When you're hungry for the big savings at the grocery store, you might be tempted to visit your local Target or Walmart to scoop up the latest specials and offers. However, these stores might not be the best places to buy groceries on a budget. Instead, your local grocery chain or supermarket might be dishing up the best prices on everything from organic food to alcohol.
"If you were to compare the everyday low pricing of Walmart and similar discount stores, their prices are generally lower than a grocery store's regular price," said Stephanie Nelson of CouponMom.com. "However, grocery stores focus on highlighting a select number of sale items in their weekly ads, which may be 50 percent off the regular price."
Typically, grocery store sale items last only a few weeks, which is why "strategic shoppers stock up on grocery store sale items during those weeks and know not to pay full price," said Nelson.
Here's a closer look at some of the best grocery store deals that tend to beat the prices at Target and Walmart:
If you aren't making it to the farmers market for your weekly roundup of fresh produce, ALDI needs to be on your radar — not Target or Walmart.
"ALDI's fruit and vegetables are usually the lowest price compared to other grocers, and they rate as good quality — especially if you shop early mornings when stock is full to choose from," said Brent Shelton of FatWallet.com. In his experience, Shelton has seen ALDI prices that are roughly 10 percent to 20 percent lower than prices at Walmart, Dollar General, Kroger and Save-A-Lot.
You might want to make your way to Trader Joe's for organic fare, since the chain typically has better deals on these items than big-box stores like Target.
According to data compiled by Get Healthy U, an online health and fitness resource, a 4.4-ounce tub of organic blueberries will run you $4.99 at Target but only $3.99 at Trader Joe's. Organic baby spinach is $3.49 at Target and only $2.29 at Trader Joe's. And organic peanut butter costs $3.49 at Trader Joe's while Target charges $5.99 for a 16-ounce jar.
No matter where you shop, however, make sure you truly are getting the best deals. You can do this by knowing which organic foods are worth the money --and which ones are not.
Whether you're buying a few bottles of wine or a six-pack of beer, you could save money on alcoholic beverages by sticking with your neighborhood grocery store.
For example, it's hard to beat the $2.99 Charles Shaw "Two Buck Chuck" at Trader Joe's, available in red and white varietals. You can also pick up a bottle of pinot grigio for $5.99 or Lambrusco for $4.99 at Trader Joe's. Meanwhile, Walmart's award-winning malbec retails for just under $7, reports Delish.
Many grocery stores also run specials on brand-name beers and new arrivals each week, which means you might get a better deal on six-packs or single bottles without the trip to Walmart or Target. For example (at time of writing), a 24-pack of Budweiser, Miller or Coors is on sale for $17.99 at a Georgia Publix store and a 12-pack of Yuengling beer is just $9.99.
Since grocery stores are known to rotate items on sale each week, keep an eye out for coupons and in-store offers at grocery and big-box stores to get the best price.
Whether you're looking for hamburger meat or chicken, pay attention to weekly sales. Nelson suggested using this smart shopping strategy when buying meat:
"Boneless chicken breasts may sell at a grocery store for $4 per pound. Walmart's price may be $3 per pound. However, every other week, major grocery stores like Kroger or Safeway feature a brand of boneless chicken breasts for $2 per pound. Strategic shoppers would stock up on chicken during those weeks and only buy it when it was $2 per pound."
Is all that price checking worth the effort? "For my family of four, stocking the freezer with $2 chicken — instead of paying the going rate each week — saves $450 per year," said Nelson.
A Cost Breakdown: How to Pick Your Cut of Meat
Although both stores offer generic brands for low prices, Target or Walmart might not be the best place to get store-brand items.
For example, a large can of Walmart's Great Value chunk chicken breast costs $2.50 while a premium, flavored variety from Kroger can drop to a sale price of $1.89. And if you're on the hunt for the best prices on gluten-free or organic store brands, head back to ALDI, which is much more budget-friendly than your regular grocery store, said Shelton.
In addition to ALDI and Kroger, there are quite a few store brands that can save you money. So before you head out to your local grocery, big-box or even warehouse store, compare your generic options.
When it comes to cookies, cakes and pies, your sweet indulgences might wreck your diet — but they don't have to empty your wallet. Since freshly baked goods have a short shelf life, your neighborhood grocer might be more likely to mark down items for a quick sale a day or two before their "best by" dates. This saves the stores from throwing the items away. Big-box stores, by contrast, might simply toss outdated items or donate them to a local food bank.
Grocery store bakeries also tend to offer more low-priced seasonal goods to meet higher demand and run specials to attract more shoppers. Fourth of July cakes, pumpkin-themed cookies during Thanksgiving and Halloween cupcakes are just a few items to keep your eye on during celebration seasons. Check weekly fliers for the latest deals.
And, if you're looking for packaged goods, keep this insider's secret in mind: "A good majority of ALDI's pre-packed as private-label products are actually brand products, just repackaged," said Shelton. "So [the] quality is high and [the] price is usually lower than the brands available at regular grocers."