When you’re on a budget, it’s helpful to know where you’ll get the most value for your dollar so you can make your spending decisions wisely.
TheCheatSheet.com has a new list of the 6 cheapest grocers in America. And we’ve thrown in a bonus seventh entry that’s sure to be making waves in the grocery field this year!
#6. Salvage stores
Want deeply discounted groceries? Salvage stores that offer “unsellables” like canned food that’s past its expiration date can be a great source of savings. Find the nearest salvage store in this directory.
Of course, salvage stores are not for everybody; many people will balk at the idea of buying damaged goods. But Dr. Ted Labuza, a professor of food science at the University of Minnesota, told The Atlantic, “Foods can remain safe to consume for some time beyond sell-by and even use-by dates provided they are handled and stored properly.”
And while we’re on the topic of expiration dates, did you know that the ‘sell by’ date labels are changing? Here’s what every shopper needs to know.
#5. Trader Joe’s
With some 450 locations in 40 states, Trader Joe’s is a beloved store to many people.
The quirky grocer with the staffers in Hawaiian shirts and the plastic lobster hidden somewhere in the store got the best rating of any supermarket chain in the country for customer service, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.
But it’s the prices that really draw people in. Trade Joe’s sells some brand name products under its own private label at half off what you’d pay at a traditional supermarket. Here’s a list of what’s really a name brand just repackaged as a store brand at a deep discount.
#4. Sprouts and Fresh Thyme
Fresh Thyme primarily serves the Midwest while Sprouts spans the country coast to coast across 14 states.
If you’re looking for fresh and organic at an everyday kind of price, check them out!
Fareway came in fourth in a recent Consumer Reports survey of supermarket chains across the country. Serving the upper Midwest states of Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Minnesota, Fareway got particularly high marks on price satisfaction from the magazine’s readers.
Employee-owned WinCo Foods builds no-frills supermarkets that are literally the size of a Costco.
People love the WinCo shopping experience. They print an aisle directory for every store so you’re not overwhelmed by the size and you know where everything is. But take note that most WinCo locations don’t accept credit cards.
WinCo, which was named second behind Aldi for low prices in a recent survey, is in California, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah.
“As they saturate the West, my hope is they move East,” Clark says.
More than any other store on this list, Aldi is the one to beat when it comes to cheap groceries. Customers can save up to 50% off traditional supermarket prices and up to 30% off Walmart prices. But beware that there are tradeoffs for that savings:
- Small stores. Aldi stores are about the size of a neighborhood chain drugstore with small aisles. Less real estate means less overhead and more savings for you.
- Focus on private labels. There’s only a tiny selection of products because of the emphasis on store brands. You don’t have 10 kinds of butter, for example. There may only be one or two kinds available.
- Schedule conflicts. They have limited hours and sometimes have long lines.
- Bring your own bag, but plan to rent a cart. The stores does have grocery bags for sale, but you may want to bring your own to save even more money. Also, be sure you have a quarter on hand when you go to Aldi. You’ll have to put a 25-cent deposit in the cart, which you get back when you return it to the corral. That reduces the cost of having to pay somebody to round up carts in the parking lot and it reduces accidental dents to your car when carts roll around the parking lot.
BONUS ENTRY: Lidl
After years of Aldi dominating the low-cost grocery market in the United States, archrival Lidl is finally set to make its way to American soil later this year.
BusinessInsider describes Lidl as a cross between Trader Joe’s and Kroger.
The German grocer, which operates 10,000 stores in 26 European countries, is known for its low prices and emphasis on store brands while also stocking a healthy smattering of popular name brands.
Lidl could open upwards of 150 stores around the country by 2018. The company is building its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Va., but has eyes for expansion along the Eastern seaboard from Atlanta to New Jersey.
The average U.S. Lidl is expected to be between 30,000 and 36,000 square feet. The typical Aldi, meanwhile, has about 10,000 square feet of sales floor space. Compare that with the average traditional supermarket that can be up to 45,000 square feet!
Sounds like Lidl might be the Goldilocks of the grocery industry — not too big and not too small…just right!
Read more: Costco vs. Aldi: Who’s cheaper?