She Said, He Said: Local Supermarket vs. Big-Box Discount Chain

grocery-cartJ and I usually grocery shop at big-box discount chains. The main reason being it saves us money money money! A big bonus also used to be that we lived really close to one. Back then, we would grocery shop 3-4 times a month and our monthly grocery budget never went above $400 for two people (not counting the dining out).

Since June 1st, we moved to a different suburb and no longer live near a big-box discount chain but we still drove the 20 minutes to go grocery shopping  back in our old ‘hood but making an effort to buy more than normal so we wouldn’t have to go back as often since it was no longer convenient.

We’re big fans of fresh fruits and veggies and J drinks his almond milk like a beast so this weekend we realized that we had to take a quick trip to the grocery store. Then the dilemma came up – was it worth it to drive the 20 minutes to the closest big-box discount chain when gas is worth $1.43 a liter for a smaller shopping trip?(for my American readers multiply by 3.79  for the per gallon price).

I convinced J to check out our local supermarket this time so we could also compare prices. I want to clarify that when I say local supermarket, I still mean a traditional grocery store chain but much smaller and limited in the range of merchandise compared to a big-box discount chain. These smaller neighborhood supermarkets entice their shoppers with a club card that offers discounts and rewards to make up for higher food prices.

Here’s how J and I felt about our shopping experiences at a local supermarket vs. big-box discount chain

He Said: Local Supermarket, The Good and the Bad
- no line-ups at checkout
- easy parking
- better overall service
- prices are noticeably more expensive on EVERYTHING, even their so-called sale items
- oh yeah, did I mention he didn’t like the prices? (J was becoming very grumpy about it lol)

He Said: Big-box Discount Chain, The Good and the Bad
- crazy busy
- produce quality is lower
- longer drive
- larger selection on merchandise
- dirt cheap price on EVERYTHING!

She Said: Local Supermarket, The Good and the Bad
- overall, presentation is nicer – store is brighter and everything is neatly stocked
- produce look fresher
- it’s not as hectic so I feel much more relaxed shopping
- no samples to taste
- shopping bags are free and they pack your groceries
- prices are higher but the Air Miles points make up for it (kinda)
- checkout lines are much more reasonable in wait time

She Said: Big-box Discount Chain, The Good and the Bad
- a bigger selection of beauty/personal/pharmacy items to choose from
- prices are much cheaper
- the crazy crowds stress me out
- items are often out-of-stock
- checkout lines are as long as 20 minutes sometimes
- store presentation isn’t as nice
- I have to pay 5¢ for a bag and I have to bag my own groceries
- customer service is abysmal at best

As you can see, J prefers to shop at the big-box discount chain simply because it saves money and I prefer to shop at the local supermarket simply because it saves me stress but we are going to compromise by saving bigger trips for the big market and smaller trips for the small market.

Where do you prefer to do your grocery shopping and why?

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28 Comments on She Said, He Said: Local Supermarket vs. Big-Box Discount Chain

  1. annaNo Gravatar
    June 23, 2013 at 10:15 pm (10 months ago)

    I don’t know if they have them in Canada, but I prefer Trader Joe’s and Sprouts, which are kind of like local grocery stores but usually have their own brands and better produce (at least to me, and Sprouts organic items are pretty reasonable). I mostly do my shopping first thing in the morning to beat the crowds, since I get overwhelmed with too many people, as well.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 10:12 am (10 months ago)

      We don’t have Trader Joe’s or Sprouts in Canada but the Canadian version of those stores sound like Whole Foods which is known for it’s healthy and organic selections. J and I wake up at 6am M-F so on weekends when we do our grocery shopping it’s never really earlier than noon which is when the crowds are out and about. Sigh…

  2. Holly@ClubThriftyNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 4:48 am (10 months ago)

    I personally prefer smaller stores. The only”big box” retailer that sells groceries nearby is Walmart and I avoid it if at all possible! I don’t care how much more expensive the smaller store is….at least shopping thee doesn’t ruin my day.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 10:16 am (10 months ago)

      I personally prefer smaller stores too because the shopping experience is so much better and I don’t feel annoyed or stressed, now if only J would agree haha

  3. MichelleNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 6:17 am (10 months ago)

    Here, there is Target and Walmart. I would prefer not to shop at Walmart, and Target usually has way higher prices for the same products as my local grocery store.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 10:20 am (10 months ago)

      Ugh I can’t imagine doing grocery shopping at Walmart or Target! The stress!!!

  4. BrianNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 6:44 am (10 months ago)

    We do most of our grocery shopping at one of the 3 Kroger’s that are basically equidistant from our house. Sometimes we go to one of the Mexican or Japanese markets near our house to get some of the items we can’t find anywhere else. We also go to a small family owned market to get some of the locally produced products that you can’t get anywhere else on demand (sunflower seed pate FTW).

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 10:51 am (10 months ago)

      Sunflower seed pate? Sounds delicious!

  5. Kyle @ Debt Free DiariesNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 7:20 am (10 months ago)

    Most of our shopping gets done at the local farmers market and Aldi. The quality is pretty good and as long as you are willing to compare a bit, you can find some pretty cheap alternatives to what you’re used to purchasing at the big-box stores.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 10:52 am (10 months ago)

      Local farmers market are ideal but they are so expensive here in Vancouver! I do like the fun of shopping at them though :)

  6. Grayson @ Debt RoundupNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 8:12 am (10 months ago)

    Well, I hate grocery shopping, so it doesn’t matter where I go. I don’t like busy stores, but we do shop at Trader Joes quite a bit and their prices are awesome, but if you don’t get there at a good time, you will be in store for some crowds. My wife and I don’t shop at big-box supermarkets because I just don’t like the crowds and the insane checkout lines. It is not worth it to me. We are also big fans of produce and our local supermarkets have some good stuff.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 11:05 am (10 months ago)

      Some women enjoy grocery shopping but I rather go to the dentist lol. I just don’t like it! Living in a large city you would think that I would be used to crowds but there’s something about supermarket crowds that get on my nerves!!!

  7. CassieNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 8:25 am (10 months ago)

    Just buy reading your descriptions, I want to say that Superstore was the discount store, and Safeway was the supermarket. Honestly, I usually buy at the supermarket. The produce quality is higher (not as high as the farmer’s market, but still better than the generic), and the shopping duration is MUCH shorter. That and if something rings up at the wrong price I find the supermarket easier to deal with (or at the very least, its a shorter run to prove myself right). I don’t tend to buy my makeup/haircare/pharmaceuticals at the grocery store, so I don’t find that to be a determining factor for me. Also, even though its smaller, the supermarket carries a larger selection of gluten free products. Strange but true.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 11:22 am (10 months ago)

      Cassie you are spot on with your guesses! Shopping at Safeway was a breeze! True, it was a smaller shopping trip but we were literally in and out there in 15 minutes! I often wait in the checkout line at Superstore for longer than 15 minutes! I didn’t use to buy drugstore beauty items but I’ve been experimenting a bit to put some money back in my wallet ;)

  8. Greg@ThriftgenuityNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 9:45 am (10 months ago)

    We are pretty similar. The big standard items we get at Costco but we save smaller here and there items, particularly produce for the smaller stores or local farm markets.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 11:23 am (10 months ago)

      We do sound pretty similar with our grocery shopping Greg! :)

  9. KensNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 10:24 am (10 months ago)

    I am so with you on the smaller supermarkets. I like that fact that I can get in and out in a reasonable amount of time. Time is money right? or at least that is how I justify it to myself. I do try to wait and buy bulk at a costco things like papertowels.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 11:23 am (10 months ago)

      Time is very much money!

  10. Shannon @ The Heavy PurseNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 11:35 am (10 months ago)

    We shop mainly at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Whole Foods is definitely pricey but you cannot beat their organic produce selection. For our staples, we shop at TJ’s since it’s so cheap, which then helps me feel better about spending extra money on organic produce. :) I hate crowds and have no patience, which is a bit of problem. :)

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 11:42 am (10 months ago)

      J hates crowds and has no patience either but I guess he loves saving money more which is why we will probably still shop at the big-box markets but I’m hoping one day he will change his mind :)

  11. Budget and the BeachNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 12:59 pm (10 months ago)

    I think it’s OK to to both (although I do not have a membership at a place like costco, mainly because my place is too small to “stock up” on a lot of stuff. I would for sure NOT drive out of my way for almond milk, but it’s good to do that BIG grocery shopping 1 or 2 times per month, then go to the smaller, closer stores for stuff like fresh produce or last minute items.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm (10 months ago)

      That seems to be the compromise that J and I are going to try out :)

  12. Rachel@MobilligyNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 3:07 pm (10 months ago)

    I have a grocery shopping system :) I typically buy most of my staples from Trader Joe’s- I feel like the prices are fair (especially when I buy their brand) and it’s a pleasant shopping experience. It gets crazy busy, though, so I do my shopping on off hours (like Monday morning before work). Because Trader Joe’s is smaller, though, it doesn’t carry everything I need, so I will hit a bigger brand grocery store on the way home for a few additional items.

    I don’t know if they do this in Vancouver, but have you considered a CSA (community supported agriculture) box? They offer different size boxes, you pick all the fruit and veggies you want online, and it’s delivered to your door step as often as you choose (weekly, biweekly, etc). We love it because all the produce is local and organic (and in-season!), but it really isn’t much more expensive than going to the grocery store and buying it.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 4:11 pm (10 months ago)

      Your system of grocery shopping sounds brillant Rachel :) I’ve never heard of a CSA before but will definately look into it. Thanks!

  13. E.M.No Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm (10 months ago)

    We have about five places near us that we could shop for food at. Target, and other local chain grocery stores. They are ALL crowded messes! I hate grocery shopping on the weekend for that reason. If I need anything I go at night, when there aren’t crowds. Target is cheaper, but they don’t have all the food choices I like, and honestly they aren’t competitive with the sales from other stores. I do have to agree that the big-box stores typically have cheaper beauty products, so we only go there when I really need something.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 4:35 pm (10 months ago)

      I wish there was a better time for J and I to grocery shop but there really isn’t :( Weekends are the only time and energy we can find to face that crowded mess! We both have 45-55 minute commutes each way to and from work so by the time we get home and make dinner, we are exhausted!

  14. KK @ Student Debt SurvivorNo Gravatar
    June 24, 2013 at 5:17 pm (10 months ago)

    Lately we’ve been doing the majority of our shopping online. I don’t have to go to the grocery store, drag bags up 3 flights of stairs, or wait in long lines and I love it! It also saves me from impulse purchases like cookies and cake. We still do some grocery shopping at the bricks and mortar stores and at BJs, but for our week to week shopping we’re buying everything online.

    • Girl Meets DebtNo Gravatar
      June 24, 2013 at 5:31 pm (10 months ago)

      I don’t know if online grocery shopping is available in Canada yet but that sounds like a brilliant idea!


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