Save Big at These 4 Discount Supermarkets

By Kim Owens on 1 December 2015 3 comments

You're a savvy grocery shopper. You create a budget, review store circulars, clip coupons, make a shopping list, and use mobile shopping apps. You're ready to save big. But are discount grocery stores a part of your routine? If not, you could be overpaying by more than 50%!

Below is an overview of four discount grocery stores that can help slash your food budget and keep more money in your pocket.

1. Aldi

Aldi is probably the holy grail of supermarket discount chains. Owned by the same company that runs Trader Joe's, Aldi continues to expand, with plans to open hundreds of new stores by 2018.

Since they only carry about 1400 items (compared to 30,000 found in typical stores), you will save time as well as money. Aldi keeps prices low by concentrating on products and not fancy décor. The store is laid out warehouse-style with merchandise displayed in the boxes they arrived in. The vast majority of their food is "Aldi brand," though occasionally you might find a limited-supply brand name item. They also offer something called a "Double Guarantee," which means they'll replace an item that you don't like and refund your money.

Locations: In 17 countries and more than half of the U.S. states. There are 1300 U.S. stores and 4,000 worldwide.

Products: Aldi brand with an occasional brand name popping in for a limited time.

Payment Method: Cash, debit, or EBT.

Coupons: No.

Is It Worth It?

It depends. If you're loyal to or prefer a particular name brand, Aldi is probably not for you. Some Aldi products are good quality, while others I'd never buy again. Unlike stores that remarket brand name goods, you don't have to worry about expiration dates. However, check the ingredient list. In some Aldi brand items that were supposed to be similar to a name brand counterpart, I found ingredient substitutions or additions that I didn't like.

There are some items, like their Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and spices, that I love because they're super cheap compared to regular supermarkets. As far as their meat, I've purchased chicken and found the quality to be good. Know your produce prices, however, because sometimes the regular supermarket may be cheaper.

2. Grocery Outlet Bargain Markets

Formerly Amelia's, this discount chain is the nation's largest "retail grocery remarketer." That is, their markets are full of name brand items at significantly lower prices than regular supermarkets. As a remarketer, they buy excess inventory (products that have packaging changes, or overruns), which is how consumers save money.

Grocery Outlet is smaller than an average supermarket, but it delivers more of a grocery store experience. They even have bags for your groceries (though it's greener to bring your own). One great thing about the Grocery Outlet is their selection of NOSH (natural, organic, specialty, healthy) foods. I've found many items that I've only seen in high end stores like Whole Foods.

If you're squeamish about buying food close to its sell by date, be sure to check the packages. My experience has shown that most items have weeks left, and there has never been an issue with meat or dairy. A few items, like some of their condiments, were a little past their "best by" date. But, research shows that there are no industry standards with labeling ("Best By" vs. "Sell By" vs. "Use By"), and the dates often have nothing to do with food safety.

Locations: 210 locations currently in California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Products: Brand names as well as NOSH (natural, organic, specialty, healthy).

Payment Method: Cash, debit, credit, or gift card.

Coupons: Yes. (Their website says no, but my local store does. Check in your area!)

Is It Worth It?

Grocery Outlet is my personal favorite because they carry the brands I know and love, and my store accepts coupons (from the Sunday paper, not the Internet). I also love that I can use my credit card, which earns me points for grocery purchases which I can redeem for cash or gift cards. I've found amazing deals, but you have to jump on them because when they are gone, they are gone.

If you shop at the Grocery Outlet often enough, you will start to recognize some patterns. Some products come around just once — so if you like it, you better grab it. Other products are cyclical and show up in my area store every couple of weeks for 50% off the large grocery chain price.

3. Price Rite

Price Rite is owned by the same company that runs the ShopRite supermarket chain. It is the smallest of the four discount grocery chains with around 60 locations. They also pass on savings by placing function over design, and making customers bring their own bags. Here you'll find many products, which are a mixture of name and store brand.

I've found the stores to be larger than Aldi and Grocery Outlet, though not as large as regular grocery stores. Their produce section is definitely larger than the other discount marketers, and almost as well stocked as a regular supermarket — but at farmers market prices.

While definitely less expensive than a regular supermarket, I haven't found deep discounts here like I do at the Grocery Outlet. While they have more variety than Aldi, I've found it to be a little more expensive. However, if you enjoy fresh produce, the savings starts to equal out because their selection is much larger and greater than a regular grocery store.

Locations: About 300 locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

Products: Brand names as well as store brand.

Payment Method: Cash, debit, credit, EBT, or gift card.

Coupons: No.

Is It Worth It?

I love Price Rite for their produce selection and prices, and always leave with enough to last until my next shopping trip. While the non-produce items were definitely cheaper than regular chains, they weren't less expensive than the Grocery Outlet or Aldi. I would recommend anyone try it if one is near.

4. Save-a-Lot

With more than 1300 locations nationwide, Save-a-Lot has about as many U.S. stores as Aldi. They call themselves the nation's "extreme value grocery store," where customers can save up to 40% retail prices every day. They feature a combination of store brand and brand name products, as well as USDA inspected meat.

As with other discount grocery chains, they offer a limited number of items (around 1800). Customers also use their own bags (or purchase them there), and bag their own groceries.

A review of their sales circular over the course of a few weeks showed a mixed bag. For fresh produce, there were typically a few items that were less expensive than a non-discount market. For example, I found grapes that were $.30 a pound cheaper. That's not what I would call a deep discount, but if the everyday price is always less expensive by that much, the savings could add up. I found similar discounts for other items such as frozen and canned foods.

Locations: More than 1300 nationwide.

Products: Brand names as well as store brand.

Payment Method: Cash, debit, credit, EBT/QWEST, or gift card.

Coupons: No.

Is It Worth It?

Though Save-a-lot has many stores, there isn't one near me, so I have no personal experience with this market.

Save Even More With Mobile Shopping Apps

In addition to shopping at discount grocery stores, you can save even more money with mobile shopping apps. Simply download to your phone, look through the available cash rebates, make your purchases, scan the barcode, and upload the receipt to their site. Your cash rebate will be placed into your account once it's approved. (See also: 30+ Cash Back Sites to Earn You Thousands Per Year)

Apps such as Checkout 51, Shopmium, BerryCart, Snap by Groupon, and Shrink allow users to purchase items at any store as long as the store provides an itemized receipt. (Note that Ibotta and SavingStar won't work, since they specify which stores are eligible.)

Ensure your store receipt fully itemizes, however, to earn your rebate. For instance, I purchased a name brand granola at the Grocery Outlet, but the receipt simply said "granola." In this case, I would not be able to use my shopping app. Luckily though, some of the apps also offer small cash amounts for fresh produce, meat, fish, or dairy. When I purchased limes from the Grocery Outlet, I was able to get a cash rebate because the receipt said, well, "limes."

You can also check out Receipt Hog, which awards points for every receipt you scan to their site. Points can then be redeemed for gift cards.

Do you shop at discount grocery markets? Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

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Guest's picture
Guest

I love the Grocery Outlet (or the Gross Out, as it is known around here). I would honestly consider shopping there to be a hobby and one that I truly enjoy. This past week I bought 4 packages of organic chicken legs for less than $1.50 each. That's nuts. My all-natural, antibiotic-free Thanksgiving turkey came from there and was $17.99. Shopping the Gross Out has saved me tons and no doubt improved my life. I love it.

Kim Owens's picture

"Gross Out." I love it! I've never heard it referred to by that name. I may adopt it. You're right about it being a hobby. My Gross Out is across the street from my gym, so it's waaaaayyy too easy to pop in after a workout. You got a great deal on your chicken and turkey. My personal favorite is the 32 oz. Chobani greek yogurt that cycles in every few weeks for $1.99 for 32 oz. You can't beat that! Thanks for commenting!

Guest's picture
Kara

I love aldi. Their house brands have yet to disappoint, but the produce seems to be hit or miss. The one closest to me is almost an hour away so I rarely go, and when I do, it's to spend a few hundred dollars stocking up on basics. We have discovered that many of their generic items are the exact same as Market Basket's generic items, just with slightly different packaging and a cheaper price tag.