Walmart has a well-earned reputation for helping shoppers save money on thousands of different products, but not all of those savings are equal. Depending on where you live, you’ll save a lot more at the discount chain than shoppers elsewhere – especially when it comes to your grocery bill.
Prices of identical products at Walmart vary from state to state — and sometimes the difference is substantial. For example, a typical basket of food and home products from a Walmart in Tennessee costs 14.3% more than the national average, according to a new study from Cashnet USA. Just over the border in Kentucky, the same basket costs 6.7% less than the national average.
The study, conducted in February 2023 and released on June 15, was based on a pair of 12-item grocery lists covering regular and vegan goods. The regular grocery list included milk, bananas, boneless chicken breast, canned tuna, tomatoes, local cheese, breakfast cereal, eggs, bottled water, fresh white bread, potatoes and vegetable oil. The vegan list included some of those items as well as soya milk, vegan cheese, brown rice, tinned chickpeas, coconut oil and frozen veggie burgers.
Cashnet USA researched the total price for each list based on Walmart’s own brands in each state’s biggest city and then compared them against the national average. After that, researchers calculated the price premium for groceries by state. They also used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to compare each bill to the average local income for each state.
Among its key findings:
- Walmart grocery prices in Hawaii cost 26.2% more than the national average — the highest disparity in the U.S. That’s no surprise, given high supply-chain costs getting goods to the islands.
- West Virginia has the cheapest regular Walmart groceries, at 7.7% less than the national average.
- The cheapest vegan groceries are in New Mexico, where they cost 5% below the national average. The most expensive are in Hawaii, where vegan groceries cost 25.7% above the national average.
- It takes two hours and two minutes of work to afford the average basket of regular Walmart groceries in Alabama — the lowest local affordability of any state.
- Walmart groceries in New York State offer the best buys based on local income, helped by the state’s high average earnings (boosted considerably by earnings in New York City, which has no Walmart).
What’s striking about the study is that regions of the country normally associated with low costs of living, such as the Southeast, included many states where Walmart grocery prices are higher than the national average. Conversely, certain regions where costs of living are high — like the Northeast — tend to have lower-than-average Walmart grocery prices.
Here’s a look at the 10 states that have the lowest average Walmart grocery prices compared to the national average:
- West Virginia: 7.7% below the national average.
- Delaware: 7.1% below.
- Kentucky: 6.7% below.
- Ohio: 6.5% below.
- Kansas: 6.17% below.
- Michigan: 5.1% below.
- Pennsylvania: 5% below.
- New York: 4.8% below.
- Oklahoma: 4.7% below.
- Nebraska: 4.5% below.
Here are the 10 states with the highest average Walmart grocery prices compared to the national average:
- Hawaii: 26.2% above the national average.
- Alaska: 20.1% above.
- Tennessee: 14.3% above.
- Georgia: 14.2% above.
- Missouri: 13.2% above.
- Alabama: 12.5% above.
- California: 5.1% above.
- Minnesota: 2.4% above.
- Arkansas: 2.5% above.
- North Carolina: 1.6% above.
If you’re wondering which state comes closest to hitting the national average, it’s Louisiana, where average Walmart grocery prices are 0.2% above the national average. For the complete study results, visit the Cashnet USA site.
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