Consumer Reports came out with their supermarket ratings. I’m pretty sure they have a rule that stores can’t use their ratings in advertising, so you might not hear much about them. You can find a few of the highlights in some news articles, but you need a subscription to read the full article. The article is available online now and in the May 2012 print edition.
I’ll try to summarize a few key ideas without ripping off the whole article, focusing on stores in central Iowa.
- Fareway was 4th on the list (there were a lot of chains included). Very high marks for knowledgable staff, store layout, and checkout speed.
- Hy-Vee was 9th.
- Aldi and SuperTarget were in the middle.
- Wholesale clubs tended toward the middle.
- Wal-Mart was almost last.
They also had a reporter detail a trip to the store buying (a) all name brands, no sales/coupons, (b) name brands after searching for sales, coupons, loyalty cards, (c) only store brands, and (d) wholesale wares. The reporter saved about 60% by buying store brands instead of regularly priced name brands. Buying name brands with deal-searching was about 40% more than store brands. Warehouse club prices were slightly higher than store brand prices. The savings assume that all brands are equal quality, which is not always true, but does account for varying sizes. Takeaway: Don’t limit yourself to one method of saving–do store brand when it works for you, and warehouse/coupons when it doesn’t.