Ranking the region’s grocery stores by price, quality

A shot of the exterior of the new Germantown Wegmans. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

WASHINGTON – Which grocery chain has the lowest prices — Safeway or Giant?

Prices at the D.C. metro area’s two largest food chains are about the same, but they’re higher than most other chains, according to an independent evaluation from a local nonprofit group.

Price comparisons done by Washington Consumers’ CHECKBOOK are based on a basket of food that includes meat, produce, dairy and non-perishable national brands.

Compared to average prices at Giant and Safeway, Wal-Mart Supercenters have prices 20 percent lower. Super Target prices are 19 percent lower. Food Lion prices are 15 percent lower. Target prices are 14 percent lower, and Wegmans prices are 13 percent lower.

CHECKBOOK found those price differences of between 13 percent to 20 percent can translate into savings of $1,000 to $1,500 a year for a family that spends $150 a week on groceries.

The two chains ranking highest for the quality of fresh produce are Wegmans and Whole Foods Markets. Ranking highest for quality overall is Wegmans.

Ninety-three percent of Wegmans customers rank the store superior for overall quality versus 39 percent of customers for Giant and 34 percent for Safeway.

When comparing grocery prices at large box stores that have membership fees, CHECKBOOK found that Sam’s Club prices are 37 percent lower and Costco prices are 35 percent lower than average prices at Safeway.

When national brand items are dropped from the evaluation and prices are compared based on store-brand purchases, average prices are about the same for Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Giant, but quality rankings vary greatly.

Seventy-three percent of customers give Trader Joe’s superior rankings for overall quality, compared to 34 percent and 39 percent of Safeway and Giant customers, respectively.

Through a special arrangement with Washington Consumers’ CHECKBOOK, WTOP users can access CHECKBOOK’s full report and ratings of local supermarkets without a subscription until Wednesday Oct, 30, 2013, by going here.

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