I’m not going to lie. Before I started working at The Krazy Coupon Lady, I had some assumptions about how I’d determine the cheapest grocery store. For example, I just assumed the prices were way cheaper at Walmart because I tend to schlub it up when I shop there — versus how I tend to look a little more presentable when I shop at Target.
I also couldn’t imagine the prices at Target could ever be cheaper than places like WinCo Foods or Food4Less.
I was wrong in so many ways.
Finding the absolute cheapest grocery store means doing away with all your assumptions and taking a hard look at the actual prices. But that can get overwhelming — fast. Luckily, we’ve got a whole team of KCL researchers spread across the country who have gathered the pricing data for you. And today, I’m going to show you what those numbers tell us in terms of which grocery store is the cheapest overall.
A few things to know before we get started. First, we looked only at stores that carry brand names. While stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s might offer some significant savings, the fact that they don’t carry brand names makes for a messy comparison.
Second, remember that prices can vary by region, and some items — like eggs and produce — go through seasonal price fluctuations every year. If your state charges sales tax on food, you’ll also want to account for that additional expense.
But as far as base pricing goes, these are the cheapest grocery stores in 2023.
For more smart shopping tips and savings hacks, text HACKS to 57299.
First, let’s take a look at the 19 items in our theoretical shopping cart:
To find the cheapest grocery stores in America, we looked at a typical shopping cart filled with these 19 common staples. We also decided on an exact quantity to use for our calculations. Picking an exact quantity helps us to better compare prices across stores, even when product sizes may differ.
For example, you’re never going to be able to buy just a 6-ounce container of Yoplait at Costco. But once you figure out the price per ounce for Yoplait at Costco, you can easily calculate what it would cost for a 6-ounce container at Costco.
So here’s what’s in our theoretical shopping cart:
- Bananas, 1 pound
- Bertolli pasta sauce, 24 ounces
- Bisquick All-Purpose Baking Mix, 40 ounces
- Bounty paper towels, 662 square feet
- Campbell’s tomato soup, 10.75-ounce can
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (frozen), 2.5 pounds
- Coca-Cola, 12-pack of cans
- Eggs, 1 dozen
- Honey Nut Cheerios, 10.8 ounces
- Heinz ketchup, 32 ounces
- Honeycrisp apples, 1 pound
- Jif creamy peanut butter, 16 ounces
- Orange juice, 59 ounces
- Potatoes, 5 pounds
- Ritz crackers, 13.7 ounces
- Toilet paper, 190.7 square feet
- Tyson fully cooked chicken nuggets (frozen), 32 ounces
- White rice, 32 ounces
- Yoplait yogurt, 6-ounce container
Now that we know what we’re shopping for, let’s check out America’s cheapest grocery stores, starting with the absolute least expensive (Sam’s Club, $76.40 total cost) and ending with the most expensive (Food4Less, $115.92 total cost). We’ll also show you the cheapest products at each store based on their unit price, in case you want to pick and choose where you shop to get the best value!
1. Sam’s Club has the lowest total price for the 19 example items in our shopping cart: just $76.40.
If you were to buy all 19 items at Sam’s Club — in the exact quantities we specified in our list — you’d pay just $76.40 in total (plus tax, of course).
But wait, don’t you have to buy in bulk at Sam’s Club? How can you just buy one 6-ounce container of Yoplait yogurt like we listed?
You’re not wrong. We did a little math to figure out the price per unit of each item at Sam’s Club, then multiplied to get it in the quantity we specified. That way, we can compare the prices at Sam’s to the prices at a non-warehouse location like Walmart.
Sam’s Club has the best price for bananas.
When we break down the price per unit, Sam’s Club is one of the cheapest places to shop across SO many categories.
Here are some things they price right, starting with bananas:
Sam’s Club is also a great place to pick up Coca-Cola to pay less per can:
They’ve got the best price on Heinz ketchup per ounce:
Sam’s Club has the lowest per-cup price for Yoplait yogurt cups:
Jif creamy peanut butter is also cheapest at Sam’s Club:
Frozen Tyson chicken nuggets are much cheaper at Sam’s Club than Costco.
Related: Check out our picks for the best things to buy at Sam’s Club.
2. Target actually comes in second place for their shopping cart total: $84.25.
Surprise! Getting groceries at Target is actually cheaper than heading to places like Costco or Walmart that appear further down our list. At least for the 19 items we price-checked in our theoretical Target shopping cart.
If you were to buy all 19 items in the exact quantities we specified, you’d pay $84.25. And that’s before applying your RedCard discount, which could push the price down even lower to $80.04. (Still not as low as the Sam’s Club total in Tip #1 above, though.)
So what’s cheapest at Target when you consider the price per unit? We found one stand-out item — toilet paper.
Target has the best price on toilet paper when you calculate cost per square foot.
At Target, you can pay as little as a penny per square foot, which even beats Sam’s Club and Costco:
3. Costco has the third cheapest price for our theoretical shopping cart: $86.14.
Since you’re loading up on bigger quantities when you shop at Costco, you’re getting a better value than you do at stores like Walmart. We calculated what you’d pay for all 19 items and it came out to $86.14, which is $9.74 more than you’d pay at Sam’s Club for the items.
Costco is tied with Sam’s Club for the best price on Honey Nut Cheerios.
When we crunched the numbers, we found that Costco is right up there with Sam’s Club for the price on General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios. What happened to you, Walmart?
Now, in all reality, Costco doesn’t typically have the cheapest cereal prices when you factor in sale prices at grocery stores. While the Costco base price for cereal might be lower, if you wait for a sale at WinCo, Food4Less, or H-E-B, you’re likely to get an even better price than Costco can offer. These sales tend to rotate based on brand, so for Honey Nut Cheerios, you’d want to wait until there’s a General Mills sale.
You’ll pay the least per ounce when you buy Bertolli pasta sauce at Costco:
4. Walmart was slightly more expensive than Sam’s Club, Target, and Costco with their shopping cart total: $95.75.
Wally World and Target are quite competitive, but for the past several years now, Target prices actually trend lower than Walmart’s across the store — including in the grocery aisles. Surprised? I was, too.
At Walmart, if you were to purchase all 19 items in the specified quantities, you’d pay about $95.75.
While Walmart didn’t have the cheapest price per unit for any one category, they came close for eggs, which were $1.68 per dozen (just behind H-E-B, where they were $1.56 per dozen).
5. Our H-E-B shopping cart total came in fifth place: $97.79.
If you’re buying all 19 items at one store, the next least expensive option is H-E-B. You’ll be able to fill up your cart for a grand total of $97.79.
H-E-B has the best price for a dozen eggs out of all the stores we checked.
Right now, H-E-B has the lowest price on eggs. Though it’s important to note that egg prices have been swinging wildly over the past year. On top of regularly scheduled seasonal changes in pricing, the avian flu has made inventory (and pricing) unpredictable. So the rankings on this item, in particular, are subject to change.
6. WinCo Foods came in second-to-last place with their shopping cart total: $98.59.
You could pack up your cart with all 19 items and spend $98.59. We found two areas where their prices are unbeatable.
WinCo has the best price on Honeycrisp apples.
When you break down the cost per unit, WinCo has the lowest prices on Honeycrisp apples:
WinCo also has lower-than-average prices on orange juice.
Stock up on frozen chicken breasts for the lowest price at WinCo:
Related: We did the digging for you to find out if WinCo is cheaper than Walmart.
7. Food4Less came in last place for their theoretical shopping cart total: $115.92
Despite having “Less” in their name, we were surprised to see that Food4Less came in last place of all the stores on this list for their shopping cart: $115.92.
But Food4Less does have the most competitive prices for potatoes and Bisquick when you consider the unit price.
Food4Less has the best prices on regular potatoes.
I totally thought WinCo would have the best prices for potatoes (given their large store footprint in Idaho), but nope — it’s Food4Less! Check it out:
Food4Less also has great prices on Bisquick:
8. And the honorable mention goes to Kroger.
Kroger doesn’t have the cheapest prices on any singular item of the ones we compared. Purchasing all 19 items at Kroger would cost you $112.95, which is just a smidge cheaper than the Food4Less (which Kroger owns). At Food4Less, the items that are more expensive are way more expensive, while Kroger tends to hold to median pricing across almost all products.
Let’s recap: Sam’s Club is the cheapest overall for our theoretical shopping cart, but you’ll need a membership to shop there.
If you’re looking to squeeze the absolute MOST value out of every dollar you spend on groceries (or at least for the 19 common grocery items we checked), you’re going to want to try out Sam’s Club. Thanks to all the membership deals out there, you can join Sam’s Club for as low as $35 a year right now. And Costco’s membership is only a little higher, at $60 for a whole year.
But because inflation’s still high, budgets are tight, and you might not have the money to engage in bulk shopping, we determined your next cheapest option for grocery shopping out of the stores on our list is Target.
And don’t stress too much about where to buy some items like paper towels, as we found you’re going to get a pretty darn good deal no matter where you shop: