In recent years I have realized I am very picky about the grocery stores I shop at. I love grocery shopping, but I can never decide which store to hit up. I was curious to know which store was best for what sort of things, so this fall I put together a grocery list of a few “staples” - the sort of items I buy nearly every week. I also paid attention to the “other” sort of things I bought at what stores, and wrote about that as well!
All in all, this was a really fun experiment and if you’re curious to see how you spend your money at stores, make your own list and try it with your favorite groceries! None of this is sponsored by any of these grocery chains - I chose at random based on where I shop in and around Nashville! This was also all inspired by Madeline’s Grocery Challenge over at madaboutfood.co!
1(ish) lb organic free range chicken breast
1 lb grass-fed organic ground beef
1 dozen pasture raised eggs (I buy Vital Farms whenever it is available)
2 heads of broccoli, organic
1 sweet potato, organic
1 bell pepper, organic
1 zucchini, organic
A case of sparkling waters
Trader Joe’s $32.12
Whole Foods $37.32
Trader Joe’s nor Aldi sells pasture raised eggs, so their egg prices are cheaper but lower quality. Aldi barely sells any organic produce, so prices were cheaper. Aldi also doesn’t sell organic/free range chicken except by the whole chicken, so I bought that. Sprouts was out of their brand of grass-fed beef so I had to buy a more expensive kind (by $2!) so the price really should have been more like $35.79ish.
I ranked the stores in order of preference of “ideal world” shopping. Honestly, I go to Kroger the most. It’s easy and convenient and inexpensive.
Sprouts is basically like a less expensive Whole Fods. They have a lot of specialty items (a wall of Kombucha, all sorts of dairy and/or gluten free items… all that “other” stuff you can’t necessarily find in normal stores). The best part is, though, it’s the same stuff you’d find in WF but for a lot cheaper! And Sprouts always has great sales. Unfortunately, I learned it is on the pricer side for “every day/week” shopping.
I love Sprouts the most for many reasons. First, the bulk bins. You can get so many different things from these bins in whatever quantity you want with very minimal waste. A tip: don’t use those annoying twist ties and instead just knot your bag and write the PLU down in your phone! Most cashiers don’t mind. Second, I love Sprouts for their produce. It’s abundant, fresh, individual, no packaging, and it always just feels quality. Third, Sprouts has an amazing Vitamins/Minerals/Body Care section, with many different natural and homeopathic options. They often have 25% sales in this section and it’s amazing!
Sprouts also has an app with deals and coupons you can add to your phone and scan at the check-out! In my ideal foodie world, I’d live next door to a Sprouts and shop there all the time. But alas, it’s far away and expensive.
2. Kroger (King Soopers, Fred Meyer, City Market, Dillon, etc. - all the same store!)
Kroger is my go-to. There is nearly always one nearby, they always have sales, and the every-day stuff is super affordable. They’ve been slowly but surely renovating the Krogers in Nashville and some are much better than others. The Green Hills Kroger might as well be a Whole Foods, while the one near my house in Glencliff was recently re-done and still just feels… not clean. Either way, it’s always very convenient!
Kroger also has an app and a loyalty program - if you’re shopping here, definitely sign up and get all of those sweet deals! You’ll also earn points towards discounted gas. Kroger gas is always the cheapest, and you get 3 cents off no matter what!
They have great store brands - both Simple Truth Organics and Private Selection are my faves. The produce is usually pretty good (again, depends on the location). They are starting to carry more “specialty” items here, which is great. If you want them to carry something specific, you can always ask the manager!
3. Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s is like this black hole of grocery shopping that I always enter with a small list and leave $80 later with a cart full of stuff I didn’t even know I needed. This was the least expensive of my favorite spots for the basics, which was great news! But it’s impossible to not spend extra money here. This is for several reasons: 1) It’s in Green Hills and parking and traffic is awful, so I’m never going to “just pop over” to TJs; 2) they have so many fun unique items! It’s impossible not to try them all; 3) I always end up buying flowers. Maybe all of this just speaks to my lack of self control at the grocery, but I know I’m not alone.
There are several staples I get almost exclusively at TJs: vanilla extract, unrefined coconut oil, garlic infused olive oil, grass-fed cheddar cheese, cauliflower gnocchi, and brown rice pasta. There are a few other things I love like their freezer tamales and sparkle waters. Anytime I need the goods for a charcuterie board I always stop here first!
The 2 biggest TJs cons: the amount of unnecessary packaging, especially with their produce, and the fact that they don’t sell pasture raised eggs. I avoid buying any cold produce here, but their squash and potato prices are pretty great.
Publix is just Kroger’s older, more sophisticated sibling. It is the same, except nicer and more expensive. They do have “buy one get one” deals a lot which are great, and their produce is fresh. It’s usually a more pleasant shopping experience than Kroger, but you’ll generally pay $1-2 more for everything you buy.
Everyone that works there seems really happy and cheerful, which is nice to see in a workplace. It’s always really clean and organized. I like Publix, but I won’t go out of my way for it. Kroger is so much closer, so I might as well save time, gas, and money. When I lived near Publix I pretty much exclusively shopped there, though!
5. Whole Foods
We all probably feel the same about Whole Wallet. Great experience. Clean. Makes you feel fancy. But it’s really damn expensive and sometimes they only have fancy options. If you’re a prime member you can work the sales, but I am not a prime member.
I’ve been shopping here a lot (like, 4-5 times a week) for clients. I find it best for client meal prep for a few reasons. I can utilize the hot bar and salad bar to save on extra food waste and prep time. They have a lot of specialty items that my diet-specific clients need, like great dairy, gluten, and soy free options. And the butcher bar is unbeatable.
All that said, I try to avoid it for my own grocery shopping because no matter what, it’s just going to come out more expensive.
I have never had an experience at Aldi that I liked. I’ve tried, many times, but it always turns out the same. I added this to my list because several people asked me to, but I’m just going to give you my honest opinion. I’ve given up on it.
Similar to Trader Joe’s, all of the produce has too much packaging. You can’t just buy one sweet potato - you have to buy 2 pounds. Most of the produce is this way. It’s a great price, and would especially be good for a big family on a budget, but I usually just don’t need that much. The produce also all went bad so fast I had to throw 75% of it away before I even got to use it, which bummed me out.
They didn’t have organic chicken except by the whole chicken, though that was a fantastic price. Don’t let their “Free From!” meat branding dupe you: it was not organic or any different than the other normal chicken, just branded to look fancy and therefore more expensive. They did have well priced grass-fed beef, kerrygold butter, and a lot of gluten free options, which is great!
The upside to their plastic woes: they don’t have grocery bags! You must bring your own bags, and a quarter for the shopping cart (which you will get back when you return the cart to it’s proper spot). I do love this about Aldi.