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Best budget grocery shopping: Kroger vs. Wal-Mart

Cheapism.com sets out to compare grocery stores Kroger and Wal-mart with an objective to name the better store.

By Cheapism.com Mar 19, 2014 12:44PM
This post comes from Raechel Conover at partner site Cheapism.com.

Cheapism.com on MSN MoneyCould Wal-Mart be a better place to buy groceries than the grocery store?

Cheapism.com recently priced out 26 products with identical brand names at Kroger and Wal-Mart and found Wal-Mart to be the low-price leader on 20. After factoring in savings available with the Kroger Plus Card, the grocery chain claimed cheap-price supremacy on one more item for a total of only seven. The products that cost less at Wal-Mart were more than 20 percent cheaper on average.

Dad and daughter at grocery store. © Katrina Wittkamp, Lifesize, Getty ImagesConsumers seem to have noticed. A recent survey by King Retail Solutions found that non-grocers such as Wal-Mart and Target are increasingly luring shoppers with low prices and the big-box convenience of one-stop shopping. Indeed, a laser-like focus on name-brand prices clearly pinpoints Wal-Mart as a smarter choice than Kroger for frugal consumers.

But other factors argue for keeping Kroger in the mix. When Cheapism expanded its grocery store comparison to include store brand products and loyalty-card prices, Wal-Mart's price edge shrunk to pennies less than $1.

Here's a closer look at the two contenders.

Wal-Mart 
The king of budget retailing is hard to beat on price. For an in-store shopping cart comparison, Cheapism gathered 37 products that rang up to $85.88, nearly $8 less than Kroger. Among these foodstuffs were the 26 national and regional brands, many of which cost less than the exact same items at Kroger. Moreover, bring in a competitor's ad showing a lower price for a product with the same brand name, flavor/contents, and quantity, and Wal-Mart will match it at the register. 

Wal-Mart clearly flexes its competitive muscle on the pricing front even as it lags Kroger in several ways. The selection at Wal-Mart was less robust and consumers who posted online reviews or responded to a Facebook poll offered mixed opinions about Wal-Mart's store brand, Great Value. Whereas one shopper equated Great Value with great quality, others asserted the opposite. Several shoppers we interviewed said Wal-Mart is the place to buy some items, such as canned goods and nonperishables, but the produce section disappoints.

Another issue dogging Wal-Mart is its reputation. Cheapism has ventured into different locations for several reports involving Wal-Mart and not once encountered the type of poor customer service and chaotic atmosphere often described in Wal-Mart reviews. Although the sheer number of critical comments about Wal-Mart may be hard to ignore, they may be overstated and/or inapplicable to any given location. 

Kroger 
The simple truth: It costs more to shop at Kroger than at Wal-Mart. The grand total for Cheapism's 37-item shopping cart came to $93.73 -- $7.85 higher than Wal-Mart. However, when accounting for savings with the Kroger Plus Card, the bottom line dropped to $86.78, within $1 of the discount retailer. Holders of the Kroger loyalty card also benefit from Fuel Rewards, which yield savings on gasoline bought at Kroger and some Shell service stations. 

Even the big-box Kroger Marketplace outlets are more like traditional grocery stores than Wal-Mart, with its all-encompassing inventory. Accordingly, the selection of foodstuffs is broader at Kroger. For example, Kroger stores operate full-service meat, seafood, and deli counters whereas Wal-Marts typically operate only a deli and sell prepackaged meats and seafood. The in-house Kroger brands, including the low-price Kroger Value label, receive high praise from consumers and industry experts. Private Label Store Brands magazine named Kroger Retailer of the Year in 2013 and pointed out that Kroger adapts its lineup in response to customers' changing preferences. The Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organics labels, for example, were introduced as healthier alternatives at affordable prices.

Cheapism's grocery shopping comparison also found that Kroger offers a pleasant customer experience. Employees were helpful and open checkout lanes were plentiful during peak hours on the day we visited. Consumers we interviewed mentioned the homey atmosphere and friendly staff.  

Bottom Line
Calling the winner of a Kroger vs. Wal-Mart face-off is difficult. On price alone, Wal-Mart takes the crown. But savvy leveraging of loyalty-card savings plus greater grocery variety, a reputation for slightly better product quality, and an arguably brighter experience suggest that Kroger should not be ruled out as a destination for frugal shoppers.

More from Cheapism.com:
429Comments
Mar 19, 2014 1:20PM
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Even though Wal-Mart may be a little cheaper, I much prefer grocery shopping at Kroger.  Kroger stores are brighter, cleaner, better organized, and have better selections and easier checkouts, in my experience.  I'd rather pay a few dollars extra for a nicer experience.
Mar 19, 2014 1:45PM
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They're leaving out a few things.  Not only does Kroger have the loyalty card, but they also constantly put items on sale.  The other day I was there and you got a free gallon of milk with a certain cereal purchase.  Wal-mart never does anything like that.  Also, Kroger has a manager special bin where you can find alot of overstocked or soon-to-be over date items at half price or even lower. 

 

If you just go buy the first 9 items you see off the shelf and compare then yes, walmart is cheaper.  But if you shop smart and stock up on the best deals when they're available, kroger is definitely cheaper.

Mar 19, 2014 1:42PM
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Personally, I'll pay the few extra dollars to shop at Kroger in order to have a better shopping experience.   The rare occasion I go to walmart, usually just to buy cat food or litter,  it just makes my skin crawl.   I find the selection better and the store cleaner at Kroger. 
Mar 19, 2014 1:52PM
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nice try "walmart" no matter what I will Not shop there anyone, prices went up, place is dirty & there employee's are so busy doing 10 jobs they don't have time to assist any customers with a question & most of there house wares HAS NO PRICE ON THEM! Oh and customer service, do they even know how to smile! all you get is "NEXT" "NEXT" no hello, good bye have a nice freakin day nothing!
Mar 19, 2014 2:41PM
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Who cares if Wal-Mart is cheaper? Why is 'cheap' good? Buying groceries- in fact buying anything at Wal-Mart contributes to lower wages and less jobs - thus, a lower standard of living - a problem that is destroying small town America and contributing to the erosion of the middle class as all of our wealth is funneled upward to the richest among us. Shop at smaller companies, buy local, support your farmers markets, grow and preserve your own food, support your community and leave Wal-Mart to rot.
Mar 19, 2014 1:44PM
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I shop at Kroger, and like it way better.  I use my loyalty card and easily save twenty dollars a month for my gas.  So it works out ahead of Walmart, and I get better quality and healthier stuff.  Plus if you get your prescription there you get 50 points, and it's the same all the time.
Mar 19, 2014 1:41PM
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Short and sweet. We shop at Fry's Market (Kroger owned) with a fuel station. We shop the flyer specials every week. Good shoppers know what meats are on sale. Pork, chicken, beef are on sale about every six weeks. We stock up, separate, freeze. We spend about $500.00 a month. We earn 500 fuel points which is 50 cents off per gallon of gas. My wife pulls in first, fill her car, she holds the pump and I fill my car. We are allowed up to 35 gallons of gas at 50 cents per gallon discount. Food for thought, look at grocery specials from any store, make a list and hopefully get the best price. It's your money.
Mar 19, 2014 1:33PM
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I do our shopping at Meijer.  Kroger is closer to us, but more expensive so we only go there if we are only picking up a couple items.  Walmart has to many trashy rude people, I try to avoid them at all cost.
Mar 19, 2014 1:31PM
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i'm surprised they found 37 items in stock at walmart.  everytime i go there what i need is not on the shelf... therefore i don't shop there much anymore.
the closest kroger is 35 minutes away so i don't shop there either.

Mar 19, 2014 2:16PM
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I HATE Wal-Mart! Their associates are rude, I have a large family and I have to use coupons to save money and their cashiers always give me a hard time! Price matching is a joke, their commercial clearly states that you don't have to have the ad with you yet they demand to see it when you want to price match; I've also had to fight with a manager over their own coupon poIicy because she had not taken the time to learn it. I am lucky to have an Albertsons, Tom Thumb, Target, and Kroger all in a 3 mile radius so my trips to Wal-Mart are minimal. I plan meals according to what is on sale that week at the other stores and I save tons more money. I spend on average $600 per month on groceries for a family of 6 (that includes non-grocery items as well). I love my Albertsons cashiers they are so helpful and friendly!
Mar 19, 2014 2:59PM
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The Gov. is about to introduce a new plan to help with the rising food prices. Besides food stamps.  heard it was going to be the ASA  (The Affordable Shopping Act).  Details were not all released but sources say it will work like this.  You can fill your grocery cart and the person in line behind you has to pay for it.
Mar 19, 2014 2:22PM
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Wal-mart buys  low quality produce that it can sell cheaper, most times the bananas rot before you get them home. also they do not have a great selection.
Mar 19, 2014 2:45PM
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We don't have a Krogers, so I shop at Kroger owned Fred Meyer, They are the best.  They treat their employees with respect and pay them enough to support their families.  There is a very small upcharge to shopping at Freddies compared to wallmart which I am very willing to pay.
Mar 19, 2014 2:21PM
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I like Kroger, I don't like shopping with a bunch of inbreds at Walmart.....
Mar 19, 2014 1:33PM
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Meat and produce are the two things that bring you into a grocery store. The other items I can get anywhere.
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In my own informal price checks I have found that excepting low ball advertised items Wally World is not cheaper on the grocery items we commonly purchase.  This applies to both Kroger and our local grocery Harps.
Mar 19, 2014 2:15PM
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II shopped at Kroger for years and saved money. Produce was great, good selection and meat department would cut anything I wanted. Fast forward and I have moved to South Carolina. No Kroger, just Walmart, BiLo and Food Lion. None of them are any good. Prepacked meat from Mexico, Honduras and wherever. Produce selection is poor to non existent. They are building a Publix 24 miles from me. My brother keeps telling me to hang on and I will see a better selection. Hoping.
Mar 19, 2014 1:41PM
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The article fails to factor in gas, vehicle wear/tear, and your time if you have to travel any significant distance to get to a WalMart. I end up losing any savings on gas alone, not to mention my time which is also worth $$$, trying to save a few bucks at WalMart which is loacated across town.
Mar 19, 2014 1:51PM
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Obviously Cheapism hasn't taken into consideration WalMart's competitor DollarTree.  DollarTree may not carry all that WalMart does but they carry plenty in grocery items to seriously undermine buying the same product at WalMart.
Mar 19, 2014 1:15PM
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we don't have Kroger, just wally world&food lion. both too high!
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