I conducted a study of 11 supermarkets in the area to determine which grocery stores had the cheapest prices for basic, staple food items–including russet potatoes, milk 2% fat, and bananas. I originally intended to include eggs in this basket, but it was impossible to get an apples-to-apples comparison between grocery stores. Eggs come in so many varieties–including grade A, grade AA, large, jumbo, cage-free, non-GMO, pasture-raised, fertilized, white, brown, organic etc. So, I decided to limit my basket of goods to potatoes, milk, and bananas.
The headline finding is that Whole Foods has the cheapest non-organic food staples in town next to Walmart. Figure 1, below, shows the ranking of grocery stores. The basket of food staples is $3.14 at Walmart and the same basket of goods cost $3.47 at Whole Foods. Next in line is Trader Joe’s at $3.59. Interestingly, the market which markets itself as a bargain market with outlet prices has the third most expensive basket at $4.53. The most expensive grocery store, due to its expensive milk and bananas, is Albertsons at $6.67.
|Figure 1. Price of Non-Organic Food Staples by Grocery Store|
|Store||Russet Potatoes (Price Per Pound)||Bananas (Price Per Pound)||Milk 2% Fat (Price Per 1/2 Gallon)||Total Price of Basket||Comments|
|Walmart||$0.68||$0.50||$1.96||$3.14||Assume each banana is .5 lbs.|
|Whole Foods||$0.79||$0.49||$2.19||$3.47||Bananas are whole trade.|
|Trader Joe’s||$0.92||$0.38||$2.29||$3.59||Assume each potato is .75 lbs. Assume each banana is .5 lbs.|
|Ralphs||$1.32||$0.59||$2.19||$4.10||Assume each potato is .75 lbs. Milk 2% is on sale.|
|Target||$1.00||$0.58||$2.89||$4.47||Assume each potato is .75 lbs. Assume each banana is .5 lbs.|
|Grocery Outlet Bargain Market||$1.05||$0.49||$2.99||$4.53||Assume each potato is .75 lbs.|
|Bristol Farms||$1.29||$0.49||$2.79||$4.57||Milk 2% is on sale.|
|Albertsons||$0.99||$0.69||$4.99||$6.67||Milk 2% is on sale.|
The next question is how expensive are organic basic food items. For this comparison, I limited the basket to only two items–bananas and 2% fat milk. I had to limit the basket because most places did not have organic russet potatoes. I also took out Ralphs and Walmart because they did not have organic bananas and I added in Mother’s, which is an organic boutique grocery store.
Again, Whole Foods has the cheapest basket of organic food staples–milk and bananas–next to Trader Joe’s. Figure 2, below, shows the ranking of organic milk and bananas by grocery store. The total price for bananas and milk is $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. The same items cost $4.18 at Whole Foods. Again, the food outlet has the third most expensive basket at $5.79. And, again, Albertsons has the most expensive basket at $6.88.
|Figure 2. Price of Organic Food Staples by Grocery Store|
|Store||Bananas Organic (Price Per Pound)||Milk 2% Fat Organic (Price Per 1/2 Gallon)||Total Price of Basket||Comments|
|Trader Joe’s||0.5||3.49||3.99||Assume each banana is .5 lbs.|
|Whole Foods||0.69||3.49||4.18||Bananas are whole trade and organic.|
|Grocery Outlet Bargain Market||0.796||4.99||5.786|
|Mother’s||1.99||3.99||5.98||Organic milk 2% fat is on sale.|
|Albertsons||0.89||5.99||6.88||Organic milk 2% fat is on sale.|
This study does not control for quality, but if the quality of produce at Whole Foods is better than Walmart, it might make sense to spend $0.33 more per basket to get the Whole Foods quality. If Whole Foods has better quality organic products than Trader Joe’s, it might make sense to spend $0.19 more per basket to get better quality organic foods. The ultimate takeaway is that prices at Whole Foods for food staples are not necessarily the most expensive in town. Furthermore, places that market themselves as outlets and bargain markets may not be the cheapest.