The 8 Best Grocery Stores in America Right Now
When it comes to narrowing down the best grocery chains around the country, there’s a lot to consider: Do you opt for the grocery store nearby with the top-tier raspberry jelly donuts? The one that gives out extra-hearty cold cuts as samples? Or perhaps the one that’s always got a new, interesting hummus flavor every week? Ideally, my Barbie Dream Grocery Store would have all three, but until that exists, I have a few ideas on which are the best in their own way.
To the shock of no one, I’m a complete grocery shopping nerd. I really relish the experience, and not just for my weekly shop. It’s how I catch up with a friend, source unique souvenirs, and find inspiration both in and out of the kitchen. Much like someone’s allegiance to a college football team, a favorite grocery store can really elicit a specific flavor of loyalty, too. So for the sake of my rankings, I decided on some key criteria across the board.
Shopping experience: Is it easy to find items? Is the store clean? Are there enough employees available to help? Points if grocery shopping at said store becomes an ultra-delightful task, rather than merely a chore.
Cost and quality: Some shoppers value cheapness as the most important quality in their shop, while others value ingredient quality. Ideally, we’re looking for a little bit of both.
1. Best Store Brand: Wegmans
You’ll know a Wegmans fan by how loudly they proclaim their love of Wegmans. And there’s plenty of them, so it’s really quite a spectacle. When you think about it, it’s not often you really can shop across a store’s own brand without ever really needing to buy the name brand of anything. But then we met Wegmans’ peanut butter, and Wegmans sushi, and all the fun sparkling waters. And do not get me started on the cheese section. We could be here all day. We would be here all day.
2. Best Bulk Grocer: Costco
It’s hard to deny that the love for Costco often starts before you even have to whip out your membership card. The pizza slices the size of your face? The fact that you don’t even need to be a member to buy wine or alcohol?
The scent of the rotisserie chickens have us floating towards them like we’re Pepé Le Pew, and when you add an actual membership to the mix, you’ve basically hit the bulk-buying jackpot. Costco is essentially all the thrill of a theme park in grocery shopping form, with affordable 24-packs of really anything you can dream of, amazing free samples, and exciting seasonal items (like caviar, meal kits, and colossal cheesecakes) that really jazz up a monthly run for bulk staples.
3. Best Discount Grocer: Lidl
I know, I know. You’re likely wondering, where’s Aldi? Sorry, not here. Hot take, I know. But it’s true; Lidl, another somewhat IKEA-ified grocer that offers low-priced groceries with a simplified layout and selection (much like Aldi), simply does it better. The prices? A steal and a half. Produce? Incredible with a capital I. The Lidl bakery department? An absolute achievement. Lidl is, in my opinion, the best of quality and affordability, with a store layout that’s way easier to maneuver than my experience in many Aldi locations. It’s a delight. I have no notes. Give Lidl a try — it will treat you well.
4. Best Online Grocer: Misfits Market
More often than not, the crowds of a grocery store are not the mood. But what if you still want the discounts of an in-person grocer, while skipping pricey fees of most delivery services? Or really want to do your part to alleviate strains on our food system? The most perfect crossover of my dream grocery Venn Diagram, it turns out, is Misfits Market (which also now owns Imperfect Foods).
Read more: The Best Places to Buy Groceries Online
If you, like me, tend to get a bit willy-nilly with your shopping cart, Misfits Market just might be your new budgeting BFF; you can see your total before your three-day check-out window closes, get meal inspiration, and score slightly “imperfect” items like dragon fruit, carbon-neutral half-and-half, and honey BBQ-marinated salmon (my repeat buy every week). I dare you to find any imperfections, though. I’ve yet to receive anything in my weekly box that’s anything but flawless.
5. Best Pre-Made Selection: The Fresh Market
While you might not be able to do your whole shop at The Fresh Market (it can often be $$-$$$, if we’re using Yelp dollar-sign ratings as a pricing rubric), it’s well-worth a visit for the meal kits and deli-made section alone. Much like Blue Apron or Kroger-owned Home Chef, The Fresh Market has its own spin: weekly $25 meal kits called the Little Big Meal. Yes, it’s only $25 buckaroos to get a complete meal for four, which you can mix and match depending on what’s featured that week. (At the time of writing, you could choose from meat or veggie burgers, freshly baked burger buns, your selection of sliced cheese, cut watermelon, and your choice of pasta salad).
Planning on a picnic? Do yourself a huge favor and pick up a pound of the mind-bogglingly-good rotisserie chicken salad (which also comes with a free four-pack of buttery croissants). I basically just planned lunch and dinner for you! You won’t be disappointed.
6. Best Deli: Publix
Alright, this is where I must show my own (Floridian) bias. There just is no roundup without mentioning the majesty that is Publix, a southeastern chain that is thankfully moving to states besides Florida. But the jewel in Publix’s crown? Without a doubt, it’s the deli. If you merely stop in for a Publix sub (aka a “Pub Sub” in local lingo), you’ve reached the highest peak. It’s the only lunch option, in my opinion, for a beach picnic, road trip, or poolside feast — really any occasion can be improved upon with a Publix chicken finger sub, with that cornmeal-crusted bread and freshly brewed iced tea that makes me emotional.
Read More: 7 Insider Secrets for Saving Big at the Deli Counter
Want to make your own sub at home? The cold cuts are hard to beat, and the deli workers will always give you a heavy-handed sample of spicy turkey or creamy Havarti to taste — no questions asked. Publix, I salute you.
7. Best for New and Seasonal Items: Trader Joe’s
Trader Joe’s really shines for a lot of reasons: the music that makes you feel like you’re at Club TJ’s and not a grocery store, the often fun banter between cashiers, and, yes, the deals. Each trip to Trader Joe’s only adds to my list of why it’s basically the best. The aisles are always packed to the gills with new and seasonal items, like horchata-inspired ice cream, jalapeño limeade, and an ever-revolving selection of more-than-just-drinkable $5 wines.
Read more: The 10 Best Trader Joe’s Desserts of All Time, According to a Former Employee
Each grocery run at a Trader Joe’s somehow packs in the novelty of cracking open a new pack of Pokemon cards, where you really don’t know what you’re going to get. Yes, we love to go there for the cheap bananas, but we all know why we’re really at TJ’s: the chance of scoring a wintry Cedar Balsam candle, the last watermelon juice of the season, and a pint of ube ice cream.
8. Best Organic: Sprouts Farmers Market
Walking into Sprouts feels like walking into a storybook cute farmside road stand, but one with some serious savings on things like organic cherries, grass-fed meat and ice cream, and bulk items like coffee beans. Yes, you kind of can have it all. Sprouts is my go-to for refilling bulk items at a bargain (like oats, nutritional yeast, and even candy) and hard-to-find items (like culinary-grade lavender you can use for making lavender lemonade or a very good frosting for Earl Grey chocolate cupcakes).
Best of all? Sprouts makes for an amazing quick lunch stop: The weekly and daily deals on things like sushi and deli sandwiches are hard to beat, so be sure not to sleep on them.
Did your favorite grocer make the list? Tell us about it in the comments.