CINCINNATI -- Tri-State grocery shoppers have so many choices, from full service supermarkets like Kroger and Remke Markets, to higher-end stores such as Whole Foods and Fresh Market and no-frills stores like Aldi.
And we can’t forget big box retailers Walmart, Meijer, Sam's, Costco, and even Target.
So much competition means many hard-working families are no longer loyal to just one store. They may like Kroger for its broad selection, but like Deb Mills of Oakley, they seek out other stores for other items.
“We’re a frequent shopper at Kroger,” Mills said. “But we will go to Meijer occasionally, but it’s just further away from our house. A lot of it depends on the distance. We also go to Whole Foods because we have children with food allergies.”
Many others now hit Walmart or membership clubs, knowing those stores offer big discounts on paper products and laundry detergent.
Shopper Gina Martelle said, “We generally shop at Kroger for things we can find on sale, but we also like to shop Costco for items that we tend to use a lot of and can get at good prices in bulk.”
Which Chain Has the Best Prices?
So when it comes to full service supermarkets, a place where you can do your weekly shopping trip, which Cincinnati-area chain has the lowest prices these days?
To find out, we visited Cincinnati’s four full-service grocery stores: Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, and Remke Markets, which now competes on both sides of the Ohio River since its merger with Biggs.
We left out deep discounter Aldi, because it doesn’t carry most national brand names, and skipped Costco and Sam’s due to their membership requirements and the fact that you must shop in bulk.
Finally, we skipped Target, which is not a full service grocery yet in most areas.
We decided to shop for a basket of nine popular items, including Tropicana Orange Juice, Tyson boneless chicken, Prego spaghetti sauce, Oscar Mayer bacon, DiGiorno self-rising pizza, Oreos, Ritz crackers, fresh eggs, and bananas.
Our WCPO staffers hit at least four stores of each chain, for a total of 17 stores in all, covering areas from Butler County down to Northern Kentucky.
As we learned in the first part of our grocery investigation, prices tend to be the same at most stores in the same chain. In other words, most prices at Kroger in West Chester are identical to prices at Kroger in Florence, Oakley, and even Over-the-Rhine, with a few exceptions.
So the bigger difference, we found, is what chain you shop at, not in what neighborhood you live in (though Florence was slightly cheaper at several stores, as we found in our first report).
Weekly Specials Make Big Differences
But there were some surprises, which is why shopping weekly ads makes a lot of sense.
For instance, while Remke trended higher on most items, it was selling a dozen large eggs for just 88 cents a dozen on the day we checked stores at the end of April. All Remke stores were cheaper than the other three chains for eggs that week, due to its store-wide sale.
And while Ritz crackers were in the $2.56 to $3.49 range at most stores, Meijer was having a Nabisco Buy-5 promotion the day we visited, meaning Ritz crackers were just $1.69. Again, a weekly circular (paper or on your phone) would have alerted you to that deal.
The Winner Is…
This chart shows the total of our 9 items at each of the stores we visited:
Remke had the highest prices overall, averaging $31 for our basket of items.
Mejer was second priciest, averaging just over $28.
Kroger was cheaper than Meijer in this test, averaging a little over $27.
Walmart was slightly cheaper than Kroger, with its stores averaging $26.
So our low price winner is Walmart, as it has been in previous tests.
But Walmart’s margin over Kroger is slimmer than ever, due to Kroger’s low-everyday-price strategy it launched three years ago. Kroger has become very aggressive in competing head to head with Walmart, as it doesn’t want to lose market share.
Apps and Sites to Help You Save
Knowing which chains tend to be cheaper helps, but you’ll get more savings if you target weekly sales.
Top rated grocery apps and websites that will alert you to sales include:
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that Cincinnati is a very competitive grocery market, perhaps one of the most competitive in the country. Anyone who has visited the east coast and paid $4.50 a gallon for milk (twice the price of Cincinnati) realizes that our prices are very good.
So the bottom line is that you can win at any chain. And that way you don’t waste your money.
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