In the world of big-box retail, Target looms as a rather complex giant. Unlike competitors such as Walmart and Costco, Target manages a budget-friendly presence that leans heavy into the land of the chic. It partners with famous designers to develop lines of limited edition inventory (think Alexander McQueen and Victoria Beckham), while at the same time sporting a truly remarkable array of toilet paper. And celebrities? Well they just love to shop there too!
And let us not forget the ample selection of food items that Target brings to the table. The Minneapolis-based retail giant is one of America’s top grocery retailers. But just because it’s among the most popular grocery chains, doesn’t mean it’s always the least expensive option.
When is shopping for groceries at Target the smart move? What are the potential downsides and how can consumers stand to save more?
Shop Target’s Signature Brands
“Target offers plenty of national brands as well as its own that are high-quality and delicious, but you may also find exclusive flavors at Target for some items,” said Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com.
“Look for items from Target brands like Favorite Day and Good & Gather — they have high-rated items from snacks and drinks to meals and desserts. You can also shop for specialty diets on the website, including keto, gluten free, vegan, Mediterranean, vegetarian, organic, paleo and even DASH.”
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One Downside Is Lack of Variety
“While the store will carry many national brands, they may not carry every variety of something, or every brand for that matter,” Ramhold said. “If there’s something particular you’re looking for, you may have to shop elsewhere, depending on what it is.”
Additionally, if you aren’t near a Super Target store, you’re in for a severely limited selection of groceries. “Even if these stores have decent deals on the groceries they do have, you’ll likely have to shop elsewhere to check everything off your list,” Ramhold said.
Another Downside Is the Potential To Impulse Buy
“Shopping for groceries at Target often leads people to spend more than they planned thanks to tempting product displays and sales on non-food merchandise,” said budgeting expert, Andrea Woroch. “These stores are designed this way on purpose, putting groceries towards the back side of the store so you have more opportunity to buy things on impulse.
“Think about the layout — you usually walk in and see the cheap dollar bins then cute clothing displays which can draw your eye,” Woroch continued. “A $15 blouse doesn’t feel like a terrible impulse purchase that will bust your budget, but over time making small unplanned purchases can.”
Always Buy These Groceries at Target
Once you make your way through the maze of temptations and finally find yourself in the grocery section, you should consider the following items must-buys (if they’re on your list):
My/Mochi Ice Cream
“Not only will you find way more flavors — including more vegan flavors — at Target than other grocery stores, but you’ll find a better list price compared to other stores as well,” Ramhold said.
12-Packs of Soda
“While you may find similar or better deals when items are on sale (including at Target) you may have to buy multiple packs in order to receive the sale price,” Ramhold said.
“Fortunately, Target may have a lower price overall normally compared to others stores; for instance, a 12-pack of Coca-Cola may go for as much as $6.99 at some grocery stores, while the same product may be $5.79 at Target when not on sale.”
Good & Gather Hot Chocolate
“It’s hands down the best grocery store brand, and comes out to roughly 62 cents per pack,” Ramhold said.
“From cakes to muffins to cookies to brownies, you’ll find a baking mix for it at Target, and at a great price,” Ramhold said. “
The great thing about Target’s selection is that they also have a decent number of gluten free options. Anyone who’s been forced to adhere to a gluten free diet likely knows how hard it can be to find quality mixes, especially at a good price, but Target makes it easier.”
“Especially if you shop Target’s Good & Gather brand, you may find you’ll save much more than shopping bigger brands elsewhere,” Ramhold said.
“Whether you prefer Good & Gather or a brand like Panera, you’ll pay less for fresh soups in the deli section at Target,” Ramhold said. “You may also find a bigger selection compared to other grocery stores.”
Buy These Groceries Elsewhere
There are items that you can often find cheaper at other stores. Consider skipping these products when grocery shopping at Target — or at least doing your research first.
“You’ll likely pay cents more for fresh produce like sumo citrus and bananas at Target than you would elsewhere,” Ramhold said. “In fact, even grocery delivery services may have cheaper prices on produce compared to shopping in-person at Target. It may vary by area, though, so be sure to do your research before settling on shopping elsewhere.”
“While the prices aren’t awful at Target, you may be able to get better prices by shopping at more traditional grocery stores for eggs,” Ramhold said.
“Your best bet for saving money on sticks of butter is shopping at a warehouse club if you can,” Rahold said.
“For instance, right now at Costco a pound of butter (4 sticks) works out to about $2.62. At Target, you’ll pay $2.99 per pound, but at other grocery stores you may spend even more – in some cases, $5 or more. If you don’t have a warehouse club membership, then Target is definitely a great alternative for shopping for butter, but if you do, you should definitely shop this item in bulk.”
General Savings Tips for Target
As with most mega-retailers, Target touts plenty of “secret” ways to save when shopping its aisles.
Join Target Circle
“This is Target’s loyalty program and is totally free to join,” Ramhold said. “Once you do, you’ll be able to take advantage of grocery offers through the program on a regular basis. Once you save some offers and shop, you’ll receive offers tailored specifically to your shopping habits. If you’re shopping in person, be sure to download the Target app and scan it at checkout so that you can be sure you’ll be able to redeem offers.
Apply For a RedCard
“The RedCard comes with a ton of great benefits, but one of the best is the 5% you’ll save every day on purchases both in-store and online at Target.com,” Ramhold said. “You can apply for credit or debit cards, and the benefits are the same for each. Plus, if you download the app and link it to your account and RedCard, you can pay at checkout by simply scanning the app.”
Shop the Weekly Sales
“New weekly ads are released every Sunday, and they include [sales on] everything from clothing and electronics to groceries and personal care items, plus everything in between,” Ramhold said.
Use Same-Day Services
“Watch for special discounts to be offered on items when you use same-day services,” Ramhold said. “It applies to plenty of grocery items and same-day delivery, order pickup, and drive up all qualify for these types of discounts.”
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