Consumer Reports Best Supermarkets

BellsmomApril 2, 2014

CR just posted their listing of best supermarkets based on a large annual survey. The leaders, in order are Wegmans, Trader Joe's, Costco, Sprouts Farmers Market, Raley's, Fareway Stores, Stater Bros., Win-Co, and Aldi.

(Not sure if the following link will open for non suscribers to CR)

Here is a link that might be useful: Consumer Reports Best Supermarkets

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It seems a bit silly to try to rank national chains. The Stop And Shops in one area are drastically different from the ones in other area. Local management makes most of the decisions.

Love Wegmans, never been in an Aldi that didn't make me feel like I needed to be decontaminated.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:50AM
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I saw that a few weeks ago, most of it makes no sense.

You need a log-in from your link.

I agree about Aldi, that place creeps me out.

Trader Joe's - meh, their stores in Baltimore are in terrible locations, parking is a b!tch, minimal stock, unhelpful staff.

Food Lion - yuk
Shaws - I've always liked it.
Wegman's is my favorite

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:57AM
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This strikes me as a weird report. Several of these I've not experienced. However, the Stater Bros. that I have experienced was nothing impressive at all, and Trader Joe's is more of a specialty market--not somewhere one shops for a variety of fresh produce, for instance. But, then, CR and I parted ways somewhere around the 1970s. Nevertheless, I find it interesting when posters mention CR opinions, even if I am unable to learn how they arrive at their results.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 9:57AM
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I agree with the comment that individual stores and experiences vary greatly. I really like our nearest Aldi's, but there are others I would never return to. I was surprised to see TJ listed so high since, as kitchendetective said, it is not really a supermarket. Did you ever look for granulated sugar in a TJ? Not very productive. There is no Wegman's in either KY or Indiana. One of my very fav stores for meat is a rural IGA about 15 miles from me. Others closer by in a large city I do not care for at all.

This survey was really a reader survey--not an evaluation based on any particular objective criteria. Apparently they do it annually. I wouldn't have noticed had we not just talked about the worst supermarkets around.

Kitchendetective--I agree with your skepticism about CR's ratings. I especially find that they often omit items from their survey that I find distinctly superior to the ones they rank. They also do not take into account durability in most rankings. But nevertheless, I find it useful.

Sorry the link won't open without a log-in.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 11:25AM
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"This survey was really a reader survey--not an evaluation based on any particular objective criteria"

Which means its pretty much useless, as there's no controlling for the fact that their readers aren't a valid sample of the public at large, and the fact that response is going to vary non-linearly. IE, its very possible that Trader Joes (or Aldi) ranked very highly not because they're liked by a ton of customers, but because a ton of their customers responded

IE, if there are 100K CR readers who like Shaws, and 1% respond to the survey, and 10K readers who like Aldi, and they all respond, Aldi is going to be ranked higher (and the people I know who like Aldi, love Aldi)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 12:01PM
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CR also has a huge bias toward cheap. They go for adequate at the cheapest price, whereas I want the best for the best price.

Parking at Trader Joe's, even when it's in a suburban supermarket structure with a vast parking lot is always horrific. They were started as a gourmet store for everyman's budget and are still ridiculously cheap. It's still a specialty store, however, and not a full service supermarket. Where I live, the service is always extremely good.

But we only have Trader Joe's and Sprouts from that list (and Costco a goodly trek away), and I live in the antithesis to a food desert. I'm always floored by how little my groceries cost at TJ's. The price per bag goes up not with prepared foods or meats, but non-food incidentals like mints! But we have a lot more good local stores, maybe, which didn't make the cut.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 2:39PM
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I too have noticed that CR omits the top of the line items in many comparisons because of cost. For that matter Cooks Illustrated often does the same.

For me, TJs and Aldi's are two favorites, very different in what they offer and the clientele to whom they appeal. They both make me smile.

I also love the rural IGA which has incredible meat bargains (full beef tenderloins for $7 a pound the last time I was there. Chicken hind quarters for 49 cents a pound). It's 20 miles away, but I try to go by there the first week of each month. They also have homemade jams and jellies from local small businesses.

Fresh Market is eye candy, a visual treat. I don't buy much there, but it is fun. Sometimes they have all of their bulk coffee on sale at half price. I stock up my freezer when I catch that.

My personal most-visited supermarket is a local Jay-C. They have the basics at Kroger prices, they have much better service and less crowded parking, and they always have plenty of live checking stations. The Jay-C line was purchased a few years ago by Krogers, but ours still retains its own personality and great service. It is close, quick, and basic. A Krogers about the same distance away is a near the bottom of my preference list due to crowding, poor service, automated checkout lines--that sort of thing.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 3:16PM
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Plllog mentioned living in a food desert, and I recently saw a USDA Food Access Research Atlas (linked below) and where I live, and many of the surrounding counties are food desert areas. Out here in the middle of nowhere most people in the less-populated areas have to travel long distance to get groceries (and everything else) from the nearest "big" town, because small towns can no longer support a store. People drive here in central Kansas from western Kansas a few times a year to stock-up at Aldi and Sam's Club. If a small town has a grocery store, it's more of a glorified convenience store (milk, bread, beer, frozen pizza, jerky, junk food and lottery tickets). But there is probably a large percentage of the population who garden and grow much of their own food, which isn't taken into consideration.

So it's like the Consumer Reports supermarket survey - as described by JoppaRich - pretty much useless. The U.S. food dichotomy - people living in poverty, in a country that can deliver nearly any type of food product directly to your door, are also the most obese. What a crazy world!


Here is a link that might be useful: USDA Food Access Research Atlas

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 3:53PM
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That is so sad about the small town stores! I saw a piece on the news that said the same thing was happening in England. The report was about replacing even the convenience style store with a mega vending machine.

(To clarify, though I think Grainlady was just referring to the concept, I live in the opposite of a food desert. I can walk to two Trader Joe's, one Safeway owned supermarket, one Kroger owned supermarket, an Albertsons, a small Whole Foods, a number of smaller stores, and it's a short drive to Gelson's, Sprouts, several bigger Whole Foods, the Italian market, the Japanese market, half a dozen Jewish markets, a fantastic Indian market with amazing whole spices, a couple of local better full service markets, and drive a little farther and there are markets specializing in Korean, Chinese, pan-Asian, Greek--and that's just nearby! There's lots of food here. And that's not including the wine stores, cheese stores, produce store, spice stores, bakeries, butcher shops, deli's, etc., etc. And farmer's markets nearly every day. But there are areas not that far from me where there isn't even a supermarket--it is ridiculous that people who work hard all day can't even buy produce near home with their hard earned money.)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 4:33PM
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OMG, I thought I was in relative food heaven. You are teetering on the edge of food Nirvana! Wonderful. What fun to have that culinary diversity in your pocket.

And how aware we should all be of those who have so very few choices. Louisville, KY, the "big" city whose downtown is only 20 minutes from my rural Indiana home, has been making a real effort in the last year to bring supermarkets, farmers' markets, and other healthy food choices into its urban food deserts. I so much applaud this movement and hope it succeeds here and nationwide.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:02PM
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"Parking is a b!tch" must be a theme at all Trader Joe's. Surely is true at both the one we have here in Nashville, and the one I visited in Atlanta.

Loved that mom, just made me giggle. Yep!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 7:57AM
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There's a TJ about 19-20 miles from us, near the mall. I looked through it once, with DH, but wasn't impressed. Not too many staples, just lots of expensive (to us) specialty foods. Though my mom likes to go at the holidays.

I do most of my shopping at BJ's 17 miles away (in the other direction, less traffic, better parking), though I just let the membership expire while I look at other options. Will probably join again - though I don't often buy meat from them it looks like the other grocery stores are going up in price so it may be worth it to buy in bulk there - we've almost eaten the freezer down.

There are a few Stop & Shops and IGAs within a 15-mile radius, but again either are expensive (Stop& Shop apparently prices by neighborhood since some are more expensive than others) and/or the quality of the meat and sometimes the produce is lacking. I have bought some things at Aldi, but they have a very small selection of fresh produce and frozen vegetables - seem to sell more meat (I haven't tried, it even looks expensive there!), frozen convenience foods, and dry goods.

We are surrounded by farms (including mine) but farmer's markets don't start until mid-June or even July and lucky if they run until the end of Sept. I think most people here see them as a novelty, a destination, a place to get really good sweet corn or peaches, enjoy the music, walk the dog (! wish they'd restrict that - had 1 piddle in front of my stand last summer), get an Italian ice and socialize. Not to buy groceries for the week.

We do have a short growing season here, but my goodness, running a market only during high summer misses so much of the local produce! Last year the first week of market was the last week for the strawberries - at least I had strawberry jam to sell all summer.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 8:22AM
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I don't have any of those stores near me except Aldi, and the nearest TJs is 4 hours away. No Wegman's or IGA, not even a Kroger store. I've never even heard of Sprouts Farmers Market, Raley's, Fareway Stores or Stater Bros. And, according to the link Grainlady attached, I'm in a food desert too.

However, I can drive 50 miles and get nearly anything I want in Grand Rapids (except a TJ's, of course). I happen to like our newly opened Aldi, it's far cleaner and far more well run that the WalMart right across the street, now there's a place that creeps me out, I'd rather take a beating than go there.

As has been mentioned, chains are not the same everywhere. Before Elery moved the Aldi near him was dark, dingy and the people there just seemed....sad. The one 30 miles from us is new, big, wide aisles, good selection and nearly all of their produce is from the US. Much of it is local, including last week's apples, potatoes, onions and Brussels sprouts. It's the only place anywhere around I can buy a piece of Dubliner cheese too. However, their selection is very limited, pretty much all of their seafood is from China and I can't do a weekly shopping trip there, even though I raise my own meat and fruits and vegetables are mostly from my basement home canned goods.

So, I'm smack in the middle of agricultural heaven, with the Fruit Ridge to the south and the Asparagus Capital to the west, bean and potato growers to the east. But, I'm still in a food desert because so many people without transportation are far from a grocery store and there is NO public transportation.

My small independent grocery does a pretty good job, although they are very limited in choices. Produce is unfailingly good and often local but don't try to buy something like lamb or any kind of cocoa that isn't Hershey's or Nestlé's. Everyone knows you by name, though, and does their best to serve your needs.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 10:23PM
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Your description of your independent grocery reminds me of the Jay C, the grocery nearest us, about 5 miles away. We moved here 20 years ago. I had always lived in a moderately large city. I was astonished when I first went to the Jay C 5 miles away to buy groceries. It was closest to the rural high school where I would be teaching. They took my check without needing identification!

It is still much the same local grocery it used to be. Friendly, helpful--but now owned by Kroger and the heavy hand of the Kroger brand lies across every aisle. The IGA in a tiny town about 20 miles away is the only place I visit with a distinct local feeling. They carry at least some locally made jams and pastries and locally grown and butchered chickens and beef. In season they have local vegetables and fruits.

I am grateful to have many shopping choices within 20 miles--because Louisville, KY, is just across the Ohio River from our tiny town. But if I didn't drive, I couldn't live here. Interesting isn't it that those of us who contribute to this forum range from someone who can walk to multiple TJ's to those of us, like me, who are half an hour or less from a wide variety of food sources, to those like you who live where live in areas where you prepare and store your own food because grocery shopping is limited or very distant.

And yet, the Internet and GW unite us.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 11:01PM
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Of those listed, we have four that are relatively near to us. Here's my take on them:

Trader Joe's: I like the store but won't go out of my way to shop there unless they have something there that no one else does. It's for the same reason someone else mentioned, the parking! YUCK!

Sprout's: There's one within walking distance of my house. Good produce, good prices. I haven't tried their meats and their dairy seems a little high.

Costco: Husband bought us a membership for Christmas. It was a great idea, for the most part, but I am really in awe of the sizes of the containers. There are only 2 of us. So our purchases there aren't food-related.

Stater Bros: There's one within walking distance of my house. That's our 2nd main store to shop at. (The military commissary is our "main store", but it's 10 miles away.) It is our store-of-choice for meats. This, btw, is a Southern California chain that is based in Colton, CA.

I have shopped at Aldi's, when in the Midwest visiting family. My MIL used to shop at hers a lot, and liked it, but hated the one that was 40 miles away. We also shopped at a Raley's once when we were traveling up in northern California -- nice store. But that was about 16 years ago!


    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 8:18PM
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The link does not open for non-subscribers.

Of those listed in your post, the only one in our area is ALDI which is cheap and clean but you can't buy everything there. I mostly shop at Marc's which is probably nowhere in the list which I cannot see because I'm not a subscriber to CR. Our selection of grocery stores where we live really sucks. The Mom and Pop stores are priced so high there's no way I could afford to shop there. As it is, I end up going to 4 different stores to get my groceries, luckily they are all very close to each other. One place has good meat, the other place has cheap milk, the next place has something else. Though I love Marc's, their meat prices are so out of proportion to all their other prices it's unreal! $7.29 for chuck steak? That's nuts! Their idea of a chicken drum stick sale(family pack) is $1.29 a lb. I can get that every day prices anywhere.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:46AM
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akgirl, I couldn't open the link either, as I am not a subscriber. I could only go on the ones listed by the OP in her first post.

Doesn't matter, I guess, the only grocery stores we have within 30 miles are Walmart, Meijer, Aldi, Save A Lot and the independents, which I like best anyway. I'd rather spend a couple of dollars more at my neighbor's store than give it to the Evil Empire. Too bad they don't sell King Arthur Flour, I have to take that drive to Meijer for that.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 10:55AM
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This is giving a lot of space to this survey, but FWIW---

Since some of you seemed to want to see the ranking, here is more info:
1. All stores were ranked on service (average of checkout speed and employee courtesy), cleanliness, price satisfaction, and perishables (meat & produce). Each store was ranked in each category as excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor, and assigned a single numerical 100-0 ranking.

2. Here, if anyone cares, is the remainder of the list in order:

Hy-Vee, Harris-Teeter, H-E-B , Whole Foods Market, Hannaford, Fry's, Fred Meyer , King Soopers , Meijer, Smith's Food & Drug, Schnucks, Ingles, ShopRite, Kroger, Target/SuperTarget, Save Mart , Save-A-Lot, Giant (NJ, NY, OH, PA, WV), Big Y, Piggly Wiggly, BI-LO (GA, NC, SC, TN), Weis, IGA, Sam's Club, Ralphs , BJ's Wholesale Club, County Market, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Giant (DC, DE, MD, VA), Winn-Dixie, Giant Eagle, Vons, Price Chopper, Safeway, Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Jewel-Osco, Tops Markets, Pick 'n Save, Acme, Pathmark, Shaw's, Walmart Supercenter

The lowest overall scorer, Walmart, was in the lowest possible categories on service and perishables (no other store scored this low on either service or perishables), the next lowest on cleanliness (only one other store in this category on cleanliness), and above average only on price satisfaction. Earned points: 67

The highest scorer, Wegman's, had best possible scores on everything except price satisfaction, which was still above average. Earned points: 88

2nd highest scorer, TJs, was in the highest category on all but perishables, which was still above average. Earned points: 87

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Sun, Apr 6, 14 at 11:39

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 11:15AM
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I can't link but it does seem regional and store by store like the other recent postings on such.
I'm in food meca in NYC. I've always preferred the mom and pops. Now have Fairway as my local and DeCicco's that both are NY/NJ/conn local.
TJ's, only been twice, and park right near the entrance. Still don't get the attraction as it is so not 'farm-to-table' friendly...snacks and frozen snacks. Minimal. Not much produce.
Fairway has so many checkouts i have never waited, ever. But the meat manager is a high-strung loon. : ) ...after a few visits i know the store better than the employees.
That happens many places.
Hope that many will have access to CSA's that seem to work so well. Mine, just 5 miles away, unfortunately has a short 27 week season, but i have a garden and could never use all the produce as well as what i grow. Do seek your local CommunitySupportAgriculture and join!

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 5:55PM
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I go to TJs for bargain wine and liquor, for produce, for the pleasure of the service. I like their gin, and their reserve wines are often a bargain. And the two buck chuck (three buck chuck in our state) is cheaper than some soft drinks and a heckofa lot better. The people in the wine shop are always helpful and knowledgeable. It is quite close to Penzey's, where I go fairly often for specific spices and a chat with my favorite sales people, so a stop at TJ's rounds out my day. I don't buy their convenience foods or their snack foods, but I like their soups (several of which which I keep on my pantry shelves), pasta sauces (ditto), cheeses, and their canned crab meat.
I have never bought fresh meat, poultry, or fish there, seldom bought bread since I have begun to bake our own, don't want their (or anyone else's) canned veggies or fruits--but their honey is pretty darn good. I like their frozen grilled corn. It is a pick and choose--not staple shopping.
I would certainly not go to a TJ's to do my main shopping.

Incidentally, I was surprised to see Meijer's listed so far down. Except for the miserable checkout system, I find our local store one of my favorites for basic produce and staples. I can often, for instance, find King Arthur flour on sale for 20% less than regular retail or on line from the KA site. And their sales are often worth a special trip.

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Sun, Apr 6, 14 at 21:01

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 8:53PM
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I don't think the one i stopped in has wine or alcohol, at least i never saw that. I had heard about the crazy 2-buck chuck but forgot to look. Maybe it is a dry county, Bergen, NJ?
Not sure exactly but route 17 is nuts. (full of lies)
Anywho, it is near my car dealer and i'm not in that area often. (free car wash for the life of my ownership, lol) The TJ's in the city is a zoo and i walked in-and-out.
\We lived 25 yrs in the city where i walked to the mom and pops. Just shopped in the nabe.The suburban thing is a bit new.\ to me.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:18PM
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Local restrictions control the availability of wine and liquor. In Louisville, KY, where the store I visit is located, wine cannot be sold in grocery stores, so the TJ wine shop is next door to the TJ food store. Same carts. Shared entrance area. Same staff--they rotate through the grocery and wine shop so every worker knows all of the products.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:29PM
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Edited to remove duplicate post.

This post was edited by Bellsmom on Sun, Apr 6, 14 at 21:36

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 9:35PM
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I totally get it about turning around and leaving TJ's. I used to as well. It takes awhile to learn what they have and don't have and to coordinate it with other shopping. There isn't one go to everything I need in one place store here (or maybe because there's so much variety, including the Persian market, etc., which I forgot to mention before (and I was only including full sized markets with carts, not mom and pop grocers) that my perception of what one might need at the store is skewed), so it's a matter of timing which store I need to go to when. (That sentence is somewhat ungrammatical and I refuse to fix it.)

Yeah, two buck chuck isn't two bucks anymore. It's amazing how long they held it down. It also comes in some varietal names now, too. The quality varies because it's made from wine lake (i.e, surplus juice), but they try to keep it palatable, which many wineries do not. :) I use it for cooking. :)

Trader Joe's was always meant to be something between a specialty/gourmet store and a convenience store. It's not a place for staples, though you can get a roll of TP, and while they generally have good quality produce, the selection is limited and often only available in packages. The prices for the quality on what they do have, however, are fabulous. If you want a whole box of Persian cucumbers and a bag of roma tomatoes, as well as a packet of shucked English peas, they're the place. If you want several varieties of kale and chard, and rutabagas, turnips and tamarinds, go to Whole Foods.

I'm not big on packaged food either, but I buy a few quickie type things when my freezer isn't full of my good cooking. The quality is also excellent and affordable. Real food, not like I see in the chains from national brands. The meats are kind of middling, but they're hermetically sealed or something, so I'll sometimes buy some ground beef or chicken tenders that can hang in the fridge for awhile without going bad. That's free range but packaged. No pink slime. Extruded, though. I work hard at hacking through the grinder ribbons so the ground beef doesn't look funny. :)

Bellsmom, I get baking your own. ;) The breads at TJ's might be different by region, but one of the things I love about TJ's is the bread. They have a lot of selections that are 100% whole wheat (not mixed with white) and good. Not cardboard.

My brother is an expert milk taster and says that TJ's is okay. They have good, fresh juice. Free range eggs. The best nuts and dried fruits.

So it depends on the list. I can often do a moderate shopping at TJ's. I buy papergoods at the big chains and most meats at Whole Foods or one of the local independents, but milk, eggs, yoghurt, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, melon, berries, eggplant, apples, ground beef, orange juice, bread, tortillas (they're non-traditional, but I love the wheat and corn ones), etc., I can get through a basic list.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 10:00PM
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I live in Raley's territory -- Northern California, near Sacramento County. Raley's/Bel Air is a relatively small localized chain. And they do have great customer service, produce, and meats. They have a wide variety of products, and I usually shop there a couple times a week. They have more low sodium or gluten free products than our other local stores (Safeway & Save Mart). A big plus for me.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 10:24PM
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Ditto on the region- or even store-specific thoughts. I went to an Aldi 8 years ago and thought "why would I come here--limited selections, crowded, etc. Recently I've started going there for a lot of stuff and saved a lot of money. Also went to a Trader Joe's in Charlotte a few years back, and had another "why?" experience. But the one in Manhattan closest to us now is fabulous and almost always totally JAMMED. We go anyway because of its selection, quality, price, and customer service.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 11:36AM
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