10 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Kroger for the First Time
If you’ve been to a Harris Teeter, Ralph’s, or Mariano’s, you’ve experienced some of the glory that is Kroger. The Kroger Co. family of companies includes major grocers, convenience stores (Kwik Shop, Tom Thumb), a specialty cheese shop (Murray’s Cheese), and even jewelry stores. Today, though, I’m here to tell you about the company’s namesake. Having shopped in my fair share of gourmet markets, co-ops, and national chains, I firmly believe Kroger is a store that’s not to be missed — and, since it operates in 35 states, chances are you have one nearby. Here’s what you need to know before you step foot in the store.
1. There are tens of thousands of private-label groceries.
It’s no wonder private-label items account for over 25% of sales. Kroger has a collection of private label-brands that are competitive in both price and quality. Perhaps the most well-known, Simple Truth, includes more than 35,000 products. Other brands include Private Selection — a line of premium, prepared offerings (sauces, specialty snacks, pizzas, and ice cream) — and Luvsome, pet food and supplies for your furry friends.
2. There’s a growing line of meal kits and ready-to-eat items.
In 2018, Kroger acquired Meal Kit provider HomeChef and now you can find HomeChef kits, heat-and-eat meals, and ready-to-eat products in 75% of Kroger stores. The best part? You can grab one of these convenient mealtime solutions without subscribing to the home delivery option. For those seeking more plant-based options, Kroger’s newest partnership with Impossible means the vegan meat will be featured in several Home Chef offerings, too.
3. The company champions local and small businesses.
In 2021, Kroger launched the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator as a platform to discover small, diverse businesses across the nation and distribute their products at scale. In addition to diversifying the stores’ product offerings, the program helps growers, producers, and suppliers gain visibility by partnering with one of America’s largest grocers. Product availability differs regionally, but some of the 2022 products introduced include pimento cheeses from Queen Charlotte’s (based in Charlotte, North Carolina), and Afghan-style chutneys from Maazah (based in Minneapolis, Minnesota).
4. Certain stores have beer (and wine) on tap.
True to Kroger’s Midwestern roots, select stores offer craft beer on-tap for adult shoppers to enjoy. You can grab a seat at their makeshift bar and treat yourself to an IPA. Perhaps invite a friend so you can enjoy a pint and check off your grocery lists together, after. While I personally am not a beer drinker, some of these Krogers also serve wine. Cheers to that!
5. You can buy a lot more than just groceries.
Most Kroger locations go way beyond perishables and pantry staples. There’s a home section with a variety of storage solutions, organization options, and decor. You can pick up kitchenware and smaller cooking appliances, such as toaster ovens and slow cookers. Kroger also has a toiletries and cosmetics section that rivals that of other grocery stores, and, like Target, Kroger deals in apparel. The grocer offers a modest shoe selection and in 2018, launched Dip, a clothing line boasting comfortable and classic options.
6. The exchange policies are generous.
I learned this while chatting with an associate at my local Kroger, and it could vary from store to store. Still, I feel it’s such a great policy, it’s worth sharing! If you aren’t a fan of, say, the store’s private-label cereal you bought, you can return it (with a valid receipt) in exchange for its brand-name alternative. Or, if you find that some of the private-label, lower-cost options go out of stock when they’re on sale, Kroger will offer you a more-expensive alternative from another brand at the original price of the discounted product.
7. The “Manager’s Specials” section is not to be missed.
At the end of many freezer aisles is a treasure trove deemed “Manager’s Specials.” According to a Kroger associate, these are items that didn’t perform well in-store from a sales perspective, but are heavily discounted in an attempt to avoid food waste. Pro tip: If an eligible item is missing a “Reduced” sticker, you can suggest a price at the register. I recently scored a family-sized bag of frozen fruit for $4.
8. On top of weekly sales, the stores offer special markdowns.
Similar to the “Manager’s Specials,” there are “sell by” markdowns, most often in the bakery and bagged produce section, where items approaching their “sell by” date receive a heavy discount. If you sign up for a Kroger Plus card, you’ll automatically receive items at sale price when you punch in your associated phone number at checkout. Outside of the weekly deals, Kroger runs virtual coupons, which you can “clip” and download to your phone or KrogerPlus card. Or, just scan the QR code in-store. Additionally, the grocer offers a rotating selection of items eligible for $1-off each when you purchase five.
9. You can use your fuel rewards at participating gas stations.
Kroger’s Fuel Rewards program helps to mitigate the sting of today’s high gas prices. Whenever you check out with your Kroger Rewards card, you’ll earn one Fuel Point for every $1 you spend (including online orders, too!). Fuel points are redeemable at both Kroger gas stations and participating Shell locations: You simply enter in your associated Rewards card phone number at the pump. Redemption values vary, but generally, you can redeem up to 1,000 Fuel points at a time, for up to $1 off per gallon.
10. Smart carts are starting to pop up in stores.
Kroger partnered with smart cart developer Caper to introduce AI-powered carts, called KroGos. Shoppers can scan products as they’re added to the cart. The screen keeps a running tally of all items, displays promotional and suggested offers, and allows shoppers to check out and pay once their trip is complete. The pilot began in the Cincinnati area and while there are no plans to roll it out more broadly yet, you should all keep an eye out!
Do you shop at Kroger? What else do people need to know? Share your tips in the comments below.