The 6 Cheapest Grocery Stores in America Right Now

published Nov 4, 2023
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Cashier ringing up groceries
Credit: Getty Images / Noel Hendrickson

A very common experience for me lately is the dreaded look I give my grocery receipt. It’s a big side eye, admittedly. You might relate, instinctively holding your breath as you scan it, likely noticing that it seems to still be quite expensive these days. While, overall, the annual inflation rate has been declining, food prices have still risen 3.7% between September 2022 and September 2023. Ugh!

Regardless of whether you feel inflation’s effects on your grocery run, we’d all love to save a few extra dollars each week, right? Right. So it was high time to really nail down where the end-all, be-all, cheap grocery stores are. I used to work at a grocery store (and have many takes on how we value our groceries!), so I have my own rubric for what makes for a good and affordable experience — especially because “cheapness” can be pretty relative, depending on the shopper. After all, why praise a less-expensive retailer if its apples are consistently mealy or the cashiers are surly?

Shopping experience: Is it easy to search for items? Is the selection wide-ranging (meaning you have to make fewer stops at other stores)? Perhaps the retailer offers helpful recipe inspiration or weekly deals? Is the customer service attentive and helpful? Bonus points if grocery shopping in person or on-site becomes an ultra-delightful task, rather than merely a chore. 

Service locations: I opted for grocers who either have locations or offer delivery, in the case for online grocers, for a wide swath of the country. In some instances, I’ve also highlighted beloved regional grocers that have exceptional deals.

Cost and quality: Some shoppers value cheapness as the most important quality in their shop, while others value ingredient quality or a wide selection of items. Ideally, we’re looking to be located in the center of the venn diagram for all three.

Your perceived value of said grocers may vary, but across the board these retailers have a pretty equivalent ratio of pleasant shopping experience (and quality items) for the price. 

Credit: Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

1. Best Online & One-Stop Shop: Walmart+

In-store or online, Walmart has outscored most other retailers in a side-by-side comparison shop of standard items. So it’s no surprise that its online shopping and delivery arm, Walmart+, is just as impressive. As the saying goes, time is money (and, uh, money is money), which makes Walmart+ a true twofer — the service will help you save a whole lot of both.

In fact, the retailer reports you can save 90+ hours and $1300 a year by using the service (the membership currently costs $12.95 per month or $98 for the year). That’s time and money you could be spending on perfecting your pickleball serve and finally watching all the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies. Plus, the online selection mirrors that of what you’d find in store, with no delivery minimums and free delivery. 

2. Best Pantry Essentials: Aldi

No surprise here! Aldi is well-known for having an ultra-affordable selection across the board. In fact, a recent study found that Aldi was chosen 90% of the time amongst respondents for having the highest value for their money. Plus, you can pick up wine, cheese, and maybe even a flattering dress before you head to the check out. Much like other discount retailers, like Lidl, Aldi is what I call “IKEA-ified,” in that it greatly scales down its overhead (in the form of lighter staffing, self-bagging practices, and simplified displays that can be refilled easily), which means the savings pass on to the customer.

The interior of the store is where Aldi truly shines; you can stock up on all your pantry essentials, like pasta, beans, cereal, and canned goods. You’ll be hard-pressed to find better deals on your everyday needs than at Aldi, which is my family’s pick for bagged coffees, canned waters, and nut butters (at the time of writing, you can get Nutella for under $4!). Run, don’t walk, to Aldi. 

3. Best Bakery: Lidl

Even when I’m trying to get my grocery budget down from $$$ to solidly $$, I still like to make sure I can sprinkle in a few little luxuries. Where I have the most fun doing that — while also saving some coin — is Lidl. Namely, I like to feed the “treat yo self” part of my brain by getting my daily bread (and then some) at Lidl’s bakery section. It’s truly a marvelous sight: shiny, German-style pretzels, fresh and flaky croissants, and plush loaves of focaccia.

If you’re noticing something is familiar, you’re not imagining it: Lidl, like Aldi, is a greatly scaled-down grocery experience, where the smaller staff and warehouse-style staging mean you end up paying less on your grocery run (mostly for all those croissants), because the overhead is way lower. Plus, you can likely make fewer stops in general, as Lidl also offers fun surprises in its aisles, like power tools, cat trees, and potted plants. 

Credit: Jonathan Weiss/ Shutterstock

4. Best Frozen: Trader Joe’s 

Trader Joe’s consistently has achieved best-in-class marks for the customer experience in its stores, namely for the checkout experience. Even if you aren’t flirting openly with your cashier, there’s plenty to love about Trader Joe’s, like the affordable flowers, fresh produce (that comes in every morning), and all the new seasonal items that seem to have been concocted in an evil genius’ lab.

Still, there’s one section at Trader Joe’s that rises above the rest. I used to work for the company, so I know firsthand where all the customers would inevitably bottleneck: in the frozen food aisle. Not only does it have quality dishes from all around the world (which has saved me tons on takeout), but the selection is also massive for the store, which has such a small footprint as compared to most traditional grocers. At any point in time you can find frozen tamales for under $3, a holiday-worthy dessert for under $7, and a party-ready appetizer for right around $4.

Credit: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock

5. Best Bulk: WinCo Foods

Ever wish you could get wholesale warehouse prices but without the membership? Then WinCo Foods needs to be on your radar. With 139 locations across 10 states from California to Oklahoma, WinCo Foods is a majority employee-owned company, meaning employees earn shares in company stock.

Similar to warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s, WinCo is a no-frills warehouse-style shopping experience, and keeps prices low by enlisting customers to bag their own groceries and buying directly from product manufacturers. If you’re always on the hunt for low-price bulk items and household staples at steep discounts, a trip to WinCo foods could save you serious cash. 

Credit: Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

6. Best Outlet: Grocery Outlet

There was my life before I discovered Grocery Outlet, and my life after I discovered Grocery Outlet — and they are very much not the same. If you’re new to this fine retail establishment, let me introduce you: As the name suggests, Grocery Outlet is an outlet-style grocery store, meaning it stocks excess inventory directly from other grocery manufacturers and sells at a discount.

With locations in California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Oregon, amongst others, each Grocery Outlet’s selection is different depending on the location of the store in relation to the manufacturers. It always keeps a solid selection of name-brand and private-label staples, as well as fresh products, like meat, dairy, and bread. What really makes Grocery Outlet worth a visit is its natural and organic section, which typically features vegan and gluten-free items that can often be pricey at other retailers. 

Did your favorite discount retailer make the list? Tell us about it in the comments.