I Wonder: Who has the cheapest groceries?

I Wonder: Who has the cheapest groceries?

Credit: KTVB file

Albertsons, WinCo Foods, Fred Meyer and Wal-Mart

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by Don Day KTVB.COM

Bio | Email | Follow: @DonLDay

KTVB.COM

Posted on October 25, 2009 at 3:27 PM

I wonder who has the cheapest groceries? Everyone seems to be claiming to have the best prices.

Once upon a time - there was only one major grocer in town - Albertsons. Joe and his supermarkets spread out across local neighborhoods, and sold groceries to residents in Boise and beyond. The chain gradually expanded, eventually becoming the largest grocer in the country for a short time.

Now, home-grown Albertsons is part of a Minnesota company, and in its one-time birthplace, it faces heavy competition.

We set out to find out who has the cheapest groceries in town - scoping out WinCo Foods, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and of course, Albertsons. In each store, we took a list of 13 common items - including ground beef, potatoes, some eggs, a box of cereal and more.

Albertsons is heavily promoting a "your list for less" feature - so we decided to see who has the best prices on common items.

All prices were checked Friday afternoon. We stopped by the WinCo Foods on Fairview, Wal-Mart on Overland, Albertsons at Cole and Fairview and Fred Meyer on Orchard - all in Boise.

The result in a minute - but first, let's look at how our list shakes down.

One 20 ounce loaf of Wonder white bread

Albertsons - $2.00 WinCo - $1.78 Fred Meyer - $3.19 (buy one get one free) Wal-Mart - $1.97

Best price: Fred Meyer. If you decide to spring for two loaves, each would have an effective price of $1.60. If you stick to a single loaf, you'll want to hit up WinCo.

One gallon 1% store-brand milk

Albertsons - $2.00 WinCo - $1.98 Fred Meyer - $2.49 Wal-Mart - $1.98 (on sale)

Best price: WinCo and Wal-Mart tie.

Five 6 ounce containers of Yoplait yogurt

Albertsons - $3.45 WinCo - $2.40 Fred Meyer - $2.65 Wal-Mart - $2.40

Best price: Another Wal-Mart and WinCo tie. Both stores charge 48 cents for yogurt.

Twelve-pack Coca-Cola 12 oz. cans

Albertsons - $4.79 WinCo - $3.98 Fred Meyer - $5.39 (on sale) Wal-Mart - $4.48

Winner: WinCo takes the crown here. Many stores use cases of Coke and Pepsi in their ads at a bargain price to draw shoppers in. Fred Meyer is featuring Coke on sale - but still has the highest price by quite a bit.

Five pounds Idaho russet potatoes

Albertsons - $2.49 WinCo - $1.27 Fred Meyer - $2.23 Wal-Mart - $1.50

Best price: Idaho's famous for its potatoes, and in this test, WinCo is famous for its potato prices.

One 1 pound 2 ounce box of Cheerios cereal

Albertsons - $5.49 WinCo - $3.24 Fred Meyer - $4.19 Wal-Mart - $3.12

Best price: Wal-Mart.

One dozen store brand grade AA large eggs

Albertsons - $1.79 WinCo - $1.32 Fred Meyer - $1.69 Wal-Mart - $1.50

Best price: WinCo.

One pound red seedless grapes

Albertsons - $2.49 WinCo - $1.68 Fred Meyer - $1.49 Wal-Mart - $1.28

Best price: Wal-Mart.

One 20 ounce Red Baron Pepperoni Pizza

Albertsons - $4.99 WinCo - $2.98 Fred Meyer - $4.50 Wal-Mart - $4.25

Best price: this is the most expensive item on our list. Three out of four grocers sell this brand of frozen pizza for more than $4. WinCo has the lowest price at $2.98.

One 22 ounce package store brand spaghetti

Albertsons - $1.00 WinCo - $1.75 Fred Meyer - $1.05 Wal-Mart - $1.27 *

Best price: This is the only category in our test where Albertsons featured the lowest price. For Wal-Mart, we took the price of a larger package and pro-rated the cost to arrive at a 22-ounce average. Of note - this is also the only category where WinCo has the most expensive price.

One jar Prego spaghetti sauce

Albertsons - $3.39 WinCo - $1.88 Fred Meyer - $2.13 Wal-Mart - $1.92

Best price: WinCo.

One 11 ounce bag of Lays Potato Chips

Albertsons - $3.00 WinCo - $3.00 Fred Meyer - $2.50 Wal-Mart - $3.00

Best Price: Three out of four stores have the exact same price - an even $3. Fred Meyer wins the race with a 50 cent price advantage.

One pound of ground beef, store brand

Albertsons - $2.79 WinCo - $2.68 Fred Meyer - $2.50 Wal-Mart - $2.38

Best price: Wal-Mart.

Overall

Albertsons - $39.67 WinCo - $29.95 Fred Meyer - $35.88 Wal-Mart - $31.05

Best price: WinCo. Albertsons may have been the Treasure Valley's first major grocer, but it's another locally owned company that wins our test.

Overall, WinCo, which has several warehouse locations, took the prize for cheapest groceries, but Wal-Mart wasn't far behind - charging just $1.10 more. If we didn't have the Red Baron pizza on our list, Wal-Mart would have come in lowest.

There are lots of intangibles that go into a shopping trip - things like service, produce quality, store layout or even how busy the store is. Many folks also will shop a store based on how close they are to their home - or how much gas it takes to get there.

That brings up one last factor - gas discounts. Both Albertsons and Fred Meyer give discounts on gas. Albertsons offers a $0.05 discount per gallon for every $50 you spend - and Fred Meyer gives a $0.10 discount for every $100 spent. For our test, neither discount would apply - or change the outcome.

Also, none of the items listed was at a "Preferred Card" price at Albertsons - though we would have used the lowest price listed if they had.

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