good...high quality and well-priced. We especially like the pizza and single-serve Indian dishes and the vegetables are excellent (try the roasted veggies in balsamic glaze or roasted corn).

We also like some of the prepared meals which are in the refrigerated section. There is a tortellini pasta, chicken and sun-dried tomato dish that is heat-and-eat and everyone loves...great for a busy family. Each two-serving package is $5.99 and after adding artichoke hearts and kalamata olives along with a Caesar salad I have dinner for four for around $20 which I think is a pretty good deal.

My preferred store is Wegman's and I drive past numerous Giant's and Safeway's in order to get to the one in Fairfax. I don't think that I am paying more than I would at the larger chains, but I know that they have items which simply are available most places and the customer service is unbeatable. The Safeway in Burke Centre makes my blood boil every time I walk in there for something as simple as a loaf of bread and gallon of milk.

Posted by: SapphicHokieMom | June 26, 2008 9:03 AM

I refuse to go anywhere except Wegmans anymore. They have consistent low prices every week and everyone is so nice to me. Giant and Safeway are so expensive, very dirty, and the employees (if you can find them) are rude.

Posted by: FFaxDriver | June 26, 2008 9:14 AM

There are always items that are cheaper at some stores than others. So it's Trader Joe's for milk, Giant for cereal, Magruders for some produce, and Target and CVS for sale non-perishables. I can't imagine doing my shopping at one store all of the time or just going by ad circulars. Also some stores stock things that others do not. I think half of shopping wisely is remembering which stores consistently offer things cheaper and just taking advantage of the sales as they come.

Posted by: Fairfax Mum | June 26, 2008 9:49 AM

Giant and Safeway are just plain not clean. I live within one mile of both a Giant and travel instead to Wegmans, which is about 5 miles away. Their prices, service and appearance make the trip worth it.

Posted by: New to Fairfax | June 26, 2008 9:50 AM

I personally love Wegmans. I'm from NY, where Wegmans is born, so thats what I grew up with as just "the grocery store". THe only other big chain to compete was Topps, which in order to compete had to be almost as good. but living in DC, its a special treat to get to go there when we're in VA. But the last time we went, we got milk for $2.89! I haven't seen it under $4 in awhile. And its frozen vegetables are under $1, storebrand cereals $1.99 and a bunch of sale items as well.

But since its not practical to go there every week, we are left with Safeway, Giant, TJ, and Whole Foods. Whole Foods is a rarity because generally its expensive. It also has milk cheaper than Safeway or Giant, so we might go for that and occasioanlly find something in their conventional produce on sale that we get. Otherwise I got o Safeway and Giant based on sales. I pretty much buy exclusively on sale. My fresh fruits and vegetables are what is on sale that week and meat is bought at $1.99/lb or less and frozen. Giant might be a better option as a standard store if you are going to buy what you're going to buy anyway. Its switched to a "everyday low price" policy as opposed to sales. I personally don't like that because while its price might be cheaper than safeway, safeway will have that item on sale, and I will buy it then from Safeway and still pay less.

I also cannot see how TJs can be your weekly stop. At the least the one in DC is very lacking on fresh produce. Its TJ brand packaged stuff is good, but I can't live off of sauces and condiments. As for their frozen and packaged stuff, we just don't eat that kind of stuff. As for $20 for a family of 4 being a good deal, I aim for $2-$3 a serving when I cook. Cooking yourself is much cheaper than pre prepared stuff.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 9:51 AM

I wonder how much gas you people are burning to drive past stores and go to Wegmans. If you factor in the time and gas money are you really saving anything?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 9:57 AM

It's not the gas it's the thrill of the hunt!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 10:01 AM

I concur with the comment about Wegmans and consistent, low prices. Why drive around to three or four stores when with one stop at Wegmans, you know what you're going to spend week after week, and comparatively, their lower or as low as competition.

Posted by: Tom | June 26, 2008 10:07 AM

Even with gas at $4 per gallon the extra $1-2 it costs to bypass Giant and Safeway for Wegman's is worth it simply based on the impact of my mental well-being. The produce department at Wegman's is huge and there are always at least five employees available to help you find something or answer a question. Tell me the last time you got anything other than an indifferent look from someone at Safeway when asking for help.

Plus, the checkout lines at Wegman's move unlike the glacial pace at Giant and Safeway where most of the cashiers behave as if a grocery shopping is a totally foreign concept.

I could go on about how the fish selection is extensive and fresh or how the meat department will gladly butterfly a leg of lamb or how the deli has a great selection or how the cheese department can actually recommend something to go with a specific dish.

By the way, the best feature at Wegman's this time of year are the trash containers near the fresh corn so that you can shuck it right there.

Posted by: SapphicHokieMom | June 26, 2008 10:51 AM

Does the Washington Post Sunday paper still have coupons for groceries? In recent years I haven't seen any food coupons in the Sunday Post.

Posted by: CPA | June 26, 2008 11:04 AM

It is unbelieveable that this conversation is taking place with no mention of discount grocer ALDI. There are only a few locations in the DC Metro area, but their prices are consistently the lowest of any food chain. They are, also, the parent company of Trader Joe's, and operate on a model similar to TJ's -- small stores, small inventory, low prices. You can buy a full cart of groceries at ALDI for around $100. Our once-monthly trip to the store is worth the gas we spend to get there -- we estimate our savings on food to be about $200 per month. I would love to hear from more ALDI shoppers in this column and comments section. We know you are out there!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 11:17 AM

For those of you who love Wegmans and the rest of us who wish we could shop there, the company's web site says it has plans to open 8 stores in Maryland and Virginia, including Leesburg, Columbia, Lake Manassas and Landover. I'm still waiting for one in Alexandria or Arlington. Thanks to the commenter who introduced us to ALDI. I've never heard of that store but I counted 8 locations in the DC area. Might be worth a visit.

Posted by: Tania Anderson | June 26, 2008 11:45 AM

Don't forget Magruders! They've a number of stores locally and are terrific for low-priced produce. On a recent price comparison, they came up comparable to Shoppers.

I'd say we make weekly trips to TJ's. Mostly, I shop there for inexpensive luxuries (olive oil, cheese, crackers) and a few staples (dairy, frozen vegetables, pancake mix) along with low-priced wine. We've an older Giant and a newer Safeway within walking distance. If I need something and am already home, I drop by one of these.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | June 26, 2008 11:54 AM

Wegmans is definitely the best for service, quality and price. They blow away the competition by far. If it is too far though, the newer Giants are the next best large store for price, selection (not service). I think Giant is much improved since being bought out by Ahold. I could never understand the talk of the way Giant used to be under the previous local ownership. I thought it had old and dirty stores with extremely high prices. Much better now. TJ is great for certain items, but not everything.

Posted by: SJV | June 26, 2008 12:33 PM

IMHO, a remodeled Safeway is little more than lipstick on a pig. The stores are dark and dimly lit and I only buy produce and meat there out of desperation. Milk can be a good deal when they have buy-one-get-one-half-off, but it still means that you end up in a checkout line for 10-15 minutes since they rarely have more than a couple of cashiers working. Thankfully, the store near us has self-checkout, but it seems to attract 1) people with full shopping carts or 2) people who have NO IDEA how a scanner works and/or 3) people who think that it is a good idea to have their toddler do the work which the line behind them grows longer.

Posted by: More Cowbell | June 26, 2008 12:36 PM

I have been buying my produce at Aldi's lately. It's good and its cheap. A fraction of what it is at my regular grocery store. I used to go to the farmer's market, but their prices have gone up and the fruit is often over ripe. Not to mention the long drive and the crowds. So far I have not been disappointed in anything I've gotten from Aldi.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 12:45 PM

Like a lot of PPs, I shop at WF (produce, fish), Trader Joe's (condiments, snacks, frozen), and either Giant/Safeway/Target depending on who has what I need on sale. Like the author, I'm not impressed with Harris Teeter - the stores are pretty but they never seem to have what I need on sale. I've been to Wegman's though, and it was beautiful. If there was one closer I'd seriously consider being a one-stop shopper.

Posted by: thriftygrrrl | June 26, 2008 12:55 PM

Personally, I love Harris Teeter. They always have items I like, very polite staff, clean & modern stores & are conveniently located in both DC & Arlington. In addition to their low prices, they often carry harder-to-find items such as sugar free chocolate sauce & whole wheat bread crumbs. I also rarely have to wait more than a few minutes in the cashier line, even on a busy Saturday afternoon.

For me, HT blows all the others mentioned above out of the water! 100% agreed on the awful (Soviet-style) Safeways which abound in this area.

Posted by: LB | June 26, 2008 1:15 PM

I agree with that Harris Teeter is far and above the best grocery store in the DC area. The Kalorama HT finally opening has been a huge improvement to the Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights neighborhood. The Safeway is dirty, the produce is usually rotting with bugs flying around, and the staff is rude and not helpful. I'll happily pay a little extra for great service, fresh produce, and a wide selection. Unfortunately, if you don't have a car your options are limited - Giant is just a little to far to walk with grocery bags - but HT is a godsend.

Posted by: DC | June 26, 2008 1:40 PM

People should be required to shop at the store nearest their home. If they choose a different store, they should have to pay a surcharge that will be used to develop earth friendly energy.

Posted by: Lisa | June 26, 2008 1:45 PM

People should be required to shop at the store nearest their home. If they choose a different store, they should have to pay a surcharge that will be used to develop earth friendly energy.

Posted by: Lisa | June 26, 2008 1:47 PM

Wegman's is the best store anywhere! I love to shop there. However, it is out of the way for me and to save gas, I shop at the P & C grocery store in my area. Everything I use eventually goes on sale, and that is when I purchase it. I clip coupons as well. The store has promotions where you get additional 10, 15, or 20% discounts depending on how much you have spent in a certain time frame. Yesterday, I qualified for the 10% after spending $500 in that time frame, and with all the other coupons and sales, I saved $25.00. That is the way to GO!

Posted by: Amanda | June 26, 2008 1:52 PM

Lisa...so I guess that I can put you down as being against a free market economy.

Posted by: More Cowbell | June 26, 2008 1:53 PM

If Wegmans was closer to us (in the South Riding area) it would be our regular market, without question. Not only are their prices on regular groceries very good, they also have nice fish, meat, baked goods, prepared foods, made-to-order subs, etc.

But since Wegmans is too far, our choice is Giant vs. Harris-Teeter vs. Bloom. They are all nice, new stores, but I generally shop at Harris-Teeter.

BUT, we also buy a lot of stuff at Costco (organic milk, cottage cheese, etc.) and BJ's (canned fruits, etc.). We also shop at the Centreville TJ's.

Posted by: Spectator2 | June 26, 2008 1:54 PM

CPA: Yes, the Post still has coupons. They are in the insert with the comics, tv listings, etc). Ours sometimes shows up on Friday night, which is nice.

Posted by: Spectator2 | June 26, 2008 1:56 PM

Does anyone know whether Harris Teeter is a union shop? I know that UFCW would love to be at Wegman's, but the employees continue to reject their advances and why not? Good pay, strong management team, decent work environment, good benefits and opportunities for advancement. Compare that to the labor force at Safeway, Giant and (yeech!) Food Lion...bare minimum staffing, disinterested and unmotivated employees.

Posted by: Mike Sorce | June 26, 2008 1:57 PM

I see no mention on this board of anyone's experience with Bloom (formerly Food Lion), which I guess validates my theory that no one in their right mind ever shops at that place.

Posted by: George | June 26, 2008 1:58 PM

I live about 6 minutes from a Giant Grocery Store and about 2 minutes from Harris Teeter. I used to shop at Giant but when Harris Teeter opened I went for it. The prices are generally the same and because it is closer I think it's break even. Harris Teeter has more variety of vegetables as well and very good cheese selection. I also agree that Giant is not clean but would go there still to get me a bread naan which I use for pizza base.

Posted by: 4feet | June 26, 2008 2:01 PM

More Cowbell,
There's more to the world that you and your wants. Barack will put you in your place!

Posted by: Lisa | June 26, 2008 2:04 PM

I would be interested to see why you write that Harris Teeter is $75 more a week (how much do you spend on groceries?!?). Their prices are generally comparable (especially if you stick to what's on sale), and the produce is fresh. Giant may have better prices on some things, but getting tomatoes for 25c cheaper isn't worth it when they're all sad and bruised.

Posted by: a.k. | June 26, 2008 2:20 PM

Lisa - it is your type of socialism that frightens me.

Posted by: Free Market Mabel | June 26, 2008 2:22 PM

I've been in the business for 25 years and as a result I can assure you that I can "out-shop any grandmother with coupons." I also live downtown so I have the same choces as everyone else. I buy milk and butter at WF, it's cheaper and better quality than Safeway's. I buy my meat and produce at Safeway. The quality of both are superior than any other chain for the money. The Safeway at 17th and Corcoran gets all of it's perishables (meat,produce,milk,butter,yogurt,etc.) delivered everyday (including Sunday). They do this to ensure freshness and to keep very little perishable items stagnant in the back. The perishables are literally taken off the truck, prepared if necessary(i.e. meat cutting, lettuce trimming, etc.) and put out on the sales floor immediately. this happens on a daily basis. The downside is the store is very busy for it's size, Sunday's are the worst. As far as the staff being rude, I've been there 15 of my 25 years and I usually go out of my way to try to help any customer. Contrary to popular belief, some of us do care. BTW, Mrs. B if you are reading this I ordered the dried mint and it will be on the shelf over the weekend. Oh, I almost forgot. Get your parmesan cheese at Cosco, 3 lb bag of good quality imported from Italy for only $9.99. It's dated a few months in advance and comes in ziploc bags so it keeps a long time as well. 1/2 a pound (8 ounces) will cost you $4 to $5 at Safeway or Giant.

Posted by: JimB | June 26, 2008 2:22 PM

Harris Teeter is where I shop. I'd love to shop a Wegmans, but they are simply too far for practical purposes.

I find Giant to have the worst produce and service of any of the stores mentioned, and HATE the fact that 90% of their store have more self checkouts and human staffed checkouts.

As for Food Dog, don't even get me started...

Posted by: Keith | June 26, 2008 2:22 PM

I like my Giant, Safeway and Weis (all in Frederick) - they are all clean, well staffed, and pretty competitive. I don't like Giant-Eagle.

Posted by: Free Market Mabel | June 26, 2008 2:23 PM

I shop a different stores for particular favorite foods. I go to TJ's regularly for their wonderful Tuscan Pane bread. It makes a chewy toast to die for! Try it as French toast, or putslices of TJ's light haravti on it and stick in the toaster oven! TJ's also has whole grain bread with 6 grams of fibre per slice.

I go to Shoppers for the Richfood brand of swiss cheese (love the taste!) and 1% cottage cheese. Brand does make a difference in these items!

Posted by: Dottieb | June 26, 2008 2:25 PM

"I wonder how much gas you people are burning to drive past stores and go to Wegmans. If you factor in the time and gas money are you really saving anything?"

Yes. Particularly if I do my grocery shopping on a Saturday (when I'm tooling around town anyway), on my way home from work or not driving at all and having my groceries delivered via Peapod (Giant) or Safeway.com.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | June 26, 2008 2:31 PM

I have had the pleasure of shopping at all of the stores mentioned in the story and I can say that Aldi's is the newest addition to my choices and we enjoy shopping with them. Since I travel throughout the metro area for business I find that stopping at various locations on my way to and from home is a great way to keep my food budget within scope. Farmer's markets are a great alternative but usually I prefer to go directly to the farm and make my purchases.

As for those reviewers who believe that Safeways and Giants have declined in their appeal we do have alternatives to speak with our wallets and purses and to voice our concerns with their corporate offices. Too many times we voice our concerns in forums such as this but fail to elevate the concerns to the appropriate levels within a corporate structure.

Posted by: pikesfish | June 26, 2008 2:32 PM

All this driving around is giving me a headach.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 2:34 PM

"People should be required to shop at the store nearest their home. If they choose a different store, they should have to pay a surcharge that will be used to develop earth friendly energy."

Doing that defeats competition and increases prices. Next time, skip the "Environmental Justice" course and take "Economics 101".

Posted by: tlawrenceva | June 26, 2008 2:36 PM

"People should be required to shop at the store nearest their home. If they choose a different store, they should have to pay a surcharge that will be used to develop earth friendly energy."

Absolute nonsense. There would be no motivation for your local store to remain competitive and they could charge what they wanted for groceries. If there were a surcharge for shopping out of your neighborhood - who would enforce it? Who would collect the money? How would a store know you weren't local? Absolute nonsense.

Posted by: BDWESQTM | June 26, 2008 2:36 PM

Giant prices products differently at different locations. I live in Alexandria, and the Giant closest to my residence is significantly more expensive than the bigger/nicer Giant in Reston, closest to my place of employment. Over the years, I have also noted that Giant will impose large price increases, then reduce them to the level charged at other large grocers, claiming large discounts/reductions. It's a regular scam.

When I shop at Trader Joe's, I always leave happy. The prices are good, the selection offered is limited but exceptional, the quality of products almost always superb, and the management/store personnel always extremely pleasant, receptive, and eager to please.

Posted by: anonymous | June 26, 2008 2:36 PM

Lisa, my sense is that you are little more than a troll. FWIW, I have been an Obama supporter for more than a year and don't have any fear that he is going to advocate for less freedom of choice with regard to where I do my grocery shopping.

Pikesfish, I can assure you that Safeway management, locally and regionally, has heard my concerns and complaints and they have invited me to be a member of a shopper advisory panel. I took them up on their offer, but the real issues are structural and have a lot to do with their labor agreements which makes change difficult.

Posted by: More Cowbell | June 26, 2008 2:40 PM

I like Safeway. I only price compared Yoplait yogurt at Wegmans and Safeway beat them by 10 cents, unless you had a Wegmans card, in which Safeway beat them by 3 cents. I'll try looking at Wegmans again, since they are like 5 miles from my home, but I'm not too sure I'll come out ahead.

Posted by: tlawrenceva | June 26, 2008 2:51 PM

I think its hard to put some Giants and Safeways in the same category as others- the stores vary wildly! I am looking forward to the HT opening on my block in a few months, just for the sake of variety, but I love my Giant. It probably helps that I have the Gucci Giant (and possibly the test store for new ideas?)- it's huge, newly remodled, all the latest shopping gadgets, including one that allows you to bag as you shop and then just scan a special code to pay for it all as you breeze through the checkout. You can leave an electronic deli order and they page you when its ready so you can pick it right up and skip the line- and you still get the benefit of all the Giant Card sales. I realize this Giant may be one of the few- my fiance's Giant in Ballston had 1/4 the selection, size and was terribly dark. Still- I love my Giant and if anyone shops around Randolph Road... they should check it out. It really is less than the other stores in the area and, as one who HATES grocery shopping, its actually not a bad experience for me anymore:o)

Posted by: North Bethesda | June 26, 2008 2:55 PM

Harris Teeter's service cannot be beat. I really hate grocery shopping, but the HT near my house has made it a pleasure. They were recently remodeling, which left all the carts outside and exposed to the elements. After a hard rain, I was headed to the store with my toddler. My favorite cashier saw me coming and ran out of the store with a roll of paper towels to dry the seat for him. This kind of service is the rule, not the exception, at the HT where I shop. I haven't compared prices, but know I'd gladly pay a little more for this friendly environment. It's the closest I've found to a small town feeling in the 12 years I've lived here.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 2:56 PM

I agree with comments on trying to shop close to home (why waste gas unless you're on errands?) and go to farmer's market, etc. I donate staple items to food banks and also look for deals of the week. Sunday paper still has coupons and you can get them online, too. Most of the grocery chains listed (even big box BJs) is near my work/commute, except Aldi. I love Aldi for milk, eggs, some produce. I typically eat healthy so buy basic fresh items there. Milk in Oxen Hill store is $1.99/gallon and dozen large eggs $1.19 last time I went--I wish gas was that cheap! My son-in-law is a manager at a Va. Giant and they are doing massive changes in pricing and store branding. I no longer have young children/teens at home so have "luxury" of being more selective (i.e. no processed foods, large quantities to buy). Shopper's went downhill for me when they were bought out and their prices immediately went up. Only "deals" at Whole Foods is their 365 organic brands when they go on sale.

Posted by: ccinva | June 26, 2008 2:57 PM

I chose Giant from the list, but I actually order from Peapod. I get excellent deals, and can use both my Giant card and coupons to improve on them. (If you time it right you can get the specials for two consecutive weeks in one shopping cart). I save gas, time and - porobably most important for my - I avoid impulse purchases.

Posted by: Karen | June 26, 2008 2:58 PM

I posted the TJ's comment (at the top). I agree with whoever said the produce is lacking, which is why I buy that at the farmer's market on Sat, or at Magruders at Chevy Chase Circle, or sometimes at H Mart in Wheaton (but I don't get there that often). Also, the TJ's produce is improving, in variety and quality (at least at the Bethesda Wisc Ave location).

But I disagree that it's only sauces, condiments, and prepared foods that TJ's is good for. I do buy the salad dressing and sometimes the "simmer sauces," but I don't eat a lot of prepared, processed food. I think the only stuff like that I get at TJs is frozen pizza and frozen veggie burgers.

TJ's picks -- fresh pizza dough for 99 cents. Tofu, also 99 cents. Again, all the cheeses, which are priced very well. Frozen pizza margherita (not that cheap, unfortunately). Veggie burgers. Olive oil (best prices). Salad dressing (same). Whole wheat pasta. Flour (King Arthur is cheaper than at Giant). Butter, milk, eggs. Frozen vegetables. Apparently the frozen meat and fish is good (boneless, skiness chicken breasts, etc), but I don't eat meat or fish so wouldn't know. Their fresh meat prices are apparently better, too, and they have some organic meats.

My main point is that you need to look beyond the packaged foods at TJs, because they have a number of things that are very good.

Wegman's?? Too far for those of us in the inner suburbs!

Posted by: cc | June 26, 2008 3:12 PM

The Georgetown Safeway is pleasant. Makes shopping a nice enough experience that I don't feel bad not going to HT or wherever.

But what about the coops and small natural food stores? We do a lot of shopping there.

Posted by: Paige | June 26, 2008 3:13 PM

Not sure why TJs doesn't work for a family of 4...it does if you cook/bake. Flour, rice, nuts, cheese, dried fruit, pasta, legumes, frozen fish, frozen veggies, and fresh meat are consistently cheaper there. Dairy in particular is both cheaper and better for you (milk is free of hormones).

If you want processed food OreIda, Reese's, and Smuckers, then yes: hit the Giant. But people should eat less of that crap anyway. And honestly, if you are looking to reduce your food bill, that's the stuff that's padding your food bill. Stay out of the middle of the grocery store and shop the perimeter (i.e. frozen, fresh, meat, bakery, etc.) Your bill will plummet.


Posted by: Trader Joe's | June 26, 2008 3:18 PM

As a person who cannot eat gluten, I find that My Organic Market (MOM's) has lower prices on most things I can eat than Whole Foods. Giant and Safeway don't carry much that is gluten-free but Harris Teeter is getting on the wagon with little cards that say "gluten free" wherever applicable. I also order some nonperishable things by the case from Amazon.

Posted by: bmwoods | June 26, 2008 3:22 PM

I shop at both Trader Joe's and Giant. But I'm considering replacing Giant with Harris Teeter. I only shop at Giant for things such as Triscuits and particular brands that won't be available at TJ's. In regards to TJ's being more expensive, that's not been my experience. But then, I only myself to shop for.

In regards to Lisa's comment about requiring people to shop at the nearest grocery store, that's just plain silly.

Posted by: Little Red | June 26, 2008 3:32 PM

How come the only options are large chain grocery stores? I shop at farmers markets and independent grocery stores, like Sniders in Silver Spring, and I find that they have the best selection and the best quality, in addition to low costs. Also, did you ever consider that not all eggs are created equal? Quality varies, along with price.

Posted by: Laura | June 26, 2008 3:38 PM

This discussion is going to prompt me to do something that I've thought about for a while: make a chart and compare prices across the board. I read somewhere that most people by the same 40-50 itmes all the time. How hard can this be? I am lucky enough to have Giant, TJ's, Shoppers, and a nice Safeway all about the same distance (also a pigsty Safeway, but leave that one alone). There are some items that cannot be found anywhere but TJ's, and they have lower prices on chicken broth than anyone.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 3:40 PM

I'm a current Giant shopper and am reasonably satisfied with my store, but I really miss my local Wegmans. Best store in the country, but to far away for me now. When it was around the corner life was good.

Posted by: Chet Brewer | June 26, 2008 3:47 PM

Giant and Safeway are consistently priced higher than Wegman's, Harris Teeter, and Trader Joes. TJ's and Wegmans are by far the best bang for your buck, and we plan a weekly outing to hit these two stores up for the bulk of our weekly planned menu.

We shop Wegman's for meat, cheese and produce especially. TJ's is great for grabbing stuff for lunches at work, unique things, and healthier alternatives that don't break the bank like Whole Foods.

Harris Teeter is our "grab and go" spot for last minute items or small purchases of eggs, pasta, or an herb that went bad. We used to shop Harris Teeter once we moved near one for the bulk of purchases (after leaving...no, RUNNING...from Giant and Safeway) but we have found that shopping at Wegman's consistently saves us more money, even with the cost of a 30 minute drive thrown in. We joust go at odd times to minimize traffic and frustration (the Fairfax Wegmans is CROWDED at peak times and people there are exceptionally rude. The shoppers, I mean.)

We shop for milk only at Whole Foods because they are the only store I can find that carries reasonably priced grass-fed-cow milk. Magruder's gets our business occasionally, as they have good prices and stuff I can't often find elsewhere, but the one near us on Kenmore in Alexandria always has panhandlers and lurkers around the entrance and I do not feel safe at all going there alone.

Posted by: WegmansFan | June 26, 2008 3:47 PM

I'm surprised that more people don't shop at Grandmart, Hmart, etc. The H-mart on Gallows always has great deals on produce. I've seen bananas for 29 cents a pound a few times.

Posted by: Blah | June 26, 2008 3:52 PM

I really like Harris Teeter, but that's probably because I can walk to one in my neighborhood. That aside, I've also found that the customer service is fantastic and they offer products that you can't find in your typical Giant, Safeway (I have food allergies so I appreciate this greatly). The only thing to watch out for is that their prices can be higher on certain items. I tend to spread my shopping around for this reason and rotate my grocery trips between Target (great prices on cereal and paper products), Giant (generally decent prices on food staples), Safeway (I've noticed lately that despite their history of high prices, they've been running some decent sales on meat and produce to bring customers in), Shoppers, Trader Joe's, Costco (good deals on meat in bulk--we tend to freeze our meat), and Eastern Market. Oh and no, I don't spend my weekends grocery shopping or burning through gas traveling to all of these stores/markets; I tend to rotate between these stores depending on which part of the area I am driving through so it usually takes me 2-3 months to hit up each one at least once, but the system works and keeps our pantry well stocked for a reasonable price.

Posted by: Arlington | June 26, 2008 3:59 PM

I go wherever there are good deals on that week.
Over all I shop at Costco for Milk, Bananas, Bread, Bagles and few other items.
When it comes to fruits and vegitables, I prefer to the store, which has good deals in that week.
I also look at online for some other shopping. I prefer to look at www.dealshotdeals.com for online deals and coupons. It also save some money.

Instead of wasting gas and time, I prefer online shopping too.

Gas is too much. We dont have control on the prices. This is very bad period.

Try to save money where ever it is possible.

Posted by: Dhan | June 26, 2008 3:59 PM

The Grandmart (or whatever it's called) near my home on Little River Turnpike reeks of spoiled fish from time to time and you can smell it before you even enter the store! And I won't even start on the joys of nearly being mowed down as a pedestrian by ethnic drivers "trying" to park or navigate what is a fairly straightforward parking lot layout!!

No 29 cent bananas are worth sacrificing my life for. :-)

Posted by: Put the cell phone down | June 26, 2008 4:03 PM

"THAT's MY GIANT" is the store for me, if you do not mind the crowds. People like lower prices and overall quality. Safeway = high-price. Product specific, price-savings will always be store and season variable. GIANT, nontheless, offers consistant, general savings. Cheese is a good example. Lastly, GIANT has auto check-out at certain locations, but have yet to go store wide. SAFEWAY is understaffed, often 1 or 2 cashiers.
GIANT/Safeway could use make-overs, rennovating store-fronts, interior, and as others noted, cleanliness. Customer-relations might receive more attention, but my overall experience has been agreaable.
FISH is an important staple-protein item. Increased funding of the FISH dpt, in addition, would strengthen the store. Seafood quality-assurance is good, but inconsistant. This is a leadership funding focus, rather than management issue. GIANT is experiencing CEO change; while, maintaning current, solid regional leadership. Introducing changes across the board: image (store-fronts and interior), requires debt-spending, and higher costs, amidst increased local competition. A robust Annual 10K for income and cash-flows, might indicate changes without affecting costs. So far, basic quality and maintenance of lower staple prices is a working strategic mission. At times, it is a reluctant inconvenience to specialty shop at WHOLE FOODS for fish.

Posted by: marcus | June 26, 2008 4:08 PM

I go to the Harris Teeter on Duke Street; for Lisa's benefit, while the Teeter isn't the closest store to my home, it's very easy for me to go past there on my way home from work without going out of my way, so to me it makes eminent sense to go there because I find the selection and the quality to be better than Giant and Safeway, particularly in the meat and seafood departments. The single biggest reason I don't go to the Giant or Safeway near my house (except in a pinch), however, is that neither store has cart-return corrals in the car parks. I live in Kingstowne and it seems that the landlord will not allow the cart-return corrals. Of course many shoppers just leave the carts wherever the heck they want, and of course the stores contend that they bear no responsibility for damage to cars. Since I don't feel like having my cars dinged up by some lazy $%#$% who doesn't take the cart back, and since it's apparent to me that the stores don't care, I refuse to give those stores my business. In terms of saving money, I'd just as soon not spend my money on repairing dings and scratches.

I would love to go to Wegmans on a regular basis, but it's simply too far to be viable, especially when the weather is hot. I have not been to the new Woodbridge store, but I suspect it's a mob scene there just as Fairfax was when that store opened. (I told the manager, only half in jest, that they need roundabouts where the aisles come together and jersey barriers in the aisles because so many people go there to sightsee rather than to grocery shop!) Wegmans have far and away the best selection and quality, but until the proposed store near the corner of Telegraph Road and Beulah Street opens, my trips there will have to be limited.

On weekends I tend to stop at the Fresh Fields (or Whole Foods or whatever this week's name is) on Duke Street. The meat and fish are definitely better than at other stores. But I'm not a whole-hog "greenie" (reusable grocery bags notwithstanding....those things are great) and thus I could not do all my shopping there. (While this store does not have cart-return corrals, I generally avoid the issue by parking on the street instead of in the underground car park.)

I do not buy groceries solely on price, however, and I suspect most of us don't. I buy the organic milk, for example, even though it costs more, and the reason why I do this is that the expiration date is always something like a month after the date on which I purchase it. The store brands' expiry dates are usually within a week or two at most. Since I'm single, I won't necessarily drink the whole thing in that amount of time, so I figure that buying the product that will keep for a longer time saves me money compared to pouring out the store brand that may have spoiled. This is ultimately the tricky part of figuring out the cost of groceries--it's not as simple as just adding up the unit prices and figuring out what's cheaper, because if you really want to save money you have to consider the quantity you buy of any given product in terms whether it's more than you need and whether it might spoil (assuming you can't freeze it for later).

Posted by: Rich | June 26, 2008 4:10 PM

The Post does still put coupons in the paper, however, if you get the newsstand copy instead of the home delivery, it may not be in there. I go to Wegmans 95% of the time. I only go to the other stores when there is a sale that is better than the Wegmans price (or if there is something Wegmans doesn't have). With the one in Woodbridge you can get low grocery prices as well as get cheaper gas. Double savings right there. The Bloom stores are just renamed over-priced Food Lion products.

Posted by: Duane | June 26, 2008 4:18 PM

I agree with most of the posters about TJs - their staples are almost always lower than at other places - especially in dairy, as all TJ-labeled dairy is R-BST free and still cheap!

I shop at TJs first and then fill in from the farmer's market, Giant and, on rare and painful occasions, WF. I live in Annapolis, so we don't have access to wegmans or harris teeters and our SFW is being updated, I hope it won't be as sketchy when they finish so I can shop there - it used to be very dirty, not worth the low prices because you weren't sure about safety.

Tania - this was a very interesting post, it would be even better if you could have included the full list of the prices that you came up with in your comparisons. Also, please allow us to choose more than one store on the survey.

Posted by: mdsailor | June 26, 2008 4:20 PM

The panhandlers/lurkers around the Alexandria Magruders must be new. I used to shop there all the time until we moved to Manassas a year ago -- never had a problem there. I miss Magruders. Their prices were the best, next to Aldi.

Shoppers is my closest store now, so I go there even though they don't have everything and I feel like I'm paying through the nose after all those years of shopping at Magruders. Safeway is my second choice, but they're expensive too. Then Giant. I get a few things at Trader Joe's -- whole-wheat couscous, almond butter, low-sodium soups that really are low-sodium. I'm too far from an Aldi now, sadly. We're supposed to get a Wegman's nearby this fall, and based on the comments here, I will probably check them out.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 4:25 PM

I tried Hmart and Grandmart and agree that cheap bananas do not outweigh the funky smell and the TERRIBLE/DANGEROUS DRIVERS in the parking lot. Seriously, it really shouldn't be that hard to get your Accord into a space and you need to watch for pedestrians.

IMO, the best time to shop at the Fairfax Wegman's is early Sunday morning and after 7pm on a weekday. I am typically in the Wegman's lot by 8am and everything is freshly stocked and there are no lines. I can finish a week's worth of shopping in well under an hour and that includes chatting with my buddies in the seafood and produce departments.

Also, NEVER park in the garage and always shop well in advance when there is a holiday. Still sure why everyone waits until the day before Thanksgiving to pick up potatoes, cranberry sauce and stuffing ingredients.

Posted by: SapphicHokieMom | June 26, 2008 4:29 PM

"The panhandlers/lurkers around the Alexandria Magruders must be new."

That Magruders relocated maybe two years ago when the landlord at the old location on Duke Street remodeled the shopping center. Magruders moved up to Kenmore Avenue (loop-around street connecting Van Dorn to Seminary), the X-rated cinema and the West End Dinner Theatre closed, and Harris Teeter moved into a rebuilt space where Magruders used to be. The new Magruders is rather dingy and a bit seedy in my opinion, and there are definitely panhandlers out front. I avoid it. I remember when I was a kid in the 1970s we used to go to the Magruders in Vienna all the time; they still had sawdust in the butcher aisle, the last local store I know of to have had that. I haven't been in there in years, though.

Posted by: Rich | June 26, 2008 4:55 PM

Hey Rich! I bet we pass each other on the road all the time, chuckles. High five to my friend from Dr. Gridlock's blog!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel (WegmansFan and Put the Cellphone Down) | June 26, 2008 5:17 PM

This is at least the right approach. The only way for most families to survive this summer is by creating and sticking to a tough, real household budget:
http://digits.hrblock.com/ssDigits/digits.php?rType=1&sPath=2338&sNode=2338&uId=292

Posted by: GHarri | June 26, 2008 5:25 PM

CyanSquirrel, that wouldn't surprise me, given that the gas price updates you submit to VirginiaGasPrices.com are often for the same couple of stations for which I submit!

Posted by: Rich | June 26, 2008 5:37 PM

Small world, eh? Yeah I have two main routes I take, depending on if I'm driving solo or dropping my son off to his caretaker. One takes me down edsall, van dorn and eisenhower to Old Town. The other takes me straight down Duke or Seminary/janneys lane to King, depending on the time/day/traffic levels. Reverse in the evening. :-)
Shoot, that reminds me...gotta catch some gas prices for today. Gah!
Oh, I still post to Dr. Gridlock but often use random names now thanks to the trolls who ruined the experience for me. Boo to trolls.

Posted by: cyansquirrel | June 26, 2008 6:21 PM

Giant and Safeway "blow the big one" to put it proverbially, IMHO. Wegmans has the cleanest stores, nicest staff, best selection, and competitive prices to boot. The only thing is there are only a handful of their stores in our area! OPEN MORE WEGMANS PLEASE!

Posted by: suburbia | June 27, 2008 12:35 AM

I want to know why there is always a line of people returning food at the Whole Foods in Congressional plaza. I asked the customer service guy about this and he says they have to throw it all away, even if it's not rotten or defective. I've never seen this anywhere but at this store.

Posted by: chuck | June 27, 2008 1:38 PM

Well to start off I'm originally from NJ. I shop at all the stores in your article and I think you left out one of the cheapest and best deals around! Aldi discount grocer, aldi.com to find one near you. I shop at one in Mount Vernon VA and they have locations in MD as well. I used to shop them in NJ, they always have milk for a little over 3 dollars and eggs a dozen large for about 99 cents!! Not to mention a whole line of cereal for less than 2 bucks a box!! And to silence critics of discount fare.. think about where do they get the products from? Well they buy them from all the major manufactures like Kellogg, Tyson and Kraft etc. but because they use their own packaging it cut cost and that savings is passed onto us the consumer. They also don't charge companies for shelf space ie.. Giant will charge a cereal maker like kellogs a premium to be put in the best spot on the shelf in all their stores like eye level to the consumer. And that extra cost comes right out the consumer's wallet. And as for Wegmans they are up north and much more exspensive than Harris Teeter, in fact HT strives to be like Wegmans since its the only high end retailer with the exception of Whole foods it feels is any competition for them. I personally loved a chain called Shoprite in the NJ, NY area!

Posted by: njdevil22@gmail,com | June 27, 2008 6:38 PM

Its a shame the FFx Board of Supervisors will not allow Super Target and Wal MArts in FFx cty! Its not up to the few and their union supporters to tell the majority of FFx residents what stores thaty can have.

What mom and pop grocery stores are you savey Gerry? Please.

Prices are significantly less at a Super Target or Walmart and the quality is as good as Giant or Shoppers.

If Wegman's ever unionizes it will be kill the great customer service and prices.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 30, 2008 6:37 AM

Njdeveil,

Sorry Wegman's has lower prices then Giant, Safeway, Shoppers, Super Target etc and Dc along with its high end items. And it is significantly cheaper than HT. And the quality and service is better than HT anyday. Fish, produce and beef is also better than Whole Paycheck sorry Whole Foods whp pays Kim to drop their name in her chats. What you didnt know that please. Talk about product placement!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 30, 2008 6:50 AM

Whole Paycheck. *Snorts* :-D

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | June 30, 2008 5:10 PM

Snider's. Best service deli of any grocery store I've ever been to.

Posted by: Lindemann | July 8, 2008 3:22 PM

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