Fact: Big-name pharmacies are basically small supermarkets and should be treated as more than just a spot to find all your beauty needs. They often have a wide variety of snack items, a strong selection of household goods, and a decent selection of basic groceries, as well.
In fact, I was surprised at how many of the items on my comparison-shopping list that I'd used for the Costco vs. Sam's Club article were available at CVS and Walgreens. Obviously the items are sold in much smaller quantities, but there are plenty of groceries at each spot to help you pull together a meal if you're fresh out of food.
Which store has better prices? I hit them up to find out!
Because prices can vary by location, I went to two stores in the same town on the same day. In this case, the two stores were right across the street from each other! Both spots offer brand-name items as well as their own private label versions. Although in general prices are two or three times more than the warehouse stores, both stores offer significant savings if you get the (free) member card and are smart about using your rewards, so the list price might not necessarily be the price you pay.
I went to Walgreens first and then CVS. Unlike Walgreens and other stores I've been to, CVS didn't list the cost per ounce or unit on the label, which was a little annoying for these purposes. Anyway, here's how the costs broke down.
1. Greek Yogurt
Walgreens had a small section of grocery items, but CVS only had about one fridge section of grocery type things.
- WINNER! Walgreens Chobani Yogurts: $1.59 each or 5 for $5
- CVS didn't carry
2. 2% Milk
Both stores carried the same brand and options in the milk category.
- WINNER! Walgreens PET Dairy Pure 2% Milk: $2.99 per gallon
- CVS PET Dairy Pure 2% Milk: $3.69 per gallon
Eggs at CVS were significantly more expensive than Walgreens; neither store offered anything labeled organic/free-range/etc.
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice! Large Eggs: $2.29 per dozen ($0.191 per egg)
- CVS Hillsdale Garms Grade A Large Eggs: $3.49 per dozen ($0.291 per egg)
Again, Walgreens had one bacon option in the fridge.
- WINNER! Walgreens Oscar Meyer Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon: $7.99 for 16 ounces ($0.498 per ounce)
- CVS didn't carry
- Walgreens Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute Oats: $5.29 for 24 ounces ($0.22 per ounce)
- WINNER! CVS Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute Oats: $3.49 for 18 ounces ($0.193 per ounce)
Both stores offered honey. Walgreens had a few options, including an organic version, while CVS had a couple size options, but no organic choice.
- Walgreens Nice! Organic Honey: $6.99 for 16 ounces ($0.437 per ounce)
- WINNER! CVS Gold Emblem Pure Filtered Honey: $10.79 for 32 ounces ($0.336 per ounce)
CVS didn't have butter, and the Walgreens store brand got pretty close (in terms of price) to its comparable option at the warehouse stores.
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice! Sweet Cream Salted Butter: $2.49 for 16 ounces ($0.156 per ounce)
- CVS didn't carry
8. Maple Syrup
CVS's private-label brand beat out Walgreens this time.
- Walgreens Nice! Maple Syrup: $5.79 for eight ounces ($0.724 per ounce)
- WINNER! CVS Gold Emblem Original Syrup: $3.19 for 12 ounces ($0.266 per ounce)
Honey Nut Cheerios are amazing.
- Walgreens Honey Nut Cheerios: $4.99 for 12.5 ounces ($0.399 per ounce)
- WINNER! CVS Honey Nut Cheerios: $5.49 for 21.6 ounces ($0.254 per ounce)
1. Pasta Sauce
CVS had a few more options in the red sauce space, including an organic version.
- Walgreens Classico Tomato Basil Sauce: $2.99 for 24 ounces ($0.125 per ounce)
- WINNER! CVS Prego Traditional Pasta Sauce: $2.89 for 24 ounces ($0.120 per ounce)
- CVS Gold Emblem Abound Organic Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce: $3.89 for 24 ounces ($0.162 per ounce)
2. Dried Penne
Exact same option, exact same price.
- TIE! Walgreens Barilla Penne: $1.99 for 16 ounces ($0.124 per ounce)
- TIE! CVS Barilla Penne: $1.99 for 16 ounces ($0.124 per ounce)
3. Olive Oil
The list price for EVOO at Walgreens was about half the price of the CVS EVOO, but when I was at CVS, you could take 50 percent off with your ExtraCare card, which would make them comparable. For these purposes, I didn't include sale prices because they can vary day by day.
- WINNER! Walgreens Star Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $4.99 for 16 ounces ($0.312 per ounce)
- CVS Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $10.49 for 16 ounces ($0.656 per ounce)
4. Canned salmon
Both stores had the exact same canned versions with similar pricing.
- WINNER! Walgreens Bumblebee Premium Wild Pink Salmon: $3.49 for 14.75 ounces ($0.237 per ounce)
- CVS Bumblebee Premium Wild Pink Salmon: $3.59 for 14.75 ounces ($0.243 per ounce)
Lunch and Snack Items
1. Sandwich Bread
CVS edged out Walgreens in this category, although the bread was hard to find in both stores, because the bread was located in racks near, but not in, the grocery areas.
- Walgreens Hostess Classic Wheat Bred: $2.99 per 20-ounce loaf
- WINNER! CVS Amelia's Wheat Bread: $2.69 per 20-ounce loaf
2. Peanut Butter
No organic versions at either spot, but several kinds of peanut butter at both, and the prices were quite close. But when I was there, I could use my Walgreens card to take 50 cents off, which would have made it cheaper.
- Walgreens Skippy Natural Creamy Peanut Butter: $3.89 for 16 ounces ($0.288 per ounce)
- WINNER! CVS Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter: $3.59 for 16 ounces ($0.224 per ounce)
Nothing artisanal-looking here, but if you're in a sandwich jam they've got it. (Get it? Just making sure you're still with me here.)
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice! Premium Strawberry Preserves: $2.79 for 13.5 ounces ($0.207 per ounce)
- CVS Smuckers Strawberry Preserves: $4.39 for 16 ounces ($0.274 per ounce)
4. Albacore Tuna
Both places had several options for tuna, but it was cheaper at Walgreens.
- WINNER! Walgreens Bumble Bee Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water: $1.69 for 5 ounces ($0.338 per ounce)
- CVS Bumble Bee Solid White Albacore Tuna in Water: $1.99 for 5 ounces ($0.398 per ounce)
5. Kind Bars
Both places had a couple Kind options. Walgreens had a bigger selection and CVS only had the breakfast-style bars, so that's what I compared.
- Walgreens Kind Breakfast + Protein Bars: $3 for two ($1.50 per bar)
- WINNER! CVS Kind Breakfast + Protein Bars: $4.99 for four ($1.24 per bar)
Both spots had many, many nut options. They're nuts for nuts! Probably more shelf space devoted to nuts of various kinds (especially cashews and pistachios) than any other snack besides ... pork rinds. Hey, I'm in the South!
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice! Unsalted Pecans: $5.49 for 6 ounces ($0.915 per ounce)
- CVS Golden Emblem Abound Pecan Halves: $7.99 for 5.5 ounces ($1.453 per ounce)
- Walgreens didn't carry
- WINNER! CVS Golden Emblem Walnuts: $5.79 for 9 ounces ($0.643 per ounce)
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice! Natural Almonds: $6.99 for 16 ounces ($0.437 per ounce)
- CVS Golden Emblem Abound Raw Almonds: $10.49 for 20 ounces ($0.525 per ounce)
1. Paper Towels
Both spots had many options for paper towels, including their own private label brands. These were the cheapest at each.
- WINNER! Walgreens Smile & Save Tuf Paper Towels: $4 for eight rolls/316.8 square feet ($0.013 per square foot)
- CVS Just the Basics Paper Towels: $5.59 for eight rolls/302.5 square feet ($0.018 per square foot)
2. Paper Napkins
The CVS napkins were more than a dollar extra compared to the Walgreens ones.
- WINNER! Walgreens Smile & Save 1-Ply Napkins: $2.49 for 250 ($0.010 per napkin)
- CVS Just the Basics 1-Ply Family Napkins: $3.69 for 250 ($0.015 per napkin)
3. Kitchen Trash Bags
Both had a few options for trash bags. They cost about twice as much per bag as they do at the warehouse stores — then again, you don't have to store a gazillion bags. Because let's be honest, if you use one trash bag a week, it would still take you almost a year to use up a smaller box.
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice Tall Kitchen Bags: $6.99 for 50 bags ($0.139 per bag)
- CVS Total Home Tall Kitchen Bags: $14.49 for 90 bags ($0.161 per bag)
4. Sandwich Bags
Both brands had both private-label and the big-name bags.
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice Double Zipper Seal Sandwich Bags: $5.29 for 200 ($0.026 per bag)
- CVS Total Home Sandwich Bags: $8.29 for 280 ($0.030 per bag)
5. Liquid Dish Soap
Walgreens' dish soap was cheaper, and it says environmentally responsible right there on the packaging!
- WINNER! Walgreens Smile & Save Liquid Dish Soap: $1.99 for 32 ounces ($0.062 per ounce)
- CVS Just the Basics Dish Soap: $1.69 for 20 ounces ($0.085 per ounce)
6. Dishwasher Detergent (Packs)
Walgreens wins again with slightly cheaper private-label detergent packs. They are about twice as expensive as the warehouse store buys, though.
- WINNER! Walgreens Nice Dishwasher Packs: $9.99 for 48 pods ($0.208 per pod)
- CVS Total Home Dishwasher Packs: $5.59 for 20 pods ($0.280 per pod)
7. All-Purpose Cleaner
This stuff costs three times as much at these stores versus Costco and Sam's, but you don't have to buy a ton of it.
- Walgreens Clorox Clean-Up All-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach: $5.49 for 32 ounces ($0.172 per ounce)
- WINNER! CVS Clorox Clean-Up All-Purpose Cleaner with Bleach: $4.79 for 32 ounces ($0.150 per ounce)
In Conclusion: Grocery Prices at CVS Versus Walgreens
While you couldn't rely on either store for regular, all-out grocery shopping, they're definitely a good option, offerings-wise, if you're running low on something. But you can expect to pay more per ounce (sometimes double or triple) on virtually identical items than you would at a warehouse store. However, if you're smart about your membership rewards, you can get the pricing down. From this little experiment, looking only at shelf price and selection, I'd vote for Walgreens over CVS.
Which store do you prefer: CVS or Walgreens? And do you ever get groceries at either of these stores?