Grocery Geek: WHAT is Going On?

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I went shopping at Target this week for birthday presents for my older daughter. There were a few grocery items on my list. But, says I, they’ll be cheaper at Walmart. So I waited.

Then yesterday our littler girl was sick with the stomach flu and a fever. We needed a few comfort foods like yogurt and applesauce, and of course, I had stuff on my list still, so I thought, I’ll just go to Walmart. 

Folks, I was stunned. Walmart was not the low price leader. Well, if they are/were, everyone else’s prices have to be astronomical. I was really taken aback. Since my brain is kind of weird and keeps a mental price book, I was having a hard time walking the aisles. Everything seemed at least 50% higher priced than my stock-up prices.

And Walmart has traditionally been my stock-here-when-all-else-fails kind of place. It gives me pause.

It also explains why the grocery money is going so quickly! Here’s what we got this week:

I went to Costco early in the week for milk, cheese, bread, pasta, mayo, dairy items, bananas, turkey, chips, oregano, and fruit leathers. The bread is almost gone as is the milk, but we’re good on some of the other items going into this week. I spent $100 total.

Our produce box was particularly abundant with spinach, lettuce, dill, kale, zucchini, cabbage, persimmons, green beans, daikon radish, melon, eggplants, onions, garlic, and that ginormous butternut squash. I haven’t even made a dent in any of this yet. And I still have melons and butternut squash from previous weeks. So today I’m cooking up a big vegetable pasta sauce as well as an Asian styled salad.

I also bought that popcorn as an “extra.” You can pop it in a paper bag in the microwave — on the cob! More on that later.

I spent $49.70 on produce.

I made a miscellaneous trip to Sprouts and spent $22 and the aforementioned trip to Walmart for yogurt and other sick tummy items as well as some general grocery items I couldn’t find elsewhere. I spent $50!

So, I went over my week’s budget again, having spent $200. Part of those expenses include food for two birthdays as well as some convenience items, but really, I wasn’t being extravagant. We have plenty of food in the cupboards, and lots of produce. But, I still have a couple turkeys to buy as well as some other Thanksgiving items. Clearly some clever strategizing is in order.

There’s a war out there. And I will not go quietly.

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  1. Yeah, I was surprised by Walmart’s high prices on produce a couple weeks ago. I ended up getting almost everything at Trader Joe’s instead. Walmart used to be my place to get super cheap produce, but not anymore!

  2. Our Walmart here has been a huge disappointmant as well. Livng in the North East our prices are high but lately they have been horrible. Walmart has always been my go to but I’m having to rethink that. I can’t drive the 20 miles to get there and spend the same amount as I would at our small market in town. It isn’t feasible.

  3. Amen! There are only certain items that I specifically go to Walmart for, and the list of those items is getting shorter and shorter.

  4. Same story here. For quite some time I have kept a Kroger list and a much smaller Wal-Mart list. Kroger is my go-to store, but Wal-Mart has those “cheaper base price, no coupon” items that Kroger never can seem to beat … until recently. Between the hassle of Wal-Mart in general (don’t get me started) and the fact that more and more lately I can find almost everything cheaper or within pennies’ difference at Kroger, Wal-Mart is becoming a once-a-month store AT MOST. We’re in a fairly small town, so those two stores are about it as far as good prices. I’ll still go to Wal-Mart for Harvestland whole chickens (our Kroger doesn’t have ’em) and will pick up a few other items while there, but that’s it. I quit.

  5. I used to get my milk at Costco. Having a large family, we’d go through 10 gallons or so a month. Now Aldi has it for $1.99, homogenized, 2%, and skim. It’s doubled our milk budget!

  6. I’ve noticed this summer that Walmart is getting really high on groceries too. I hardly shop there anymore. I find better prices elsewhere. And I don’t know about your store but nothing ever goes on sale at Walmart unless they put it on clearance.

    So far all my Christmas shopping has been at Fred Meyer, Target and

  7. The prices are going up everywhere & the sales are for less of a savings as in the past. I am glad that our kids are all grown and am only feeding 2 adults.

  8. I shop at Target now. I got their Visa Debit card and save 5% on everything. Does’t sound like much, but it adds up.

  9. We just got a new Walmart Superstore and I thought I was the only one that noticed how crazy expensive it was. I can go to my local Publix and with coupons and bogo’s, save money and get a better quality food – so disappointed in them (would give a million dollars to have a Trader Joe’s here in Sarasota!!)

  10. I only go to Wal-Mart to price-match mulitiple grocery-store weekly ads. This is the only way they come close to decent prices!

  11. I go to Walmart to use my high value coupons.

  12. I almost always choose Target over Walmart. Fairly recently I read an article where Target beat Walmart in a comparison match up for the first time. (They compare the total price on a variety of items.) With a Target red debit card, I get an additional 5% off the total. Plus I enjoy the experience of shopping at Target SO much more. There are definitely some things that are cheaper at Walmart and I do occasionally go. Good luck on the rest of your month. (I am going to be tight on our budget b/c of unexpected company.)

  13. Interesting…I just really started shopping Walmart just a couple of months ago and I find they are cheaper than a regular grocery store! Apparently, there was a survey done a couple of months ago and out of 100 items, Walmart was the cheapest, followed by Target (Not sure if this was specific to our area or not – MN). I’m wondering if this isn’t just another round of raise in grocery prices in general and others will follow suit?

    • That’s interesting – I wonder if it was just local for you because there was a huge Newsweek (or other similar national news mag) that did research on price comparisons a year ago I think. It showed that Wal-Mart was NOT the lowest price. I’ve already known that in Florida and believe me, I sing it from the rooftops to anyone who listens! 🙂 Our local grocery chain – Publix – has buy one, get one frees EVERY week….on top of that they put out store coupons for individual items that you can “stack” on top of manufacturer coups AND they have a $5 off $50 coupon for the total sale nearly every week. Yes, Wal-Mart will take coups & (while difficult to do) will match prices, they don’t have BOGOs nor put out store coups and I find even their store brand is within pennies or the same price as Publix store brand. The exceptions are Wal-Mart brand children’s Tylenol, Motrin, allergy meds, etc. That’s about all I shop at Wally World for!

  14. I went to Walmart a couple weeks ago. I was going that way and needed a few groceries along with a couple other items. I was in shock. I could get stuff at our little local store for better prices. Even diapers. I used to get diaper there all the time. I noticed that each time you go in, their diapers are more expensive and the packages are quite a bit smaller. I really don’t think I will be shopping much at Walmart this holiday season.

  15. I stopped shopping at Walmart altogether a long time ago. I needed to reduce my grocery shopping budget recently so I took a trip to Walmart. I wrote down prices to compare at Publix. I found that many items were not a significant price difference (even without a sale and coupons) to warrant going back to Walmart. A previous poster said it well, shopping at Walmart is a hassle. It’s not worth the few extra dollars in savings on a few things for me to waste my time going there. I’m sticking to my regular grocery store.

  16. Amanda Mac says:

    I’m in SE Tennessee, and Wal-Mart is still the cheapest place to shop (excepting maybe Save-a-Lot or ALDI, neither of which I am particularly fond of). I keep a close eye on Bi-Lo sales, since they double coupons, and I go to Sam’s for my meats, but ultimately, I can’t beat Wal-Mart’s prices.

    Yes, they are still a LOT higher than they used to be, but so is everyone else. I could drive to 15 different grocery stores to get the lowest possible prices on food, but I’d lose so much in gas it wouldn’t be worth it.

    It stinks, though. DH gets so frustrated at how much I’m spending on groceries, but when the cost of EVERYTHING has gone up so much the last few years, it’s impossible to spend what I did five years ago.

  17. I have been noticing the same things here in North Dakota. I am in a busy season of my life so I haven’t been using coupons like I like to do (in nursing school taking 18 credits!). My kids are all getting bigger so I just think we are eating more but I really need to figure out how I can get my grocery bill back to a reasonable amount. We have one less mouth to feed then you guys and I just spent 200 at Sam’s Club!!! And like you said I didn’t feel like I was being extravagant either.

  18. We live in NW Montana, we have five other grocery stores other than WM, Smiths, Super 1, Rosauers, Albertsons and Safeway. One day when the rest of the family was busy, I went straight from WM to the other stores to price compare (just picked out three items and looked at identical items), the regular price was ALWAYS cheaper at WM. None of our stores double coupons and WM matches ads, so for me, it is VERY convenient. I just got chicken breasts there last week for $1.24 a lb. We don’t have ALDI, which I miss but here WM is still the cheapest. One thing to note is that their prices GREATLY fluctuate. I needed one can of Cr. of Mushroom soup and the WM and Campbells were $1 a can. I went back a week later and the Campbells was like .60. Butter has come down a bunch there too. Our Target is not a super Target and I have yet to find anything cheaper in their very limited selection. Although Target has a nicer feel, I am all about the bottom line…I have shopped at dumpy produce markets in the Valley (L.A.) to get a bargain, so WM is nice compared to that. 😉

  19. I don’t shop at Walmart but prices are going up everywhere. I also had sticker shock at Meijer yesterday. Some things have gone up by quite a bit (like cream cheese). It makes a tight grocery budget even more challenging 🙁

  20. Go get ’em Grocery Geek! I am right there with you. Trying to fight the fair fight of eating well while not blowing my budget. I have to say, I am getting tired of the fight but every week, I am renewed by you!

  21. I’m in So. Texas and we’ve only had one grocery store to shop for years and years, HEB (no double or stacking coupons), until about 2 weeks ago. Now we have 3 new Super Walmarts. We spent hours price shopping both last weekend and Walmart is cheaper on 99% of items we use and they will price match on those that aren’t. Maybe not a lot, but they are cheaper and their meats and produce are so much better than what we’re used to getting. Walmart is now my store of choice. 🙂

  22. I find Super Target to be much cheaper than Walmart and it’s a much better shopping environment. There are a few studies I’ve read recently that says Target has cheaper prices than Walmart. Here is just one below.

  23. I only go to Walmart for a few specific things that are still cheaper. Otherwise, i find the local grocery stores and their “loss leaders” are a much better buy. We buy cheese when it’s on sale and freeze it. Use cream cheese only when it’s $.89 vs $2.19 etc. I only buy Apple Cider or OJ from Aldi’s, but I buy a months worth and freeze it, so I am not making a whole bunch of separate trips.

  24. No one can beat Aldi’s. I don’t even go in Walmart anymore. It takes as long in line at either store, too.

  25. Just had to drop a line and say I am smitten with your blog. I love the snap shop into your counter of groceries. Walmart is still the cheapest in my town, but I like the reminder to be on my toes and not assume.

  26. I was just talking with my husband on this same issue! I have found better sales at Kroger and Marsh in Indiana! Also, we have Aldi, that is the place for me to stock up on my groceries and not penny pinch!

  27. Well, I’ve always been jealous of those who have these other stores (Costco, Krogers, etc.) to shop at – here in the TX panhandle we are limited to a couple of regional chain stores and Walmart!! We have Target too, but my family recently moved to a smaller town and its an hours drive to the “big city”, so I don’t have a lot of choice. I’ve never liked to shop at Walmart because of the parking hassle, crowds and usually just plain rudeness of employees and other customers, but what I’ve noticed since moving is that Walmart can still beat out our local chain by about 25% on most items, especially if you buy their store brand. I was amazed to add that all up and I’ve found that this local Walmart is much better than the ones in the city. I also use coupons, which NO store here will double! Now if I can just get over the all the white labels in my pantry!?!?!?

  28. I have a friend that splits the cost of items with me at our local Sam’s store. For example, we buy things like: toilet paper, ziplock bags, trash bags, pasta, pasta sauce, capri sun juices, and snacks for lunch boxes. We split the cost 50-50. This does 2 things, it helps us cut down our grocery costs, plus it helps us not have to store 40 rolls of toilet paper at what time, and other bulk purchases that take up too much pantry space. We go about once a month to restock for the next month. It definitely saves us money! We also have a fruit market on the other side of town next to our local produce terminal that always sells produce for way lower than any other grocery store in town. I encourage you to see if you have a produce terminal locally and you may get some better prices too.

  29. AllieZirkle says:

    When WM changed their price match policy, they also upped their base prices. It’s ridiculous! This morning I’ve seen increases in my Oceanside, CA location and Surprise, AZ location. UGH!!

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