Cub Foods February 2020 Groceries

Grocery Wars 2020: Costco Is a “Winner, Winner, $5 Chicken Dinner”

Recently, I asked our readers to fill out a survey about grocery shopping habits, including where you shopped and what was on your most recent receipt. Thank you to the 53 readers who shared their data! I have been volunteering hard over the last half-month to bring you the most representative grocery index I could, and I think the results will be helpful no matter how you shop.

Last year in April, we published data with an index, but that was not representative of a reader survey.

Cub Foods Frozen Section February 2020 Groceries

The bread and frozen foods department of the Cub Foods in The Quarry. Photo: AuthorFirst, some takeaways from the reader survey.

The first question I asked was which local grocery option our readers shop at. Readers could select as many options as they wanted. The top choices were Cub Foods and Local Co-Op both with 52.8%, Lunds & Byerlys with 43.4%, and Target with 41.5%.

For Local Co-ops, I asked where people shop. The top answers in order of popularity were Seward, Wedge, and a tie between the Mississippi Market and Seward Friendship Store.

Which Local Grocery Options Do You Shop At

The top choices were Cub Foods and Local Co-Op, both with 52.8%.

To create a representative index of grocery buying for our readers, I asked what was on your most recent receipt or what you could recall from memory. The top items included were milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese, and chicken, which I standardized as fresh chicken breast and frozen chicken breast. You can check out the full list of items and weights on the Google Sheets spreadsheet that shows all the math behind this index.

Cub Foods February 2020 Groceries

The produce department at the Cub Foods in The Quarry. Photo: Author

Finally, with the knowledge that organic prices are usually different than conventional prices, I asked on a sliding scale from 0 to 10 what proportion of readers’ groceries were organic. The responses had a very flat distribution, and the average response was 4.5, or 45 percent organic.

Organic Goods Have Different Prices Than Conventional Goods. From 0 For None To 10 For All, What Portion Of Your Grocery Shopping Is Organic Average Is 4 Point 5

The average was 45 percent of grocery shopping for our readers is organic.

Next the prices.

You can check out the full list of weights, items, and prices on the Google Sheets spreadsheet that shows all the math behind this index.

I compared prices at eight stores from February 5 – 16. The stores were: Aldi, Costco, Cub Foods, Kowalski’s, Lunds & Byerlys, Seward Co-op, Target, and Whole Foods. If an item wasn’t currently in stock, I recorded the price of the best option in that item class. For instance, in “milk”, skim was not always available, so I have some prices for one or two percent milkfat. I did not do this for conventional versus organic items. They are priced separately.

For the top five-weighted items — milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese, fresh chicken breast, and bananas — I found that there was no single best store for all these conventional (not organic) staples.

Store Milk Price (gallon) Eggs (egg) Mozzarella Cheese (ounce) Fresh Chicken Breast (pound) Bananas (pound)
Aldi $2.66 $0.11 $0.22 $1.89 $0.65
Costco $2.45 $0.14 $0.16 $2.99 $0.46
Cub Foods $2.99 $0.09 $0.29 $3.99 $0.59
Kowalski’s $3.19 $0.14 $0.40 $7.99 $0.73
Lunds & Byerlys $2.99 $0.14 $0.31 $7.99 $0.63
Seward Co-op $3.79 $0.29 $0.41 $6.99 $1.29
Target $2.29 $0.21 $0.25 $1.99 $1.16
Whole Foods $4.19 $0.22 $0.37 $5.49 $0.49

Costco had the best price on two of the top-weighted staples – mozzarella cheese and bananas – while ALDI, Cub Foods, and Target had the best prices on one of the top five.

After gathering price data for all the conventional (not organic) grocery items, I crunched the numbers using the weighting based on the survey. For a hypothetical grocery run for conventional items, Costco came in cheapest at $100.00, while ALDI came in at $103.08, and Target at $119.70.

Conventional Grocery Index Chart 2020

Costco has the lowest prices on conventional groceries for a hypothetical grocery run using our weighted index based on the 2020 survey.

The median American household spends about $7,000 on food per year, according to 2018 data from the USDA. For the $60 membership to Costco to break even versus spending at ALDI, a household would have to spend at least $1,948 at Costco – significantly less than median household spending.

As their incomes rise, households spend more money on food but it represents a smaller overall budget share. In 2018, households in the lowest income quintile spent an average of $4,109 on food, representing 35.1 percent of income, while households in the highest income quintile spent an average of $13,348 on food, representing 8.2 percent of income. Source: USDA

As their incomes rise, households spend more money on food, but it represents a smaller overall budget share. In 2018, households in the lowest income quintile spent an average of $4,109 on food, representing 35.1 percent of income, while households in the highest income quintile spent an average of $13,348 on food, representing 8.2 percent of income. Source: USDA

For organic groceries, Costco was also the highest value store. For a hypothetical grocery run for organic items, at Costco it would cost $100.00, at ALDI $101.26, and at Target $132.21.

Organic Grocery Index Chart 2020

Costco has the lowest prices on organic groceries for a hypothetical grocery run using our weighted index based on the 2020 survey.

Costco Folgers Classic Roast Coffee Ground February 2020

It’s very hard to beat the Costco price. Photo: Author

Some thoughts from my experiences being a secret shopper for our readers:

Generally, the stores that advertised their prices more prominently, as with the above large-print sign at Costco with price per pound, were lower priced. ALDI and Costco were good about making the price clear. Kowalski’s and Seward had missing or fallen price tags, I found, and the price per ounce or other metric was nearly impossible to read.

Charmin Bath Tissue February 2020 Groceries

Ultra. Ultra. Ultra! Photo: Author

There is also a compromise between choice and price. Kowalski’s was a great grocery experience with a delicious and well-priced hot bar and wide selection of deli and sushi. But having all that selection creates high overhead costs, and Kowalski’s turned out to be one of the most expensive grocery stores in this month’s survey.

Before you ask again, here were the dates and addresses of the different grocery stores where I went as a secret shopper. I did buy at all the stores, as a thank you for their hospitality. All prices reflect sales at the date of secret shopping.

Store Location Date
ALDI 1311 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404 February 7, 2020
Costco 5801 W 16th St, St Louis Park, MN 55416 February 16, 2020
Cub Foods 1540 New Brighton Blvd, Minneapolis, MN 55413 February 5, 2020
Kowalski’s 2440 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55405 February 16, 2020
Lunds & Byerlys 25 University Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414 February 7, 2020
Seward 2823 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406 February 16, 2020
Target 1650 New Brighton Blvd, Minneapolis, MN 55413 February 5, 2020
Whole Foods 222 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55401 February 8, 2020

I hope this helps you in your search for the best deal and best value for you and your household.

Do you have a best grocery store to find that one special item? What are your grocery shopping hacks and pro moves? Share your special finds and stellar victories in the comments.

Conrad Zbikowski

About Conrad Zbikowski

Downtown Minneapolis resident covering local issues including parks, transportation, zoning, and development.

Articles Near This Location