There are big supermarket chains, like Acme, Pathmark and ShopRite; smaller chains like Wegmans and Trader Joe's; warehouse stores like BJ's, Costco and Sam's Club; discount chains like Bottom Dollar; and department stores like Walmart and Target.
The non-profit Delaware Valley Consumer's Checkbook rated them all, looking at both price and quality.
As Executive Editor Kevin Brasler explains, there was a clear winner. "It's a unique situation where Wegmans is offering just superior service and products for prices that are well below what the big chains are, when we look at Acme and Giant and ShopRite and Pathmark."
Brasler says Wegman's received superior ratings for quality of meat and produce, while also offering prices comparable to the lowest-cost chains, which were Walmart Supercenters and Bottom Dollar Foods.
Whether you get a good deal at Giant seems to depend on where you live.
Brasler says, "I think it has to do with competition. If a Giant is located near a Wegman's or near a low-price competitor, it's affecting the prices in the store. So, where we have competition here in the Delaware Valley, it's affecting prices at a few chains, at Giant and at ShopRite. ShopRite has two pricing schemes. Giant has seven or eight."
Whole Foods was the priciest local option.
"Whole Foods prices were about 34% above the big chains," Brasler explains.
As for Target and Walmart, he says, "Walmart's prices were very low. Target's prices were somewhere about 10% below the big chains prices. So, again, you would save money by shopping at a Target. The problem is at the regular Target stores and at Trader Joe's even, you have this problem where you may have to suplement your shopping at those stores by shopping at a regular supermarket becuase they just don't carry as many items."
Prices on food are about 30% lower at warehouse clubs than the major chain supermarkets, but those prices don't reflect what you pay for membership and the fact that you have to buy large quantities, which may mean you end up paying for food you end up throwing away.
Brasler's conclusion: "Most people have at least one low-price option nearby. So what a lot of grocery shoppers are starting to do now is they're starting to buy non-perishables in particular at a discount and then buying produce and meats elsewhere."
For more information on the supermarket survey, click here.