Which Denver grocery store is the cheapest? Walmart, Target vs King Soopers, Safeway

Posted at 3:25 PM, Apr 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-28 00:39:28-04

DENVER -- Everybody likes to save money, even if it’s just a couple of pennies. And there’s no better way of getting that feeling of accomplishment than saving money on your grocery bill, the third largest household expense.

Denver7 wanted to find out which grocery store was the cheapest and also reveal some of the marketing techniques they use to try to get you to spend an even bigger chunk of your paycheck in their stores.

We spent three weeks shopping Safeway, King Soopers, Walmart and Target with a common shopping list.

The basics are there, like bread and milk, but items on the list are just a small fraction of what a busy family might purchase on a typical grocery trip.

Who's the cheapest?

It might not be a surprise to most savvy shoppers, but Walmart came out ahead. Our average three-week total at the nation’s largest retailer came to $26.71. Target came in second with an average total of $27.08 - that’s a difference of just a .37 cents! The slim margin between the two giant discounters was not much of a revelation. We came up with similar results when we compared Walmart and Target back in August.

Our average three-week total for a basket of basics at King Soopers came to $28.50. Safeway, on the other hand, was the most expensive. The total at the bottom of our Safeway receipt read $32.53.

But there are ways you can still save money at traditional grocery stores, like buying in bulk and shopping sales. Shopping expert Eva Fry told Denver7 that she follows three simple rules when grocery shopping.

  • Create a grocery list based on sales and stick to the list when shopping
  • Compare prices and shop at the single best store for your list that week. You can quickly and easily compare prices using the uGrocery app  
  • Shop the sales and plan your meals around the sales
  • Stock up when items are at their lowest in the sales cycle. Even if you don't need the item at the moment, if it's something that you regularly purchase, pick it up because you want to have the item in your pantry instead of picking it up five to six weeks from now when you need it and it's now on sale.  

To stretch your dollar even more at traditional grocery stores like King Soopers and Safeway, Fry suggested the following:

  • Stock up on 93% lean ground beef when it's $3.99/lb. or less
  • Stock up on Oroweat Wheat Bread when the price is under $2.49 a loaf.
  • Stock up on chicken drumsticks, thighs and whole chickens when they are under $.89/lb.
  • Stock up on detergent – never pay more than $.09 a load. 
  • Stock up on USDA Choice chuck roasts when they're under $3/lb.  
  • Stock up on bone-in pork ribs when they're under $1.67/lb
  • Stock up on cereal when the price is under $1.50 per box or less ($.12/oz)
  • Stock up assorted bone-in pork chops when they're under $1.67/lb. 
  • Stock up on a pound of butter when it's $2 or less
  • Stock up on instant oatmeal packets when they're $1.99 or under for a box.

Grocery store marketing techniques

Fry started U-Grocery and monitors weekly prices at each of the four stores. She says the layout of a grocery store is designed to maximize revenue.

“Grocery stores place the produce departments towards the front of the store, because the first thing it does is waken your senses,” explained Fry. “There’s bright colors, gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables, and you are instantly salivating.”

The rotisserie chickens near the entrance do the same thing. In the aisles, question anything at your eye level.

“Often times these are premium placements by the manufacturers,” said Fry

Fry says cereal manufacturers pay to have their products at eye level. The cheaper version takes searching. Grocery stores will also stock kids’ cereal on the lower shelves.

“At their (kids) eyesight is where you’re going to find sugar cereals; you’re going to find fruit snacks; there are going to be Pop Tarts,” Fry said.

Fry said shoppers also need to be aware of other ways supermarkets try to persuade you into buying more.

Candy and magazines at checkout promote impulse buys.

Grab and go prepared foods
Focus here is on convenience, not on price, so you will overpay for these items

Brands often pay for premium placement on the end-caps to promote new products or ad items but not always. Some end-caps may have great deals, while others are not on sale at all.

Stores are using the yellow tags to draw people in when items are not on sale at all, and the yellow tags are promoting base prices.

Coffee bar/deli
Encourage customers to spend more time in a store so you will spend more money.

Sampling stations
Designed to get you to try a new product, get a coupon, buy something that wasn’t on your list

Shelf layout
Premium-priced items placed at eye level. Not necessarily the best sellers. Look at lower shelves for cheaper options. Kids snacks and cereals are placed at kids eye level, so if you want to avoid going home with the sugar cereal and fruit snacks, leave the kids at home.

10 for $10
It doesn’t mean you have to buy 10 items. Each item is on sale for $1.00.

2 for $5
Is just on sale for $2.50, except soda. You always have to buy 3 or 4 to get the soda sale price on 12 packs.

Digital coupons
Make you think that you could save even more, but you have to take the time to load the offer before checkout.

Were these tips useful? Learn more of these helpful hacks by watching Jace Larson's story on Denver7 at 10. 

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